Teodor Shanin is the founder of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences. From 1995 to 2007, he held the position of the School’s Rector. From 2007 to 2020, he was the School’s President. The School is commonly referred to as Shaninka in honour of its founder.
Biography29 October 1930 Teodor Shanin is born in Wilno, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania).
1941 He is exiled to Siberia with his mother (his father is sent to a camp in Sverdlovsk Oblast).
1942-1946 Following the general amnesty of all former Polish citizens, he moves to Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
1946-1947 He resides in Lodz, Poland.
1948 He goes to Israel to sign up as a volunteer in the War of Independence (he serves in the 6th Palmach Commando Battalion).
1949-1951 He studies at the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
1952-1964 He starts his career in social work (troubled youth, the Be’er Ya’akov hospital, MALBEN, the Ministry of Labor Rehabilitation Center).
1959-1964 He works and concurrently resumes his studies at the Department of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
1964-1966 He works on his doctoral thesis at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
1966-1971 He teaches at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.
1969 He receives his PhD at the University of Birmingham.
1970 He becomes a citizen of the United Kingdom.
1971-1973 He works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Haifa, Israel.
1973-1974 He acts as a member of St Antony’s College, the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
1974-1988 He is a sociology professor at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
1988-1992 He continues to work at the University of Manchester and leads a major research programme on Russian agriculture. He is elected a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
1995-2007 He establishes MSSES and serves as its Rector.
2002 He receives an OBE (the Order of the British Empire) for his service to education in Russia.
2007-2020 He is the President of MSSES.
He passed away on the 4th of February, 2020.
Academic degrees and titles1951 Diploma in Professional Social Work Practice, the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
1963 BA (Sociology/Economics), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
1969 PhD (Sociology), the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
1974 Sociology Professor, the University of Manchester.
1975 MSc in Social Sciences, the University of Manchester.
1988 Honorary member of the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
2002 Honoured Worker of Higher Professional Education of the Russian Federation.
2002 OBE (the Order of the British Empire for service to education in Russia).
2008 The Alexander Dallin Medal, the European University, Saint Petersburg.
2008 Honorary Doctor of Laws, the University of Toronto.
Professional background1949-1951 Student of the School of Social Work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
1952-1955 Social Worker, youth outreach, the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, Israel.
1955-1960 Social Worker, the Be’er Ya’akov hospital, Israel.
1960-1961 MALBEN, Rehabilitation Center, Israel.
1962-1964 Director of the Ministry of Labor Rehabilitation Center in Petah Tikva, Israel Resuming academic studies.
1959-1963 Evening classes, Department of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Academic background1965-1968 Sociology Teacher, the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.
1968-1970 Teacher at the Birmingham University Centre for the Study of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (now the Centre for Russian and East European Studies), United Kingdom.
1971-1973 Associate Professor, the University of Haifa, Israel.
1973-1974 Research work in St Antony's College, Oxford, United Kingdom.
1974-1999 Sociology Professor, the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
1976-1987 Dean of the Department of Sociology, the University of Manchester, United Kingdom.
1988-1992 While working in Manchester - Director of the program for the transformation of the humanities of the International Foundation “Cultural Initiative”, Moscow, Russia.
1992-1994 Co-President (with academician Tatyana Zaslavskaya) of the interdisciplinary academic centre for Social Sciences “Intercentre”, Moscow, Russia.
1995-2007 Rector of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Moscow, Russia.
2007-2020 President of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Moscow, Russia.
Academic work1971 Professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
1973-1974 Senior Researcher, St Antony's College, Oxford, United Kingdom.
1976-1979 Field studies of agriculture in Iran.
1977 Lecture tour to Lund University, Sweden.
1978-1989 Cultural exchange programme: research work in the USSR with residence in Moscow.
1977, 1979, 1981 Research work in rural parts of India.
1978-1981 Continuation of the cultural exchange programme with residence in Moscow.
