Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Eeva Korteniemi
tel. +358-(0)50-4150 571

aleksanteri-fellows [at]

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

aleksanteri [at]
firstname.lastname [at]

Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2011-2012



Craig Brandist, University of Sheffield

“The Development of Sociological Theories of Language in the USSR 1917-38”
Fellowship period: mid-February – mid-April 2012

Craig Brandist was born in Coventry, UK, in 1963. He completed a PhD on the sources of the ideas of the Bakhtin Circle at the University of Sussex in 1995, after which he was Max Hayward Fellow in Russian Literature at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. In 1997 he became Research fellow at the University of Sheffield where, in 2007 he became Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History and, from 2008, Director of the Bakhtin Centre. Professor Brandist has published widely on Russian literature, intellectual history and critical thought, with his books including Carnival Culture and the Soviet Modernist Novel (1996), The Bakhtin Circle: Philosophy, Culture and Politics (2002), (ed. with David Shepherd and Galin Tihanov) The Bakhtin Circle: In the Master’s Absence (2004)   and (ed. with Katya Chown) Politics and the Theory of Language in the USSR 1917-1938 (2010). He is currently working on a monograph about the entwinement of questions of hegemony and of language in the early years of the USSR based on extensive research in archives and libraries in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

Professor Brandist is also Vice-President of the lecturer’s union (UCU) at the University of Sheffield, and a photographer.

Abstract of current research:
For the last few years I have been working on a project on the development of sociological theories of language in the USSR 1917-38, which was initially funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council.  This focuses on the way in which the revolutionary regime recognized the importance of questions of the relationship between language and social structure, promoting and funding path-breaking research, the like of which would not be seen in the west for several decades. In seeking to codify standard forms of the languages of the former colonies of the Russian Empire, which often had no settled written forms or alphabets, Soviet linguists had to address the sociological dimensions of language with a thoroughness and on a scale that had never been attempted before. This gave rise to a range of new paradigms that were progressively vulgarized and ultimately abandoned as the revolution underwent bureaucratic degeneration. This culminated in Stalin’s denunciation of the work of N.Ia. Marr in 1950, after which Soviet linguistics became narrowly normative and most of the innovative research was ignored for several decades. I have spent several years working on the intellectual and institutional histories of these phenomena.

At the Aleksanteeri Institute I will work on a monograph dedicated to the relationship between questions of language and of hegemony in the early years of the USSR. Drawing on previously collated archival material and published material either sides of the Revolution, I will explore how language and hegemony were entwined in much early Soviet thought and that in the shifting conceptions of language in the period under investigation, one can also trace the way in which official conceptions of hegemony and the dynamics of rule underwent fundamental changes.

Email: c.s.brandist [at]
Personal website:

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sanna Turoma and Jukka Pietiläinen