The origins of this book lie in a fortuitous encounter at a meeting of the American Historical Association in 1992. György Péteri was giving a paper on the communist takeover of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the late 1940s; in the audience was Michael David-Fox, who at the time was studying the so-called bolshevization of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in the late 1920s. Inspired by the potentialities of comparing Soviet Russia and East Central Europe in the communist period--which have far too rarely been pursued, not only in general but also in the history of science, education, and culture--we launched a collaborative inquiry into the nature of the Soviet-type system of science and higher learning, focusing in particular on those great upheavals that have punctuated the rise and fall of communism.
We were encouraged by the opening of archival collections in the region to hope that our project, which brought together a number of senior specialists as well as promising younger scholars from around the world, would break new empirical ground. In the wake of 1989 and 1991 we were also struck by the importance of historical understandings of the communist academic regime for any reckoning with contemporary crises in science and higher education,