1979-1980 Four months of research work in Columbia University, New York, USA.
1983-1984 Research work, Wilson Center, Washington, USA.
1988 Lecture tour to Brazil, the British Council, and the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
1989 Visit to China as part of the cultural exchange programme for studying agricultural reforms.
1990-1991 Commoner, one-year fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
1990-1994 Research grant for fieldwork in rural parts of Russia, ESRC.
- 1971 Peasants and Peasant Societies. Translation into Spanish, Persian, Malasian. Second revised edition. (Blackwells/Penguin, 1987).
- 1972 The Awkward Class: Political Sociology of Peasantry in a Developing Society: Russia 1910-1925. (Clarendon Press, 1972).
- 1972 The Rules of the Game: Interdisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity and analytical models in scholarly thought. (Tavistock Publications, 1972).
- 1983 Introduction to the Sociology of the “Developing Societies” (with Hamza Alavi). (Macmillan).
- 1984 Late Marx and the Russian Road: Marx and the Peripheries of Capitalism. (Routledge, GB. Monthly Review US).
- 1985 Russia as a ‘Developing Society’ (The Roots of Otherness, Vol 1.). (Macmillan Yale U.P.).
- 1986 Russia 1905-07: Revolution as a Moment of Truth (The Roots of Otherness, Vol 2). (Macmillan Yale U.P.). The book was awarded the Deutscher Memorial Prize in 1988.
- 1990 Defining Peasants. (Blackwell).
- 1992 The Great Unknown. /Великий Незнакомец/ (Progress).
- 1994 Antonovschina (with Viktor Danilov). /Антоновщина/.
- 1999 The Informal Economy: Russia and the World. /Неформальная Экономика: Россия и Мир/ (Logos, 1999).
- 2002 Reflexive Peasant Studies (with Viktor Danilov and Alexander Nikulin). /Рефлексивное крестьяноведение/ MSSES and ROSPEN, 2002.
- 2005 Fathers and Sons: Generational History (with Yuri Levada). /Отцы и сыновья: поколенческая история/ New Literary Observer, 2005.
- 2007 Nestor Makhno. Peasant movement in Ukraine (with Viktor Danilov and Viktor Kondrashin) /Нестор Махно: крестьянское движение на Украине/ (ROSSPEN), 2006.
- 1966 Peasants as a Political Factor, Sociological Review, Vol. 14.
- 1967 Inheritance in Russian Peasantry, Discussion Papers of the University of Birmingham LC/C No. 3.
- 1968 Student Power in Developing Societies, Discussion Papers of the University of Birmingham LC/C No. 10 (with C. Dennis).
- 1970 Class and Revolution, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 1.
- 1971 Peasants: A Delineation of Concept and a Field of Study, European Journal of Sociology, Vol. 12.
- 1971 Socio-Economic Mobility and the Rural History of Russia, 1905-1930, Soviet Studies, Vol 22. (Reprinted in Cambridge Anthropology 1982).
- 1971 Co-operation and Collectivisation - The Case of Eastern Europe, in P Worsley ed. Two Blades of Grass: Rural Co-operatives in Agricultural Modernisation. (Manchester U.P.).
- 1972 Units of Sociological Analysis, Sociology, Vol. 6.No. 3.
- 1973 The Structure and Logic of Peasant Economy, Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 1, Nos. 1 and 2.
- 1975 The Price of Suspension: The Policy of Stages and the Historical Defeat of Moderate Zionism. U. Davis, A. Mack and N. Yuval-Davis./ Israel and the Palestinians. (Ithaca Press).
- 1976 The Third Stage: Marxist Social Theory and the Origins of our Time, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 6, No. 3.
- 1976 Peasants and Social Development, ed. Khodadad Farmanfarmaian. The Social Sciences and Problems of Development. (Princeton U.P.).
- 1976 A World Without Rural Sociology: The Issue of Specificity and the Future of a Discipline. Sociologia Ruralis, Vol. 16, No.4.
