Although science and technology in the Soviet and post-Soviet world have developed in line with the innovations of the age, the social and political use made of them warrants close attention from researchers to see how within their physical manifestations there emerge practices of influence and peculiar subjectivity.
Two crosscutting issues cover the research carried out in this theme. One is the formulation of science and technology policy. The aim is to examine how administrators, experts and the general public interact so as to study the institutional dynamics and political reconfigurations that emerge from controversies and discussions within the various fields of scientific activity and technological innovation. Particular attention is paid to the integration of policy into transnational dynamics through the channel of circulation and exchange with international institutions and partners, both during the Cold War and the post-Soviet opening-up.
The other issue is the ordinary practice, appropriation, use and misuse of science and technology in society. Any research into science policy and government behaviour must focus on examining citizens’ behaviour when faced with the use and appropriation of new science and technology tools throughout the 20th and early 21st century. The aim is to describe social dynamics with respect to innovation by re-examining the relationship between authoritarianism and inventiveness. Examining transnational dynamics helps in exploring changes within the Soviet, post-Soviet and European worlds, such as the relationship between experience and knowledge at a time when paradigms were shifting after the fall of the Socialist regimes.
To address these crosscutting questions, three research areas are envisaged to find answers on the basis of an analysis of various objects and fields.
Communication technology, knowledge policy and practices of influence
A first set of studies concerns the science and technology of human behaviour, the social, and communication practices. The research covers innovation policy in the field of new information and communication technology, from Soviet post, telephone and telegraph services studied by Larissa Zakharova to the development of the internet and its uses in contemporary Russia, analysed by Françoise Daucé. Discussion will cover the social and political upheavals brought about by these technical innovations, particularly their use by communication professionals, experts in influence and human behaviour using social psychology and marketing, studied by Yves Cohen. One focus is the repressive and coercive use of these technical tools by law enforcement agencies (Perrine Poupin).
Humanities and social sciences policy
One research strand examines upheavals and changes in the field of university and scholarly knowledge. Carole Sigman studies the major points of university policy and post-Soviet academic reforms. A discussion of the evolution of economics paradigms from the end of the Soviet period to the present day will be proposed by Olessia Kirtchik. In social sciences, Anne Madelain researches into the political uses made of historical studies in the post-Yugoslav countries. These academic policies are examined both in terms of policy formulation and their adaptation and appropriation by scholars in the worlds of the university and research. Special attention is given to the international circulation and transfer of knowledge by the work of Sophie Cœuré, Natalia Pashkeeva and Natalia Avtonomova.
Governance of science, technology and the environment
A third research area concerns the deployment and operation of the exact sciences (including biomedicine) and technology in the USSR, and their relation with the environment. The work describes the ways in which science, technology and the environment were politicised, and the effects of science and technology on politics and society. The aim is to assess the place and role of science and technology in the modes of governance in the Soviet Union (Larissa Zakharova, Grégory Dufaud). One focus will be the forms of commitment of researchers and engineers to what they saw as Socialist science and technology. Some projects address the environmental issue in Russia/USSR, following on from the French-German ANR “EcoGlobReg” project (2014-2017), comprising Marc Élie, Laurent Coumel and Paul Josephson. They are studying the emergence of technosciences, especially pedology during and after the Cold War, geo-engineering projects and the technocratic vision of nature in government circles and among some ecologists, and the unfolding of controversies in various forums.
Centre de recherches historiques
Centre Alexandre Koyré
University network of environmental history researchers
Institute for Eastern European History and Area Studies (University of Tübingen)
Telecom Paris Tech
CNRS Institute for Communication Sciences
Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Centre d’études franco-russe (CEFR), Moscow