CfA: Late Socialism (1956-85)

Late Socialism (1956-85): The Forgotten Years between Stalinism and Perestroika

Venue: Tallinn
Period: JUly 24-31, 2015
Application deadline: rolling basis

The last three decades of the Soviet Union prior to perestroika have been labelled the time of “thaw” and “stagnation” but also “mature” or “late” socialism. The controversies and legacy of that period have not rendered a simple overarching theory. The Tallinn Summer School in Social and Cultural Studies will bring together leading scholars and PhD students who are interested in discussing the Soviet Union from late 1950s to early 1980s.

The students of the previous epoch of Stalinism have moved on from totalitarian and revisionist paradigms towards more complex analytical approaches; this includes ideological identification, discursive realities, socio-demographic processes, everyday life, and comparative modernization paradigms, to name a few. The scholars of the “thaw” and “stagnation” have followed similar trends. However, inclusive and encompassing theories have often been missing from the conceptualizations of that period when the pillar of state coercion was removed and only the two other pillars of party dictatorship and planned economy remained.

Moreover, late socialism is often squeezed between Stalinism and perestroika both in popular discourses and in many historical research projects. The period is essentially seen as a milder continuation of Stalinism (e.g. in discussions of the nature of regime) or as a prelude to perestroika (e.g. in discussions of consumerism). The political climate in Eastern Europe and the opportunities of archival access have both favoured the study of the first half of the Soviet Union’s existence over its second half. It is time to change that trend. The recent interest in the post war processes of modernization in the West, the preoccupation with the prehistories of deregulation and globalisation, but also with the recent events in Ukraine (Moldova, Georgia), call for revisiting and studying diverse histories of Soviet Union in comparative contexts.

The course addresses, but is not limited to the following questions:
How to make generalizations about late socialism that seems to have spread plurality and diversity of experiences and life-worlds? How to theorize the coexistence of radically different life-worlds?
How to bring together the discussions of ethnic and regional diversity with those of the processes in the urban centres such as Moscow and Leningrad?
To what extent can the Soviet Union of that period be interpreted in the context of the simultaneous Western developments and to what extent should it be a site of “indigenous” theorising? How to look at the period without employing dichotomous – characterizations (free-totalitarian and resistance-collaboration)?
How to overcome national borders in research that have emerged and solidified in Eastern Europe since the end of the USSR? How to draw upon the studies of the Eastern Bloc countries and help to push the studies of socialism further in their European, perhaps even global, dimension?
How to apply and adapt current general historical research trends such as histoire croisee, or histories of transfers, emotions, senses, and environment to the study of late Socialism?
The course provides the students methodological and practical knowledge on most relevant theories and approaches to the period of late socialism. It is designed to build up both analytical and practical skills, consisting of an intense series of plenary lectures and seminars and combining macro-level discussions with case studies and student workshops.

Faculty includes Juliane Fürst (University of Bristol and Harvard University Davies Center), Polly Jones (University of Oxford), Catriona Kelly (University of Oxford, President of ASEEES) and Alexei Yurchak (University of California, Berkeley) as key-note speakers. The rest of faculty combines local and foreign researchers from the fields of art history, post-colonial studies, history of Soviet ethnicity and identity, science, urbanity, media consumption, and local elites, among the other themes.
The course is designed for PhD students in the Humanities and Social Sciences; however, motivated MA students and non-degree scholars are also welcome to apply. A maximum of 30-35 students will be accepted. Participants should have at least an intermediate level of English as this will be the language of instruction. Students are expected to do some preparatory reading in order to participate in the seminars and workshops. They also have an option (not compulsory) to present their own research during student colloquia.
Application Procedure
To apply, please register and fill the space for 300-500 word introduction in the application. This introduction should include a short CV, your motivation statement, and a title and a short description of your presentation (if applicable). Should there be more applicants than the course can accept, the choice will be made based on the CVs and (where applicable) on the interest of the presentation abstracts provided.
Credit points

Upon full participation with student presentation and 1000-word reflection paper or 2500-word final essay (and no student presentation), students will be awarded 6 ECTS points
Non-refundable registration fee is 80 EUR and should be paid after acceptance to the course (members of The Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts are exempt from the registration fee). A small number of fee waivers may be additionally available upon well-motivated request (based on separate motivation letter to Teet Teinemaa).
Accommodation and meals are not included in the fee.
Tallinn University
Information & contacts
Teet Teinemaa

Inquiries on registration

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