- 1977 The Sociology of ‘Developing Societies’: Problems of Teaching and Definition. (Together with Robin Cohen and Bernado Sorj). The Sociological Review, Vol. 25, No. 2.
- 1977 The Peasant Connection: Social Background and Mental Health of Migrant Workers in Western Europe. (Together with Shulamit Ramon and Jackie Strimpel). Mental Health and Society, Vol. 4, Nos 5/6.
- 1978 The Peasants Are Coming: Migrants Who Labour, Peasants Who Travel and Marxists Who Write. Race and Class, Vol. 19, No. 3.
- 1980 The Conceptual Reappearance of Peasantry Within the Anglo-Saxon Social Sciences: 1960s and After. Ed. E. Gelner, Soviet and Western Anthropology. (Duckworth & Co, London).
- 1980 Measuring Peasant Capitalism, ed. E. J. Hobsbawm, etc. Peasants in History, (Oxford University Press, Calcutta).
- 1980 Defining Peasants: Conceptualisations and De-Conceptualisations, Peasant Studies, Vol. 8, No. 4. Also The Sociological Review, Vol. 30, No 3.
- 1981 Marx and the Russian Commune, Historical Workshop, No. 21.
- 1982 Class, State and Revolution: Substitutes and Realities, in H. Alavi and T. Shanin Introduction to Sociology of Developing Societies. (Macmillan).
- 1983 The Peasant Dream: Russia 1905-7 in R. Samuel, Culture Politics and Ideology. (Routledge).
- 1984 Late Marx: Gods and Craftsmen, in T. Shanin’s Late Marx and the Russian Road. (Routledge).
- 1984 Marxism and the Vernacular Revolutionary Traditions, in T. Shanin’s Late Marx and the Russian Road.
- 1986 Soviet Theories of Ethnicity: The Case of a Missing Term, New Left Review, No. 158.
- 1986 Chayanov’s Message: Illuminations, Miscomprehensions and the Contemporary Development Theory, in A. V. Chayanov, The Theory of Peasant Economy. (Wisconsin U.P.).
- 1988 Peasantry and Capitalism: Kautsky’s Agrarian Question in K. Kautsky’s The Agrarian Question (with Hamza Alavi). (Zwan).
- 1988 Expolary Economies: A Political Economy of Margins, Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol 1, No 1.
- 1988 The Zionisms of Israel in H. Alavi and F. Halliday State and Ideology in the Middle East. (Macmillan).
- 1988 New Times and New Man in USSR, New Left Review, No. 168.
- 1988 Roads Which Lead to the Temple: Soviet Historian’s Blinkers and Illuminations, Detente, No 11.
- 1989 The Ethnic Dimension: Theory and Policies in the Soviet Union, Comparative Studies in Sociology and History, Vol. 31, No. 3.
- 1989 Soviet Agriculture and Perestroika: Four Models, Sociologia Ruralis, Vol XXXIX, No 1, 1989.
- 1989 Orthodox Marxism and Lenin’s Four and a Half Agrarian Programmes, in T Shanin’s Defining Peasants. (Blackwells).
- 1989 The Agenda of Peasant Studies and the Perception of Parallel Realities, in T. Shanin’s Defining Peasants. (Blackwells).
- 1989 Soviet Economic Crisis: Monthly Review, Vol. 41, No. 5.
- 1990 The Question of Socialism: A Development Failure or an Ethical Defeat, Historical Workshop, 39.
- 1990 ‘Peasantry’ Blackwell’s Encyclopaedia of Social Sciences. (Oxford, 1990).
- 1990 The Western experience and the danger of “Stalinism upside down”. /Западный опыт и опасность сталинизма «наоборот»/ Kommunist, No. 1.
- 1990 Alternatives ever exist… /Иное всегда дано…/ Znanie-Sila, No. 9.
- 1991 Peasants and Scholars, CASID, Michigan State University.
