Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Re -imagining the Soviet intelligentsia: Student politics and university life, 1948–1964
by Tromly, Benjamin Kimbrough, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2007, 541; 3265212
Abstract (Summary)

Few problems have generated as divergent scholarly evaluations as the place of the intelligentsia in the Soviet order. This dissertation analyzes contestation surrounding the Soviet intelligentsia through a study of student politics in postwar universities in Moscow, Kyiv, and Saratov. Interpreting the intelligentsia as a set of social templates that individuals could adopt to construct identities, it demonstrates that students sought to negotiate and re-imagine the place of the intellectual in Soviet society.

The dissertation begins in 1948 and ends with the ouster of Khrushchev in 1964, covering a period of transitions during which the meaning of intelligentsia was a part of a broader ambiguity about the nature of Soviet socialism. Using an array of archival and oral history sources, the study examines the spheres of university life in which intellectual identities formed. It stresses the difficulty that the Soviet party-state experienced in shaping the student body and hence in constructing the educated strata of the future. Late Stalinist campaigns to instill ideological discipline disillusioned idealistic youths and created unanticipated forms of solidarity in the universities. Similarly, the partial dismantling of Stalinist practices and policies after 1953 gave rise to a torrent of questioning in the universities about the nature of the intelligentsia. Khrushchev's efforts from 1956 to merge intellectuals with the Soviet masses often had the effect of further disaggregating the two entities.

The inability of the Party-state to produce educated strata that met its expectations had much to do with the distinct milieu of the postwar universities. The dominant Stalinera conception of the intelligentsia defined higher learning as a means to the unquestioning service that every citizen owed to the Party-state. In the universities, students became exposed to alternative models that afforded intellectuals a special connection to the interests of Soviet society as a whole. This analysis casts new light on the emergence of critical thinking intellectuals in the last decades of the USSR. Rather than constituting an alienated fringe or a belated continuation of pre-revolutionary traditions, the intellectuals who eventually played an important role in the fall of communism were a product of Soviet institutions and ideas.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Martin, Terry
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 68/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: European history, Russian history
Keywords: Intelligentsia, Russia, Soviet, Student politics, Ukraine, University
Publication Number: 3265212
ISBN: 9780549040804
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