The Eye of the Whirlwind

Russian Identity and Soviet Nation-Building. Quests for Meaning in a Soviet Metropolis

By Finn Sivert Nielsen

Oslo 1987, 1993, Tromsř 1994, 1996, 1998, Copenhagen 1999
St. Petersburg 2003

For my own part I'd just like to add that nearly every reality, though governed by its own, immutable laws, is almost always unlikely and unbelievable.  Often in fact, the realer it is, the more unbelievable. (Dostoevsky 1868-9, p.313)

Please note:
The full text of the English edition of this book has now been published online on AnthroBase, at:

Table of Contents


Preface to the Russian Edition (1999)

Introduction (1986)
A. Defining the Problem
B. About the Field-Work

Chapter One:  The Texture of Soviet Reality
A. Prospékt and Dvor
B. The Rules of the Game
C. Limbo

Chapter Two:  Life on the Islands
A. The Weakness of General Rules
B. The Weakness of Money
C. The Importance of Place
D. Paradox and the Clear View

Interlude:  Vítya

Chapter Three:  Riding the Bus
A. Warmth – Serë˙a and Olya
B. Coldness – Fear and Formality
C. Peredát' and Propustít'
D. Materialism and Magic
E. The Arithmetic of the Masses

Chapter Four:  The People and the Party
A. Dies Irae
B. Culture, Charisma and the Warrior State
C. Examination, Privilege and the New Class
D. Clients, Relations and Tradition
E. Mothers and Sons

Interlude:  Father Peter and Tólya
- Russian version - English Version -

Chapter Five:  Freedom and Authority
A. Unifying the "Two Times"
B. Authority and Self-Defense
C. The Free Outpouring of the Soul
D. Faith and the Weakness of Authority
E. Guarding the Heart

Chapter Six:  Europe and Asia
A. Western Europe
B. Central Asia
C. A Paradigm of Russian Identity
D. An Empire in Limbo
E. The Quest for True Communication

Interlude:  Véra

Conclusion:  Visions of Evil
Epilogue - 2003