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Capitalism and Socialism Through the Russian Prism. Lineages of Concept Formation and the (Post-)Soviet Experience, 22.-24.09.2021

International Workshop organized by Sebastian Hoppe (OEI, Politics), Katharina Bluhm (OEI, Sociology) and Friedrich Asschenfeldt (Princeton University, Department of History)

News from Sep 21, 2021

The year 2021 marks the anniversary of two pivotal junctures in Russian and Soviet history – the 30th anniversary of the Soviet collapse and the 100th anniversary of the New Economic Policy (NEP). While the first stands for the downfall of socialism, the unravelling of the planned economy and the attempt to make Russia capitalist again, the introduction of NEP represented the first, albeit temporary and gradual, opening of a state-socialist order to capitalist elements. The Soviet and post-Soviet experience of capitalism and socialism speaks to vibrant debates in the humanities and social sciences, where both categories remain foundational to much of Political Economy, Historical Sociology and Political Theory. Recently, the social and economic consequences of the financial crisis of 2007-9 or the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 have given new currency to critiques of capitalism, bringing back the contested concepts of capitalism and socialism into the scholarly – and public – debate.

Our workshop proposes to analyse the contestation of capitalism and socialism through the prism of Russian and Soviet history, to enrich the scholarly debate about the historically diverse formation of the two concepts. The history of the Soviet Union, which, after all, promised nothing less than the “negation of capitalism” (S. Kotkin), encapsulates the violent and transformative power of this contestation like no other, offering ample ground to investigate associated conceptual and empirical questions. The workshop aims to provide an interdisciplinary venue to examine the contexts and mechanisms of capitalism and socialism in the Russian case and discuss the contestations between them throughout transformative episodes in the history of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.

In viewing the concepts through the prism of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian history, we seek to subject them to a critical, historically informed and interdisciplinary revision. The workshop brings together contributions discussing the following topics and their implications for concept formation: I) The Soviet Union pursued an alternative socio-economic order to capitalism arguably more radically than any other power before. Its early years – e.g. War Communism, New Economic Policy (NEP) and the “Great Break” (1917-1934) – and later advancements under Krushchev and Brezhnev invite inquiries into the relationship between capitalism – as a social formation coordinated via decentralized markets – and the centralizing impetus of socialism in the name of the exploited and oppressed. II) Conversely, the political and social transformation of 1985-1993 can be interpreted as a radical negation of socialism – an attempt to re-create a capitalist system. However, the form in which this attempt actually built capitalism in post-Soviet Russia and the specific social and power relations that have emerged from this transformation remain subject to heated debate. III) Finally, the Soviet experience remains a discursive resource both in the politics and scholarship on post-Soviet Russia as well as in contemporary processes of deliberation in various arenas of global governance, such as international organisations, national party politics and transnational NGO networks.

The workshop is kindly supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde e.V. (DGO). The revised proceedings of the workshop will be published as a special issue with an internationally renowned journal.



Wednesday, September 22

15.30-16.00 (BER) | 16.30-17.00 (MSK) | 09.30-10.00 (NY) | 06.30-07.00 (LA)

Opening Remarks

Katharina Bluhm (FU Berlin)

Friedrich Asschenfeldt (Princeton University)

Sebastian Hoppe (FU Berlin)


16.00-17.00 (BER) | 17.00-18.00 (MSK) | 10.00-11.00 (NY) | 07.00-08.00 (LA)

The Emergence of Soviet Socialism and its Spread

From Ludendorff to Lenin? The First World War and the Origins of Economic Planning

Max Trecker (GWZO Leipzig)

Friedrich Asschenfeldt (Princeton University)

Discussant: Ewa Dabrowska (SCRIPTS, FU Berlin)

Comrades or Entrepreneurs? A History of Sino-Soviet Joint-Stock Companies in Xinjiang, 1950-1955

Xiao Sun (Princeton University)

Discussant: Tobias Rupprecht (SCRIPTS, FU Berlin)


17.00-17.15 (BER) | 18.00-18.15 (MSK) | 11.00-11.15 (NY) | 08.00-08.15 (LA)

Coffee chat (breakout sessions)


17.15-18.15 (BER) | 18.15-19.15 (MSK) | 11.15-12.15 (NY) | 08.15-09.15 (LA)

Global Governance of Soviet Socialism

The Soviet Management of Infectious Diseases in the Brezhnev Era. Contradictions Between Local Economic Reforms and the International Advancement of Universal Healthcare in the 1970s and 1980s

Zuleykha Mail Zada (LMU Munich)

Discussant: Xiao Sun (Princeton University)

Soviet “Socialism” vs. Turkish “Capitalism”? Conceptualizing the Environmental History of the Black Sea in the 1960s-1980s

Taylor Zajicek (Princeton University)

Discussant: Olessia Kyrchyk (HSE Moscow)


Thursday, September 23

16.15-17.15 (BER) | 17.15-18.15 (MSK) | 10.15-11.15 (NY) | 07.15-08.15 (LA)

Is Post-Soviet Russia Capitalist?

