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Yulia Cherniavskaia

Osteuropa-Institut FU Berlin

Geschichte Ost- und Ostmitteleuropas



Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

2017-present PhD

Major Field: Modern European History

Minor Field: Global and Comparative History

European University at St. Petersburg (Russia)

2015-2017 MA, Memory Studies Program, Department of History.

Diploma with honors

Thesis: “Creating a hero: Film Felix Dzerzhinsky in Soviet memory politics, 1938-1957”

St. Petersburg State University (Russia)

2005-2010 Specialist, Department of History.

Major Field: Modern European, North and South American History

Diploma with honor equivalent to M.A. in History;

Thesis: “Origins of the Cold War. Historiographic aspect”


2023-2024 Leibniz Center for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF), Communism and Society department, Visiting Fellow

2023-2024 Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, Graduate Fellow for the project “Repairing the Past”

2023-2024 Linda Hall Library Virtual Fellowship

2022 Neal Ira Rosenthal History Travel Award

2022 John Whiteclay Chambers II Oral History Graduate Student Fellowship

2020-2021 SSRC Mellon International Dissertation Research Grant

2020 Baikal International School for Social Research, funded by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

2019 History Department Award for Research and Conference Travel, Rutgers University, New Jersey

2018-2019 Presidential Fellowship, Rutgers Graduate School, New Jersey

2016 Stupeni foundation grant: Scholarship for students of higher education institutions of Russian Federation

2009 German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Department of History, University of Leipzig, Germany

2007 Student exchange grant. Faculty of Pedagogy and History. Wroclaw University, Poland.


2023 Presenter, “’Knowledge to the Masses!’: Traveling Lecturers and Molding the New Postwar Soviet Subjects, 1940s-1950s,” The British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies, Glasgow University.

2022 Presenter, “’We Were Making Better People:’ All-Union ‘Knowledge’ Society Activists and the Late-Soviet Ideal of a Well-Rounded Person,” Conference “How Science Became Popular: Epistemic Governance and Scientific Citizenship in the Twentieth Century,” University of Houston, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Department of History.

2021 Visiting lecturer: “Answering Difficult Questions: Lecturers of the Soviet Knowledge Society and the Q&A sessions, 1979-1989”, Center for Comparative History and Political Studies, Perm, Russia, December, 14

2021 Presenter, “Voices of Glasnost’: Argumenty i Fakty and Soviet Society for Dissemination of Political and Scientific Knowledge in the Time of Social Change, 1978-1990”, The Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies Convention, November 18-21

2021 Presenter, “Soviet Knowledge Society and the project of creating a New Soviet Man in late-socialist period.” Xth International Conference for Young Scholars in Russian and Soviet history at the History Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, October 11-14.

2020 Presenter, “Soviet Knowledge Society and Popularization of Science in Postwar USSR.” Baikal International School for Social Research, September 14-22

2020 Presenter, “Freedom Through Education: All-Union Znanie Society and late-Soviet Humanist Ideal.” The Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies Virtual Convention, November 5-8 and November 14-15.

2017 Presenter, «Film Felix Dzerzhinsky in Stalin memory politics, 1938-1953». Annual conference "Constructing the 'Soviet'? Political Consciousness, Daily Practices and New Identities", European University at St. Petersburg


2021 Cherniavskaia, Yulia, “‘Illiberal’ Soviet Subject: Soviet Ideal of the Well-Rounded Individual in the Late-Socialist Period,” Novoe Proshloe / The New Past, 2021. No. 4. Pp. 248–262.


2020 Instructor, “Revolutionary Russia and Soviet Union” summer course, Rutgers University

2019 Teaching Assistant, The Crusaders, Stephen Reinert, Spring.

2018 Teaching Assistant, History of the Holocaust, Joanna Sliwa, Fall.

2012-2016 Teacher of History, Vzmakh high school, St. Petersburg, Russia

2015-2016 Anna Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House. Project manager and educator at theatre and literature laboratory for teenagers

Language skills:

Russian (native), English (TOEFL 115), German (DSH III), French (B1)

“’Knowledge is Power’: Popular Education and the Making of a Well-Rounded Person in the Postwar USSR, 1943-1991.”


My dissertation explores the Soviet commitment to broad adult education as a means to creating well-rounded individuals necessary for a communist future. 

Project proposal

My dissertation explores public adult education and the popularization of science and culture in the postwar USSR. It shows how Soviet state leaders as well as social activists imagined knowledge and lifelong learning as modern, liberating, and fundamental to creating a socialist subjectivity.

Using archival documents, contemporary diaries, and oral interviews, I explore how the Soviet belief in the progressive nature of culture and science, and socialist ideals of personhood, were enacted by the Soviet Society for the Dissemination of Knowledge, or Znanie in short. My project examines Znanie’s postwar civilizing mission – both imperial in its top down approach and anti-imperial in its emancipatory intention – to transform all Soviet citizens into cultured and well-rounded individuals who would work collectively to build a future communist society. As my project recovers the story of Znanie, it aims to explore a specifically Soviet solution to the universal issue of making science and culture non-elitist and accessible to a broad population. In terms of effort, geographical scope, and allocated resources, Znanie was the world’s largest mass organization for the popularization of knowledge. Through public lectures, brochures and other media, Znanie communicated socialist ideals shaping the experiences of millions of Soviet people from all ethnic, social and educational backgrounds. Through Znanie, I seek to better understand the Soviet ideal of personhood and how it mattered for being Soviet in the postwar USSR – a story Western scholars often ignore or dismiss as propaganda.

Many scholars have characterized the last forty years of the USSR as a deepening process of popular disenchantment with state socialism, which caused or conditioned the ultimate failure of the Soviet project. Therefore, official late-Soviet discourse and ideological institutions are usually not taken seriously because they are perceived as being ossified and holding no meaning. Despite its reach and significance for Soviet citizens, Znanie is either ignored, interpreted as a failure, or explained away as part of the Soviet indoctrination machine. Znanie was indeed a large state-sponsored organization with a top-down, hierarchical, and Moscow-centered structure. However, my project reveals something different about the standard narrative of late socialism as it recovers a humanistic mission that provided meaning and spaces for creativity and activism.

At its center, my project examines how knowledge production and knowledge dissemination in the Soviet Union were constitutive of an explicitly non-liberal ideal of Soviet subjectivity. It argues that rather than gradually revealing itself as illusory, the socialist ideal of the well-rounded individual shaped millions of people in the last decades of the USSR Science, culture, and humanism were core values in Soviet society. As these values disappeared from the agenda of post-Soviet states in the 1990s, they turned into a source of intense nostalgia. Tracing the impact of Znanie activities, my work situates socialist ideals of personhood as central to Soviet subjectivity and its lived experience, and recovers a non-liberal alternative to building a free and egalitarian future society.



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