New Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies
New Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies
New Books Network
Interviews with Scholars of Russia and Eurasia about their New Books Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Alexandrina Vanke, "The Urban Life of Workers in Post-Soviet Russia: Engaging in Everyday Struggle" (Manchester UP, 2024)
Despite the intense processes of deindustrialisation around the world, the working class continues to play an important role in post-industrial societies. However, working-class people are often stigmatised, morally judged and depicted negatively in dominant discourses. The Urban Life of Workers in Post-Soviet Russia: Engaging in Everyday Struggle (Manchester UP, 2024) challenges stereotypical representations of workers, building on research into the everyday worlds of working-class and ordinary people in Russia’s post-industrial cities. The urban life of workers in post-Soviet Russia is centred on the stories of local communities engaged in the everyday struggles that occur in deindustrialising settings under neoliberal neo-authoritarianism. The book suggests a novel approach to everyday life in post-industrial cities. Drawing on an ethnographic study with elements of arts-based research, the book presents a new genre of writing about workers influenced by the avant-garde documentary tradition and working-class literature. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Apr 1
38 min
Kevin P. Reihle, "The Russian FSB: A Concise History of the Federal Security Service" (Georgetown UP, 2024)
Since its founding in 1995, the FSB, Russia's Federal Security Service, has regained the majority of the domestic security functions of the Soviet-era KGB. Under Vladimir Putin, who served as FSB director just before becoming president, the agency has grown to be one of the most powerful and favored organizations in Russia. The FSB not only conducts internal security but also has primacy in intelligence operations in former Soviet states. Their activities include anti-dissident operations at home and abroad, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, criminal investigations of crimes against the state, and guarding Russia's borders. In The Russian FSB: A Concise History of the Federal Security Service (Georgetown University Press, 2024), Kevin P. Riehle provides a brief history of the FSB's origins, placed within the context of Russian history, the government's power structure, and Russia's wider culture. He describes how the FSB's mindset and priorities show continuities from the tsarist regimes and the Soviet era. The book's chapters analyze origins, organizational structure, missions, leaders, international partners, and cultural representations such as the FSB in film and television. Based on both English and Russian sources, this book is a well-researched introduction to understanding the FSB and its central role in Putin's Russia. Kevin P. Riehle is lecturer in intelligence and security studies at Brunel University London. He also spent over 30 years in the US government as a counterintelligence analyst. He is the author of two previous books, including Soviet Defectors: Revelations of Renegade Intelligence Officers, 1924-1954 (2020). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 26
1 hr 35 min
George S. Takach, "Cold War 2.0: Artificial Intelligence in the New Battle between China, Russia, and America" (Pegasus Book, 2024)
A vivid, thoughtful examination of how technological innovation—especially AI—is shaping the tensions between democracy and autocracy during the new Cold War.  So much of what we hear about China and Russia today likens the relationship between these two autocracies and the West to a “rivalry” or a “great-power competition.” Some might consider it alarmist to say we are in the midst of a second Cold War, but that may be the only responsible way to describe today’s state of affairs. What’s more, we have come a long way from Mao Zedong’s infamous observation that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Now we live in an age more aptly described by Vladimir Putin’s cryptic prophecy that “artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia, but of all mankind, and whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become ruler of the world.”  