Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

How did this become possible?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine turned out to be so unexpected for a large number of researchers and observers that it forced them to look for answers to the question “How did this become possible?”. One of the popular search areas is thinking about the ideas and theories that justify the war and are heard today from the lips of Vladimir Putin, Russian high-ranking officials, military and propagandists.
How else to explain the decision to start the biggest war in Europe in half a century, to kill thousands of people and make millions refugees? Some researchers and journalists call this decision insane, others talk about the emergence of a new militaristic ideology in Russia and are trying to find a designation for it — fascism? rashism? Does the modern Russian regime have its own ideology, or can it still be described as a political technology familiar to various autocracies?
In a situation where there are more questions than answers, it seems right to create spaces where we can look for answers to them together. In the course “Putinism as an Ideology” there will be almost no lectures but there will be a lot of group work and discussions. We will try to understand the history of the concepts that are most often heard in the speeches of the modern Russian elite — sovereignty, traditional values, geopolitical interests, the Russian world, the aggression of NATO countries, etc. — and, reading the texts of modern social researchers, understand what is behind them.
In any case, in order to judge how different ideas work and what they affect, we need to understand them first. For this we will have 5 weeks and 10 hour-and-a-half-long classes.

Ilia Veniavkin