trends connected with the rise of informal interest groups began to
affect also the applied social sciences and, to some extent, the
study of philosophy. Some of the more substantial adjustments of
Soviet political, social, and economic thought during Brezhnev’s
times occurred, in particular, in the fields related to the study of
international relations and world economy. During the 1960s, when
the CPSU had to engage in a fierce ideological dispute with the
Chinese Communist Party, or in the 1970s, when Brezhnev sought to
normalize relations and ease tensions with the West through the
policy known as détente, the Soviet leadership felt a growing need
for specialist information and expert advice to help elaborate its
policies in the international arena.
result, foreign policy–oriented research institutes and regional and
area studies think tanks within the USSR Academy of Sciences, such
as the Institute of World Economy and International Relations
(better known by its Russian abbreviation IMEMO), the USA and Canada
Institute, and the Asia and Africa Institute, were allowed to engage
in relatively unfettered research and were soon transformed into
“oases of creative thought” (to use the phrase coined by Georgy
Arbatov, the former director of the USA and Canada Institute).
Scholars from the academic think tanks were often required to do
policy-relevant work for state and party agencies, such as the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the KGB, and the Central Committee.
This ranged from a short briefing paper to a detailed forecast of
possible developments in a specific country, region, or area of
international relations to drafting official party documents and
writing speeches for Soviet leaders. Such cooperation of the
party-state leadership with specialists flourished under Brezhnev.
As coordinating procedures were steadily refined, a division of
labor between the party-government apparatus and the think tanks
evolved. The party set the parameters of intellectual discourse by
promulgating certain ideological axioms; the scholars could debate
with relative freedom their specialist issues as long as they kept
within those general parameters.
Foreign affairs specialists exploited the sanctioned leeway to
describe the outside world in new ways, foreshadowing some of the
ideas that would later inform Gorbachev’s “new thinking.” Readers of
Soviet specialized journals were presented with a more rational
picture of the West, no longer automatically militaristic and
predatory. Scholars conducted debates on a number of important
international relations issues, including the third world problems,
regional conflicts, global issues, and arms control. The concepts of
globalization and interdependence, which would become key themes of
Gorbachev’s policies, were also popular with Soviet foreign policy
experts and some economists, who argued that international
cooperation was essential if humankind was to survive.