Researching Russian Counterculture:
Some Reflections an Method
since I have offered this work as a first step toward a critical-interpretive sociology of Russian culture and society, it is important to offer a brief natural history of the study, some commentary on how it was carried out, some of the problems encountered in the research, and the relevance of the case-study method of social research for advancing knowledge of communist and post-communist societies and cultures. It is my hope that these observations and reflections will be of use to other qualitative and theoretically-minded researchers who wish to pursue any of the virtually infinite number of topics which the Russian past and present have laid before us.
The initial difficulty with carrying out this study was the lack of firm tradition of qualitative sociological research on Russian society and culture which could serve as a guideline for my own research. In the United States, sociologists have produced rich qualitative accounts of social life for nearly a century; indeed, the contributions of the Chicago School are at the core of American sociology. The lack of a viable qualitative tradition of sociological research in Russia can be explained, in the first instance, by Soviet politics. Soviet authorities were seldom sanguine about allowing qualitative sociologists to delve into the deeper realities of Soviet social and cultural life. Sociology in general has not enjoyed a happy fate in the Soviet Union (see Shlapentokh 1987; Shalin 1990; and Greenfeld 1988). Mainstream Soviet sociology was "a branch of social technology, a managerial science oriented towards the promotion of the goals and the increase of the ideological and administrative efficiency of the Soviet government" ( Greenfeld 1988, p. 99). As such, independent sociological work in the Soviet Union -- especially of the critical-interpretive type presented in this book -- was always rigidly circumscribed in the Soviet Union. Yet, there were other imped-