The Siberian Experiment in the History of the Soviet Academic Community: Everyday and Gender Aspects

Keywords: gender, anthropology of everyday life, everyday life, Akademgorodok, academic community, social memory


This article studies a unique page in the history of Soviet academic life, the attempt to create especially favourable living conditions for scientific work in the Novosibirsk Akademgorodok (literally, Academic Town) as reflected in the memory of its first settlers in the 1950s‑1960s. The details of their everyday life, such as living in panel barracks, family self-organisation for supplying and providing food, caring for and educating children, and organising cultural life receive new meanings within the framework of “everyday life studies” and gender anthropology. Having processed memories, personal correspondence kept in the Open Archive of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, video materials, and press data, the authors try to prove that the creators of Akademgorodok did their best to avoid formal restrictions imposed on women’s professional self-realisation. Also, the authors seek to answer whether a scientific career was an end in itself for women, to what extent it was possible to go through the “glass ceiling” (which was stronger at higher levels of the career ladder and much easier to break at the beginning), and how desirable the prospect of professional growth was for women in an exceptional domestic environment. On the basis of oral and written testimonies left by the women scientists who lived and worked in the Akademgorodok, the article recreates the picture of changes in everyday life, their impact on scientific work or the formal presence of women in the Novosibirsk academic community, and on leisure and recreation for their families. It also analyses the social infrastructure and the colour of cultural life that contributed to (and sometimes opposed) women’s professional growth. The multiple differences in the living conditions of women scientists in the early history of Akademgorodok appear to have caused differences in the life and professional strategies of those from those in the capital: their desire to save their marriages, play the role of housewives, and, in the families of famous and high-status scientists, to perform representative functions. The authors believe that the above patterns impeded the development of women’s scientific careers for reasons no other than a special spirit of collectivism and quasi-family mutual support in an atmosphere where there was no need to think about personal academic ambitions. Most of the scientists’ wives and the scientists themselves worked without setting ambitious goals of conquering the academic Olympus, nor they did admit to dreams of moving to the capitals or research centres abroad. Having lived all their lives in the Akademgorodok, they turned out to be the main keepers of the historical memory of the everyday changes in the scientific city, the creation of which could not be repeated either in Troitsk near Moscow or much later in Skolkovo.

Author Biographies

Natalia Pushkareva

Dr. Hab. (History), Professor, Leading Researcher, Head of the Department of Ethnic and Gender Studies, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

32a, Leninsky Ave., 119334, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-6295-3331

Alexander Zhidchenko

PhD (History), Senior Researcher, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

32a, Leninsky Ave., 119334, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-2948-4008


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How to Cite
Pushkareva, N., & Zhidchenko, A. (2022). The Siberian Experiment in the History of the Soviet Academic Community: Everyday and Gender Aspects. Quaestio Rossica, 10(2), 593–611.
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