Symposium 1st -2nd June 2006

” Russian Alternatives in the 20th Century”

The Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki will arrange a symposium on Alexander Bogdanov and the theoretical and political alternatives in the 20th century Russian history. The symposium will be held in 1st and 2nd of June, 2006 in Helsinki in the Main Building of the University of Helsinki.

A. A. Bogdanov (1873—1928) is a most remarkable figure in Russian and early Soviet history, which after having been neglected for a long time, has again became increasingly actual. In philosophy and social theory, he developed his own interpretation of Marxism, influenced by Empirio-Criticism, which gained widely support amongst the Bolsheviks, so that it almost became regarded as the philosophy proper of Bolshevism. Bogdanov was, too, one of the initiators of the so-called Capri school and had in the first decade of the 1900’s a definitive influence on many Russian intellectuals of the Left, such as Gorki or Lunacharski, so that it for a while seemed that it was just his thought which would represent the mainstream Bolshevism. However, after the fierce critique by Lenin, Bogdanov lost his dominant position in the Bolshevik party, although his career otherwise by no way did come to an end. He developed a “general organization theory” which he dubbed “tectology” and which nowadays is viewd by many scholars as a precursor of cybernetics; in the 1920’s he was one of the chief ideologues of the Proletkult movement, even in this case reproached by Lenin and the Leninists.

The symposium will focus on Bogdanov’s role as the exponent of an “alternative Bolshevism” and a theoretician of a different kind of philosophical and social thought which subsequently became established in the Soviet Union.

The programme of the symposium:

Lecture Room VII, University Main Building (the so-called “Old Wing”, facing the Senate Square), 2nd floor

Thursday, 1st of June

9.30 Opening of the Symposium

9.40 Markku Kivinen (Chief of the Aleksanteri Institute): Alexander Bogdanov and the “Otherness” in the Bolshevist Project -- Some Initial Remarks at the Beginning of the Symposium

10.00 Prof. Georgi Gloveli (Moscow): The Sociology of Alexander Bogdanov and the Theories of Progress in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

10.40 Dr. Sergei Kostov (Novosibirsk): The Tectology of Optimal Socialism

11.20 Dr. Ilmari Susiluoto (Helsinki): The Unfulfilled Promise: Tectology and “Socialist Cybernetics”


14.00 Dr. Simona Poustilnik (Moscow): Tectology in the Context of Intellectual Thought in Russia

14.40 Dr. Wladislaw Hedeler (Berlin): Die gesellschaftliche Utopie in den Romanen Alexander Bogdanows

15.20 Dr. Galina Isakova-Sinelnikova (Moscow): The Reciprocity of the Social and the Medicinal Ideas of A. Bogdanov


18.00 Cocktail at the University main Building

Friday, 2nd of June

9.30 Dr. Jutta Scherrer (Paris): Der “alternative Bolschewismus”: Die Capri-Schule, Bogdanow und Gorki

10.20 Prof. Daniela Steila (Turin): From experience to organization: Bogdanov's unpublished letters to Bazarov

11.00 Dr. Jaan Undusk (Tallinn): Empiriokritizismus, Bolschewismus, Dadaismus


14.00 Prof. Alexander Ogurtsov (Moscow): Two Marxists Discussing with the Devil (An Analysis of the Dream Descriptions by Alexander Bogdanov and Nikolai Bukharin)

14.40 Prof. Svetlana Neretina (Moscow): From the Proletkult to the Socialist Humanism – A Comparative Analysis of the Views of A lexander Bogdanov and Nikolai Bukharin

15.20 Dr. Vesa Oittinen (Helsinki): Was war die “wirkliche” Philosophie des Bolschewismus? Eine Neubewertung des Bogdanow-Lenin-Streites

16.00 Discussion

End of the Symposium

All the titles are preliminary only. Order of the presentations may yet change. Other activities pertaining to the symposium (visit at the Aleksanteri Institute etc.) will be precised later. The languages of the symposium papers are English and German, there is no simultane translation available.

The symposium is open to anyone who is interested in Russian and Soviet history and social thought. The papers will be published later in the series of the Aleksanteri Institute.

For more information, please contact Dr. Vesa Oittinen, Aleksanteri Institute, e-mail