Teodor Shanin Made HSE Honorary Professor
At a March 25 meeting of the HSE Academic Council, Teodor Shanin, who is the founder and president of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, was made an honorary professor of the Higher School of Economics.
Professor Shanin’s impressive biography spans both pre- and post-war Europe and Asia. He was born in Vilnius, then a part of Poland and called Wilno, and later lived in exile in Altai and Central Asia. Shanin subsequently returned to Poland, lived in France and England, fought for Israel’s independence, conducted field research in North America and Africa, and has always been interested in Russian peasants and peasant society. Professor Shanin’s sociological and economic research on this subject has brought him considerable academic recognition.
An alumnus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Birmingham, Shanin served many years as a professor at the University of Manchester. Additionally, along with Tatyana Zaslavskaya, he has made an enormous contribution to the establishment of new standards in sociological and economic studies in Russia. This was best demonstrated by the creation of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, which is more simply known as Shaninki.
‘Much of what Professor Shanin has brought to Russian higher education has become widely practiced at our university as well,’ HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov noted while awarding Shanin with the honorary professor diploma. ‘This concerns individualized academic planning, open access to libraries, a rating system for instructors and students, the introduction of powerful research methods to the educational process, and an unwavering respect for academic freedom,’ Kuzminov said of Shanin’s many contributions to the academic landscape of HSE.
‘This honour goes not only to me personally, but to the role that I have unintentionally played as a bridge between English and Russian academic culture,’ Professor Shanin replied. ‘Such relations are particularly valuable during the waves of nationalism that have been seen in many countries around the world,’ he added.
‘In one of my articles, I wrote that alongside Russian academia’s unanswered questions of “what to do?” and “who’s to blame” is the question “West or independence?” My teachers taught me that a question is oftentimes considered unanswerable when it is asked incorrectly. I think this is also true in our case.
‘Russia cannot and should not become a replica of the West. It cannot because a country’s unique cultural aspects do not just disappear because of strong-willed decision-making, and it should not because the disappearance of such aspects would rob Russia – and the world – of something very valuable. At the same time, Russia cannot and should not close itself off from the West. It cannot because globalization is not something invented by analysts and politicians; it is real and irreversible. And it should not because so much of the West’s valuable educational know-how can be integrated into the Russia system.
‘My university and the Higher School of Economics are sworn brothers in this process. Amid our different methodologies and organizational nuances, we are united by our openness to Western academic culture, as well as by our understanding of its accomplishments.
‘In times of despair, it can often seem like the end of the humanities. But it is not true that nothing stands in the way of a degenerative trend of this nature. We stand in the way thanks to our universities and to our confidence in the fact that, as the Talmud declared thousands of years ago, the world truly is based on three concepts: knowledge, labor, and acts of mercy,’ Shanin concludes.
On April 20, 2016, during the XVII HSE April International Academic Conference, Michel Sollogoub, Professor at Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne University, was awarded the tittle of Honorary Professor of the Higher School of Economics.