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Mayhill Fowler

STETSON U (US)

Dr. Mayhill C. Fowler is associate professor of history at Stetson University. She has published widely on culture in Ukraine. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and the University of Toronto and holds an MFA from the National Theater Conservatory. She will be a Fulbright Research Scholar in Ukraine 2019-2020.

Abstract

Soviet Ghosts: The Former Theater of the Soviet Army in Lviv

and Post-Socialism as a Crisis of Infrastructure

MAYHILL FOWLER

This paper takes Teatr Lesi’s Operation Exorcism as a starting point to argue that the crisis of post-socialist culture is infrastructural: who should fund and manage the arts, if not the state? War has catalyzed, although not caused, a tectonic shift in transforming the cultural infrastructure in Ukraine: a new generation of artists post-Maidan with new stories to tell, new government policies passed in 2015 (the “theater laws”), and a new state funding model (the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation) launched in 2018. While scholars may point to the content of theatrical productions to identify the influence of war on the arts, it is in fact the funding and management practices that mark a significant shift away from the Soviet system and suggest the ways in which war can transform culture. The Theater of the Former Soviet Army / Teatr Lesi offers a case study of this complex process of “de-communizing” the arts, or exorcising the Soviet ghosts. Based on archival documents from the immediate post-collapse years and interviews with major players today, this paper argues that artists are creating new ways of operating with and independent of the state, attempting to include the public as a source of revenue and important stakeholder.