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Young States, Old Societies, Open Futures
In Eurasia's New Frontiers, Thomas W. Simons, Jr., a distinguished veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service with extensive experience in the Communist and post-Communist worlds, assays the political, economic, and social developments in the fifteen successor states to the Soviet Union that comprise Eurasia-from Estonia to Azerbaijan and from Tajikistan to Ukraine, centered on Russia. He makes a compelling case that the United States can play a large role in shaping the future of this vast and strategic region, and at less cost than during Soviet times. This can only be accomplished, however, if U.S. policy toward Eurasia shifts from alternating hand-wringing and indifference to steady and flexible engagement that focuses on its fledgling individual nation-states.
Throughout Eurasia, Simons shows, civil society is anemic, market reforms have been discredited, and political development has been stunted. Authoritarian and semiauthoritarian regimes are firmly in place from Belarus to Central Asia; in Ukraine, Moldova, and even Russia, some democratic forms have taken hold; but everywhere, politics features struggle among elites over access to economic resources, albeit often defined in terms of "sovereignty." Almost everywhere, states are consolidating: as resurgent Russia presses on its neighbors, they can now press back, alone or with help from the outside world. Simons believes that the post-Soviet space needs stable development of state institutions within which new civil societies can take root and grow. Potentially strong state institutions are, in his view, Soviet Communism's "secret gift" to Eurasia, and they may well enable the region to become in time an arc of promise, an anchor of relative stability in a troubled part of the world.
For that to happen, Simons argues, the nationalism that gives content to these new state structures must be the right kind: civic and inclusionary rather than ethno-religious and exclusionary. Because Russia is so diverse and its nationalism so state-oriented, Simons also sees it as more likely to develop that kind of civic nationalism than some of its new neighbors. The United States has a limited but real role to play in helping or hindering its emergence everywhere in Eurasia. If it wishes to help, though, the U.S. must realize that in this part of the world the path to democracy leads through state development. The U.S. will continue to advocate for its core values, but it can best act as a City on the Hill for Eurasia if its policy centers on the emerging new states of today, for they must be the incubators of tomorrow's civil societies.
Quotidian Studies in Honor of Daniel Kaiser
In a career spanning nearly four decades Daniel Kaiser has produced a wealth of studies illuminating otherwise little understood aspects of society and culture in medieval and early modern Russia. He pioneered the use of anthropology in the study of Russian law, and he has stood at the forefront of applying statistical methods to the study of daily life in Russia, while maintaining a sensitivity to the cultural contexts within which the records were generated. His scholarship has changed the way we understand popular notions of time, the veneration of icons, naming patterns, burial practices, and a host of other topics that collectively unveil the intimate world of family and community among elites and peasants alike. The 23 scholars who have contributed to this volume have come together in tribute to Dan Kaiser and his multiple contributions to Russian history. In keeping with his areas of interests the editors and authors have constructed the volume around the theme of everyday life in Russian history.
Skiing in Russia and the Rise of Soviet Biathlon
Nowhere in the world was the sport of biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship, taken more seriously than in the Soviet Union, and no other nation garnered greater success at international venues. From the introduction of modern biathlon in 1958 to the USSR’s demise in 1991, athletes representing the Soviet Union won almost half of all possible medals awarded in world championship and Olympic competition. The inherent characteristics of biathlon, which requires stamina and precision in a quasi-military setting, dovetailed with important concepts promoted by the Soviet government. The sport also supplied an opportune platform for promoting the State’s socialist viewpoint and military might. Biathlon, in other words, was about more than simply winning Olympic medals. Currently the most popular winter spectator sport in Europe, biathlon looms large in the history of global athletics, and in the event’s early narrative the Soviet Union was its most important player. William D. Frank, a former nationally ranked competitor and a scholar of Russian history, is in a unique position to tell this story. His highly readable book is the first in-depth look at how the Soviet government interpreted the sport of skiing as a cultural, ideological, and political tool throughout the course of seven decades. For scholars and general readers alike, Everyone to Skis! represents a fascinating perspective on the Soviet Union through the history of a sport closely tied to the homeland. In the words of Lenin: “Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains—you must. In the mountains winter is wonderful! It’s sheer delight, and it smells like Russia.”
