Wilson Center Experts

Boris Lanin

ECA Regional Exchange Scholar, Kennan Institute
Kennan Institute

Russia and Eurasia
Principal Research Professor of Philology, Academy of Education in Russia, Moscow, Russia
Wilson Center Project(s):
"Transforming Educational Policy in a Transformational Society"
Sep 01, 2010
May 01, 2011

I was born in Baku (now the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan). In 1983 I graduated from the Azerbaijan Pedagogical Institute (awarded Diploma with Honors). During my undergraduate studies I participated in three student research competitions, and was awarded the First Class Diploma (twice: in 1981 and 1982). My hobby is chess, and in 1978 I became the junior chess champion of Azerbaijan. Now I play chess by email and teach on methods of chess studies. In 2009 I was invited to Argentina to organize chess seminars for chess teachers and trainers. After graduating from the Pedagogical Institute I was employed as a teacher of Russian language and literature at a secondary school in Baku, and since 1987 in Moscow. In 1990 I was awarded an MA (‘kandidat'), and in 1994 I got my Ph.D. (‘doktor' degree). In 1994 I was the youngest Doctor of Philology in Russia. Under the Soviet regime Russians lived in anti-utopian world, but the very genre ‘anti-utopia' was prohibited. I was lucky to complete the first doctoral dissertation on Russian anti-utopia. Since the early 90s, when the reforms of education started, I have tried to transform Russian education into a more humane and more flexible system that can help every student to discovery his hidden talents, and become a widely educated person. Many things had to be changed, many institutions had to be developed, but the most difficult thing was to change people's minds. It was the greatest challenge to us. With my colleagues, we work on developing school curricula, and monitor the changes in level and style of education. I visited some 30 regions of Russian, from Khabarovsk to Kaliningrad, and lectured trying to spread new educational ideas within teaching the community. I hope that we brought many refreshing and even revolutionary ideas to Russian schools, where in the late 80s even teachers had never heard about Pasternak and Brodsky, and heard only warnings against reading Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov. Now the picture looks different, and although our textbooks have been officially approved by the Ministry of Education of Russia, we are facing new challenges. I have postulated many of the ideas for the current project in my recent work on textbooks in literature for 5-9th grades and modern Russian literature for 10-11th grades, which are widely used in state and private schools in dozens of regions of Russian Federation. I also advanced some of the ideas for this project in a recent monograph on literary education, where I tried to cut the knot of main theoretical problems in modern Russian education, using literary education as a case study.My past work has been published in Russian, English, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Serbian, and Romanian languages, and includes some 20 books, textbooks and some 100 papers.

B.A. (1983) equivalent (philology), Pedagogical Institute of Azerbaijan, Baku, Summa Cum Laude equivalent; M.A. (1990) equivalent (philology) – kandidat nauk, Moscow Pedagogical University; Doctor of Philology, doktor nauk (1994) Moscow Pedagogical University

Head of Literary Studies and Principal Research Professor at Academy of Education of Russia, Moscow – since 1999
Senior Research Fellow at Academy of Education of Russia, Moscow – 1991-1999
Visiting Professor at Hokkaido University (Sapporo, Japan), 2000-2001, Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), 2004; the British Academy, 2005; Stanford University, 2006-2007, Kobe University (Kobe, Japan), 2008.

Sociology of literature; sociology of education; utopian studies

Major Publications
Literary Education in Russia, 19-21 c., Moscow, 2005.
Methods of Teaching and Studying Literature, Sapporo, 2001.
Textbooks on literature for 5-11 grades students at schools in Russia, Moscow, 2005-2010

Project Summary

The debate over new State Educational standards in Russia affords the chance not only to "unload" education of the oppressive baggage of the authoritarian trends, but also to make structural changes toward a humanistic education for the development of a humanistic generation. Trying to establish its monopoly on history, authorities promote the school textbook in history where Stalin is praised as an "effective manager." Questions regarding literary education have proven especially resonant and controversial, perhaps even more so than discussions of historical education. At first glance, recent changes in the field of literary education may not seem particularly radical or dramatic. In fact, though, not only the factual content, but also the fundamental emotional perception of literary education has been in the process of transformation. The final result of this research will be a book manuscript, which both analyzes changes that have taken place in educational policy and proposes a systematic model for further transformation.

Previous Terms at the Wilson Center:
Jun 01, 2003 - Jun 01, 2003: "Symbols of Power in Russia and New Independent States" Sep 01, 2002 - Mar 01, 2003: "The Montage of Attractions in Totalitarian and Post-Soviet Culture"