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Russia after the Collapse of Communism

Russia after the Collapse of Communism: Prospects for Liberalization

This conference  explored Russia’s two decades of efforts to liberalize, including the constraints posed by its historical legacy, the challenges to progress, and the prospects for the future.   

Keynote speaker for the conference was Beloit College’s 2012 Weissberg Chair in International Studies, Yuri Dzhibladze.  Dr. Dzhibladze is the founder and president of the Moscow-based Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, a public policy and advocacy organization.

Note:  video recordings of the keynote talk and panel discussions have been posted soon to the Beloit College You Tube site.


Friday, March 30
The Communist Legacy

What sorts of challenges, legacies, and burdens does Russia’s history place on its transition? Among the possible topics to be explored in this session are the transition from a command economy, the shift to representative government, the legacy of Soviet nationality policy, the opening of the public sphere, and citizens’ expectations of the post-Soviet state.

  • "The Legacies of Soviet Nationality Policies," Peter Blitstein, Lawrence University
  • “The Soviet Intelligentsia and the Roots of Current Russian Politics,” Karl E. Loewenstein, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
  • “China’s lessons from Russia’s transition from Communism,” John Rapp, Beloit College

Gallery Talk and Reception, Capitalizing on Communism:  Soviet Propaganda in the Post-Soviet Context

Keynote Address: "Russia:  Prospects for Democracy and Human Rights," Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights and 2012 Weissberg Chair in Human Rights, Beloit College

Saturday, March 31

Multiethnic Societies and the Rise of Nationalism

Russia’s enormously diverse population raises complicated questions about the creation and maintenance of political identity.  Possible topics here include how a hegemonic Russian ethnic identity affects social cohesion and stability, the rise of extreme right-wing nationalism / racism, the conflicts generated by the assertion of separatist national identities in Chechnya and the Caucasus, and the tensions produced by immigration, both into Russia and within it.

  • Chechnya:  Emma Gilligan, University of Connecticut
  • The Caucasus:  Irakli Kakabadze, Writer-in-Residence and Visiting Scholar, Peace Studies Program, Cornell University

Challenges to Society and Culture

Russia’s political and economic transitions have been accompanied by enormous social and cultural upheavals.  This panel will address such topics as the role of the relevance of the arts in post-Soviet Russia, challenges to public health, and growing poverty and income inquality.

  • “Eduard Limonov, the Other Candidate,”  Alexei Pavlenko, Colorado College
  • “The Problem of Human Trafficking in Post-Soviet Russia,” Lauren McCarthy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • Russian Culture after the USSR: Pride and Prejudice, Eliot Borenstein, New York University

Prospects for Democracy

Is Russia moving in the direction of autocracy or democracy?   What are the largest challenges to liberalization?  Possible topics to be explored in the session include the strength of Russia’s political institutions; the nature of Putin’s leadership and ambitions; the suppression of dissent; threats to the rule of law such as corruption, impunity, crime and terrorism; the state of civil society; and  Russia’s poor human rights record.

  • "Consolidating Dictatorship,” Joel Ostrow, Benedictine University
  • "Authoritarian Consolidation in Russia:  The Foundations of Putinism," Thomas Ambrosio, North Dakota State University
  • "Responses to the Conference Discussions," Yuri Dzhibladze

Documentary film screening, Mikhail Gorbachev, Confidential by director Gulya Mirzoeva.