Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Jutta Scherrer (École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), France)

The Concepts of "Culture" and "Civilization" in Post-Soviet Discourses

After the break-up of the Soviet Union and the ensuing paradigm shift, the ideological vacuum was first filled by the newly created discipline 'kul'turologiia' which simply reversed the Marxist theorem on the role of economic structure in determining social being and history by substituting culture or civilization for the economy. Thus, economic determinism was replaced by a cultural-civilizational determinism: economy-centred explanations were exchanged for culture-centred ones. Kul'turologiia was called upon to provide the post-Soviet youth and society with a new ideological orientation and an answer to Russia's new place in world history based on newly discovered values taken from prerevolutionary Russia's cultural heritage. Independent of the obligatory basic course of kul'turologiia, which was supposed to play a role akin to civic éducation, an entirely new academic discipline was created, officially called kul'turologicheskie nauki, but since its beginning abbreviated to kul'turologiia. It was called upon to fill the gap in studies of culture, especially since any theory of culture per se was virtually absent in Soviet times and the study of culture as an independent discipline had not been taught at Soviet universities. Closely linked to the (re)discovery of neokantian Kulturwissenschaft, of thinkers like Spengler and Toynbee, and Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, the «civilisational turn» of the 1990's went far beyond academia and entered the discourses of politicians and members of the Church hierarchy (who conceived a new discipline «Foundations of orthodox culture»). In putting the accent on Russia's cultural/civizational hegemony and uniqueness, Putin's more recent «patriotic turn» uses the geopolitical notions of «Eurasian civilization» and «russkij mir» as unifying concepts of the strong Russian State. In the paper which I am proposing to the Aleksanteri conference on «Culture and Russian Society» I will analyse these concepts (which are intended to convey values and to establish a post-Soviet identity) on the background of Russia's societal, cultural and political evolution from the dissolution of the Soviet Union to the present day.