Essay has been published on e-publication Dwelling on the Threshold as the result of workshop in Nida Art Colony

The case at the border. Observations. The experiences of the postsoviet.

It is interesting to compare the behavioral patterns of three generations living currently in Post-Soviet territory that find themselves in the same situation (completely hypothetical, but just in case, keep it in mind). Imagine that the observed subject went to the restroom at the Torfyanovka, a border crossing point between Finland and Russia, or Morskoe between Lithuania and Russia, and suddenly there was no toilet paper in the booth. What would a person who grew up in the USSR (born until about 1970 in one of the countries of the former USSR), let’s call them the ‘Soviet subject’, do in a given situation? The lack of toilet paper for the ‘Soviet subject’ will not be something out of the ordinary. Of course, they will have their own toilet paper, napkins, or something sheet- and paper-shaped prepared in advance. Lack of toilet paper is an absolute norm and given. The result for behavioral research is practically zero, but as we know, for a researcher, a zero result is also a result.

We can observe a completely different behavior in the case of a person who does not have experience living in the USSR; we will call them the ‘Non-Soviet subject’. Faced with a lack of paper, the toilet visitor will be completely disoriented and confused. This state of things for them is not only unexpected, but completely unbelievable. This simply cannot happen, cannot appear, cannot fit the real life. How to survive? What to do? Lack of toilet paper – this is clearly a signal for something alarming and scary. The forecast of further actions in this case is practically impossible for modelling due to the highest level of further fluctuations and deviations. There remains a third, border category – a person born in the USSR from about the 70s to the 90s, living in the 21st century, but having traces of the Soviet experience. The ‘Post-Soviet subject’ is not prepared for the situation of lack of toilet paper and for them, unlike for the Soviet one, this situation will be unpredictable, but it will not be as shocking as to the ‘Non-Soviet subject’. The situation is extraordinary but familiar at some level of memory. The ‘Post-Soviet subject’ has the knowledge that if there is no toilet paper in this booth, then it is somewhere beyond the toilet walls. And if there was no paper in the next booth, then it will probably be found in toilets of the opposite sex – in the men’s room, and vice versa. For the ‘Post-Soviet subject’, the behavioural pattern will be explained by the knowledge that if there is no toilet paper here and now, this does not mean that it should not be there at all and never will be, or that the end of the world has come. This is just an unexpected situation for this particular booth; for sure toilet paper is available in another place, and it was just here that it temporarily ended.

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Эссе было опубликовано на английском языке в публикации Dwelling on the Threshold по результатам ворк-шопа в Nida Art Colony "Случай на границе". Наблюдения. Опыты постсоветского. Интересно сравнить