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The research project




The project aims:

  • to reconstruct the picture of mutual representations of the USSR and the USA in whole;
  • to analyze the images of the Soviet and American enemy in popular cultures of two countries in comparative perspective;
  • to reveal, to what extent the legacy of Cold War culture working as a factor of cultural and social memory influences the public opinion in contemporary Russia and USA;
  • to understand how this Cold War culture legacy is used in the contemporary US and Russian symbolic politics.


The project is supported by  Russian Science Foundation  (grant No 22-18-00305).

The project is lead by Oleg V. Riabov, Dr. Sc. (Philosophy), Professor, Leading Researcher at the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia

The project is conducted in Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia (Saint Petersburg)

The project realization term –  2022-2024.



The approaches that determined the methodology of the project can be presented as follows:

  1. The securitization theory of the Copenhagen school, which suggests interpreting the enemy as a social construct, which requires considering as a priority the analysis of discourses that are used to create an image of the enemy;
  2. An imagological approach that studies the patterns of creation and functioning of images of «strangers», including such a key imageme of the project as the image of the enemy;
  3. The concept of the Cold War nostalgia, which makes it possible to interpret the «Cold War» as a political symbol, for which a symbolic struggle is being waged today and which is used in domestic politics; one or another interpretation of the Cold War meets the interests of some political actors and contradicts the interests of others;
  4. The concept of the performative nature of the Cold War (Shorten, 2018), emphasizing that a necessary condition for the policy of the actors of the Soviet-American confrontation were the demonstrative nature of political events and their orientation to a mass audience;
  5. The concept of symbolic politics, which is understood as an activity aimed at creating and promoting certain interpretations of socio-political reality (Malinova, Miller, 2020);

6.The concept of popular geopolitics, which focuses on the fact that in the modern world, ideas about world politics produced, promoted and consumed by popular culture become a factor in international relations;

  1. Boundary studies approach (Barth, 1969), analyzing how differences (symbolic boundaries) between communities are created by boundary work – that is, their implementation, maintenance, adjustment, weakening, displacement, destruction;
  2. The relational paradigm of identity, considering the relationship between «friend» and «foe» as a crucial component of collective identity, which requires considering the interdependence of representations of the socio-political orders of the USSR and the USA produced by the American and Soviet mass culture of the Cold War.


The project consists:

  1. Historical part, aimed at reconstructing the integral picture of the figurative and symbolic system of the Cold War produced by Soviet and American cultures.
  2. Sociological part, aimed at studying the current reception of the legacy of the Cold War mass culture by Russian and US citizens as a factor of mutual perception by Russians and Americans and their interpretation of Russian-American relations.
  3. Political Sciences part, aimed at analyzing the use of enemy images created by Cold War cultures in the politics of contemporary Russia and the United States (for representations of today’s Russian-American relations, in legitimization/delegitimization of political actors, in the politics of memory, in the politics of macropolitical identity).


The project will result in:

Firstly, identifying the most important symbols of the Soviet and American mass culture of the Cold War, investigating and systematizing them based on cartoons, posters, comics, video games, photographs, school textbooks, propaganda books and brochures, sports publications, mass songs;

Secondly, the establishing the patterns of the creating the image of the Soviet and American enemy in such discourses produced by US and Soviet culture as axiological, political, national-civilizational, anthropological, gender, religious, historical are determined;

Thirdly, the investigating the dynamics and variability of the development of images of the USA and the USSR in the Soviet and American Cold War mass culture, the establishing the mechanisms of deconstruction of the image of the enemy and the rehumanization of «Them».

