Firsov, Boris

Founder, Senior Researcher, Honored Rector

Degree: Doctor of philosophy

Courses Taught:
• History of Soviet Sociology (1950-1980)


  • Founded the European University at St. Petersburg. Acted as first rector (1995-2003)

“The EUSPb’s mission is to seek out and actively support future scholars who will live and work in the 21st century, and to take responsibility for having bequeathed them with a legacy of serious crisis in Russian scholarship and education. In other words, it is an attempt to prepare the scientific and cultural elite. By “elite” I mean scholars and professionals with the high creative achievement, sound knowledge, research, and existential experience to act as mentors for the next generation.”

  • Honorary rector of Helsinki University, recipient of the International Leontief Award (2006). Recipient of the V. V. Novozhilov prize for outstanding results in the field of technology, an honorary diploma from the Russian Federation for many years of fruitful pedagogy and scholarship (2009), and an Order of Friendship for serving the development of science and education (2006). In 2009, Dr. Firsov became an honorary correspondent of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography as a symbol of gratitude and appreciation for his fruitful cooperation with the the oldest public museum in Russia
  • Author of and participant in a series of international research projects, including directorship and authorship of a project studying the population of St. Petersburg (RFBR and RFH, 1993-1996), the research project “The Mental Worlds of Today’s Russian Population”, the individual project “Liberation of Thought in Russia (1953-1991): Ideas, Bearers of Ideas, the Role of Culture, Art, and Science” (Ford Foundation, 2004).
  • Member of the Sotsiologicheskii Zhurnal and Antropologicheskii Forum editorial boards.
  • Held research positions at the London School of Economics and BBC (1967), UNESCO headquarters (1972), the Gallop Institute (1977), the Japanese broadcasting company HNK (1978), and a series of leading American universities (1991). Taught for a semester as a guest lecturer at the University of Hannover, Germany, in 1994.
  • Author of over 200 scholarly works on the theory and methodology of contemporary sociology, the history of Soviet sociology, the study of social consciousness, and the processes of mass communication, including publications abroad. Author of the books “Raznomyslie v SSSR” [Dissidence in the USSR] (2008, EUSPb), and “Istoriia sovetskoi sotsiologii 1950x-1980x gg” [History of Soviet Sociology 1950-1980] (2012).

“‘Raznomyslie’ contains a unique combination of familiarity with practical issues and an ability to comprehend an era through the application of scientific methods. This kind of research is extremely rare—as rare as when an administrator and a functionary suddenly engages with the sciences, that is, suddenly begins to talk about the past not merely ideologically, but with the desire to understand and to explain. Among the books that fall into the same intellectual category I would count ‘Raznomyslie,’ ‘Yegor Gaidar’s ‘Collapse of an Empire,’ Aleksandr Yakovlev’s ‘Twilight,’ Abdurakhman Avtorkhanov’s ‘The Technology of Power’ – and yes, perhaps that’s all. Intellect and power rarely go together.”

                                    -- Dmitrii Travin

  • Academic interests: theory, methodology, and history of contemporary sociology; ethnosociology; problems of the functioning of social and mass consciousness; mass communication process studies; social opinion; Russian mental studies.

“In all my years researching Soviet reality, I have never based any work on a lie to fulfill the ‘minimum requirement’; I have always aimed to preserve the honor and dignity inherent in the field. The maximum requirement, in this case, consists in the ability to take the path of dissent—not with everyone else, as during perestroika, but against everyone else, as during the pre-perestroika era. After all, both then and now, the word ‘secured with the mind, knowledge, and passion of manageable confrontation’ (M. Chudakov), is a happy privilege of the few.”
                        -- from an interview with B. Doktorov

Participation in Conferences and Seminars:

  • VDNKh 2008 (EUSPb): Participation in the ceremony awarding Professor T. Shanin the A. Dallin medal. Delivered a welcome speech in honor of first prize winner (December 5, 2008).
  • VIII Annual conference from the Leontief Reading: Today’s Problems in Russia: Economics and the Law (February 27-28, 2009). Speech at plenary session: “The Human Dimension of Law in Times of Economic Crisis.”
  • Third annual conference of young historians: “Constructing the Soviet” (EUSPb, April 25, 2009). Participation in conference discussion of “Raznomyslie v SSSR.”
  • Conference on “The Ideology of ‘One’s own path’ in Russia and Germany” (SPb, November 20, 2009). Presentation: “An Apologia of ‘one’s own path’ and Russian Mentality: an outside view.”
  • Fourth annual conference of young historians: “Constructing the Soviet” (EUSPb, April 17, 2010). Participation in conference discussion.
  • First international academic conference: “Russian diaspora and the future of Russian science” (EUSPb, June 24-25 2010). Discussion leader, “University Network Diaspora.”
  • VDNKh, 2010 (EUSPb). Presentation of the proceedings from the conference, “Dissidence in the USSR and Post-Soviet Russia, 1945-2008,” organized jointly with the Likhachev Foundation.
  • International seminar: “Soviet Traditions: Becomings and Transformations” (December 18-19, 2011), organized jointly with Oxford University. Presentation: “The Two Lives of One Science: the Traditions and Roles of Sociology in Russia and the USSR.”


