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A brief, almost momentary post-Soviet decade is coming to the end. It is clear now, that it exposed the academic research to a heart stroke, to be followed by still more extensive attack, in the best case, and death, in the worst, nothing else.

It was not about crisis followed by recovery. It was not about cosmetic “cleansing” of pimply dogmas disfiguring the face of the academic “beast” with a pure and spotless soul of a zealot-lab assistant resting inside it. The work on the external perfection ended up not only by getting rid of dogmas, but also by eliminating anything that could remotely be dogmatized, i.e. of ideas, theories and hypotheses. Academic research got void of reflection, while the environment left no time to be possibly dedicated to this process. The best things in academic research today are the ones that have persisted, rather than the ones that have just emerged. Therefore, one should not seek comfort in pathetic examples of someone’s successful academic career, for it turns out, that it can well coexist with absence of science, with absence of specific value nominated by this word. The most important and the most terrifying thing is that it is absolutely unclear what happened: is it a tragedy, or a quasi-historical guise of the good, which can be enjoyed only by grateful successors. For the science does not disappear everywhere, it seems to have retired only somewhere to the east of the Prut River and to the west of Vladivostok.

Moreover, this just described reality is not undeniable at all. Especially, for those who are strongly “addicted” to grants and produce predictable texts for the fond donors. It is neither undeniable for those who connect academic problems with financial crashes, Dow Jones indices or the agonizing authorities’ myopia. Yet, they are a minority, and the absolute majority has long left the reach of the punitive Academic Councils, attestation committees and black reviewers. The majority already rest in nirvana of the “primary accumulation”, proving, in their way, the incontestability and sad truth of the above mentioned reality, under the aegis of some other authorities.

Now, all these sentimental allusions aside, glancing over the academic horizons of the post-Soviet space, we can undoubtedly declare the death of the majority of humanities, and first of all, of the so called historical studies, which have not passed the “freedom of choice” test. Having started a Don Quixotian fight for historical truth, this discipline was defeated by that very situation, which was produced not without its own contribution, and transformed, in its best manifestations, from a denouncer and moral mentor into a smart counteragent exporting raw archives to the West. Yet the Procrustean bed of “application forms” was not the only one to fill the humanities up with a loud emptiness devoid of ideology. It turned out that this knowledge itself lacked elementary mechanisms of self-defence and development: i.e. reflection, awareness of a complex nature of its own sources, primacy (not imitativeness!) of academic language, and what is most important – inability, if not reluctance to distance oneself from the authorities.

Fortunately, though, when everything dies, there is still something that emerges, exists and bursts out. It emerges and bursts out just because something withered and died. The mere logics behind the things tell us that, when everything disappears, there is nothing but one real thing left – archaeology and its corresponding cultural layer, i.e. stratum. Without any exaggeration one may say that anything that is not and was not in the course of history, will actively emerge, rise and blossom in archaeology. The post Soviet Union archaeology is the poorest today, yet only our Soviet archaeology was the one that could stand the challenge of existence devoid of ideology without noticing it. Nothing but archaeology could meet the international intellectual tempo: having joined it in late sixties it is still keeps pace with it following strictly its own rules and preserving not only the offensive theoretical potential, but also some very specific way of life and moral canon, inalienable from archaeology. If yesterday, our colleagues historians with their inherent white-collar snobbism kept repeating the commonly known definition of archaeology as history armed with a spade. Today, however, it has become clear that history itself is the archaeology that laid down its arms, in the best case, it is archaeology deprived of its methods, laws and the mere sense of its further existence. Now, distracting from the confines of the former Soviet archaeology and talking about archaeology in general, one may suppose that, in a certain sense, the most novel and unpredictable ideas are generated today by archaeology, and nothing but archaeology will start the new humanities of the following millennium.

Our journal was born to deny a rather risky assertion about the critical state of the post Soviet archaeology. We disagree with this diagnosis, although we agree with the most pessimistic evaluations of other disciplines. This is why the ultimate goal of this journal is not only to unite the best creative forces in our discipline, not only to mobilize that cultural stratum, which continues to create following the natural cycle of doubts, hesitations, expeditions, findings and successes, disregarding the vanity of changing authorities, banners and leaders, but also to initiate the progress of archaeology into the future. According to Levi-Strauss, if the twenty-first century is to be, it is going to be a century of humanities. If we are to follow this prophecy, the coming century has very few chances of self-realization. Hence, there is but one hope left – nothing but archaeology!

Mark E. Tkachuk, doctor of history

First Rector,
High Anthropological School University
international journal Stratum plus