Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Soviet Machiavellism?


Date and Time:

Wednesday, May 8, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm CET/GMT+1

A brilliant figure of the Florentine Renaissance, Machiavelli has gone down the centuries as the epitome of manipulation and the ruthless pursuit of power. He is also celebrated as the founder of political realism and the scientific approach to politics. Hosted by the PL 215 “Machiavelli’s Arts” and HI 125 “Russian History through Photographs,” this event will explore the affinities and divergences between Machiavelli’s teaching and the revolutionary vision of Lenin and Stalin. Tracing Machiavelli’s influences on the Soviet founders’ conception of power and on their practical efforts to construct an unprecedented social and political order – the so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat” – we’ll seek to probe the relationship between modern ethics and revolutionary politics. Reception will follow.


The students of Bard College Berlin Course PL 215 “Machiavelli’s Arts”: Diana Kimak (Ukraine), Isabel Cama (Brasil/USA), Mishel Jovanovska (North Macedonia), Owen Burk (USA), Theresa Steinbeis (Germany)      

Lev Danilkin is a Ukraine-born writer and literary critic. He graduated from the Faculty of Philology of Moscow State University in 1996. He is the author of four biographical books, a book of short stories and three books of literary criticism about contemporary Russian literature. His book Lenin has won the 1st prize of the Big Book Literary Award (2017) and shortlisted for the National Bestseller Prize.  

Denis Skopin earned a PhD summa cum laude in Philosophy from Paris 8 University. He taught at the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences of St. Petersburg University before joining Smolny Beyond Borders. His research and teaching interests range across photography studies, political philosophy and history, with focus on photographic practices and circulation of photographs under dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. He is the author of three monographs, most recently of Photography and Political Repressions in Stalin’s Russia: Defacing the Enemy (London, Routledge, 2022).  

Ewa Atanassow is Professor of Politics at Bard College Berlin. She is the author of Tocqueville’s Dilemmas and Ours: Sovereignty, Nationalism, Globalization (Princeton University Press, 2022) and coeditor of When the People Rule: Popular Sovereignty in Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2023). 

For more information, e-mail e.atanassow[at]

Time: 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm CET/GMT+1

Location: Berlin, Platanenstrasse, 24 SR8