Fourth, investigating the cultural policy of the USSR and the USA; investigating the institutions, forms and mechanisms of control over the production, distribution and consumption of enemy images;

Fifth, the introducing into scientific circulation the Soviet and American archival materials of mass culture related to the production, distribution and consumption of images of the Soviet and American enemy;

Sixth, the establishing what influence the symbols of the Cold War have on today’s social mutual perceptions of Russians and Americans (depending on Russians’ and Americans’ political preferences, age, gender and racial/national-cultural affiliation), as well influence on Russians’ and Americans’ views on Russian-American relations);

Seventh, the revealing the patterns of the use of enemy images that worked in the mass culture of the Cold War in the symbolic politics of modern Russia and the United States (in such forms as the legitimization of power, the politics of memory, the politics of macropolitical identity);

Eighth, the carrying out the comparative analysis: 1) the Soviet and American images of the enemy, 2) the influence of these images on the current perception of Russians and Americans of each other, 3) the use of these images in the symbolic politics of Russia and the United States; as a result of which common and specific features will be identified and an explanation of similarities and differences will be offered;

Ninth, the developing the practical recommendations for public administration bodies to use the results of the project in information policy in order to ensure the information security of Russia.


Time period: 1945-2024




The research project





The project examines:

  • role of Soviet and American Cold War cinema in production, promotion, and consumption of the images of the enemy;
  • perception of the cinematic Cold War images of the enemy by today’s audiences in Russia and the USA.


The project is supported by  Russian Science Foundation  (grant No 18-18-00233).

The project is lead by Oleg V. Riabov, Dr. Sc. (Philosophy), Professor, Leading Researcher at the Department of Political Science, Saint Petersburg State University.

The project realization term –  2018-2020.


The cinematic images of Cold War enemies Poster of the project


The project is an interdisciplinary study of the  images of the enemy created by the cinema of the USSR and USA during the Cold War. The project aims to explore the common and specific features of these images as well as their influence on today’s audience in Russia and the United States.


The project’s methodology is based on the following principles and concepts: constructivism, symbolic politics, relational paradigm of social identity, and intersectionality.

  • The Cold War “struggle for hearts and minds” is examined in the frame of symbolic politics that is interpreted as the production and promotion of a certain interpretation of social reality, including the production of the meanings and emotions. Discerning the emotional component of symbolic politics allows interpreting Soviet and American Cold War cinematographs as the main actors of symbolic politics, which not only reproduce existing cultural values and norms, but also formed the new ones, using for it filmmaking, film criticism, film festivals, motion pictures ratings, awards, support of scholar researches, and others.  This and others components of cinematograph influenced the various forms of symbolic politics: agenda-setting, legitimation of power, politics of memory, identity politics, popular geopolitics, naming, and others. Drawing, maintaining, shifting, and blurring symbolic boundaries (boundary work) are  considered as the key mechanism of symbolic politics;
  • the relations between Self and Other are treated as the most essential component of collective identity. The interdependence of the representations (including cinematic images) of Soviet and American social and economic orders should be taken into account;
  • the enemy is interpreted as a social construct; the project is based on the constructivist understanding of international relations, which pays special attention to the production of the meanings of social reality, in accordance with which the actors in the world politics act;
  • according to the methodology of intersectionality, cultural patterns of oppression are bound together and influenced by intersecting systems of society, such as race, gender, class, and ethnicity (K. Crenshaw); it can be applied to the sphere of international relations.


Thematic fields:

  • Methodology of the project  (symbolic politics; the image of the enemy; symbolic boundaries; cinematograph as an actor of symbolic politics);
  • features of the Cold War cinematic images of the enemy,
  • historical roots and evolution of these images;
  • discursive frames, cinematic ways, and semiotic means of constructing these images;
  • institutional and ideological control over their production, promotion, and consumption;
  • production, promotion, and consumption of cinematic images of the enemy in various forms of symbolic politics (legitimation of power; politics of identity; politics of memory; popular geopolitics; and others);
  • variability of the images of the enemy in various film genres;
  • reception of the cinematic images of the enemy by the Cold War audience;
  • cinematic Cold War images in public opinion of contemporary Russians and Americans;
  • the use of the cinematic images of Cold War in contemporary symbolic politics in Russia and the USA;
  • comparative analysis of Soviet and American cinematic images of the enemy, identification and explanation of their common and specific characteristics.


Time period: 1945 – 1991