George S. Takach’s incisive and meticulously researched new volume, Cold War 2.0: Artificial Intelligence in the New Battle between China, Russia, and America (Pegasus Book, 2024), is the book we need to thoroughly understand these frightening and perilous times. In the geopolitical sphere, there are no more pressing issues than the appalling mechanizations of a surveillance state in China, Russia’s brazen attempt to assert its autocratic model in Ukraine, and China’s increasingly likely plans to do the same in Taiwan. But the key here, Takach argues, is that our new Cold War is not only ideological but technological: the side that prevails in Cold War 2.0 will be the one that bests the other in mastering the greatest innovations of our time. Artificial intelligence sits in our pockets every day—but what about AI that coordinates military operations and missile defense systems? Or the highly sophisticated semiconductor chips and quantum computers that power those missiles and a host of other weapons? And, where recently we have seen remarkable feats of bio-engineering to produce vaccines at record speed, shouldn’t we be concerned how catastrophic it would be if bio-engineering were co-opted for nefarious purposes? Takach thoroughly examines how each of these innovations will shape the tension between democracy and autocracy, and how each will play a central role in this second Cold War. Finally, he crafts a precise blueprint for how Western democracies should handle these innovations to respond to the looming threat of autocracy—and ultimately prevail over it. AJ Woodhams hosts the "War Books" podcast. You can subscribe on Apple here and on Spotify here. War Books is on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 24
1 hr 8 min
Eileen Kane et al., "Russian-Arab Worlds: A Documentary History" (Oxford UP, 2023)
The roots of the Arab world’s current Russian entanglements reach deep into the tsarist and Soviet periods. To explore those entanglements, Russian-Arab Worlds: A Documentary History (Oxford UP, 2023) presents and contextualizes a set of primary sources translated from Russian, Arabic, Armenian, Persian, French, and/or Tatar: a 1772 Russian naval officer’s diary, an Arabic slave sale deed from the Caucasus, an interview with a Russian-educated contemporary Syrian novelist, and many more. These archival, autobiographical, and literary sources, introduced by specialists and in some cases by pairs of scholars with complementary language expertise, highlight connections long obscured by disciplinary cleavages between Slavic and Middle East studies. Taken together, the thirty-four chapters of this book show how various Russian/Soviet and Arab governments sought to nurture political and cultural ties and expand their influence, often with unplanned results. They reveal the transnational networks of trade, pilgrimage, study, ethnic identity, and political affinity that state policies sometimes fostered and sometimes disrupted. Above all, they give voice to some of the resourceful characters who have embodied and exploited Arab-Russian contacts: missionaries and diplomats, soldiers and refugees, students and party activists, scholars and spies. A set of new maps helps orient readers amid the expansion and collapse of empires, border changes, population transfers, and creation of new nation-states that occurred during the two centuries these sources cover. Eileen Kane teaches modern European history at Connecticut College, where she also directs the Program in Global Islamic Studies. A historian of imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, she is the author of Russian Hajj: Empire and the Pilgrimage to Mecca. She is the 2017 recipient of a Mellon New Directions Fellowship and is currently writing a history of Jewish and Muslim migrations from Russia to the Middle East. Masha Kirasirova is assistant professor of history at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is a historian of exchanges between the Soviet Eurasia and the Middle East. She is finishing a book called The Eastern International: Culture, Power, and Politics in Soviet-Arab Relations. Her articles have appeared in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Ab Imperio, Iranian Studies, and Mediterranean Politics. Margaret Litvin is associate professor of Arabic and comparative literature at Boston University. A historian of modern Arabic literature and its global ties, she is the author of Hamlet’s Arab Journey: Shakespeare’s Prince and Nasser’s Ghost and the translator of Sonallah Ibrahim’s Arabic novel Ice, set in 1973 Moscow. Her current book project, Another East: Arab Writers, Moscow Dreams, reconstructs some literary legacies of Arab-Russian and Arab-Soviet cultural ties during the long 20th century. She also writes about Arabic theatre for global audiences. Tugrul Mende holds an M.A in Arabic Studies. He is based in Berlin as a project coordinator and independent researcher. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 20
48 min
Isaac Deutscher, "Lenin's Childhood" (Verso, 2024)
On January 21, 1924 and at the age of 53, Vladimir Lenin passed away. We’ve now had a century of a world without him, but also a century of a world undeniably changed by his imprint. In commemoration of his life, Verso has recently put out a collection of classic works both by and about this pivotal figure. One of these books, a short biographical sketch called Lenin’s Childhood, is the topic of today’s conversation, although it’s really only a jumping off point for my guest and I to talk about the book’s author, the Marxist historian and biographer Isaac Deutscher. Best known for his biographies of Stalin and his trilogy on Trotsky, Lenin’s Childhood is the only completed piece of an attempted two-volume study that would’ve completed his biographical work, and set the stage for a greater study of Russian history in general. While his untimely death in 1967 cut his work short, he still left a rich body of writing worth wrestling with. Throughout our conversation, we discuss Deutscher’s life, work and legacy, and encourage listeners to revisit his work as still relevant for contemporary readers. Our guest today, Gonzalo Pozo, wrote the introduction to the new edition of Lenin’s Childhood, and is currently working on a biography of Isaac Deutscher. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 20
