Communist Academy

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The Communist Academy (Akademiya kommunisticheskaya) was founded on June 25, 1918, by order of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Known until 1924 as the Socialist Academy, this institution was designed to rival the nearly 200-year-old Academy of Sciences. Indeed, although it was formally established "from above" by government decree, the Communist Academy also answered calls "from below" from the radical wing of the Russian intelligentsia, which had lobbied for an alternative to the conservative Academy of Sciences since the 1880s.

The Communist Academy served to coordinate communist higher education and research alongside the Institute of Red Professors and the Commissariat of the Enlightenment. It consisted of a number of institutes devoted to subjects ranging from philosophy, history, literature, and the natural sciences to economics, socialist construction, and international relations and development. It also boasted a number of specialized sections and commissions, as well as an array of societies revolving around groups such as the Militant Materialist Dialecticians, Marxist Historians, Marxist Orientalists, and Marxist Biologists.

Structurally reminiscent of the older Academy of Sciences, the Communist Academy supplanted its rival's apolitical "bourgeois" approach to science and scholarship with an explicitly political agenda grounded in the tenets of MarxismLeninism. Moreover, there was a fairly explicit division of labor between the two, with the Communist Academy attempting to monopolize the most important areas in the social and natural sciences and ceding only experimental, abstract work to the Academy of Sciences (along with arcane subjects like archeology and the study of antiquity). Scarcity of resources and the frequent overlapping of scholarly research, however, kept the two institutions in a state of fierce competition for much of the 1920s.

A bastion of party power in science and higher education, the Communist Academy was nevertheless symbiotically linked to the Academy of Sciences. In essence, the Communist Academy thrived as long as its rival was able to preserve its semiautonomous, apolitical status. But by 1928, the Academy of Sciencesthe longest-lasting of the powerful NEP-era bourgeois institutionsfound itself under attack. In an effort to bring the Academy of Sciences under state control, the party leadership ordered the institution to elect Marxist scholars as academicians. Then, during the radical years of the cultural revolution (1928-1932), the Academy of Sciences was terrorized by official harassment and wave after wave of arrests and dismissals, which ultimately forced the institution to adopt a more conformist line. This process was completed in 1934 when the newly cowed Academy of Sciences was uprooted from its historical habitat in Leningrad and moved to Moscow to work alongside the Communist Academy.

Although these changes broke the resistance of the Academy of Sciences, they undermined the very raison d'être of the Communist Academy. After all, once the Academy of Sciences had begun to employ Marxisttrained scholars and produce at least nominally Marxist scholarship, it became difficult to justify the continued existence of the Communist Academy. Within two years, the latter institution was subsumed into the newly Sovietized Academy of Sciences by government decree on February 8,1936.

See also: academy of sciences; education; institute of red professors; marxism


DavidFox, Michael. (1997). Revolution of the Mind: Higher Learning among the Bolsheviks, 1918-1929. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

DavidFox, Michael. (1998). "Symbiosis to Synthesis: The Communist Academy and the Bolshevization of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 1918-1929." Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 46(2):219-243.

David Brandenberger

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Communist Academy

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Communist Academy