“Limits to Growth” in Soviet Perspective
Monday, 17 October 2022, 4 – 5pm
A research seminar by Prof Malte Rolf (Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg), presented by the Trinity Centre for Resistance Studies.
In a samizdat essay in 1968, Andrei Sakharov, while reflecting on the growing threat of a global nuclear war, launched a debate on the intensification of industrial and technical exploitation of nature and its resources in the Soviet Union. Sakharov and other contemporaries took part in a critical discourse that in the 1960s and 1970s started to reconsider basic notions of progress, growth and modernity, even the USSR. The seminar talk will highlight various aspects of this debate and will show that certain assumptions of “reflective modernity” were also shared in the Soviet Union. The presentation will discuss whether any “red lines” existed that critics were not supposed to cross, and how the party-state reacted in cases of perceived transgression. At the same time, it takes a closer look at how society’s activists and party-state officials communicated in the grey-zone of tolerated criticism. Moderate ways of criticizing the narrative of “socialist progress” could be used as subversive tools questioning the party-state’s vision of a bright future. The paper argues that critical Soviet voices on modernity were participating in a global circulation of ideas and were relatively influential in international institutions and networks. Reconsidering modernity in the 1960s and 1970s was an endeavor in which the Soviet Union played an active and visible role.
Malte Rolf is professor of modern European history at the University of Oldenburg’s Institute of History. His main areas of research include the history of multi-ethnic empires of Eastern Europe during the long nineteenth century, the nation states of Central and Eastern Europe in the interwar period, and the history of the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. He is the author of Imperial Russian Rule in the Kingdom of Poland, 1864-1915 (2021), and Soviet Mass Festivals, 1917–1991 (2013).
This hybrid event will take place in the Galbraith Seminar Room in the Trinity Long Room Hub, space is limited so registration is essential. Register here.
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