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The diverse goals of the Conference explained the makeup of the attendees.  An audience predominantly of students and academics was augmented by government representatives, businessmen, journalists, and local enthusiasts who came to Syktyvkar from remote villages. Participation by government officials was limited to welcoming addresses at the Plenary Session by the Governor of the Komi Republic, Vyacheslav Gaizer, and by the Chair of the Komi Parliament, Igor Kovzel’. The main proceedings followed traditional lines.

Conference Highlights

A total of seventy-two academic presentations were distributed among five sections: (1) The legacy of Pitirim Sorokin’s social theories as reflected in contemporary thought in Russia and the United States; (2) Sorokin’s views on Social Mobility and specifics of Social Mobility in contemporary societies; (3) Social conflicts and humanitarian practices to prevent them seen in the light of Sorokin’s theories; (4) the value of Sorokin’s ideas on cultural dynamics for drawing a sociocultural portrait of modernity; (5) contemporary sociocultural space and Pitirim Sorokin’s theories. The topics discussed in these sections demonstrated a wide range of scholarly interest in Pitirim’s writings after 1922, when he left Russia. Pre-1922 works were written in Russian and nowadays are familiar mainly to Russian scholars. His later works were originally written in English and for this and more political reasons were not widely accessible to Russians. These present his mature methodological concepts of sociocultural space and causality as well as theories on social mobility and stratification. Within sections individual presentations varied from explorations of Pitirim’s sociological and philosophical thought to others on research applied to local and regional social groups and institutions. As examples, Professor Marina Lomonosova from St. Petersburg State University presented a paper analyzing “The Heuristic Potential of the Integral Macrosociological Method,” while Professor Alexander Loiko from Minsk gave “Social Mobility and Modernity: Pitirim Sorokin on Techno Dynamics.”  Professor Kseniya Lazebnaya from the Moscow High School of Economics discussed “Fetishism of Symbolic Conductors In Social Space.” From Orel State University, Professor Natalya Yakushina spoke on “Specifics of Mobility among Poor Urban Dwellers in the Orel Region.” Some scholars attempted to apply Sorokin’s ideas to new social realms such as the Internet as well as other new forms of communication. For example, Denis Okzusyan (Syktyvkar) entertained the possibility of studying advertisements from the viewpoint of Sorokin’s philosophical ideas; Professor Evegeni Efimov (Volgograd) applied Sorokin’s methodology to a study of social media. Dr. Sergei Borisov (Nizhny Novgorod) made his presentation in the form of an imaginary answer to the question “What position would Pitirim Sorokin take regarding professional sociological ethics in the time of the Internet and Live Journal?” Nevertheless most presentations lay within Pitirim’s well-known fields of research: Sociocultural Dynamics— (Galina Pestova (Moscow), Olga Astafyeva (Moscow), Viktor Semenov (Syktyvkar), Nikolai Zuzuev (Toronto); Social Mobility— Alexander Loiko (Minsk) and Natalya Yakushina (Orel); Altruism— Alexander Dolgov (Moscow); Power Elites— Valeri Gribanov (Syktyvkar); Sociology of War -- Svyatoslav Brazevich (St. Petersburg); and Social Consolidation -- Grigoriy Tulchinsky (St.Petersburg). Yet other studies took up Pitirim’s early writings on suicide— Michail Morev (Vologda) and criminology— Olga Krasutzkaya (Nizhni Novgorod).

These names and talks mentioned reflect only part of the intellectual diversity represented at the Conference, yet all tended to indicate the relevance of Sorokin’s ideas to explorations of modern social phenomena at both local and global levels.

New Publications 

A large number of new publications pertaining to Sorokin were featured at the Conference in Syktyvkar. Most notably Vadim Sapov (Moscow), translator of a lion’s share of Pitirim Sorokin’s English-language writings into Russian, provided details about an ongoing project to issue a thirty-volume edition of Sorokin’s works and brought to the conference the first two volumes of the series. Volume One includes Pitirim’s writings in the period from 1910 to 1914; Volume Two contains an edition of “Hunger As a Factor.” Originally written in Russian, it was seized in 1922 and the publication destroyed by the Communist Government after Pitirim and his wife Elena were expelled from the country. Some years after Pitirim’s death Elena Petrovna reconstructed the manuscript from galley and page proofs smuggled out when they emigrated. She translated it into English, and it was published in 1975 under the title, “Hunger As a Factor in Human Affairs.” Syktyvkar State University presented an album, “Pitirim Alexandrovitch Sorokin.”  The proceedings were also displayed of a symposium on Sorokin’s work held in Lebanon. With articles in Russian as well as in Arabic, it was edited and published in 2014 by Academician Yuri Yakovetz from Moscow’s International Sorokin-Kondratieff Institute. The Sorokin Center in Syktyvkar had its Komi translation of “A Long Journey” on view as well (see previous news item). Dr. Sergei Sorokin drew attention to “The Palgrave Handbook of Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity: Formulating a Field of Study,” edited by Professor Vincent Jeffries. Dr. Krotov from our Foundation contributed a chapter to the book, which is intended to proclaim the opening of a new sociological sub-discipline worldwide, much as has recently been approved by The American Sociological Association.

