Citations for Past Winners of the Graduate Student Essay Prize


Louis Porter for “No ‘Neutral Men’: A Day in the Life of a Soviet International Civil Servant, 1956-1967” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The winner of the 2017 ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize is Louis Porter, who is completing his PhD in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His essay, “No ‘Neutral Men’: A Day in the Life of a Soviet International Civil Servant, 1956-1967,” is a chapter from his dissertation, which examines Soviet participation in UNESCO under N. S. Khrushchev and L. I. Brezhnev.

This engaging and innovative essay shifts attention away from the top decision makers in the Soviet political establishment to mid-level professionals working in an international organization, UNESCO. Focusing on the everyday life of the Soviet colony in Paris, Porter argues that unlike Soviet diplomats, UNESCO employees enjoyed partial autonomy and had to navigate between their Soviet identity and (informal) obligations to the Communist Party on one side, and their new professional identity as “international civil servants” at the UN on the other.

Porter draws on a rich selection of primary sources, including Russian state archives, the UNESCO archive in Paris, and the memoirs of Soviet of cials. These sources reveal both the attempts of the Soviet state to enforce ideological purity and the “socialist way of life” among Soviet citizens working abroad and the frequent failure to control them or provide resources. The essay makes a signi cant contribution to scholarship on the USSR and the Cold War, and will be of value to scholars from a variety of elds interested in the evolution of Soviet institutions and identities after Stalin.


Anca Mandru for “The ‘Socialist Intellectual Brotherhood’ and the Nationalist Challenge” (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

The winner of the 2016 ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize is Anca Mandru who is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Her essay, “The ‘Socialist Intellectual Brotherhood’ and the Nationalist Challenge,” explores the challenges of nationalism to Romanian socialists’ internationalist agenda at the turn of the twentieth century. The essay is a chapter from her dissertation “‘Socialism of Sentiment’: Culture, Progress and Community in the Early Romanian Left 1870-1914.”

Mandru’s engaging essay makes a clear argument for seeing the Romanian case as indicative of broader contradictions within turn-of-the-century radical politics.  Mandru traces the gradual process of socialists’ negotiation of nationalist ideas and language as a political reality rather than as ideological compromises. In their struggle for legitimacy in the national political arena, Romanian socialists—internally divided and often perceived as “foreign” by the home public—had to address the national question and in the process became entangled in its outlook.

Mandru draws from a rich selection of socialist and leftist journals and newspapers as her primary sources. Her essay makes a significant contribution to the historiography of the European Left and will be of interest to scholars of nationalism, socialism, and Eastern European history.  It also sheds light on the contemporary fluidity of the political spectrum in the region and beyond.


Adrianne Jacobs for “An Edible Empire: Soviet National Cuisines between Tradition and Modernity, 1965-85” (UNC at Chapel Hill)

Adrianne Jacobs’ essay, “An Edible Empire: Soviet National Cuisines between Tradition and Modernity, 1965-85,” explores national cuisines and their role in shaping late Soviet life with particular attention to cookbooks, as well as restaurants located in Moscow.
In this clearly written and engaging essay, Jacobs argues that the state-sponsored food culture of national cuisine became an important means of promoting Soviet life under Brezhnev as modern and cosmopolitan, while at the same time allowing food aficionados to recuperate and revel in national cultures. Her essay provides an insightful exploration into the ways culinary culture promoted both traditional and modern ways of life in the late Soviet era.

Jacobs draws from a rich selection of primary sources including archival documents on restaurants in the Moscow city archive, Soviet cookbooks, magazines and newspapers. Her essay makes a significant contribution to the growing historiography on late Soviet socialism and will be of interest to scholars from a variety of fields who examine the role of food in Soviet and Russian life.
Jacobs is currently an adjunct professor at the Mat-Su College of the University of Alaska Anchorage.


Taylor Craig Zajicek, University of Washington, “Modern Friendship: The ‘New Turkey’ and Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, 1933-1934”

Zajicek analyzes representations, mostly Soviet, of the “new Turkey” in the early 1930s. His essay sheds light on Soviet-Turkish relations between 1933 and 1934, and it poses interesting and innovative questions related to the reasons Soviets endorsed Turkish modernity.

The author makes effective use of primary sources—such as Soviet newspapers, Western newspapers and journals, archival document collections—to answer his question and support his arguments. His use of the film “Heart of Turkey” is particularly compelling.  In addition, Zajicek engages well with the existing secondary literature and points out convincingly how the story he is telling has been largely overlooked.

