Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

How the World Has Changed Since We Founded Smolny (And the Seminar “Critique of Social Sciences”)?


Nikolay Koposov


Monday, 15 April, 5:30 PM CET

Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a joint venture between Bard College (New York) and Saint Petersburg State University, was founded in 1998. It developed from the faculty seminar “Critique of Social Sciences,” which started its work a year earlier. The goal of the seminar was to explore the role of social sciences as the basis of the then-dominant democratic ideology. Liberal education looked at that time as a critical aspect of Russia’s (and, more broadly, Eastern Europe’s) transition to democracy and as a possible solution to the problems created by the social sciences’ increasing specialization and their declining ideological effectiveness in the changing world. Since then, Russia has become a dictatorship and has declared war on democracy domestically and internationally. Smolny has survived primarily as several projects in exile. The development of liberal education in some other East European countries (most notably, Hungary) has also been obstructed by the rise of right-wing populism and the emergence of neo-authoritarian regimes. However, the road to unfreedom has been largely paved by the internal evolution of democratic ideology, social sciences, and liberal education. The paper will discuss this evolution using the example of historiography, which, in recent decades, has become increasingly dependent on memory and identity politics promoted by both anti-globalist ethno-populist groups on the right and the anti-discrimination minority movements on the left.

Nikolay Koposov is a Distinguished Professor of the Practice at the School of History and Sociology and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, USA). Previously, he worked at Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Helsinki University, and École des hautes études en sciences sociales. In 1998-2009, he was Founding Dean of Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a joint venture of Saint-Petersburg State University and Bard College (New York). His academic interests include modern European intellectual history, post-Soviet Russia, historiography, historical memory, and comparative politics of the past. He has authored six books, including Memory Laws, Memory Wars: The Politics of the Past in Europe and Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2018), and De l’imagination historique (Éditions de l’ÉHÉSS, 2009). He has also edited several collective volumes and translations.

The talk will be given in English and take place in a hybrid format, with both in-person attendance at Bard College Berlin, located at Kuckhoffstrasse 24, and online via Zoom. Please note that the number of available offline places is limited. If you plan to attend in person, please email us at helpdesk[at] to confirm your attendance. Additionally, for online participation, please register for the webinar using the link provided below.