- 1991 The question about knowing yourself and knowing others becomes the central question and the central barrier to your development. /Вопрос знания о себе и знания о других становится центральным вопросом и центральной преградой вашего развития/ Fermer, No. 10.
- 1994 Charity and Knowledge. /Милосердие и умение/ (together with S Ramon) Znanie i Sila.
- 1995 The Treble Death of Alexander Chayanov. /Три смерти Александра Чаянова/ Sociologicheskiy Zhurnal.
- 1995 Peasant as a Great Unknown. /Крестьянин как великий незнакомец/ Pravda, No. 39 (27457).
- 1996 Majid Rahnema’s idea of progress, The Post-Development Reader. (Zed Books).
- 1996 Placing Social Work Within Social Theory and Political Practice, in S Ramon (ed), The Interface of Social Work and Social Policy. (Venture Press (Birmingham) & Open Society (Moscow)).
- 1997 Social Work as a cultural phenomenon of contemporaneity. /Социальная работа как культурный феномен современности/ Russkij Zhurnal.
- 1998 Social Work: a new profession and a new academic discipline. /Социальная работа: новая профессия и академическая дисциплина/ Kuda idet Rossia, M., V.5.
- 1998 Reflexive Methodology in the Studies of Contemporary Rural Russia. /Рефлексивная методология в исследованиях современной сельской России/ Sotsiologicheskii Zhurnal, No. 3-4.
- 1998 Double-Reflexive Methodology in the 1991/7 Studies of Contemporary Rural Russia Published in: Kachestvennie metodi v polevih sotsiologicheskih issledovanijah (Qualitative Methods in Sociological Fieldwork.) By Eugene M. Kovalev and Ilya E. Steinberg. Moscow. Logos, 1999. In Russian.
- 1999 Teodor Shanin: Democratization as setting of the system of the mistake self amendment. /Демократизация как аппарат самоисправления ошибок/ U.Ozdemirov, Jabloko Rossii, No. 41 (75).
- 2000 Election in the USA. USA needs new ideas. /Выборы в США: Америке нужны новые идеи/ Ekspert, No. 43(225).
- 2001 We are united by the feeling of shame: to go into Europe Russia should turn left. /Нас объединяет стыд. Если Россия хочет в Европу, она должна «полеветь»/ Ekspert, No. 37 (297).
- 2001 The usefulness of otherness: British academic tradition and Russian academic education. /О пользе иного: Британская академическая традиция и российское академическое образование/ Vestnik Evropu, M., v.III.
- 2002 Lessons of history: the limits of political imagination. /Уроки истории и следующая революция: границы политического воображения/ Otechestvennije zapiski. Zhurnal dlja medlennogo chtenija, No. 4.
- 2002 The Place of Intelligence. /Место интеллигенции/ P.Kamenchenko, Bol’shoj gorod, No. 32.
- 2005 No peasants while the peasant question still exist. /Крестьянства нет, крестьянский вопрос есть/ V.Kurennij, Politicheskij Zhurnal.
- 2005 How to stop capitalism from entering villages? /Как не пустить на село капитализм?/ A.Obertinskij. Krestjanin.
- 2006 In Russia overdoing things is ever more dangerous than not doing enough. /В России перебор всегда опаснее чем недостаток/ Polit.ru (Peredovaja nauka).
- 2008 Russian Sociology: Theory versus field-results. /Российская социология была похожа на двугорбого верблюда/ Ekonomicheskaja sotsiologija, T.9, No. 3.
- 2008 The fight against bureaucratization of scholarship must be part of the general fight against bureaucratization. /С избыточной бюрократизацией надо бороться в рамках общей борьбы с бюрократизацией/ Troitskij Variant No. 7.
- 2014 Teodor Shanin. The usefulness of otherness: British academic tradition and Russian academic education. /Теодор Шанин. О пользе иного. Британская академическая традиция и российское университетское образование/ (The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, 2014).
