Management of Science and Technology in the Soviet Union

Le 9 juin 2017, à Paris, le Cercec organise un colloque sur le management des sciences et technologies en Union soviétique. Son objectif : explorer les relations entre les mondes politique, d'une part, et scientifique et technique, d'autre part, dans les pays du bloc soviétique entre 1945 et 1991.

Affiche du colloque Management of Science and Technology in Soviet Union (création Graphique: Guillaume Lavezzari)Based on the assumption that science must be independent from politics, the historiography of the Cold War denounced the politicisation of science in the Soviet Union and the countries of the Soviet bloc. According to the totalitarian school of historiography, state socialist science and technology were completely dominated by the political authorities. From the end of the 1970s and especially after the opening of the archives at the beginning of the 1990s, these interpretive schemes according to which Soviet science was dominated by the Party were questioned.

A new generation of researchers analysed such phenomena as struggles between different groups, the importance of personal networks, and diffusion of Party rituals among scientists. Historians pointed out that although we can still speak of domination, it should be understood as a discursive one: the Party language was a resource used in the competition between groups of scientists looking for recognition. However, as Alexei Kojevnikov noted, even if the ideology of apolitical science gradually lost its legitimacy and disappeared from debates about science and society in general, it has survived in discourse about science and technology under regimes of the Soviet type. Soviet/socialist science and technology are still often evaluated against an anachronistic dualist vision that separates sciences/technologies and politics into two distinct spheres. Moreover, historians generally consider that scientists under Soviet/socialist regimes were animated exclusively by instrumental interests, as if other forms of commitment were not possible.

This workshop seeks to overcome this outdated conception, by exploring the reasoning behind the commitment of the scientists and engineers. It aims to apprehend the forms of negotiation between the actors without judging whether they belong a priori to one world or the other (politics or science). Identifying the reasoning behind and the nature of these commitments will help to reveal the specificities of State socialism in general and of science and technology under the Socialist regimes in particular. If the symbiosis of science, technology and engineering can be seen as a general trend in the 20th century, what was different in socialist countries?

The main objective of this workshop is to explore the relations between politics and science/technology in the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991. We will analyse how the authorities governed science and how science and technology became integral to modes of socialist governing. We will try to map the institutional world of science and technology: its actors, structures, programs and procedures for allocating resources. We ask: What were the priorities of the Soviet government in science and technology? What kinds of actors were involved in the definition of the politics of science? And what were the geographies of centre and periphery structuring the organization of science? We will examine the choices made for science policy in relation to domestic and foreign policy issues.



Introduction by Grégory Dufaud and Larissa Zakharova


Larissa Zakharova (EHESS/CERCEC), Administrating or Assisting Innovation? Applied Research in Soviet Telecommunications in the Aftermath of the Second World War

Ksenia Tatarchenko (Geneva University), The Measure of Authority: Administrating post-Stalinist Science

Egle Rindzeviciute (Kingston University), A System to Govern Them All? Mapping the Institutional Landscape of Systems Analysis in the Soviet Union

12.00-13.30. Lunch


Isabelle Gouarné (CNRS/Curapp-ESS), Modernizing with Science: International Scientific Cooperation and Reforms in the USSR (1960s-1970s)

Laurence Nye (Paris X Nanterre), “…For Peaceful Purposes”. Civil Space Sector Management in USSR: Instruments, Scientific Communities, Projects (1965-1985)

Grégory Dufaud (CNRS/CERMES3), Coordinating Research in Biotechnologies in the Soviet Bloc (1970s-1980s)

15.30-16.00. Coffee break


Marc Elie (CNRS/CERCEC), Pedology in Soviet Sciences: a Minor Discipline?

Laurent Coumel (ANR/CERCEC), Institutionalization of Water Resources Control in the 1960-1980s: the Battle for an Independent Expertise

Galina Orlova (Southern Federal University / European Humanities University), Security as an Inscription Device: the Case of Soviet Nuclear Science

18.00-18.30. General Discussion

Download the program (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Photo : Création graphique de l'affiche et du programme : Guillaume Lavezzari