Revolution of the Mind: Higher Learning Among the Bolsheviks, 1918-1929

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Cornell University Press, 1997 - Education - 298 pages
Using archival materials never previously accessible to Western scholars, Michael David-Fox analyzes Bolshevik Party educational and research initiatives in higher learning after 1917. His fresh consideration of the era of the New Economic Policy and cultural politics after the Revolution explains how new communist institutions rose to parallel and rival conventional higher learning from the Academy of Sciences to the universities. Beginning with the creation of the first party school by intellectuals on the island of Capri in 1909, David-Fox argues, the Bolshevik cultural project was tightly linked to party educational institutions. He provides the first account of the early history and politics of three major institutions founded after the Revolution: Sverdlov Communist University, where the quest to transform everyday life gripped the student movement; the Institute of Red Professors, where the Bolsheviks sought to train a new communist intellectual or red specialist; and the Communist Academy, headquarters for a planned, collectivist, proletarian science. Using a wide range of previously restricted and recently declassified materials in former Communist Party and Soviet state repositiories, David-Fox analyzes the internal evolution of the revolutionary institutions and their relations with the Party. His book represents a commitment, rare in the field of Soviet Studies, to combine cultural, political, and institutional history, bringing institution building after 1917 to the center of historical attention.

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The prose is a bit theatrical but it helps overall. The sections are divided up quite nicely and there is a ton of archival research, most of which is in Russian so who knows what he actually including. Fox explains well the general evolution of the denunciatory attitude of Bolsheviks and how that began in party schools (allegedly). Yet he does not discuss the way in which factions influenced the funding of these schools, whose funds were cut by 1931 in the "Great Break" (of the cultural revolution). There is a sense in which the great break is linked this evolution of weird behaviors and the tendency to indict your fellow comrade, but his explanation for why the great break occured is by and large divorced from the body of evidence he gives. That evidence is however super interesting and goes a long way in explaining how bizarre and cool bolshevik culture really was in the 1920s.  


Communist Institutions and Revolutionary Missions in Higher
Power and Everyday Life at Sverdlov Communist
Political Culture at the Institute of Red Professors
Science Orthodoxy and the Quest for Hegemony at
conclusion The Great Break in Higher Learning
Selected Bibliography

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About the author (1997)

Michael David-Fox is Professor in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Department of History at Georgetown University and a founding and executive editor of Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian Studies. He is the author of several books, most recently Crossing Borders: Modernity, Ideology, and Culture in Soviet Russia.

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