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Regular version of the site

Political Scientist with Freedom of Choice

On 8th May Andrei Melville, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences celebrates his 65th birthday.

Andrei Melville’s move from Philosophy to Political Science is not difficult to explain: back in the 1960s and 70s in the USSR people didn’t talk about political science (it was only officially recognized as a discipline at the end of the 80s) but about a kind of interdisciplinary area where philosophy, sociology and psychology overlap. ‘Our generation is self-taught, we were very uniform, we had to learn about the global theoretical and methodological traditions of political science off our own bat and from zero,’ says Professor Melville.  He has been studying this reconstruction from nothing of Russian political science for more than 25 years, starting with research on existentialism, pursuing the phenomenon of counterculture and then, at the Institute of the USA and Canada, where Melville became a political analyst.

Professor Melville was directly involved in the creation of the first department of political science in Russia at (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) MGIMO. He soon became its director. It’s worth pointing out that this was a genuinely new department and not a reinvented school or department of Marxist-Leninism as often happened later on. ‘We found and invited people who didn’t have an ideological hangover from the past,’ emphasises Melville.

After 6 years as Dean at the Faculty of Political Sciences and then 10 years as Vice-Rector of MGIMO, Andrei Melville came to work with his good friend Mark Urnov at HSE. At first he was professor, then Dean at the Faculty of Social Sciences where he is today.

Professor Melville admits to being obsessed with the idea of freedom of choice and the idea that existence precedes essence, that a person can create his/her own reality both around and inside themselves. Maybe that’s why the main areas of his political research have been to do with the problems of authoritarianism and democracy.

Melville is the editor and coauthor of the textbook Political Sciencewhich has run into many editions. But he is realistic about the state of political science in Russia: in the academic landscape there are bogs and mires and only rarely one comes across little hummocks like HSE. All Melville’s efforts are to make the hummocks grow year by year.    

One more thing which speaks volumes about Melville and his professionalism: he is not afraid to learn new things, even from his students. ‘Some colleagues believe that they have the last word, but I’m not like that’, he says. ‘It may sound banal, but it is never too late to learn. Coming to HSE was incredibly significant for my personal and professional development. I’ve found important teachers for myself, and I’m very grateful.’




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