Saturday, March 16, 2024

Pioneering Work of US Researchers on Non-Russian Nations of USSR at Start of Cold War Recalled by Researchers from Komi Republic and Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 11 – In the last decades of the USSR, most Soviet academic disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities had an entire subfield devoted to the study and discrediting of what were called “bourgeois falsifiers” of Soviet reality, a subfield that allowed Soviet specialists to discuss subjects that Moscow otherwise prevented them from doing.

            Not only did these articles and books about “bourgeois falsifiers” allow these scholars to keep up with research that their Western counterparts were doing but the field itself helped spread information and insights in these Western studies to a broader audience within the USSR, including perhaps most importantly the non-Russian nations of the USSR.

            Now, something superficially similar but substantively very different is beginning to appear again in Putin’s Russia with articles that do help non-Russians learn more about themselves than they can from works prepared by those operating within the intellectual straightjacket that the Kremlin is increasingly imposing.                     

A key example of this is a new article by two Komi scholars and one Russian one on “’Imaginary’ Finno-Ugric Peoples of the USSR in the Projects of the American Center for Uralic–Altaic Studies (1940–1950s)” (in Russian; Izvestiya Komi Nauchnogo Tsentra, 5 (63): 166-170; at

            But these publications, far less tendentious than their Soviet predecessors and even richer in bibliographic citations, also serve as a reminder to the West about the remarkable work that US and other Western scholars carried out at the dawn of the Cold War, drawing on emigres who left the USSR during World War II and enjoying the support of the US government.

            And thus about the work that could be done now, as the Putin regime closes off more and more spheres of academic inquiry and as the world enters a new cold war in which knowing about the peoples still under Moscow’s control is important not just for those populations themselves but also for those in the West who want them to be able to free themselves.

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