2022 Guizot-Institut de France Prize

On October 4, 2022 the François Guizot-Institut de France Prize was awarded to Françoise Thom for her book entitled:
La Marche à rebours, Regards sur l’histoire soviétique et russe (The Backward march, a look at Soviet and Russian history), published in French by Sorbonne Université Presses .

What was the Soviet regime, which disappeared in 1991-1992, in the great earthquake of the twentieth century, the aftershocks of which are still being felt today? Was it a political UFO, something hitherto unknown in the human order, as experienced by contemporaries who had kept their minds free? Or a pure product of Russian history, of its burdens and ruts?

Because of the secrecy surrounding the Kremlin, the Soviet regime has long appeared as a black box.
The declassification of numerous archives of the communist world from the Gorbachev period on changed all that. The present book bears the mark of the thirst for knowledge that has seized those who for many years had been reduced to studying the USSR by interpreting rare clues. It addresses the most diverse aspects of the history of the USSR: the originality of a foreign policy entirely possessed by an ideological project, both utopian and totally cynical, supremely effective; the role of the state security services; the use of crises in the strengthening of power; the shock of the real war, the German attack of June 1941, in a state that had been leading an offensive against the whole world from the beginning; the impact of the clan struggle within the ruling core, an essential factor in the evolution of the regime; the problem of succession in a deinstitutionalized State/Party.
Paradoxically, the evolution of post-communist Russia, which is the subject of the third part of this book, has shed new light on the history of the USSR and the Russia of the Tsars. It reveals continuities that the radical novelty of Lenin’s regime had masked. It is now possible to think about Russia in the long term – and this is the only approach that allows us to better understand this world so different from ours, whose shadow continues to extend over Europe.

Françoise Thom, an associate professor of Russian, is an emeritus lecturer (HDR) in contemporary history at Sorbonne University.

A specialist in Russia, she has published, among other things, Le Moment Gorbatchev (Hachette Pluriel, 1989), Les Fins du communisme (Critérion, 1994), a critical edition of Sergo Beria’s memoirs (Plon/Criterion, 1999), as well as “La Russie d’Eltsine à Poutine”, as an afterword to the Histoire de la Russie by Nicholas V. Riasanovsky (Robert Laffont, 2014)

Xavier Darcos, Michel Zinc, Françoise Thom, Stephane Coste and Patrice Gueniffey

View the video recording of the ceremony (in French).

Read Xavier Darcos’ speech, chancelier de l’Institut de France

Read Stéphane Coste’s speech, descendant from François Guizot and president from the association François Guizot

Read Patrice Gueniffey’s speech, vice-president of the jury

Read Françoise Thom’s speech, laureate from the Guizot-Institut de France 2022 prize