Sociology in the USSR (Late 1920–1980s): Changing Conventions and Exegesis of Lenin's Theoretical Legacy

Sociology in the USSR (Late 1920–1980s): Changing Conventions and Exegesis of Lenin's Theoretical Legacy

Kononov I.F

Dr. Sci. (Soc.), Professor, Head of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology, Lugansk National University named after Taras Shevchenko, Starobelsk, Ukraine

ID of the Article:

For citation:

Kononov I.F Sociology in the USSR (Late 1920–1980s): Changing Conventions and Exegesis of Lenin's Theoretical Legacy. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2020. No 5. P. 90-101


The article analyzes the role of Lenin’s philosophical heritage in the fate of Soviet Marxist sociology over the time span from the Stalin’s “revolution from above” to the Perestroika and collapse of socialism in the USSR. It was established that sociology in the Soviet Union was moving along a trajectory similar to a sinusoid. In general, it faced two ups and downs. These two stages differed from each other quite significantly. At the first stage, sociology was considered a basically theoretical science. Tasks of obtaining empirical data on wellbeing of society and its systems were incumbered upon statistics. They believed that this information is generalized by various social sciences, including sociology. The first stage ended with official recognition of historical materialism by Marxist sociology, but in real teaching practice it was considered a part of Marxist philosophy. Moreover, it was turned into a dogmatic ideological doctrine. The second stage of the development of Marxist sociology in the USSR begins with the revival of interest in the party and state elite for applied empirical information. This happened after the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party, when elites split into pragmatists and conservatives. Since the early 1960s a public sociological movement materialized in the USSR by establishing sociological laboratories at universities. The most important part in achieving a new consensus regarding understanding of subject and functions of sociology was played by new exegesis of the Lenin’s philosophical texts done by P.V. Kopnin. This scholar presented Marxist philosophy as an open theoretical system, capable of development in accordance with needs of the moment and dialogically open to other philosophical fields. The intrascientific consensus rested on the concept of a three-level structure of Marxist sociology. Mathematization of the discipline was taking place, paving way for a new method of theorizing.

Lenin’s stage in the development of Marxist philosophy; Marxist philosophy; exegesis; P.V. Kopnin; historical materialism; empirical research; statistics; mathematization of sociology


Bolshakov A.M. (1927) Village. 1917–1927. With the preface by M.I. Kalinin and academic S.F. Oldenburg. Moscow: Rabotnik prosveshcheniya. (In Russ.)

Bukharin N.I. (1932) Etudes. Moscow: Gos. tekhniko-teoret. izd-vo. (In Russ.)

Cohen S. (1988) Bukharin. A Political Biography. 1888–1938. Moscow: Progress. (In Russ.)

Discussion on the Marxist Understanding of Sociology. (1929) Istorik-marxist [Marxist Historian]. Vol. 12: 189–213. (In Russ.)

Dubinskaya I.N. (1930) Workers in the Coal Industry of Donbass. The Results of the Census of 1929. Kharkov: Soyuzugl'. (In Russ.)

Dunaevsky F.R. (1923b) Professional Selection and its Social Meaning. Professional Selection Methodology. Kharkov: Put' prosveshcheniya; Institut truda. (In Russ.)

Dunaevsky F.R. (1923a) The Problem of Professional Selection (Occupational Choice). Kharkov: Institut truda. (In Russ.)

Dzhamalova D.D., Batygin G.S. (1982) Sociological Service of the City Committee. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 1: 51–59. (In Russ.)

Fedoseev P.N. (1982) On the Subject of Marxist-Leninist Sociology. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 3: 27–29. (In Russ.)

Filippova N. (1921) Nutrition of Urban Workers in 1918. Organizatsiya truda [Labor Management]. Book 2: 62–66. (In Russ.)

Firsov B.M. (2012) The History of Soviet Sociology: 1950–1980s: Esseys. 2nd ed. St. Petersburg: EU v SPb. (In Russ.)

Golenkova Z.T., Vitiuk V.V. (eds) (1989) The History of Soviet Sociological Science in the 20–30s. Moscow: IS AN SSSR. (In Russ.)

Kolosov V.A. (2004) Sociology as a Science: Discussions in Russian Literature of the 1920s and Early 1930s. Arkhangelsk: Arkhangel'skiy gos. tekh. un-t. (In Russ.)

