Growing Old in the Soviet Union is a four-year historical project supported by the Wellcome Trust and based at Liverpool John Moores University. Our research findings will provide scholars with access to a rich body of work that sheds light on hitherto unknown experiences of ageing in the Soviet Union. Our team of researchers engage with international histories of ageing to help situate the Soviet experience.
War losses and demographic transitions meant that by the 1950s, for the first time in history, the world was confronted with growing numbers of older people aged over sixty. This resulted in changing dynamics in the relationship between old and young, as well as between women and men. This was equally true in the USSR. After World War II, demographic imbalance and an ageing population led the Soviet state to take a keen interest in older people, with the Institute of Gerontology of the USSR’S Academy of Medical Sciences opening in Kiev in May 1958.
Our research focuses on several themes including healthcare for older adults, individual and collective experiences of ageing, and the influence of gerontology on domestic and international politics. In our work we also address a number of broader historiographical issues: understanding the broader twentieth century scientific interest in the ageing organism; approaches to care and mental health; older people’s relationship to ideology and spirituality; representations of ageing; and the role of gerontology in East-West relations.
The project’s multiple layers of analysis will yield valuable insights about how the late socialist system functioned. By focusing on the 1945-1991 period, moreover, the project will establish older adults and ageing as an integral part of the post-war narrative of Soviet history.
Through our research findings and activities we plan to contribute to current debates about ageing societies, helping people better understand the ageing experience, whether in the USSR or elsewhere.