Under Lenin’s watchful eye: Growing up in the former Soviet Union

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Marina Levina


Using autoethnography as a primary methodology, I draw on my experience growing up in the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s and 1980s to illuminate the everyday life in the authoritarian regime and its surveillance apparatus. At that point, the corruption of the regime was evident to most citizens as black markets flourished; illegal monetary exchanges were widespread, and bribery became a legitimate and widespread institution.  However, as the economical sector was slipping out of Soviet control, the public institutions such as media and education were still in business of propagating Soviet ideology. That ideology permeated every aspect of culture, however, it was not enforced through a top-down surveillance, but rather through an internalized surveillance based in belief and faith in authoritarian institutions of power. As a result, it produced individuals torn between faith in the ideals and the reality of the everyday life. In the essay I plan to examine my own experiences through theoretical lens of self-surveillance to make an argument about the production of subjectivity in authoritarian regimes. 

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Author Biography

Marina Levina, University of Memphis

Associate Professor, Department of Communication



Hall, Rachel, Torin Monahan, and Joshua Reeves. 2016. Surveillance and performance. Surveillance and Society 14 (2): 154-167.

Monahan, Torin. 2011. Surveillance as cultural practice. The Sociological Quarterly 52 (4): 495-508.