International Council for Central and East European Studies

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation af a conference


Session 17.5: Laying Homo Sovieticus to Rest (Roundtable)- Laying Homo Sovieticus to rest

In the spring of 2019, Russian internet exploded with a debate on the perceived prevalence of totalitarian attitudes among the Russian masses. The controversy was sparked by the Levada Center data on the approval of Stalin, but was also focused on the concept of Homo Sovieticus. The theoretical paradigm that explains the failure of the “transition to democracy” by referring to the alleged resilience of the totalitarian personality underlies a large number of academic studies and popular accounts of Russian politics; many of those have a tangible impact on the public attitudes and policy-making in the West. Participants of this roundtable will explore the reasons for the revived appeal of this concept and argue that it is time to lay the notion of Homo Sovieticus to rest. The arguments include: (1) that the concept of Homo Sovieticus builds on the idealized, abstract image of a “liberal self” and market democracy; (2) that, empirically, the concept promotes the study of the Soviet, contemporary Russian and other East European societies as deviant and pathological, instead of looking at the actually existing mechanisms of social reproduction; (3) that, politically, by presenting the common person as an inner barbarian, the concept works to legitimize the exclusion of the masses from politics and ultimately leads to the endorsement of “the strong hand,” whose mission is to discipline and civilize the unruly native population; (4) that, in international politics, the concept endorses exoticization of Russia, exaggerates and essentializes the differences and precludes any meaningful dialog.


Jeremy Morris, University of Aarhus
Gulnaz Sharafutdinova, King’s College London
Ronald Grigor Suny, University of Michigan
Greg Yudin, Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences / National Research University Higher School of Economics

Chair: Viacheslav Morozov, University of Tartu
Period7 Aug 2021
Event typeConference
LocationMontreal, CanadaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational