Akademgorodok: The City of Science

During the cultural thaw and de-Stalinization of Russia, many changes were made by the government.  These changes included reducing repression and becoming more transparent.  Along with these changes came an increased focus on making Russia as a place of renewed culture, learning, and information.  That is where the Siberian city of Akademgorodok comes in.

The main street of Akademgorodok, Russia
The main street of Akademgorodok, Russia

Conceived in the mid 1950’s, the town that would be known as Akademgorodok, which literally translates to “town of science” was created as a research and science center.  It was designed to remain as natural as possible, which resulted in tree lined streets in the city and forests all around it.  As with most new ventures during de-Stalinization, openness and transparency was encouraged, and the town thrived due to this.  Under Stalin, much information was shrouded in secrecy and hidden from public view, but the idea of having an entire town devoted to scientific research certainly showed that a cultural thaw was occurring in Russia.

While this was most definitely a step in the right direction, there were still issued with Akademgorodok that hindered it from truly becoming a well-known research city.  First of all, the city was located in Siberia, far from any large city and especially far from Moscow.  This kind of isolation from more populated parts of Russia made it somewhat of an unknown place for many years and was somewhat like a microcosm of Russia as a whole in that the city kept mostly to itself.  Also, more decorated scientists within the city were treated with more respect and given more power.  This problem of elitism was an extremely Stalinist principle that never fully went away, and Akademgorodok can be used to show that.

Russia’s “city of science” was conceived as part of the nation’s thawing of culture and attempt to get away from Stalinist principles.  On paper, Akademgorodok was a perfect blend of openness and desire to become a learning center, however it had its problems.  Specifically, the city could not get away from problems such as isolation and elitism that plagued Russia throughout most of its history.

 

Textbook: Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 209-222. Print

Article on Akafdemgorodok: http://dlib.eastview.com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu: 8080/searchresults/article.jsp?art=9&id=13637844

Info on Akademgorodok: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1956akademgorodok&Year=1956&navi=byYear

Original source for photo: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1956akademgorodok&Year=1956&navi=byYear

 

Hannah Martin

One thing that I really came to notice about the Thaw was that it was more so a period of acceptance than a complete change. These people, especially the citizens of Akademgorodok, who seemed to have a bit of a complex because of Stalin’s treatment of them. Adjusting to life under Stalin was hard enough, and now this city had to learn how to exist and become successful without him.

brandonlapointe

It amazes me that the people would hold Stalin in such high standings, and then change from his ways so quickly after his death. I’m not really surprised, but I am glad that they would make changes during the Thaw that would benefit the citizens and this place could be created to expand their knowledge on almost every subject.

Connor Balzer

I think Akademgorodok was a very interesting venture. It comes about in an era where the Soviet Union is willing to do anything possible to outpace the successes of the United States and to me this is a perfect example of that at work. What better way to make new breakthroughs in science than to put a bunch of great minds together out in the middle of Siberia 24/7. It doesn’t seem like there are very many things to distract people in the town from their work as they are essentially in isolation from the rest of the country. They are forced out of sheer boredom to be productive and talk with each other about science. Although it doesn’t appear to have been particularly essential to Soviet advancements in science early on, in principle it seems like a very good idea for a country looking to make the next big leap in research.

Annemarie Lucernoni

I’m glad someone wrote about this topic, I thought it was really interesting while I was flipping through Seventeen Moments. I think its strange that this town for scientific development and excellence was plopped down way out in Siberia (where they also seem to have tended to exile disruptive citizens)rather than in a more cosmopolitan setting. I think I remember reading that this was partially in order for the town to be able to function more freely further from Moscow’s influence, but I wonder if this actually helped or hurt the town in the long run.

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