Dimensions and Challenges of Russian Liberalism
University of Turin

The history of Russian liberals has been marked by defeats, most recently at the 2016 Duma elections when not a single candidate associated with liberal parties has been elected. The very definition of a Russian liberalism is problematic and has been debated, both historically and analytically. Nevertheless, Russian liberals were and are a significant historical and political movement that deserves attention. Values and practices traditionally associated with modern liberalism such as individual freedom, property rights, or the rule of law often emerged ambiguously in the Russian historical experience through different forms and combinations. Liberal projects were shaped by circumstances, evolved in response to challenges and developed within changing institutional and international settings. Economic and political liberalism often appeared disjointed or in opposition to each other. Even during the late Soviet Union, after the physical destruction of the pre-revolutionary liberal intelligentsia, a discourse of human rights emerged under the surface of the official ideology. As in other political and historical realities Russian liberalism presents a hybrid, multi-faceted character. It is evident that no single Russian, or for that matter Western, “liberalism” exists. To assume -more or less implicitly- that there is a single liberal or “Western” intellectual paradigm limits our understanding of the political and historical dynamic. Therefore, empirical and intellectual contextualization of what liberalism meant at different times is crucial. Understanding of the Russian liberal experience requires a dialogue between past and present, historians and political scientists.

The conference is organised in partnership with University of Turin, Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) – George Washington University and William&Mary College.


International Partners: Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES), George Washington University; the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University; the Cold War Studies Program, Harvard University; the London School of Economics; the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies, College of William and Mary; National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow; University of Turin

Project Director
Giancarlo Bosetti (Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations)

Scientific Coordinators
Andrea Graziosi (ANVUR, University of Naples Federico II), Alberto Masoero (University of Genoa)

Scientific Committee
Gianmaria AJANI (University of Turin), Alexey BARABASHEV (Higher School of Economics, Moscow); Giancarlo BOSETTI (Reset-DoC), Andrea GRAZIOSI (ANVUR, University of Naples Federico II), Stephen E. HANSON (Reves Center), Mark KRAMER (Cold War Studies and Davis Center), Marlene LARUELLE (European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, George Washington University); Andrei MELVILLE (Higher School of Economics, Moscow), Alexandra VACROUX (Davis Center), Vladislav M. ZUBOK (The London School of Economics and Political Science).



Thursday – October 26th, 2017

3.30 pm – 4.00 pm – Welcome address

Gianmaria Ajani | Rector, University of Turin
Giancarlo Bosetti | Director, Reset DOC

4.00 pm – 7.00 pm – Session 1. Pre-revolutionary Liberalism and the Challenges of Modernity


Igor Khristoforov | Princeton University
Liberal Bureaucrats and the Ability to Reform

Aleksei Kara-Murza | Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Olga Zhukova | National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow
The Political Philosophy of Russian Liberalism

Ekaterina Pravilova | Princeton University
Liberals and Property Rights

Alexander Semyonov | Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg
Dilemmas of Liberalism in the Russian Imperial Context

Peter Holquist | University of Pennsylvania; Alberto Masoero | University of Genoa


Friday – October 27th, 2017

9.30 am – 11.50 am – Session 2. Liberal Undercurrents in Soviet Times


Benjamin Nathans | University of Pennsylvania
Human Rights Defenders within Soviet Politics

Vladislav Zubok | LSE
Intelligentsia as a liberal concept, 1950s – 1980s

Svetlana Savranskaia | National Security Archives
Gorbachev’s New Political Thinking: A Substitute for Liberalism

Viktor Sheinis | Institute of World Economy and International Relations
Paradoxes and consequences of liberal reforms in Russia

Moderators/discussants: Andrea Graziosi | ANVUR, University of Naples; Steve Hanson | College of William & Mary;

11.50 – 12.00 am – Coffee break

12.00 am – 1.15 pm Session 3. The 1990s: “Time of Troubles”


Alexander V. Obolonsky | Higher School of Economics
Liberal Values, Ethics, and the Soviet Administrative Heritage

Guillaume Sauvé | EURUS – Carleton University
Drawing Lessons from Failure: Russian Liberals Looking Back on Perestroika

Moderators/discussants: Alexey Barabashev | Higher School of Economics; Mark Kramer | Davis Center, Harvard University

Lunch – 1.15– 2.30 pm

2.30 pm – 5.00 pm – Panel 4. Liberalism under Pressure: 2000-2010s


Igor Klyamkin | Liberal Mission
Why the Liberal Alternative did not Sustain in Russia?

Sergey Medvedev | Higher School of Economics
How Liberalism Survives in Russian Culture

Kirill Rogov | Liberal Mission
Public Attitudes after the Presidential Elections in Russia, 2018

Valeryi Solovey | MGIMO
Liberals or Technocrats? Liberal Ideas and Values in the Mindset of the Russian Elite

Moderators / discussants: Andrey Melville (Higher School of Economics)


Saturday – October 28th, 2017 (Via Verdi 9 – Aula Magna Cavallerizza)

10.30 am – 1.00 pm Concluding Round Table. Russian Liberals and the World Order

Gianmaria Ajani | Dean, University of Turin

Giuliano Amato | Judge of the Italian Constitutional Court and Former Prime Minister of Italy

Andrea Graziosi | ANVUR, University of Naples Federico II

Andrey Melville | Higher School of Economics

Ekaterina Pravilova | Princeton University

Svetlana Savranskaya | National Security Archives

ChairRoberto Toscano | Former Italian Ambassador in Teheran and New Delhi

Working Language: English

The program may be subject to change