• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Olessia Kirtchik:‘Behind common images of intransigent opposition, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest emerges’

On October 17-19, 2013 the international conference ‘Social and Human Sciences on Both Sides of the “Iron Curtain”’ organized by the HSE Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities will be held in Moscow.

This international conference is intended to put together research findings on the history of social and human sciences in the capitalist West and the socialist East during the second half of the 20th century. HSE news service will publish a series of materials on the conference.

Olessia Kirtchik, senior research fellow at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, member of the programme committee of the conference spoke to HSE news service about the conference and why this is such an intriguing area of study.

— What are the goals of the conference?

— The history and sociology of the Cold War social and human sciences is an exciting topic of growing interest as witnessed by a series of conferences and publications of very high quality which have taken place especially in last five years in Great Britain, United States, France and other countries. Most of these academic events and publications are dealing with the Western European and North American context, while the “Eastern” or “Socialist” part of the story is virtually absent from discussion. For various reasons this field of study is still only at the germination stage in Russia. Nevertheless, we received many responses to our call for papers from scholars working on the history of social and human sciences on both sides of the Iron Curtain, while some of them attempting a comparative analysis. This meeting is conceived as one of the first occasions to bring together these different perspectives. I believe such a dialogue might be insightful for all participants. Another important goal of this conference is to familiarize our social scientists and students with the scholarship on the Cold War social sciences.

— Could you tell us about the participants and highlight the discussion issues?

— This conference has a truly international and multidisciplinary orientation. Most of the participants are historians, philosophers and sociologists coming from the United States and Europe (Germany, France, UK, Czech Republic, and other countries). Among our speakers are young as well as established researchers, such as Philip Mirowski, one of the most important historians and philosophers of economics of the post War period, author of the book Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science Cambridge University Press, 2001. The confrontation of national and disciplinary contexts is an important issue proposed for discussions at thematic sessions embracing very different topics from economic modeling to philosophy.

— What's most exciting for you as a researcher in the history of social and human sciences in the second half of the 20th century?

— As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the Cold War on the history of social and human sciences in the Soviet Union remains a large and almost unknown field. I’d like to invite colleagues, especially younger ones, to look closely at this research area. For me personally, the most intellectually challenging and motivating thing was to discover, behind common images of intransigent opposition, of two mutually exclusive societal and political alternatives, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest, and knowledge transfers. This kind of historical and comparative investigation also enlightens us on the impact of different ideological and institutional contexts on scientific practices and cultures.

— What would you recommend for young people to read to understand the processes which happened in the second half of the 20th century?

— In recent years, we’ve seen a quite impressive flow of scholarly literature dealing with the development of different social and human science disciplines after the Second World War. I believe the interest of this literature transcends the borders of specialized sub-disciplines, because the history of knowledge and technology is essential to our understanding of the political and social history of contemporary societies. Just to mention a few:

Mark Solovey, Hamilton Cravens, eds. 2012. Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature. Palgrave Macmillan.

Roger E. Backhouse, Philippe Fontaine. 2010. The History of the Social Sciences since 1945. Cambridge University Press.

Engerman, D. C., Gilman, N., Haefele, M. H., & Latham, M. E. 2003. Staging growth: Modernization, development, and the global Cold War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

— How did the HSE start and develop cooperation with international researchers on this topic? What plans do you have for further cooperation?

— Cooperation with some of the participants started long before the conference as part of various projects with researchers at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities and with the Research and educational group for Social Studies of Economic Knowledge. Besides, the conference has brought many new people thanks to a very large circulation of the call for contributions. As long as sociology and history of knowledge remains one of the IGITI’s main areas of focus, we hope to maintain these old and new contacts while developing new cooperative projects. In the short term, we’re planning to publish the most interesting conference papers in an edited volume offering a comparative perspective on the history of social sciences and humanities on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for the HSE news service


See also:

Exploring the History of Places and Environment in Russia

The collective volume Place and Nature: Essays in Russian Environmental History, co-edited by David Moon, Nicholas B. Breyfogle, and HSE researcher Alexandra Bekasova, was recently presented at a seminar of the Laboratory for the Environmental and Technological History of the Centre for Historical Research at HSE – St. Petersburg. The book is one of the fruits of a networking project carried out in 2013-2016 with active participation of HSE researchers.