As a reporter for the prestigious New York Times the author interviewed many of the leading political figures of the Balkans (Illyria). He also sought out the area's intellectuals, many of them critical of their leaders, and everyday people who provide a sense of daily life. He devotes a chapter to each ethnic group from Vlachs to Serbs, talks about their differences and similarities, and does so without giving offense. He also provides a short historical account of the various places he visits, which deepens our understanding of the local cultures. The reader meets people from all walks of life: politicians, poets, literary and art critics, journalists, handymen, car mechanics, fishermen and farmers. From Milovan Djilas and Nicolae Ceausescu to Markos Vafiadis and Sali Berisha to the Serbian “majstor” Misha and an un-named Bosnian bar singer, Binder's book features a remarkable gallery of people whose presence contributes authenticity and human warmth to the narrative.
Russia and Germany as Entangled Histories, 1914–1945
Russia and Germany have had a long history of significant cultural, political, and economic exchange. Despite these beneficial interactions, stereotypes of the alien Other persisted. Germans perceived Russia as a vast frontier with unlimited potential, yet infused with an “Asianness” that explained its backwardness and despotic leadership. Russians admired German advances in science, government, and philosophy, but saw their people as lifeless and obsessed with order. Fascination and Enmity presents an original transnational history of the two nations during the critical era of the world wars. By examining the mutual perceptions and misperceptions within each country, the contributors reveal the psyche of the Russian-German dynamic and its use as a powerful political and cultural tool. Through accounts of fellow travelers, POWs, war correspondents, soldiers on the front, propagandists, revolutionaries, the Comintern, and wartime and postwar occupations, the contributors analyze the kinetics of the Russian-German exchange and the perceptions drawn from these encounters. The result is a highly engaging chronicle of the complex entanglements of two world powers through the great wars of the twentieth century.
Provisionment of the Okhotsk Seaboard and the Kamchatka Peninsula, 1639–1856
James R. Gibson offers a detailed study that is both an account of this chapter of Russian history and a full examination of the changing geography of the Okhotsk Seaboard and the Kamchatka Peninsula over the course of two centuries.
Soviet Cinema and the Genocide of the Jews, 1938–1946
Most early Western perceptions of the Holocaust were based on newsreels filmed during the allied liberation of Germany in 1945. Little, however, was reported of the initial wave of material from Soviet filmmakers who were in fact the first to document these horrors. In First Films of the Holocaust, Jeremy Hicks presents a pioneering study of Soviet contributions to the growing public awareness of the horrors of Nazi rule. Even before the war, the Soviet film Professor Mamlock, which premiered in the United States in 1938 and coincided with the Kristallnacht pogrom, helped reinforce anti-Nazi sentiment. Yet, Soviet films were often dismissed or even banned in the West as Communist propaganda. Ironically, in the brief 1939–1941 period of Nazi and Soviet alliance, such films were also banned in the Soviet Union, only to be reclaimed after the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, and suppressed yet again during the Cold War. Jeremy Hicks recovers much of the major film work in Soviet depictions of the Shoa and views them within their political context, both locally and internationally. Overwhelmingly, wartime films were skewed to depict Soviet resistance, “Red funerals,” and calls for vengeance, rather than the singling out of Jewish victims by the Nazis. Almost no personal testimony of victims or synchronous sound was recorded, furthering the disconnection of the viewer to the victims. Hicks examines correspondence, scripts, reviews, and compares edited with unedited film, to unearth the deliberately hidden Jewish aspects of Soviet depictions of the German invasion and occupation. To Hicks, it’s in the silences, gaps, and ellipses that the films speak most clearly. Additionally, he details the reasons why Soviet Holocaust films have been subsequently erased from collective memory in the West and the Soviet Union: their graphic horror, their use as propaganda tools, and the postwar rise of the Red Scare in the United States and anti-Semitic campaigns in the Soviet Union.