In Memory of Teodor Shanin
I wish I didn’t have to write this post, but here we are. Teodor Shanin passed away not long before his 90th birthday, which was somewhat of an important incentive for him, a symbolic goal. About three years ago we were thinking of writing a book and making a film with Tatyana Sorokina, and we were discussing what they would be about (we knew who the main character would be but the subject was unclear…), and I suggested happiness as the cross-cutting theme. At first, he was taken aback by the idea - how could one say that a life with so much loss, death of a sister and grandfather, two wars, broken relationships, and suffering is a happy one? But eventually, he agreed - yes, the concept of what happiness is had to be revised. “I really am a happy person”. He was happy because he’s always done what he thought was right. And till the last minute, he had remained within the historical mainstream as opposed to outside of it – in spiritual retirement.
He had been carefully reading the book “Disagreeable Teodor” – released in December – at every stage of its creation. He would even check the phono captions.
Among other things, he cut out a few stories that were too personal, saying “Not while I’m alive. Later”. But now I can publish one of them. Because now it’s posthumous. Alas. I wish I still couldn’t.
“Ever since I was a child, I’ve always remembered my father as a hero, but later on, his heroic position dissipated. When mom told him that we had to move to Israel, he tried to get out of it. He would tell her tales about his poor health, some kind of circumstances, certain decisions he had to wait for. Mom left for Israel on her own; we’ve remained close while dad settled in Paris where, let’s say, he was having a bad time. He turned from a lucky and adventurous man into a burden. When he died, I had to get to Europe on a ship (I collected money from my friends, passing around a hat), then I went to the funeral, and something happened by his coffin that had a great impact on me.
There were many people, about 400, with banners representing various movements, the pathos… Two leaders of two Parisian Zionist parties were giving eulogies by his casket. They were arguing with my father. They were saying right into the coffin that he shouldn’t be this stubborn, he shouldn’t be this principled, this incapable of compromising. The more they talked, the more I wanted to say something back, which was impossible; my throat was tightened and I wanted to cry. But crying wasn’t an option. Boys don’t cry, that’s how I was taught. But the last eulogy was given by a rabbi who said:
— Our laws dictate that if a person died a violent death and it’s unclear who killed him, but his body was found on the community’s territory, ten elders must wash their hands and say “those weren’t our hands that spilled that blood”. Why does the Talmud demand that from us? Because when a person dies, no one knows who is responsible for that death. Is it the one who was physically killing him or was it the one who didn’t help when the help was needed? And that is why I’m saying, standing in front of this man’s casket: may the ten elders wash their hands.
I came up to him after that, shook his hand, and thanked him for saying that for me and my entire family.
Over time, I realised that I have the right to cry and that there’s no need to hold tears”.
Let’s not hold them. Goodbye, Teodor.
Twenty-five years ago
The Moscow School wasn’t fully operational yet, things were still being taken care of and everything was touch-and-go.
Shanin had already spent a lot of time in Russia and one day, he came to England, looked the wrong way crossing the street, and was hit by a turning car.
When I was told about it, I immediately asked without thinking:
— What happened to the car? — Teodor’s immortality wasn’t even something worth talking about. And that’s precisely what happened.
Back then, Moscow was black and filthy. ANE’s second building looked like a typical Soviet office – only one or two rooms had new office furniture, which resembled a group of petrified foreign tourists. ANE and Soros were supposed to give money for MSSES, but the former went temporarily broke due to the construction of its ‘blue tooth’, and Soros and Teodor just had yet another fight. We had already started the first year and barely managed to get the first intake of students, and it was strange to think that all this was about to vanish again like it was never here. Moscow’s best talent was brought together for a meeting in regard to rescuing the School, and they were saying that there was no way of doing that.
Then Shanin promised to pay the teachers out of his own pocket. And he did.
Eventually, everything worked out. The scariest empty room was turned into the famous two-storey library.
Twenty-five years. That’s enough time to come into life, acquire secondary education, get a bachelor’s degree, and enrol at MSSES to meet Shanin and hear his voice.