Before or After Capitalism? Russia’s Non-Transformative Developmentalism and the Political Economy of Rent

Sebastian Hoppe (FU Berlin)

Discussant: Sophie Lambroschini (Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin)

Is State Intervention Compatible with Capitalism? Dilemmas of Industrial Policy in Post-Soviet Russia

Ewa Dąbrowska (SCRIPTS, FU Berlin)

Discussant: Max Trecker (GWZO Leipzig)


17.15-17.30 (BER) | 18.15-18.30 (MSK) | 11.15-11.30 (NY) | 08.15-08.30 (LA)

Coffee chat (breakout sessions)


17.30-19.00 (BER) | 18.30-20.00 (MSK) | 11.30-13.00 (NY) | 08.30-10.00 (LA)

Reforming Socialism?

The Road from Snake Hill. The Genesis of Russian Neoliberalism

Tobias Rupprecht (SCRIPTS, FU Berlin)

Discussant: Boris Ginzburg (FU Berlin)

Economists and the State During Perestroika and the Russian Transition. Social and Intellectual Sources of "Reforms"

Olessia Kyrchyk (HSE Moscow)

Discussant: Zuleykha Mail Zada (LMU Munich)

Soviet Capitalist Bankers on the Financial Front of Cold Wars: Trajectories and Practices, 1985-2014

Sophie Lambroschini (Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin)

Discussant: Yakov Feygin (Berggruen Institute, Los Angeles)


19.00-19.15 (BER) | 20.00-20.15 (MSK) | 13.00-13.15 (NY) | 10.00-10.15 (LA)

Coffee chat (breakout sessions)


19.15-20.15 (BER) | 20.15-21.15 (MSK) | 13.15-14.15 (NY) | 10.15-11.15 (LA)

Soviet Socialism and the Political Economy of the Cold War

Cold War As Political Economy. The Origins of Super Power Stagflation

Yakov Feygin (Berggruen Institute, Los Angeles)

Tim Barker (Harvard University)

Discussant: Sebastian Hoppe (FU Berlin)


Friday, September 24

13.30-14.00 (BER) | 14.30-15.00 (MSK) | 07.30-08.00 (NY) | 04.30-05.00 (LA)

Publication Process @Europe-Asia Studies

Luca Anceschi (University of Glasgow / Editor of Europe-Asia Studies)


14.00-15.30 (BER) | 15.00-16.30 (MSK) | 08.00-09.30 (NY) | 05.00-06.30 (LA)

Perestroika’s Conceptual Discontents

Introduction of Capitalism or Development of Socialism? Discussions of the Private Enterprise and Social Justice in the Soviet Union during Perestroika (1986-1991)

Anna Ivanova (Harvard University)

Discussant: Katharina Bluhm (FU Berlin)

The Demise of the Soviet Union. Controversies and Significance for Pro-Market Theories of Development

Mihai Varga (FU Berlin)

Discussant: Friedrich Asschenfeldt (Princeton University)

Manus Manum Lavat: The Privatization Campaign “Loans-for-Shares” in Russia 1995/96

Boris Ginzburg (FU Berlin)

Discussant: Max Trecker (GWZO Leipzig)


15.30-15.45 (BER) | 16.30-16.45 (MSK) | 09.30-09.45 (NY) | 06.30-06.45 (LA)

Coffee chat (breakout sessions)


15.45-16.45 (BER) | 16.45-17.45 (MSK) | 09.45-10.45 (NY) | 06.45-07.45 (LA)

Ideas and Russian State Capitalism

Illiberal Conservative Developmental Statism              

Katharina Bluhm (FU Berlin)

Mihai Varga (FU Berlin)

Discussant: Anna Ivanova (Harvard University)


16.45-17.15 (BER) | 17.45-18.15 (MSK) | 10.45-11.15 (NY) | 07.45-08.15 (LA)

Concluding Remarks & Publication Plan

Katharina Bluhm (FU Berlin)

Friedrich Asschenfeldt (Princeton University)

Sebastian Hoppe (FU Berlin)



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