Science for the Masses

The Bolshevik State, Public Science, and the Popular Imagination in Soviet Russia, 1917–1934

978-1-58544-247-8 Cloth
6.12 x 9.25 x 0 in
250 pp. 6 b&w photos., 1 map.
Pub Date: 07/01/2003


  • Cloth $45.00 s
After the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia’s new leaders recognized the tantamount importance of teaching science to the masses in order to spread enlightenment and to reinforce the basic tenets of Marxism. However, it was not until the first Five Year Plan and the cultural revolution of 1928-1932 that a radical break from Russia’s tsarist past was marked. Sadly after Stalin seized power, enlightenment and science were overwhelmed by ideology and technology as scientists were reduced to serving industry and the propagandistic ends of Stalinism. In Science for the Masses, James T. Andres presents a comprehensive history of the early Bolshevik popularization of science in Russia and former Soviet Union.

Andrews initially focuses on an analysis of the impressive growth of amateur and professional scientific societies in late Imperial Russia. These societies, as well as museums and publishers, made powerful contributions to the development of Russia’s civil society and experienced a “golden age” from the time of the Russian Civil War through the NEP (New Economic Policy) era. Pre-Revolutionary science popularizers and associations continued to operate successfully until 1928, their efforts appealing to the “popular imagination: and resonating with the interests of average Russians. The face of science popularization changed with the increasingly production-oriented Stalinist years of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Scientific knowledge was relegated to the background while production itself became the new, Stalinist temple of science.

Andrews has mined materials from previously untouched provincial and central Russian archives, read thoroughly the major newspapers and popular scientific journals of the era, and reviewed the questionnaires used to gauge the reaction of workers and peasants during the Stalinist era. His efforts result in a telling glimpse of how Soviet citizens continued to shape the programs of science popularizers and even the politicized agendas of communists by openly criticizing state propaganda, a reminder that even totalitarian states cannot control everybody. Successfully underscoring the need to take care when analyzing historical and political phenomena, Andrews concludes that nothing was simple or absolute in Soviet Russia, even after the radical shift of 1928.

Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series

Published by Texas A&M University Press