Konstantinov F. (1936) Socialist Society and Historical Materialism. Pod znamenem marxizma [Under the Banner of Marxism]. No. 12: 45–66. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1961) Dialectics as Logic. Kiev: Izd-vo Kievskogo un-ta. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1973) Dialectics, Logic, Science. Moscow: Nauka. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1966) Introduction to Marxist Gnoseology. Kiev: Naukova Dumka. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1968) Logical Foundations of Science. Kiev: Naukova Dumka. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1969b) Philosophical Ideas of V.I. Lenin and Logic. Moscow: Nauka. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1982) Problems of Dialectics as a Logic and Theory of Knowledge. Moscow: Nauka. (In Russ.)

Kopnin P.V. (1969a) V.I. Lenin and Materialist Dialectics. Kiev: Politizdat Ukrainy. (In Russ.)

Kuchinsky J. (1957) Sociological Laws. Voprosy Filosofii. No. 5: 95–100. (In Russ.)

Luppol I.K. (1936) Conclusions and Lessons. Pod znamenem marxizma [Under the Banner of Marxism]. No. 11: 181–192. (In Russ.)

Luppol I.K. (1930) Lenin and Philosophy. Revisiting the Relation of Philosophy to Revolution. 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad: Gosizdatel’stvo. (In Russ.)

Mass Work of WUAMLIN. At the Institute of Philosophy. (1934) Pod marxo-leninskim znamenem [Under the Marx-Leninist Banner]. Kiev: Partizdat TSK KP(b)U. No. 3–4: 124–125. (In Russ.)

Mikhaylichenko D.Yu. (2012) All-Ukrainian Institute of Labor and the Establishment of the Kharkov School of Scientific Management (1921–1930). Gileya. Naukovyj visnyk. Kiev. Iss. 60: 100–106. (In Russ.)

Mikheev V. (1929) Alcohol Consumption by Workers and Employees of Moscow. Planovoye hozyaystvo [Planned Economy]. No. 6: 289–317. (In Russ.)

Mitelman M.I. (1929) The Fixation of Observations Problem and the Centographic Method. Planovoye hozyaystvo [Planned Economy]. No. 10: 117–141. (In Russ.)

Moiseev N.N. (1981) Mathematics in the Social Sciences. In: Ryabushkin T.V. (ed.) Mathematical Methods in a Case Study. Moscow: Nauka: 10–24. (In Russ.)

Narskiy I.S. (1959) On Historical Materialism as a Marxist Sociology. Voprosy Filosofii. No. 4: 119–127. (In Russ.)

Nemchinov V.S. (1955) Sociology and Statistics. Voprosy Filosofii. No. 6: 19–30. (In Russ.)

Nemchinov V.S. (1952) Statistics as a Science. Voprosy Ekonomiki. No. 10: 100–116. (In Russ.)

Obraztsov I.V. (2017) Sociolinguistic Studies in the Worker-and-Peasant Red Army in the 1920s. Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 12: 144–155. DOI: 10.7868/ S0132162517120145. (In Russ.)

Obraztsov I.V. (2018) Statistical Inspections in the Red Army in the 1920s. Sotsiologicheskiye issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 2: 45–54. DOI: 10.7868/S013216251802006X. (In Russ.)

Osipov G.V. (2010) Revival of Sociology in Russia: How it Really Was. St. Petersburg: SPbGUP. (In Russ.)

Stalin I.V. (1945) On Dialectical and Historical Materialism. Moscow: OGIZ; Gospolitizdat. (In Russ.)

Strugatsky A.N., Strugatsky B.N. (1990) Lame Fate. Predatory Things of the Century. Moscow: Kniga. (In Russ.)

Toshchenko Zh.Т. (2015) Sociology of Life as a Theoretical Conception. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. No. 1: 106–116. (In Russ.)

The Life of Modern Ukrainian Students according to Censuses and Other Surveys. (1924) Kharkov: Chervoniy Shlyakh. (In Russ.)

The Will of the Soviet People. (1936) Pod znamenem marxizma [Under the Banner of Marxism]. No. 8: 1–12. (In Russ.)

Yadov V.A. (ed.) (1998) Sociology in Russia. 2nd rev. ed. Moscow: IS RAN. (In Russ.)

Yadov V.A. (2003) Sociological Research Strategy. Description, Explanation, Understanding of Social Reality. 7th ed. Moscow: Dobrosvet. (In Russ.)

Content No 5, 2020