Concrete – mixer as a symbol of technogenic tragedy

Levshin Sergey – collaborator of APIR center

How do ordinary USA citizens imagine Russia and its inhabitants? It seemed we know all these stereotypes: bears on the streets, vodka, and the «great triad» – ushanka-balalayka-matryoshka. And even after the Soviet Union breakup it seem that image of our country in mass culture and ordinary consciousness of the US haven’t changed a lot.

But is it definitely so? How can Americans know something concrete about us?

Let’s get aside these paranoid thoughts about state propaganda and disastrous power of mass-media. Not much time ago the text-book of Russian language for Americans was found somewhere in the Internet. There’s also a lot of scanned pages of this book in different image-boards, live journals and social networks. Anyway it’s very hard to ignore such kind of book. Because it is «fun but true».

«The Russian Course» by Alexander Lipson in cooperation with Steven J. Molinsky is 600-page book had several issues (at least 3 for sure: 1974, 1977, 1981). It’s published by «Slavica Publishers, Inc.», Columbus, Ohio and also included audiotape attachment. This course is considered to be much popular among Russian-learners, «slavic» department students and everyone who’s interested in Russian language and literature.

After introduction and phonetic information there goes summary. The course is divided into themes. Themes reveal in dialogues and texts. Here’s some titles for example: «Shock-workers and loafers», «Cultured and uncultured people», «We’re not Albanians», «The Brown Affair: Our brigade makes a big mistake», «Count Abdul, rocket woman and American cowboy Jim», «Superman» (the first thing I thought was Friedrich Nietzsche, but it was just a comics about famous superhero), «Potr Mixailovich Muravjov, his former wife and his former wife’s older sister», «The City of Gubkingrad» etc.

Texts and dialogues is what makes this text-book so interesting, weird and fun for Russian. When we read it we unavoidably: do we really know what they think about us?

Let’s look at some extracts from this particular book.


Decadence? Concrete-mixers? Blinsk? Let’s go further.

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The themes of concrete and concrete-mixers are definitely the main ideas of the whole course. What’s the reason? There a lot of different materials in industrials society!

Anyway, the other important ideas of texts and dialogues in the book are despair and tragedy in the vein of Dostoyevski, Kafka and French existential-writers.

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By the way some stuff about Nietzsche and existentialists:


So, has all of this any deep sense? Does the author want to focus our attention on hopelessness of human being before industrial society’s violence with all of its concrete-mixers? Maybe conrete-mixer is a symbol of some technogenic tragedy?

Laughing and crying, yes. But what the Americans can really know about Russia with learning by such kind of text-book. About concrete mixers, whatever.

Well, here’s the last example, very interesting, and opened for different interpretations:


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