He has done a lot of important things, but this one is the most important: a strong institution that has outlived its creator.
“Nothing awaits us after death, but there’s no need to be afraid. I’m not. I have trouble feeling fear in general”. It turns out, Shanin was wrong - after a person dies, he leaves behind and in his stead a community, which is exactly what Shaninka is. If a person leaves behind a community, then his life becomes the life of those people – his extensions in space and time. Thus, the feeling of loss comes with the gratitude for the 10 years of my life in Shaninka with 1) the greatest students - a motivating force for professional growth, devoted and insatiable people thirsty for knowledge and filling me with a zest for life 2) colleagues I really want to work with and always have something to work on with 3) a raging stream of academic life that keeps you going and stays with you for a while, even when you’ve already left 4) the kindest rector in the world and the most creative PR department. What else? 5) library(!) - a window to the world and simply a universum in itself 6) ability to live through anything regardless of what’s happening in our country 7) Shanin, ‘invisible’ in everyday life and always willing to help. And the geography of those who have studied in Shaninka, those who have felt sympathy and joy for Shaninka when it was going through difficult times and when it was experiencing growth, those who study there now, or those who are yet to enter that space-and-time.
Many of my friends used to be Shanin’s students and, looking from the outside, I admired the greatness of a person who has managed to create a world-class educational institution in post-Soviet Russia without and despite the government. There was no one else like him.
However, my favourite part of his biography dates back to the late 1940s, when, coming out of the ruins of post-War Europe, Shanin volunteers to fight for Israel’s independence.
Gleb Pavlovsky told me that one of his relatives used to work in a port in Odessa and one night in 1948 or so, he was loading crates with no identification marks to be shipped by sea – they contained ‘Schmeissers’.
Upon hearing this, Shanin exclaimed:
- Oh, I remember those Schmeissers! Those were great Schmeissers! We were unloading those crates in Jaffa, waist-deep in water.
Then Israel and Shanin won, and the latter went on to England to pursue a career in sociology and eventually bring it all to Russia.
Now there are other people here who also have no fear.
It’s amazing how much a person can endure and do in a lifetime.
I don’t know who surrounds Teodor – it might be the Arab army or his own; if it’s his own, it’s either as a joke or
I think Teodor brought the word ‘courage’ back into our little circle. I don’t know if it will ever correspond with our everyday life, but the spell is cast – and it feels like we will also do it all and make it to 89 and write our own books and be proud of ourselves.
it’s very hard to write something about Teodor Shanin. but I can’t not write either because we need to write about important things on our social media.
but also, mainly, because Teodor used to say that we can and should act in agreement with other people on what matters, despite petty differences. in response to my boring questions about how to identify what matters, he would say that there are things you stand for and you can’t have it any other way, and then there’s everything else.
the fact that Teodor is no longer with us matters and it doesn’t matter that each of us had different experiences with him. what matters is that his passing means something to a lot of people.
and yet, it’s hard to write something because I was lucky: I’ve had many long and frequent conversations with Teodor, I’ve talked to him about all kinds of things, joked around, asked for his advice, argued with him, and done different things with him. that’s why I find it hard to distance myself and think of him as just a figure, so it’s still too difficult to write stories and recount dialogues.
but there’s no difference between the man I knew and the figure from all those books and films.
sad or annoyed, joking or teaching, in appropriate pathos everyone quotes, in photographs and biographies, it’s all Teodor Shanin.
and the fact that, like many others, I was lucky enough to change through my interactions with him.
someday, I will definitely tell you some story about how he could give a serious talk and then respond to a complicated question with a story of his own.
I met Teodor in 2017 when I got into Shaninka (the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences) and started working at PostNauka. Teodor immediately refused to talk about peasant studies in the form of 10 to 15-minute educational videos: he believed you can’t tell anything worthwhile like that. However, when I suggested he tell the story behind Shaninka, he agreed to do it. As a result, we released the video when the university’s state accreditation was revoked.
