The Visual Language of Neo-Nationalism: Patriotic Performance and Fashion in the Post-Communist Central European, Eurasia and Baltic States

    • Cover Conference Prague
    • Presentation speakers
      • Anna Novikov, The University of Greifswald, Germany


    In the last decade, due to the development of media and socio-political changes, a transnational revival of patriotic attire linked to patriotic performance, which becomes fashionable and gathers momentum in Eastern-Central Europe/Baltic States (Hungary, Romania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Russia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan) can be observed. My paper examines visual and ideological links between media, dress and performance and the current development of this neo-nationalist/regionalist patriotic fashion and performance in these areas. It focuses comparatively on the cultural, visual, performative and political dynamics of this phenomenon and on its historical roots. I analyze the reasons for its appearance, its perception within the context of gender, ethnic group, region and globalization/European Union as well as its current development and progress. I also trace the visual reconstruction of past, which is inherent in the visual and performative self-representation of contemporary New Nationalism. Thus, the Ukrainian Vyshyvanka appeared at Fashion Week in Paris. Combat trousers and T-shirts with “cursed soldiers” and neo-folk motives on dresses are now popular in Poland. During their yearly patriotic assemblies, Hungarian right-wing activists wear Mongolian inspired attire. The Lithuanian President purchases traditional people’s clothes, the Estonian history museum exhibits “Estonian Ladies’ Fashion 1920-1940” and in the biennale of Center for Contemporary Arts in Tallinn the national identity is represented through the medium of fashion. Kazakh female pop singers dress up as the Mongolian-Turk nomadic amazons and Russian girls wear dresses with portraits of Putin. Dress is commonly used these days in order to emphasize a political statement of support. This patriotic attire, which includes elements of neo-folk, embroidery, historical scenes, religious symbols and photographs of politicians, is the result of current biased re-writing of neo-national historiography within Post-Communist states. This attire and performance is inherent within neo-nationalist groups there, as well as in the supra-nationalist ones, such as the Pan Slavists in Russia, Ukraine and Poland, Pan Turkists in Hungary and Central Asia, “Slavic-Turk” Eurasianists and Neo-pagan Rodnovers in Poland, Ukraine and Russia. All these emphasize their neo-nationalist ideology and re-write history according to their own narrative of the past. Re-invented attire in various patriotic performances, visualizes their ideology. My assumption is that current development of the Post-Communist neo-nationalist patriotic fashion and performance resembles the 19th century patriotic national self-visualization. Similarly to the 19th century, it is based on imagination and emotions and the progress of nowadays media plays the same role in the visualization of nationalistic ideology which the development of periodicals, photographs and cinema played then. After the idea of nationalism collapsed following the decline of empires, successor states and the Communist bloc in the 20th century, the nowadays neo-nationalism starts to develop.