Research Projects:

  • Conference: “Dissidence in the USSR and in Post-Soviet Russia” (EUSPb, May 15-16 2009), organized jointly with the Likhachev Foundation. Presentation: “Cycles and periods of dissent in the USSR and Post-Soviet Russia.”
  • Late 2010, the manuscript of “Istoriia sovetskoi sotsiologii 1950x-1980x gg” [History of Soviet Sociology 1950-1980] was completed, 2nd edition revised and expanded.


Selected Publications:

  • Sovetskaia i postsovetskaia kul’tura v istoricheskoi dinamike [Soviet and post-Soviet culture in historical dynamics] // Kul’tural’nye issledovaniia. EUSPb, Letnii sad. 2006. pp. 29-60.
  • Interview with B. Z. Doktorov: “Mne naibolee interesny metody poznaniia i sam issledovatel’” // Teleskop, 2006, No 3, pp 2-13.
  • Review of Catriona Kelly’s article “School Waltz,” Antropologicheskii forum No. 4, 2006. pp 74-89.
  • Mental’nye miry sovremennogo rossiiskogo naseleniia [The Mental Worlds of Today’s Russian Population] // Teleskop, 2007, N6 pp 14-27.
  • Vozvrashchaias’ na krugi svoia [Back to square one] // Sotsial’naia real’nost’, 2007 N8 pp 75-78.
  • Rasnomyslie v SSSR, 1940-1960 gody. [Dissent in the USSR, 1940-1960]. SPb, EUSPb, 2008. 544 pgs.
  • Zvezdy i ternii [Stars and thorns] // Ekspert Severo-Zapada, 2008, N9, March 3-9. pp 36-37.
  • Zhizn’, napolnennaia beskorystnymi dukhovnymi interesami [A life filled with selfless spiritual interests] // Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal, 2008, N2. pp 138-146.
  • Tsikly i periody raznomysliia v SSSR i postsovetskoi Rossii [Cycles and periods of dissent in the USSR and post-Soviet Russia]. 3rd All-Russian Sociological Congress. Moskva, October 2008.
  • Pravilom zhizni iavliaetsia rasnomyzlie [Dissent is a rule of life]. Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal, 2008, N3. pp 153-174.
  • Zapiska zaveduiushchego sektorom sotsial’nykh problem massovoi kommunicatsii [A note by an expert on social problems of mass communication] // Sotsiologiia i vlast. M: Ekonomika, 2008. pp 307-323.
  • Leningradskie kollektsionaery kak kul’turno-istoricheskii fenomen [Leningrad collectors as a cultural historical phenomenon] // Neprikosnovennyi zapas, 2009, N2, pp 227-229.
  • O moem nastabnike i druge [On my mentor and friend] // Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal, 2009, N1. pp 167-171.
  • Pochti 40 let spustia [Nearly 20 years later] // Teleskop, 2009, N3. pp 6-15.
  • Fragment interv’iu o perestroechnom vremeni [Fragment of an interview on the perestroika era] // Obshchestvennaia zhizn’ Leningrada v gody perestroiki. SPb, Serevrianyi vek, 2009. pp 662-665.
  • Presentation at the discussion “Pokoleniia v nauke” [A generation in science] // Antropologicheskii forum, 2009. N. 11 pp 98-113.
  • O pol’skikh vliianiiakh [On Polish influences] // Novaia Pol’sha, 2009, N. 10.
  • Expert interview: Teoretiko-metodolodicheskie problemy sovremennoi rossiiskoi sotsiologii i issledovatel’skie strategii sotsiologov [Theoretical-methodological problems of contemporary Russian sociology and sociologists research strategies]. M: Nauchnyi mir, 2010. pp 70-91.
  • An Apologia of ‘one’s own path’ and Russian Mentality: an outside view. Moscow: Tri kvadrata, 2010. pp 230-244.
  • Cycles and periods of dissent in the USSR and Post-Soviet Russia. // Raznomyslie v SSSR. SPb: EUSPb, 2010. pp 37-57.
  • Vmesto predisloviia [Instead of a preface]. // Raznomyslie v SSSR. SPb, EUSPb. 2010. pp 3-14.
  • Zametki na poliakh v kontse sbornika [Fieldnotes at the end of a collection]. // Raznomyslie v SSSR. SPb, EUSPb. 2010.pp 324-332.
  • Universitet diaspory: avtonomiia na osnove seti [University of diaspora: autonomy based on a network]. SPb, EUSPb. 2010, 54-55.
  • Preface to the book “Stanovlenie grazhdanskogo obshchestva v nezavisimoi Belarusi. Sotsiologicheskie opyty 2006-2010.” Minsk: Zmitser Kolas, 2011.
  • Dve zhizni odnoi nauki: traditsii i roli sotsiologii v Rossii i SSSR [The Two Lives of One Science: the Traditions and Roles of Sociology in Russia and the USSR]. // Antropologicheskii forum, 2011, N. 15.
  • Istoriia sotsiologii “v litsakh”: biografiia i/ili biokritika [History of sociology “on the face”: biography and/or biocriticism]. // Teleskop, 2011, N6. pp 11-15.
  • Istoriia sovetskoi sotsiologii 1950-1980x gg. [History of Soviet sociology, 1950-1980s]. SPb, EUSPb, 2012.