Although most publications in Russia on Sorokin still lack sociological magnitude, thoroughness, and analysis compared to the best recent Western examples found in the writings of Barry Johnston or Lawrence Nichols, it might be just a matter of time when quantity will be converted into qualitative change. From this particular conference it was a hopeful sign to observe a significant number of young social scientists in attendance.

The University, the Statue, and Education

The renaming of Syktyvkar State University after Pitirim Sorokin and the placing of a statue of him at its entrance are two gestures of symbolic significance aimed at encouraging the raising of educational levels among young people in Komi. The unveiling of the statue on August 22 drew participants from the Conference as well as city residents, members of the government, and the clergy to view a very significant addition to the public artworks displayed around the city. This project has a long history going back to 1999, Pitirim’s 110th anniversary, when Sergei Sorokin visited Russia and the Komi Republic for the first time. Shortly thereafter its government opened a competition to design a statue of Pitirim for erection in Syktyvkar. Sculptor Andrey Kovalchuk won this contest in 1999. According to Dr. Sorokin, Kovalchuk’s project stood apart from entries by other artists, whose imaginations were too much influenced by the prevalence of Soviet-style public monuments. In subsequent years Andrey Kovalchuk gained considerable renown in Russia as well as in Europe; he was a winner of several international prizes and awards. Included among his most famous   sculptures are an ensemble, Heroes of World War One (Moscow), and statues of Pierre Cardin (Paris), the Russian  poet Fyodor Tyutchev (Munich), and Alexander Pushkin (Kazakhstan). His initial concept for the competition was of Pitirim sitting on a bench outside the lecture hall at the University and continuing to carry on discussions with the students. The Sorokin family provided Kovalchuk with a photo which was then used to refine his design. It shows Pitirim in an anteroom of Harvard’s Faculty Club conversing with colleagues, graduate student Wilbert Moore, cultural psychologist Gordon Allport, and sociologist Carle Zimmerman. When making his points he often became animated and characteristically waved his arms for emphasis. Kovalchuk picked up on this and incorporated the gesture into his design.

Before Kovalchuk could advance from the prototype stage to the casting of the bronze statue, the idea of Pitirim Sorokin’s memorial in Komi had been brewing for 15 or more years. It would surface during festivities in memory of Pitirim and submerge after these were over until another memorial date would bring it up again just to be forgotten the next day. That occurred in 2004 and again in 2009. By 2014, however, this project was finally allowed to proceed. Key enabling factors were a grass-roots movement initiated by the ‘Komi People’ organization and supported by the University. Their representatives announced in Komi a ”popular funding” campaign. Beginning in January of 2014, the idea to fund the project by private donations was disseminated by the media to spread awareness among the various communities. Although volunteers did not raise sufficient funds to cover the full cost, these were enough to trigger involvement by the government. Thereafter the business community joined the project and collectively, sufficient funds were raised to enable the statue to be finished and installed in time for the International Sorokin Conference in August.

In the course of the campaign a new administration at the University realized the importance of associating college education with Pitirim’s name so as to stimulate young students in the region to excel; renaming Syktyvkar State University after Pitirim Sorokin would also give the University a distinct character among provincial universities in Russia. To have the statue in a way strengthened the legitimacy of this renaming. The entire faculty held a special vote and by an overwhelming majority approved the move.

Complex drawn-out and behind-the-scene political maneuvers were happily resolved on August 22, 2014, when Governor Vyacheslav Gaizer with Dr. Sergei Sorokin unveiled the statue. Andrey Kovlachuk was the center of attention. For him as well it was the end of a long journey with this project.

Although by themselves symbolic, these culminating events of Pitirim’s 125th anniversary celebrations in Komi may have some practical value for spreading information about him more widely among his countrymen and in Russia. The proposed raising of educational standards at a university named after such a prominent figure in sociology may encourage more active academic interest in conducting research in the several fields of social science where Sorokin’ s heritage and legacy continue to thrive.

(For a visual experience of these events, please look on our Media page, or click this line)

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