In the late 1950s, Isaiah Berlin famously distinguished positive (the capacity to act upon one’s free will) and negative (freedom from external restraint) liberty. Some scholars observed that this positive freedom was associated with a socialist regime, under which the state acted upon citizens in order not to produce personal liberties but to make a ‘collective individual’ of the imagined future. So, if we employ similar views to analyze Soviet public space or public sphere, we may find such spaces nurturing positive liberties of the new Soviet man, and we can also find multiple restrictions (censorship, violence, and various modes of suppressing a person) that acted against negative liberty. For researchers, therefore, underground publishing in the USSR would signify the existence of public space (negative liberty), while television would have a position within a space of state ideology (positive liberty). When writing about television as a public sphere (in the West) Peter Dahlgren meant the practice of journalism, which was aimed to produce various democratic opinions among the public. Indeed, there was almost no so-called free journalism in the USSR. However retaining binary positions (positive-negative) removes from the focus the potential of the Soviet audience to interpret or resist official messages, and to construct its own meanings. During the presentation, we will try to go beyond such binaries and offer the view of Soviet television as a hybrid public sphere.     

Bohdan Shumylovych obtained a master’s degree in modern history from the Central European University (Budapest, Hungary, 2004-2005), and in 2020 he has received a Ph.D. from the European University Institute in Florence. He has worked with the archive of the Faculty of Visual Arts at George Washington University, Washington (USA) and the archive of Open Society Institute (, in Budapest. At the Center for Urban History (L’viv) he coordinates the Public history program, gives lectures, participates in the development of the Centre’s thematic exhibitions, and carries out research. The main focus of his work is media history in East-Central Europe and the Soviet Union, as well as media arts, visual studies, urban spatial practices, and urban creativity.

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