The End of the Soviet Union? Origins and Legacies of 1991

The End of the Soviet Union? Origins and Legacies of 1991

19-21 mai 2011


During the last two decades, the thitherto unimaginable collapse of the Soviet Union was seen both as a definite break with the Soviet past and the onset of a phase of ‘transition’ to a democratic future. From both Eastern and Western standpoints, the year 1991 appeared as a definite epochal border. Almost a generation later, the Soviet hymn has made its way back into official state symbols glorifying Russia’s Greatness akin to Soviet tradition, Soviet leaders are praised for their leadership and management skills, the loss of Soviet ideals is lamented in public and official discourse alike. Two decades after ‘The End of History’, the emphasis is placed on continuities rather than fissures – history is back and the clear delineation represented by ‘1991’ seems to evaporate in the face of this renewed, if ambivalent affirmation of the Soviet past.

These new trends in Russia’s post-(post-)Soviet self-representations raise questions as to the origins, legacies and transmutations of politics, social relations and cultural codes linked to the Soviet past. Scholars increasingly deal with the roots and determinants of a cultural system that seemingly exhausted itself in the 1970s, came under fire in the 1980s and disintegrated in 1991, but whose ruins are not only resurrected in new splendor, but matter to a larger portion of Russia’s population today. Their recent findings are at the center of this conference, bringing together historians, anthropologists, slavists and social scientists.

How can both collapse and the symbolic resurrection of the Soviet Union be understood across the time span of a generation? How did social networks and cultural codes make sense before and after 1991? How are and were politicians and party members, dissidents as well as conformists, young and old codependent on a system that was brought on by state socialism and transformed by both popular and official discourse? And how and for what ends did and do different groups envision the past, the present and the future? These are but a few of the question that will be discussed on the basis of pre-circulated papers.

Please note that registration is a requirement as the venue allows only for a limited amount of additional participants. To register and get access to the pre-circulated papers, please contact Maike Lehmann at

The conference fee will be 35 € covering expenses for lunch and coffee breaks, payable upon arrival.

May 19th, 2011

13:30 Registration

14:00 Welcome

14:15 Round Table – Origins and Legacies of 1991

Chair: Susanne Schattenberg (FSO Bremen/U Bremen) Stephen Bittner (Sonoma State University) Kevin Platt (U of Pennsylvania) Alexei Yurchak (U of California at Berkeley)

15:45 Coffee Break

16:15 (Post)Soviet Politics. Leaders and Elites

Chair: Heiko Pleines (FSO Bremen)

  • Susanne Schattenberg (FSO Bremen/U Bremen): « Dnepropetrovsk in Power.  Brezhnev’s Rule as Synthesis of Stalin’s and Khrushchev’s Leadership »
  • Nikolay Mitrokhin (FSO Bremen) : « (Former) Members of CC Apparatus and the Demise of the Soviet Union (in Russian) »

Discussants: Claudia Weber (HIS Hamburg) & David Lane (Cambridge U)

May 20th, 2011

09:00 (Post)Soviet Politics. Social Movements

Chair: Karl Schlögel (Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin)

  • Benjamin Nathans (U of Pennsylvania) : « The Self as Other. Soviet Dissident Memoirs »
  • Miriam Dobson (U of Sheffield) : « Religious Belief and the Social Sciences in the 1960s »

Discussants: Serguei Oushakine (U Princeton) & Alexandra Oberländer (U Bremen)

10:30 Coffee Break

11:00 (Post)Soviet Practices. Mobilizing Citizens

Chair: Manfred Zeller (FSO Bremen)

  • Gleb Tsipursky (U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) : « Komsomol Patrols.  Soviet Volunteer Youth Militias in Saratov, 1954-1964 »
  • Maike Lehmann (FSO Bremen/U Bremen) : « Mobilization for a Common Cause. (Soviet) Worldviews and their Legacies on the National Periphery »

Discussants: Juliane Fürst (U of Bristol) & Susan Reid (U of Sheffield)

12:30 Lunchbuffet

14:30 (Post)Soviet Practices. Politics of the Everyday

Chair: Alice Szczepanikova (Goethe-University, Frankfurt/ M)

  • Anna Paretskaya (University of Wisconsin-Madison) : « The Politics of Smallest Things. How ‘Lazy, Cowardly, and Selfish’ Changed the Soviet Union »
  • Andrea Weiss (CEU Budapest) : « Trajectories of Economic Practices. Networks and the State in Mingrelia »

Discussants: Walter Sperling (RU Bochum) & Heiko Pleines (FSO Bremen)

16:00 Coffee Break

16:30 On the Margins. (Post)Soviet Identity Politics

Chair: Stephen Bittner (Sonoma State University)

  • Moritz Florin (U of Hamburg) : « Soviet Persons. Elites, the Russian Language and Soviet Identity in Kyrgyzstan, 1953-2011 »
  • Edgar, Adrienne (U of California at Santa Barbara) & Saule Ualiyeva (East Kazakhstan State Technical University) : « Ethnic Intermarriage, Mixed People, and ‘Druzhba Narodov’ in Soviet and Post-Soviet Kazakhstan »

Discussants: Otto Habeck (MPI Halle) & Kristin Roth-Ey (SSEES/UCL London)

May 21st, 2010

09:00 Cultural Codes. The (Post)Soviet Empire of Signs

Chair: Alexei Yurchak (U of California at Berkeley)

  • Maxim Waldstein (Leiden University) : « Parallel Science and Late Soviet Academia. The Case of Tartu Semiotics »
  • Anna Geltzer (Cornell University) : « A Failure of Imagination? The Crisis of Professional Identity in Russian Biomedicine »
  • Manfred Zeller (FSO Bremen) : « Knitting the Polysemic Scarf. The Emergence of What We Now Call fanatskoe dvizhenie in Late Soviet Moscow, 1976-2011 »

Discussants: Stephen Lovell (King’s College) & Malte Rolf (U Hannover)

10:30 Coffee Break

11:00 The Post-Soviet Life of Soviet Symbols

Chair: Alexandra Oberländer (U Bremen)

  • Elisa Ruiz Velasco Garcia (U of Aarhus) : « A Soviet Dissident as Symbol of Russia?  The canonization of Solzhenitsyn in recent Russian memory culture « 
  • Gediminas Lankauskas (U of Regina) : « On Complications of Postsocialist Amnesia in Lithuania »
  • Serguei Oushakine (Princeton U) : « Affective Management. Remembering the Second World War in Russia »

Discussants: Jan Plamper (MPI Berlin) & Kevin Platt (U of Pennsylvania)

ca. 13:00 Lunchbuffet

14:00 End of Conference

Convened by Susanne Schattenberg and Maike Lehmann

Venue: Gästehaus der Universität Bremen (Teerhof)

Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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