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State policy and ideology in the field of culture

Department: Laboratory for Cultural Studies
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

The project was implemented within the framework of the HSE Basic research program.

The object of this investigation is state cultural policy and politics.

This investigation examines the internationalization of scientific and scholarly communication in the period before World War I, taking philosophy as an example. In the first part of the article, a number of general trends in internationalization during the 19th and 20th centuries are examined. This includes the importance of international experience for Russia’s policies today towards science and education. The main part of this article introduces the concept of the “international argument” and analytically points out the three types of appeal to the international community: the pragmatic, the reputational and the communicative. The article then shows, through the example of German philosophical discussions that took place between the first third and the end of the 19th century (the case of Friedrich Eduard Beneke and Hermann Ebbinghaus), the increasing importance of international communication during this period. The last part of the article examines the role played by the cessation of international communication during World War I as a way of looking at the processes which took place at that time in German science and philosophy.

The essay considers discussions between the leading American intellectuals in 1915–1918 about the aims and the spiritual meaning of the First World War. Its main concern is with the political writings of John Dewey (1859–1952), one of the most prominent American intellectuals of the XX century and one of the founding fathers of American pragmatism. In the essay I offer a discussion of his views on the causes and aims of the “Great War”, on the importance of the USA entering the war in 1917, and on the influence of the “Great War” upon American society.

The rebirth of communism, as shown by a new wave of publications (A. Badiou, B. Groys, S. Žižek), disqualifies the historical peculiarity of the Soviet experience in favor of the eternal “idea of communism”, originated in the works of the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It is an ironical reversal of the fates suffered by the studies of Antiquity after the Russian Revolution. Apparently, the present day supra-historical idealism and the old school historical materialism exclude each other. On the other hand, an analysis of Soviet cultural politics in the 1920 - 30s may demonstrate that those radical theoretical stances were presented as distinct practical phases in the same changing experience of communism. A repudiation of the Soviet past brings for the current rebirth of communism nothing other than a masking of the ugly practical problems behind theoretical purity.

The Soviet campaign to irradicate illiteracy in the 1920–30s was at the same time an educational and an ideological project. For its organizers these two sides of the process were interconnected. The article analyzes official documents of the time and instructive materials produced for the activists of the campaign. As a result of these efforts the population not only learned to read and write but also mastered a “new Soviet language”, which people transformed from an instrument of control over mass behavior into a tool of achieving their specific needs.

The creation of Soviet cuisine was an elaborate project aimed not only at creating a food industry but also at a systemic transformation of the way of life of Soviet people entering industrial society. In this respect, the Soviet culinary experiment did not contradict world-wide tendencies but was their extreme manifestation. The relative success of this project is attested by the fact that many elements of Soviet cuisine are still the basis of daily food for millions across the ex-USSR.

Another aim of the research is to analyze the process of the initial institutionalization of the history of science in the Soviet Union that covers the period from 1921 to 1938. The process includes the creation of a Commission for the History of Knowledge at the Academy of Sciences and then a subsequent reorganization of the Commission into the Institute of the History of Science and Technology.

The creation of the first institutions for the history of science in the Soviet Union took place at the same time as a rapid development of the discipline around the world. In the first decades of the XX century the history of science (which may also include the history of medicine and technology) gradually become a particular scientific discipline with journals, professional associations, research institutions and educational programs. The process culminated in 1928-29 when the first International Committee for the History of Science (later the International Academy of the History of Science) was created on the initiative of Aldo Mieli.

The main objectives of the ongoing research include: (1) to study the interaction between private and public initiatives in the process of the institutionalization of the history of science in the USSR, (2) to analyse specific traits that established the history of science in the Soviet state context, and (3) to study the functions of the history of science in the ideological discourse of the Soviet system. The main question that forms the research perspective of this work examines whereby the private interests of individual researchers to historical research is supported by the Soviet state apparatus.

The study is based on two main methods. The first one is an analysis of texts and documents that explain the aims and objectives of the study of the history of science in the USSR (from both the administrative and private sides) compared with practical results that have been achieved in the research structures. The second one consists of contrasting the rhetorical strategies of legitimation of the new discipline used in different national and political contexts. In order to identify the specificity of Soviet state policy in organization and support of the history of science two similar cases of European history were analyzed: the first case is related to the creation of a chair of general history of science at the College de France in 1892, and the second takes into account the unsuccessful attempt of the Italian historians of science headed by Federigo Enriques to obtain state support for the National Institute for the History of Science in 1928. In all the cases investigated the focus is on how the history of science is seen as an object of special state interest.

The research enables us to distinguish two fundamentally different phases in the process of the institutionalization of the history of science in the Soviet Union. The first stage covered the initial period of activity of the Commission on the History of Knowledge headed by Vladimir Vernadsky (1921–1928). In this period the impact of the state apparatus was negligible and the activities of the Commission lay in the exclusive competence of the Academy of Sciences. At that time the main purpose of historical research was to propagandize the achievements of national scientific thought. The second period is linked with Nikolai Bukharin. The Commission's activities became a matter of state policy. The interest of historians of science was shifted to the following tasks: to reveal the continuity between Russian and Soviet science, to explore the national contribution to world science, to propose the Marxist interpretation of the history of science, to create a positive image of the Soviet Union for the international scientific community through the participation of Soviet historians science in international congresses and conferences and to promote general scientific culture in the Soviet Union.

The study shows that the specific character of practicing the history of science in the USSR includes special emphasis on the popularization of science, the integration of the history of technology with the history of science, a strong emphasis on socio-economic factors in the development of scientific thought. Such practical interest in the history of science promoted the consolidation of its own disciplinary field on the one hand but on the other it led to a significant reduction in the average level of research because the target audience for historical publications was poorly educated.

The period of single sex education in Soviet school history was short – only 11 years (1943-54). Nevertheless, it has left a significant mark not only in the education system, but in culture as well. This reform has reflected more general processes, first of all, those related to rethinking the official approach to the cultural, ideological and even political heritage of the pre-revolutionary era.

It is not surprising that the style of soviet “school film” originated exactly in the single sex education period, when problems of education and its organization came to be perceived in society as having independent value and were much discussed. These films set a definite stylistic and conceptual basis for depicting school in general in soviet cinema and literature. And, notwithstanding the fact that school changed later on, authors of subsequent creations in one way or another appealed to the cultural canon of that period.



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