2007 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize
The 2007 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize is awarded to Alexei Yurchak, for Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation, published by Princeton University Press.
In this path-breaking study of daily life in the sorely understudied Soviet 1970s and 80s, Alexei Yurchak responds to now-perennial handwringing over what caused the Soviet Union’s collapse. The disintegration of the USSR may have been unexpected, he argues, yet once underway, a vast majority of Soviet citizens found that “unbeknownst to themselves, they had always been ready for it.” In an effort to dispense with Cold War caricatures of Soviet persons as lost in a maze of double lives and meaningless public pretense, Yurchak takes up close readings of the kinds of binary pitfalls that have long addled Western social science. The antidote comes in a finely tuned argument about the performative dimensions of late Soviet life that could be deployed in everyday settings toward a variety of productive and, often, unpredictable ends. He walks the reader through a world of Brezhnevite “stagnation” that was anything but stagnant, and demonstrates how the very practiced flexibilities of Soviet life — the management of paradox itself — made it possible for the inheritors of the socialist Leviathan to land so readily on their feet. The result is a rich portrait of a “last Soviet generation” that has long eluded serious scholarship, and a book that plies at the humanity of a civilizational structure that was, for better and for worse, home to so many for so long.
The Vucinich Book Prize Committee would also like to recognize the five other contenders in its 2007 Short List:
Robert Crews, For Prophet and Tsar: Islam and Empire in Russia and Central Asia (Stanford University Press)
Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin (Harvard University Press)
Valerie Kivelson, Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia (Cornell University Press)
Ethan Pollock, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Princeton University Press)
Marci Shore, Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968 (Yale University Press)