Attending the University in the Soviet Union – Social Studies

This is the continuation of that post; I’ve spoken a little bit about how math subjects were taught, but there were also a couple of non-math ones. So let’s cover them.

The toughest ones were all political subjects, which we had on place of social studies. Both in high school and the University, we studied “Marxist-Leninist philosophy,” and that was the only kind of philosophy we were allowed to know. By the way, I think it’s very good to know Marx works because 1) he had indeed some wise things to say, and 2) we should to know the origin, not interpretation, and learn from the previous mistakes. I find it very sad that people who got their education in the Soviet Union still resent this forced feeding of Marxism from their early stages of life, that they want completely erase it out of the world.

But back to my student years. Marxism-Leninism consisted of five parts, which could be conveniently mapped to the five years at theUniversity:

-The History of CPSU

-Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism (this is one subject – one semester for each :))

– Political Economy of Capitalism

– Political Economy of Socialism

– Scientific Communism

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Getting Into College And Soviet Anti-Semitism

From Hettie:

Several years ago, one of my followers on the LJ platform asked me to write a post about anti-semitism in the Soviet Union, specifically in the college admission process. Many people didn’t believe her that these things had happened, even when they were living in the USSR at the same time.

I promised to write about it, and it took me a while – it was excruciating to recall these episodes. Later, my older son Igor translated my blog post into English. I think his translation is quite accurate, so now that I am collecting all my memories in this blog, I’ve asked him to repost his translation here.

First, I thought that I will make some edits, but turned out that even reading it again was way too emotional, so I decided not to make any changes. Maybe I will do it sometime later. But now – no edits, no comments, all “as is”. Here it comes:

A few weeks ago, in a friendly LJ, I promised to talk about entering college in the end of 1970s/beginning of 1980s in the last century, in USSR – particularly about state antisemitism. I will only talk about what I saw and heard personally, or about what people directly involved in the events told me. I promised to do it by New Year. I started writing this a few days ago, but it was very painful, so it came out slowly. And so, as a result, I am posting another very non-holiday post. Yulya – I couldn’t manage to write everything that I knew about it. It was very difficult to write any more.

I know that the situation I’m writing about lasted literally a few years. By 1983, the situation already changed. Most likely, it was different in other cities, and it was definitely different in other colleges.

Because vast majority of the people involved are still alive and I’m not Elena Chizhova :), I won’t give any names, and I ask all my readers who witnessed or were involved in the events to do the same. It’s not that I have any doubt in you :). I just want this to be a public post.

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How I Went Abroad For The First Time

The first time I went abroad was in the summer of 1984. I was 21 and just finished my fourth year at the University. At that time, colleges and universities in the Soviet Union had the system of degrees, which was different from the rest of the world. We did not have bachelors and masters; we just had “specialist,” and everybody had to complete five years of school to graduate (some had to complete five and a half or six).
We didn’t have “freshmen” or “juniors,” we were “first-year students,” “second-year students,” etc.

I was attending the Department of Mathematics and Mechanics of the Leningrad State University, and we had “an exchange program” with Humbolt University in East Berlin. It was only called “exchange,” it took place in summer when schools were not in session, and it was just a rare chance to get to Zagranitsa. Both the Russian group and the German group consisted of ten students, in June the Germans where visiting Leningrad, and in August we were visiting Berlin.

The competition to be a part of this group has been going on for the whole school year. Until June we would not know who exactly will go to Germany (only East Germany, of cause!)

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