Conference Brings Together New Perspectives on the Russian Far East

On March 28-31, 2021, the HSE International Laboratory ‘Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective’ held an international conference ‘The Russian Far East: Regional and Transnational Perspectives (19th -21st cent.)’. The event was jointly organized by the Laboratory with the German Historical Institute Moscow, Indiana University Bloomington (USA), and the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS (Vladivostok).

Studying the Middle Ages Is Fascinating

The recently launched Master's Programme in Medieval Studies is the only Master’s degree in Russia fully dedicated to medieval studies. HSE News Service spoke with Juan Sota, a second-year student of the programme, about its unique features, interacting with professors, and his research interests and aspirations.

British Scholar on Exploring Russian History

On February 9, the HSE International Laboratory 'Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective' hosted Janet Hartley (London School of Economics), who presented her recent monograph The Volga: A History of Russia’s Greatest River. The presentation was part of a joint lecture series between the Laboratory and The Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation. HSE news service spoke with Janet Hartley about her interest in Russia, her experience travelling and doing research in Russia, and the books she has written on Russia.

Financial Front: The USSR State Budget during World War II

After June 1941, the Soviet budget was no longer the same. Marking the end of peaceful life, budget revenues dwindled, and the Treasury was drained of billions of rubles. But because the war required money, the government had to find it from somewhere. Oleg Khlevnyuk, Professor at the HSE University’s School of History, examines the Soviet Union’s wartime and post-war financial policies in his paper.

Slut-Shaming by Lend-Lease

Russian women who associated with Soviet allies during World War II were subjected to unusually harsh persecution. This was especially true in the north of the country that saw the arrival of thousands of U.S. and British sailors. For having contact with these foreigners, Soviet women received the same severe punishment meted out to Nazi collaborators: charges of treason and 10 years in a forced labour camp. HSE Associate Professor Liudmila Novikova studied how and why this policy shaped their destinies.

Studying Cultural History of Ethnic Minorities in the USSR

Isabelle R. Kaplan, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, talks about her research on non-Slavic minorities in the Soviet Union in an interview to the HSE Look.

Scarcity Trauma: Why Russia in the 1990s Was not Nostalgic about Soviet Life

In 2001, ten years after the launch of reforms in Russia, 54% of Russians  believed  the main achievement of the reforms was the availability of consumer goods, rather than freedom of speech or the possibility of travelling  abroad. A decade later, public attitudes had not changed, and the availability of goods on store shelves was still perceived as the number one priority. The massive trauma caused by scarcity was particularly strong. How it was addressed and in what way it influenced public attitudes after the USSR collapse is examined in a study  by HSE professor Oleg Khlevnyuk.

Underground Capitalist in Soviet Russia

Nikolai Pavlenko, a shadow entrepreneur and creator of a successful business in Stalin’s USSR, was executed by firing squad in 1955. Running a successful commercial enterprise right under the dictator’s nose in a strictly planned economy was a striking but not so uncommon case in the Soviet Union at the time, according to HSE professor Oleg Khlevniuk who made a number of unexpected findings having studied newly accessible archival documents. Below, IQ.HSE offers a summary of what his study reveals.

From Chains to Art Therapy: The Evolution of Mental Health Care

Mental health disorders are among the leading worldwide causes of disease and long-term disability. This issue has a long and painful history of gradual de-stigmatization of patients, coinciding with humanization of therapeutic approaches. What are the current trends in Russia regarding this issue and in what ways is it similar to and different from Western countries? IQ.HSE provides an overview of this problem based on research carried out by Svetlana Kolpakova.