This article follows the personal trajectory of Mikhail Lavrentiev from his early integration into the European mathematical community to his role in the construction of the Siberian science-city, Akademgorodok. Using biography as a privileged vantage point, it offers a revision of the conception of Akademgorodok as a remote utopia ultimately corrupted by political interference. It argues that, although built on a site geographically distant from the center, the project reflects Moscow’s aspirations and testifies to a close and evolving relationship between scientists and the party-state. Lavrentiev nurtured a community rooted in his personal networks and supervised the construction of an urban environment emblematic of the Khrushchev era. The success and the future of the new science-city were predicated on its visibility. Akademgorodok was a model and a showcase of post-Stalinist science, of a Soviet way of living and a universal way of knowing. Focusing on the city’s role as a showcase opens possibilities to take the investigation of late socialist science and society in new directions: from the unavoidable conflict between experts and the party state to the analysis of local, national, and transnational interactions shaping socialist knowledge-making. Ultimately, Lavrentiev’s ability to make Akademgorodok into the scene of major international encounters highlights the important role of Soviet science in the Cold War circulation of knowledge.

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