The Sociology of Culture in the Soviet Union and Russia: The Missed Turn
This article maps the development of the sociology of culture in the Soviet Union and Russia from pre-Soviet to post-Soviet times. The analysis highlights the effects of two groups of factors – one cultural, the other structural – the combination of which brought about various patterns at each stage of the discipline’s development. Because of the political environment within which they worked, Soviet researchers of culture had to employ strategies of resistance to survive. The three most common were: finding niches in related, ideologically neutral disciplines; doing purely empirical work; or, in contrast, critiquing ‘bourgeois social theories’. They also opted to work in the modes of reading rather than writing, oral discussions rather than publishing, and communication with like-minded colleagues rather than debates with opponents. Contemporary Russian sociology of culture displays this inheritance in being structured by the opposition between isolation and international integration, as well as the tension between an elitist vision of culture and the economically centered worldview which has been dominant since the 1990s.