I was lucky enough to talk to Teodor a few more times. The story about Shaninka’s origins and his autobiography recorded by Alexander Arkhangelsky left a lasting impression on me.
In the Russian academic environment, there aren’t many role models, i. e. uncompromising people with an impeccable reputation. That’s the kind of person Teodor was and always will be to me.
He showed a ‘third’ way for Russian universities. He liked to say that when he was creating Shaninka, his goal wasn’t just to establish a British-like university in Russia, it was to create a place where the most successful practices of Russian/post-Soviet and British universities coexist in harmony and in line with the local context. That idea remains valuable now, at a time when all Russian universities are driven by the desire to appear in international rankings and they have to find justification for any innovation in American or European practices.
That whole structure was based on academic freedom, i. e. not the formal and limited model of freedom that is currently being enforced on us, but the real climate of freedom that still prevails in Shaninka’s classrooms and, especially, in its legendary library. A visit to that library is like an esoteric experience for many of the university’s graduates.
For many of us, it was the first or even only experience of studying in a free university that puts its students and scholars first.
In times of compromises, hypocrisy, and double standards, Teodor’s sincerity and openness were astonishing. Students, teachers, and alumni all treated him like an old friend and addressed him informally. I cannot imagine Teodor calling his students ‘conspirators’. When the university lost its accreditation, a group of proactive students formed with the mission to protect Shaninka. Teodor would meet with us, ask how he could help us, and tell us how in 1968, when he was a teacher in Birmingham, he supported the protesting students.
Teodor is a person who managed to create a university in Russia in the 1990s without sacrificing his principles even once, with no trade-offs and no compromises. The history of the new university autonomy in Russia, if such history ever takes place and someone records it, will start with the story of how Teodor managed to establish ‘the Moscow School’ (that’s how he called our university) on his second try and despite everything.
Teodor himself was against the name ‘Shaninka’. He didn’t create a university to immortalise his name. It wasn’t his ‘personal project’. Students and graduates gave the university that nickname and, apparently, at some point, Teodor just got tired of arguing with them (although, he wouldn’t stop mentioning it). He wasn’t holding on to the Rector position and left it in 2007.
Thank you for everything you have done for us.
R. I. P.
the first graduation ceremony I’ve ever attended was concluded with Teodor saying “I would also love to hug you all”. I remember being very surprised by his vigour, charm, sensitivity, and kindness. sometime later, I got even more surprised when he invited me to his office to get acquainted. turns out, it was just something he would always do. Teodor asked me about what I like, my family, my job in Shaninka. the whole time we were talking, I was thinking, how can one person radiate so much warmth. never before had I met someone so extraordinary and great. yes, Teodor was great, and working in the same school as him was very gratifying. and it was very devastating to find out that he is no longer with us.
I would also love to hug us all.
Our teacher, the founder of the Moscow-British School of Social and Economic Sciences (MSSES) that is commonly referred to as Shaninka, died.
I studied in Shaninka during the transition period from 1999 to 2000, at the turn of the millennium, I was receiving my second higher education and it changed my life dramatically. It was incredible, we were taught by the best, we were the first students of the Faculty of Cultural Management, the first class, everyone was stressed, no one knew what it would all come to in the end. In the end, we came out of the university completely different people.
If we consider the scale of our vast country, Shaninka will seem like a microscopic laboratory of new talent, we had a very hard time leaving the year-long paradise and entering the real world, but we are all still grateful to our Hogwarts of the humanities for providing the best education.
Everyone was on a first-name basis with Shanin - but only with Teodor, no one else, everyone else was addressed by their name and patronymic, it was noticeable and the teachers understood that inconsistency, they were trying to be more easygoing and they were insisting on us calling them by their first name, but we couldn’t overcome the cultural barrier, whereas with Shanin, it was easy...
