Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  jgo.e-reviews 6 (2016), 2 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Curtis Richardson


Soslovie russkich professorov. Sozdateli statusov i smyslov. [Der Stand der russischen Professoren. Die Begründer von Status und Sinn] Hrsg. von Elena A. Višlenkova / I. M. Saveleva. Moskva: Izd. dom Vysšej školy ėkonomiki, 2013. 386 S. ISBN: 978-5-7598-1046-9.

This excellently edited collection of essays covers the history of Russian universities from the mid-eighteenth century, and then the beginning of the university system in the early nineteenth century to the post-Soviet era. It is not strictly a history of the Russian universities or the system per se, but an attempt to understand the concept of the Russian (understood in a broad, non-ethnic sense, so not russkii, but rossiiskii) professoriate, but as an estate and collective association, and the title illustrates well this approach and was chosen for that reason (p. 7). Its authors probe how the professoriate was understood and conceived of itself during those more than two centuries, among other conceptualizations, in addition to the importance of a collective group past.

This book emerged out of the collaborative, interdisciplinary research efforts of historians, literature specialists, and sociologists from a variety of countries. This collaborative collection of essays from a variety of different authors is, according to the editors, “not a collection of distinct articles,” but “a collective monograph about the Russian university association, in which there is not only a unified goal of research, but an agreed approach to its review, a roll call of subjects and opinions.” (p. 5) The editors assert that the first essay in the monograph “does not simply open the book”, but “it became a particular pool of ideas for our authors and simultaneously became a framework that united sufficiently the diverse research strategies”. (p. 6)

The book is divided into three parts, with the first section offering an analysis of the role of textual readings about the professoriate and their related activities, investigating a variety of texts as core sources. The authors of the second part of the collection compare and contrast Russian universities with their counterparts in the West, although the essay on the Minister of Public Enlightenment in that section investigates the distinctions between the older faculty and the younger Russian faculty, which is an appropriate dichotomy given the fundamental distinctions between both the generations and the Weltanschauungen of the old and the new faculty, whose visions of the university were diametrically opposed. The idea of cultural transfer looms large in this section as it rightfully should. While Russian universities in many ways were autochthonous, they did not emerge sui generis, but were syncretic institutions reflecting both this concept of cultural transfer and the needs of an autocratic empire and authoritarianism. The writers of the third part focus their analyses on the solidarity or lack thereof among the faculty. The collection is prefaced with a succinct yet useful introductory essay that clearly demarcates the primary themes, questions, and methodology of the authors, with each article’s main goals and themes briefly discussed. Moreover, the author of the first article in the book, which is not included in the three sections but is physically placed after the introduction, gives an overview of historical-sociological analyses of academic solidarity, presents a template for this “collective monograph” to help the reader navigate the many views of the research within the larger study.

They set for themselves the task of discerning the genesis of the contemporary Western university, the Russian universities, not individually, but conceived as a whole, and, most importantly and specifically, the problems inherent in the university association in Russia. The authors did not seek to understand the professoriate or the university through an analysis of government policy or using social history. The primary question the authors pose is how did various agents inside and outside of the university conceive of the university and how did they represent it. They also were not specifically interested in how the state and its officials understood the university, rather how the people who worked in the universities understood themselves, how they described themselves, and how they created the university association. They succeed in their task. The essays do work well together and offer a useful framework for understanding the self-identity of this group over the centuries. This collection in many ways is particularly useful as a starting point for continued research on the nature of Russia’s universities, how they developed, what roles the faculty played, and how they understood their roles.

Complicating this effort historically was the fact that university faculty in Russian universities were state bureaucrats. Nevertheless, despite a variety of university statutes with varying degrees of autonomy for faculty, to understand this process, albeit focused specifically on the changing nature of the universities, their faculties and staffs, and the mission of the faculty, the writers attempt to analyze the development of a corporate solidarity among the faculty and the creation of an identity as Russian professors. The editors and authors approached their analyses through “historical-sociological and social-philosophical orientations as the foundation of our approaches” (p. 19). Thus, they concluded that the professoriate over multiple generations buttressed its self-identity to establish whatever sense of solidarity it possessed through its past and memories of that past.

What emerges as well is a consistent argumentation in this collection of essays that reflects a number of these authors’ previous, recent work. They see the Russian university and its faculty as requiring both a macro and a micro approach to balance scholars’ understanding of what the university was and what was the professoriate. The synthesis of the foreign and the indigenous, despite the limitations on autonomy, led in part to greater solidarity, despite the differences of the individual faculty.

This monograph offers an excellent addition to the existing literature on Russian universities over a broad sweep of time. The broad sweep and the form of a collective monograph gives a picture that is comprehensive in scope. The authors successfully connected their primary goals and themes in a useful and cogent analysis. Because it is an edited collection of essays, there is not a comprehensive bibliography, which would have been helpful. Rather, the footnotes serve as an ersatz bibliography.

Curtis Richardson, Chapel Hill, NC

Zitierweise: Curtis Richardson über: Soslovie russkich professorov. Sozdateli statusov i smyslov. [Der Stand der russischen Professoren. Die Begründer von Status und Sinn] Hrsg. von Elena A. Višlenkova / I. M. Savel’eva. Moskva: Izd. dom Vysšej školy ėkonomiki, 2013. 386 S. ISBN: 978-5-7598-1046-9, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/erev/Richardson_Vishlenkova_Soslovie_russkich_professorov.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

© 2016 by Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg and Curtis Richardson. All rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact jahrbuecher@ios-regensburg.de

Die digitalen Rezensionen von „Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas. jgo.e-reviews“ werden nach den gleichen strengen Regeln begutachtet und redigiert wie die Rezensionen, die in den Heften abgedruckt werden.

Digital book reviews published in Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas. jgo.e-reviews are submitted to the same quality control and copy-editing procedure as the reviews published in print.