University homepage

7th Annual Aleksanteri Conference
November 29 - December 1, 2007
The Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland



Contact Information
(Not for submissions):

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O.Box 42)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

phone +358-(0)9-191 23631
fax +358-(0)9-191 23615

Aleksanteri Conference <>

Generations, Retrospectives and Perspectives

Perestroika brought a new restless, even lawless generation to the forefront. Nevertheless, the era was presided over by an older generation which had come of age in the Thaw period and which was inspired by highly moral intelligentsia leaders, such as Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn. This raises the question of what kind of new peer groups were formed and what sort of “generational consciousness” evolved around the processes at stake. How did people from different age groups or with different mind-sets and “mental affiliations” evaluate the events, changes and new ideas that were being debated in society? How did they view each other? Further, what were the values taught to the next generation, the youth growing up at this time?

Looking at the intellectual elites, how was the former “underground” transformed by glasnost’? What relevance did the distinctions between “official” and “unofficial” play in the cultural life of the perestroika era? How was the legacy of this distinction transformed by the generation that came of age during the perestroika period?

Perestroika itself “revisited” many historical events of the country’s past: by rehabilitating suppressed figures and previously marginalized groups, by opening archives, by giving public exposure to long censured texts, art works and other forbidden material. How did perceptions of history itself change? How did this affect various groups’ self-consciousness as the revelations about the Soviet past became part of a common and public heritage?

Finally, although it is obvious that perceptions of the significance of perestroika differ considerably, how does current academic research see the overall historical balance? How does research evaluate the proportionate importance of economic, military and ideational factors in giving the lead to the “New Thinking” and radical reforms in the Soviet Union of the late 1980s? What were the most important lessons of the era? Indeed, how do various socio-cultural positions today assess the events of 20 years ago? What could the analysis of the perestroika era give to a sociological or socio-philosophical theory of modernisation, and in what way might this inflect the future?