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Russian Journal of Communication


Taylor and Francis





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In the early 1990s, a group of Russian and American scholars teamed up to investigate the impact of Gorbachev’s reform on Soviet society, focusing especially on the role the intelligentsia played in fomenting glasnost and perestroika. Results of this collaborative study were published in a volume Russian Culture at the Crossroads: Paradoxes of Postcommunist Consciousness (Shalin, 1996a). The contributors worked on the assumption that perestroika was an irreversible achievement, that distortions the reforms wrought in Russian society would be smoothed out over time. Today, this assumption appears overoptimistic. After nearly twenty years in power, Vladimir Putin dismantled key democratic institutions, badly weakened other, and established a personalistic regime that reversed many political gains brought about by his predecessors.

An international team assembled for the present project starts with the premise that we live in the age of counterperestroika. Our focus is still on the intelligentsia and its contribution to dismantling the Soviet system, but now we want to explore the unanticipated consequences of social change threatening the existence of the intelligentsia as a distinct group. Our team includes prominent scholars, writers, and civil rights leaders who illuminate the political agendas and personal choices confronting intellectuals in today’s Russia. Contributors look at the current trends through different lenses, they disagree about the intelligentsia’s past achievements and looming future, yet they all feel the need to examine its local and world-historical significance.

This essay aims to place the debate in historical context and elucidate its relevance to the field of communication studies. I begin with the communication-specific conditions fortifying democratic institutions and show how distorted communications have hobbled the Russian intelligentsia throughout history. Next, I review the social context within which the intelligentsia emerged, the special place it occupies in Russian discourse, and the acute distress counterperestroika inflicted on Russian society in general and public intellectuals in particular. After examining the systematic distortions that communication suffers in repressive societies, I zero in on the intelligentsia’s role in modeling emotionally intelligent conduct and scrutinize the communication sphere as the condition of possibility for a viable democracy. I close this introduction with a brief survey of the articles collected in this volume and reflections on the prospects for a communication theory in the pragmatist key.


Intelligentsia; Glasnost; Perestroika; Democracy; Distorted communications; Embodied communications; Emotional intelligence; Pragmatist theory of communication



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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Russian Journal of Communication on 12-20-2018, available online:

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