Open Society Institute
Regional Seminar for Excellence in Teaching
The Soviet in Everyday Life

Call for participation

Eligibility criteria:

  • Disciplines: Anthropology, History, Sociology, Cultural Studies (Film/Literature), Area Studies, Communication/Media Studies, Geography, Political Science
  • Target Region: All the former Soviet Union (excluding the Baltics) and Mongolia.
  • Academic standing/level/prerequisites: Enrollment in a kandidatskaia or Ph.D. program, or completion of either degree no earlier than 2005.
  • Time commitment: Summer 2010-Spring 2013
  • Other criteria: Reading and listening proficiency in both English and Russian; desire to develop a course or evidence of teaching a course on this topic; desire to develop research or evidence of publishing research on a related topic.

Application information:
To request an application, write to:

Deadline: 22 March 2010

This three-year project is aimed at young faculty and scholars who are interested in investigating the Soviet in everyday life, and bringing this knowledge into their teaching. This Regional Seminar for Excellence in Teaching (ReSET), like others, involves a group of about 25 younger faculty from the region — in this case, the former Soviet Union and Mongolia — and a group of resource faculty who work together over three years. We will meet for two weeks each summer, and for several days in another meeting each year, probably in the spring, and interact in other ways through the rest of the three-year period. The goal is to pursue activities which will strengthen university-level teaching. For more information on the ReSET program, see

The focus of this ReSET project is the Soviet in everyday life, past and present. Undergraduate curricula throughout the former Soviet Union vary both by country and by discipline when it comes to how they deal with “the Soviet.” We invite young faculty to consider curricula of higher education in their home countries in terms of how the study of the Soviet is represented there, and through their own research and the further development of courses related to the Soviet in everyday life. In some countries, social science textbooks and the lecturers who use them tend to avoid discussing the period entirely in order to avoid making a political misstep. When social science and philosophy courses do deal with the Soviet period, it is sometimes in simplistic and politicized terms (“empire,” “totalitarian” and “gulag” or conversely “modernization” and “integration with the world through Russian culture”). In many places, there is not enough discussion of how the recent Soviet past can be studied for its influence on the present and some scholars have the attitude that that Soviet legacy is transparently understandable and has no need of further research or scholarly analysis. This can also be seen in the rejection of theoretical approaches such as post-colonialism and post-socialism in scholarly debates, where the consensus seems to be that each country had its own Soviet experience that is amenable neither to theorizing nor to comparison.

To contribute to the global scholarship on this topic and its incorporation in contemporary undergraduate education, we will explore the following questions: what are the effects that “the Soviet” continues to produce in the realms of meaning, material culture, organizational form, style of interaction, and so on? What do people identify as Soviet and how do they position themselves in relation to the Soviet, as connected/disconnected, longing/rejecting? What kinds of things are not necessarily recognized as Soviet legacies, but which must be understood as constituting socially significant continuity with Soviet social order? What are some ways that we can make the actual experiences of the late Soviet period more accessible to students so that they can think critically about social change in their own societies?

The theoretical focus of this project is on exploring the diversity of experiences of the Soviet in the post-Soviet periphery, and on complicating an overly politicized understanding of the Soviet. These aims will be met through our choice of participants from different parts of post-Soviet space, and our choice of methods, which will allow a fine-grained exploration of everyday life: ethnography, oral history, document and archival analysis, visual anthropology, and the analysis of pedagogy in higher education today. Scholars involved in this project will meet twice per year (two weeks in summer and up to five days in early spring) for sharing of theory knowledge as well as for discussing of their activities. During intersession time participants will work on individual research and curriculum development projects that will contribute to the state of knowledge about the Soviet in everyday life throughout the former Soviet Union and across the supposed historical divide of 1991. The activities of the project will be directed to producing a special issue of a journal and a reader (for which we will seek additional funding) in both Russian and English that can be used in different disciplines and in different countries.

Provisions for participants:
Costs related to the ReSET project, including travel expenses, accommodation, meals and reading materials will be covered by the ReSET by means of a grant from the Open Society Institute’s Higher Education Support Program. With the OSI grant, we are able to support full costs of participation only in the case of participants from the target region. However, participation may be possible for a small number of “non-regional” participants with support from other sources (especially if you can find your own support for transportation to the contact sessions).

Application procedure:
All applications and accompanying documents must be sent in electronic format. The application itself is a MS Word file that we will send you upon request (write to:

Applications to be sent to: soviet.reset(at)

  • Stage one: By the 22 March deadline, applicants should send a completed application form along with a CV, a personal statement, a writing sample, a syllabus, a letter of support and a description of English and Russian ability (see the application for more details).
  • Stage two: Those applicants who pass through the initial screening will be interviewed by telephone by one of the core faculty members in order to assess their English and Russian ability. The final decision on participant selection will be made by 1 May 2010.

Program Information

Project years: 2010-2013
Host institution: Aigine Cultural Research Center, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (

Working languages: English and Russian (proficiency in both required)


  • Laura Adams, Lecturer on Sociology, Harvard University
  • Gulnara Aitpaeva, Director, Aigine Cultural Research Center

Core faculty:

  • Laura Adams, Lecturer, Harvard University
  • Gulnara Aitpaeva, Director, Aigine Cultural Research Center
  • Serguei Oushakine, Assistant Professor, Princeton University
  • John Schoeberlein, Lecturer, Harvard University

Other faculty:

  • Galina Orlova, Rostov State University
  • Anvarbek Mokeev, Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University
  • Tsypylma Darieva, Humboldt University