1 hr 13 min
Erica L. Fraser, "Military Masculinity and Postwar Recovery in the Soviet Union" (U Toronto Press, 2019)
Catastrophic wartime casualties and postwar discomfort with the successes of women who had served in combat roles combined to shatter prewar ideals about what service meant for Soviet masculine identity. The soldier had to be re-imagined and resold to a public that had just emerged from the Second World War, and a younger generation suspicious of state control. In doing so, Soviet military culture wrote women out and attempted to re-establish soldiering as the premier form of masculinity in society. Erica L. Fraser's book Military Masculinity and Postwar Recovery in the Soviet Union (U Toronto Press, 2019) combines textual and visual analysis, as well as archival research to highlight the multiple narratives that contributed to rebuilding military identities. Each chapter visits a particular site of this reconstruction, including debates about conscription and evasion, appropriate role models for cadets, misogynist military imagery in cartoons, the fraught militarized workplaces of nuclear physicists, and the first cohort of cosmonauts, who represented the completion of the project to rebuild militarized masculinity. Erica L. Fraser is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Carleton University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 17
1 hr 4 min
Alina Nychyk, "Ukraine Vis-à-Vis Russia and the EU: Misperceptions of Foreign Challenges in Times of War, 2014-2015" (Ibidem Press, 2023)
Ukraine Vis-à-Vis Russia and the EU: Misperceptions of Foreign Challenges in Times of War, 2014-2015 (Ibidem Press, 2023) investigates the making of Ukraine’s foreign policy towards the European Union and Russia between February 2014 and February 2015. To contextualize the events of the first year of the Russian-Ukrainian War, Nychyk lays out the history of the EU-Ukraine-Russia triangle since 1991 and draws lessons relevant for the 2022 Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The book is based on her doctoral research and rests on a game-theory-inspired approach to foreign policy analysis. It relies on 38 elite interviews, official documents, and media reports. Nychyk uncovers various mutual misperceptions in EU-Ukraine-Russia relations. Looking at Ukraine’s ‘side of the story’, her analysis shows how Russian assertiveness and the EU’s passivity, but also Ukrainian leaders’ limited crisis management experience and erroneous policy decisions contributed to worse outcomes for Ukraine. The latter included poor analysis of foreign interlocutors, trust in their good intentions, and corruption. After 2015, a persistence—although with certain changes—of some of these pathologies left Ukraine in a weaker position in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 16
51 min
Legal Cultures in the Russian Empire
Law. How does the state form and use it? How do people use and shape it? How does law shape culture? How does the practice of law change over time in a modernizing colony? What was stable and what was malleable in the application of law in early modern Russia versus its Central Asian colony in the Empire’s final century? What’s the difference between a bribe and a gift? These are some of the questions at the heart of this fascinating conversation about two books that probe the theoretical and instrumental underpinnings, as well as the everyday practice, of law in different periods and regions of the Russian Empire. Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia (Cambridge UP, 2012) by Nancy Kollmann analyzes the day-to-day practice of Russian criminal justice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Visions of Justice: Sharī’a and Cultural Change in Russian Central Asia (Brill, 2017; available open access) by Paolo Sartori excavates civil law practice to explore legal consciousness among the Muslim communities of Central Asia from the end of the eighteenth century through the fall of the Russian Empire, situating his work within a range of debates about colonialism and law, legal pluralism, and subaltern subjectivity. Paolo Sartori and Nancy Kollmann explore overlaps, divergence and much more that emerge from their respective findings in these deeply researched books. Paolo Sartori is a Senior Research Associate and the Chairman of the Commission for the Study of Islam in Central Eurasia at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient and the Journal of Central Asian History (Brill). In addition