One time, we were organising some kind of revue for Valentine's Day and I asked him to share his favourite quote about love, he wrote it on a piece of paper, it was lines from a poem by Mayakovsky:
“Him” and “her” is a ballad of mine.
I’m not frightfully new.
What frightens is
that “him” is me
and that “her”
I think Shanin didn’t die from old age, he was an absolutely great person, I want to believe that he died of disappointment, we didn’t try hard enough to change the world for the better, and he wanted that very much, otherwise, he wouldn’t have founded such a school.
Rest in peace, our beloved Teodor, we will always remember you!
Teodor Shanin. He was, without exaggeration, a great man. Probably everyone who knew him even a little bit felt that way. An amazing combination of his charm, deep intrinsic dignity, and democratic approach is hard to describe. Also, I just remembered that despite his purposefulness and courage, I've seen Teodor being unable to hold tears in public on a few occasions. But I think it’s important to mention at what moment that would happen - every time, it had to do with human injustice towards others. And I think that’s very Teodor. May he rest in peace.
— Who’s the girl? — the deputy minister asks.
— Well, she studied in Shaninka...
“Well, we haven’t studied in Shaninka” – my colleagues say when they are angry about something complicated, new, or ambivalent.
“Why are you so smart, did you graduate from Shaninka or something?” — Zadornov jokes.
But I think that for Teodor, the most powerful word describing all the most important things in people, his school, graduates, the whole world, was the word ‘beautiful’. Beautiful as the connection between ethics and aesthetics. Beautiful is about the beauty of the soul, it’s mind, it’s justice, and it’s courage. And whenever he disapproved of something, the strongest word he could say or think was probably “it’s ugly”.
Today, we bid him farewell. Teodor Shanin is no longer a dot on a map. Now, he is the Teodor Archipelago. The archipelago where we all reside.
In 2015, I was moderating the first Gefter Readings held within Shaninka’s annual scientific conference. It happened so recently, just five years ago. Shanin might have been the last of those remarkable people who connected several historical eras for us.
Teodor once came to a reflexive seminar that we were going to conduct together. The plan was to undertake collective reflexive work on interpretation and life choices based on his personal story. Teodor told us about his life and we proceeded to the analytical part. He was keeping quiet and listening to everyone working. Then at some point, we got carried away and started arguing and interrupting each other. I was very worried about the time and I tried to push my agenda to fulfil my vision for the seminar, but other people were defending their ideas. Teodor was quietly listening and then he put a stop to that mess by saying, in his unique way but so that we would all suddenly realize what he meant, - “what is happening now signifies the end of reflexive work”. And we suddenly felt ashamed.
We agreed that I would come to see him “when the dust settles”. Well, in two weeks, I was sitting in his office on the sixth floor and we were chatting. We talked about all sorts of things - from the way discussions are held in the British parliament to Russian TV hosts’ working methods to his personal story about how he was expelled from the party. As a result, we conducted special reflexive work on our seminar. In his signature style, Teodor described the outcome of our reflection in the form of an aphorism. “Politeness is a tool for knowledge!” - he said. It was a great summary of our conversation on how an argument can and should serve as a tool for reaching an agreement on new knowledge about reality and how it works. Also, he slyly squinted his eyes and said the following words that concluded our conversation about the seminar - “If I was in charge here, I would demand to prohibit this! Even though I don’t like to prohibit things. But since you understand and admit that you were wrong, we’re good. And we are friends, even more so than before. You must prepare a seminar about this. But don’t do it right away. And invite me when it’s ready”.
That was late 2019. I won’t be able to invite Teodor now. However, I feel like everything I currently do in terms of teaching people to work on their thinking can be considered preparation for that seminar. And, naturally, Teodor is always present at those.
Whenever Teodor gave a lecture, I could see the 20th century coming to life right in front of me – that’s the kind of person he was. I think the most significant memory of him is the living memory – the effort and courage of those who know him or of him in any circumstances we find ourselves in.