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a written thesis, often based on original research, usually required for a higher degree
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a scholarly work prepared for public defense to obtain an academic degree. The system of holding public defenses of compulsory written compositions on themes in science or literature for the purpose of granting university degrees or ranks began to develop in the Middle Ages in universities in German-speaking countries. During the 16th and 17th centuries the system spread to other countries. In Russia the defense of published dissertations was introduced after the establishment of Moscow University (1755). Public defense of the dissertation in conjunction with oral and written examinations for the degrees of master and doctor was instituted by the Statute of 1819 on Granting Academic Degrees. The master’s essay was to be written in Latin, Russian, or another language, and the doctoral dissertation in Latin, with the additional requirement of “theses”—the prototype of the thesis abstract.

In the USSR the defense of dissertations in a competition for the academic degrees of candidate of science and doctor of science was instituted in 1932. Until 1938 academic degrees based on results of the defense of a dissertation were conferred by professional qualifications commissions under the people’s commissariats, the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the academies of the republics, and branch academies. In 1937 the list of branches of science for which dissertation defenses were to be conducted was established, and the right to approve doctoral dissertations was transferred to the Higher Certifying Commission. In 1945 a single diploma, which could be issued only by the Higher Certifying Commission, was introduced for successfully defended dissertations.

Individuals with a higher education who have completed postgraduate programs or passed candidate’s examinations in the established manner are permitted to defend candidate’s dissertations. The candidate’s dissertation must contain new scholarly and practical conclusions and recommendations and must display the competitor’s capability for independent scholarly or scientific research and his thorough theoretical knowledge in the given discipline. The doctoral dissertation is an independent research work containing general theoretical conclusions and the solution of a major scientific or scholarly problem, and it represents a significant contribution to scholarship or science and practice.

Public defenses of doctoral and candidate’s dissertations are held in the councils of higher educational institutions and scientific institutions, to which a decision of the Higher Certifying Commission of the Ministry of Higher and Special Secondary Education of the USSR has granted the right to accept for defense dissertations in given specialties.

The basic content of a dissertation presented for defense must be published as a monograph or as articles in scientific or specialized journals, collections, scholarly reports or the transactions of higher educational and scientific research institutions, or in other fee-paying publications. (This rule also applies to works that are coauthored.) Works and projects other than a dissertation may be presented for defense. Among them are published works, inventions and discoveries registered with the Committee for Inventions and Discoveries of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, and completed projects done by individuals or groups on creating of new machines, management systems, instruments, structures, and technological processes. Textbooks written by an individual with no coauthor may also be presented for defense. An abstract reflecting the basic content and conclusions of a dissertation is published prior to the defense.

Official opponents (at least three for a doctoral dissertation and two for a candidate’s dissertation) and the leading enterprise, scientific research institution, and higher educational institution give their opinions on a dissertation. For a doctoral dissertation, doctors of science in the given specialty must serve as the official opponents; for the candidate’s dissertation, candidates of science and at least one doctor of science.

After the public defense of the dissertation, which is held as a public debate between the competitor for an academic degree and official as well as unofficial opponents, the council of the institution of higher learning or scientific institution decides by a secret vote whether to confer the degree of

Table 1. Number of higher degrees confirmed1 in the USSR, 1937-71
 Doctors of scienceCandidates of science
1 By the Higher Certifying Commission
Physics and mathematics ...............2,49722,343
Geology and mineralogy...............1,38811,676
Veterinary science...............6593,926
Art history...............2371,816
Military science...............842,080
Naval science...............51552
Psychology (since 1968)...............41246

candidate of science or to petition the Higher Certifying Commission for the conferral of the degree of doctor of science. (Candidate’s dissertations are examined by the Higher Certifying Commission for purposes of control.)

Between 1937 and 1971, 33,992 doctors and 325,197 candidates of science were confirmed by the Higher Certifying Commission on the basis of defense results (see Table 1).

Dissertations (including prerevolutionary ones) are kept in branch libraries, institutions, and archives. An all-union collection of dissertations has been organized in the Lenin State Library of the USSR (with the exception of medical dissertations, which are transferred to the State Central Medical Library). The bibliographical registration of dissertations was begun by the All-Union Book Chamber between 1938 and 1940 and has been continued by the Lenin State Library of the USSR. Numerous dissertation bibliographies for various universities and institutes, branches of knowledge, and individual subjects have been published in the USSR and other countries.


Krichevskii, G. G. Bibliografiia dissertatsii. [Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.]
Krichevskii, G. G. Obshchie bibliografii zarubezhnykh stran. Moscow, 1962. (See “Bibliografiia dissertatsii,” pp. 177-83, 249-51.)
Bibliographies of dissertations accepted in the USSR
Ezhegodnik dissertatsii, 1936-37. Moscow, 1938-40.
Bibliografiia dissertatsii: Doktorskie dissertatsii za 1941-1945. Moscow, 1946-47. (Lenin State Library of the USSR.)
Dissertatsii, zashchishchennye v Leningradskom ordena Lenina Gosudarstvennom universitete im. A. A. Zhdanova, 1934-1960 gg. [Leningrad] 1955-62. (Bibliography.)
Katalog kandidatskikh dissertatsii, postupivshikh v Biblioteku im. V. I. Lenina. Moscow, 1956—.
Doktorskie i kandidatskie dissertatsii, zashchishchennye v Moskovskom gosudarstvennom universitete s 1934 po 1954 g. Bibliography edited by P. A. Zaionchkovskii et al., issues 1-3. [Moscow] 1956-60.
Katalog doktorskikh dissertatsii, postupivshikh v Biblioteku im. V. I. Lenina v 1956 g. Moscow, 1957.
Doktorskie dissertatsii po pedagogicheskim naukam. Bibliography edited by N. K. Goncharov. Moscow, 1961.
International bibliography of dissertations
Catalogue des dissertations et écrits academiques . . . , reçu par la Bibliothéque Nationale en 1882-1924 [vols. 1-37]. Paris, 1884-1925.
Walther, C. F. Catalogue méthodique des dissertations ou thèses académiques, imprimées par les Elzevirs de 1616 ù 1712. Brussels, 1864.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.