National, ethnic, and cultural difference always had a complicated relationship with Marxism in the Soviet Union. From the earliest days of Soviet power, the question of how to make sense of difference, and how to manage it, engaged leading Soviet intellectuals and politicians, including Lenin and Stalin. In the 1960s through 1980s, however, national and cultural differences were increasingly redefined as civilizational differences. One of the leading groups in pushing for a closer assessment of “civilizational” differences were critical intellectuals and policy advisers, who believed that the Soviet Union under Stalin and Khrushchev had uncritically believed that ‘traditional’ societies could be modernized. Some of these intellectuals believed that they were the true Marxists, insofar as they took seriously the stages of historical development, and did not believe in ‘leaps forward.’ Soon, such civilizational logic was being deployed to explained continued ‘backwardness’ not only in Third World countries, but also in ethnic minority regions of the Soviet Union and, finally, in Russia itself, after neither perestroika nor shock therapy produced an ‘advanced’ political system.
Chris Miller teaches Russian and international history at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. His first book, The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR examined political debates during the perestroika era. His current research projects examine Russian and Soviet ideas about economic development and modernization; the history of Russian power projection in Asia; and Russian politics during the 1990s.
Christopher Miller, Assistant Professor of International History, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
Sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.
For more information, please call 617-495-4037.