to Visions of Justice, authoring several scholarly articles and co-editing essay collections, Sartori has co-authored two books, Seeking Justice at the Court of the Khans of Khiva (19th–Early 20th Centuries) (Leiden: Brill, 2020), co-authored with Ulfat Abdurasulov and Éksperimenty imperii: adat, shariat, i proizvodtsvo znanii v Kazakhskoi stepi (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2019), co-authored with Pavel Shabley. Nancy Kollmann is the William H. Bonsall Professor of History at Stanford University in California. In addition to Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia (2012), she is the author of Kinship and Politics: The Making of the Muscovite Political System, 1345–1547 (1987), By Honor Bound: State and Society in Early Modern Russia (1999); The Russian Empire, 1450–1801 (2017), and Visualizing Russia in Early Modern Europe (forthcoming August 2024). Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 13
1 hr 13 min
Dariusz Tołczyk, "Blissful Blindness: Soviet Crimes under Western Eyes" (Indiana UP, 2023)
The most heinous Soviet crimes - the Red Terror, brutal collectivization, the Great Famine, the Gulag, Stalin's Great Terror, mass deportations, and other atrocities - were treated in the West as a controversial topic. With the Cold War dichotomy of Western democracy versus Soviet communism deeply imprinted in our minds, we are not always aware that these crimes were very often questioned, dismissed, denied, sometimes rationalized, and even outright glorified in the Western world. Facing a choice of whom to believe -the survivors or Soviet propaganda- many Western opinion leaders chose in favor of Soviet propaganda. Even those who did not believe it behaved sometimes as if they did. Blissful Blindness: Soviet Crimes under Western Eyes (Indiana UP, 2023) explores Western reactions (and lack thereof) to Soviet crimes from the Bolshevik revolution to the collapse of Soviet communism in order to understand ideological, political, economic, cultural, personal, and other motivations behind this puzzling phenomenon of willful ignorance. But the significance of Dariusz Tolczyk's book reaches beyond its direct historical focus. Written for audiences not limited to scholars and specialists, this book not only opens one's eyes to rarely examined aspects of the twentieth century but also helps one see how astonishingly relevant this topic is in our contemporary world. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 8
1 hr 32 min
Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky, "Empire of Refugees: North Caucasian Muslims and the Late Ottoman State" (Stanford UP, 2024)
Between the 1850s and World War I, about one million North Caucasian Muslims sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire. This resettlement of Muslim refugees from Russia changed the Ottoman state. Circassians, Chechens, Dagestanis, and others established hundreds of refugee villages throughout the Ottoman Balkans, Anatolia, and the Levant. Most villages still exist today, including what is now the city of Amman. Muslim refugee resettlement reinvigorated regional economies, but also intensified competition over land and, at times, precipitated sectarian tensions, setting in motion fundamental shifts in the borderlands of the Russian and Ottoman empires. Empire of Refugees: North Caucasian Muslims and the Late Ottoman State (Stanford UP, 2024) reframes late Ottoman history through mass displacement and reveals the origins of refugee resettlement in the modern Middle East. Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky offers a historiographical corrective: the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire created a refugee regime, predating refugee systems set up by the League of Nations and the United Nations. Grounded in archival research in over twenty public and private archives across ten countries, this book contests the boundaries typically assumed between forced and voluntary migration, and refugees and immigrants, rewriting the history of Muslim migration in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dr. Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky is a historian of global migration and forced displacement and Assistant Professor of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His research examines Muslim refugee migration and its role in shaping the modern world. He is the author of Empire of Refugees: North Caucasian Muslims and the Late Ottoman State (Stanford University Press, 2024). Dr. Hamed-Troyansky is currently working on a transnational history of Muslim displacement in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia since 1850. His articles appeared in Past & Present, Comparative Studies in Society and History, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Slavic Review, and Kritika. He received his Ph.D. in History from Stanford University and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit Support our show by becoming a premium member!
Mar 6
49 min
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