By drawing from a wide variety of sources and broadening the traditional notions of diplomacy to include a range of scientific, technological, and cultural topics, Zajicek has authored a paper of interest to scholars from a variety of disciplines in the ASEEES community. His essay is carefully researched, effectively structured, and written in a clear, literate and engaging style.


Yulia Mikhailova, University of New Mexico, “’Christians and Pagans’ in the Chronicles of Pre-Mongolian Rus: Beyond the Dichotomy of ‘Good Us’ and “Bad Them’”

The winner of the 2013 ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize is Yulia Mikhailova, a doctoral student from the University of New Mexico. Her essay, “‘Christians and Pagans’ in the Chronicles of Pre-Mongolian Rus: Beyond the Dichotomy of ‘Good Us’ and ‘Bad Them,’” is a contribution to the volume Source Studies for Slavia Asiatica, forthcoming in Leipzig University Press and edited by Wolfram von Scheliha. This original, carefully researched, and compellingly argued paper draws on rich material, examines cultural paradigms, and moves beyond accepted binary oppositions. The author effectively questions the existing interpretations and assumptions about the ways in which the Primary Chronicles depict such groups as nomads and pagans in Kievan Rus’. She succeeds at presenting her analysis and interpretation to both specialists in Kievan Rus’ history and the wider audiences of ASEEES. She also does an excellent job of contrasting her approach to what appears to be the two reigning interpretations (as represented in the essay by Solov’ev and Curta) of the paper’s main questions, presenting an original and insightful reinterpretation of these texts to show the complex range of representations of peoples such as the Cumans and Black Caps. The author’s attention to the historiography demonstrates expert knowledge of the field, and she provides very useful background and theoretical information on such topics as “monsters” in the medieval imagination. Overall, Mikhailova’s stimulating discussion promises to help reshape how scholars understand these aspects of the Primary Chronicles and teach it to their students.


Bathsheba Demuth, University of California, Berkeley, “More Things on Heaven and Earth: Modernism and Reindeer in the Bering Straits”

Bathsheba Demuth’s paper, “More Things on Heaven and Earth: Modernism and Reindeer in the Bering Straits,” is a highly original piece of research, one that employs an anthropological-ecological approach to produce historical scholarship that is truly interdisciplinary. In addition, her paper is an outstanding example of transnational history, comparing developments in both Siberia and Alaska to offer brilliant insights into the two regions’ respective political systems, ideological goals, native customs, and practices of animal husbandry. Theoretically informed yet clearly written, Demuth’s paper combines sophisticated analysis with impressive empirical research, based on a range of primary sources in Russian and English. Her work also provides a model of historical inquiry that looks beyond human agency to also take into account the role of the environment and ecological evolution.


Jolanta Mickute, Indiana U, “Making of the Zionist Woman: Zionist Discourse on the Jewish Woman’s Body and Sexuality”

This sophisticated and highly original article scrambles what we thought we knew about interwar politics and culture. Mickute accomplishes this not by debunking existing stories or interpretations, but by simply looking at familiar topics from a novel perspective. The ideological categories of left and right, the ethno-national labels of Polish and Jewish, and the political categories of state and society all appear in a new light when seen through the eyes of the women Mickute studies. They were emphatically Jewish, yet their worldviews only make sense when understood within a richly detailed context that they shared with non-Jewish Poles. Their Zionism pulled them towards nationalism (with the imposition of sexual discipline that this implied), yet their modernity and revolutionary politics pushed them towards personal and sexual emancipation. Mickute employs an impressive range of public and private sources to illustrate both the discursive construction of the “Zionist Woman” and the ways in which actual women constructed their own subjectivities within that identity. This essay is a chapter of a dissertation tentatively entitled “Modern, Jewish, and Female,” that promises to be an major scholarly accomplishment.


Zsolt Nagy, UNC, “National Identities for Export: Hungarian, Czechoslovak, Romanian Nationality Rooms in Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning”

Zsolt Nagy’s essay situates the cultural politics of America émigré communities in an international setting. Those “nationality rooms” are familiar to anyone who has ever visited the University of Pittsburgh, and they seem at first glance to replicate the idealized, somewhat stereotyped ethnic self-imagining so common in US cities. Mr. Nagy demonstrates, however, that the governments of the countries involved played a leading role in designing these displays, and that they were intended to play a specific role in what we would today call public diplomacy. Bringing together cultural history, diplomatic history, and the history of US immigration in a well-researched and sophisticated package, Mr. Nagy’s work represents well the transnational orientation that is currently transforming the discipline of history.


Ula Łukszo, “Bringing a Suppressed World to Light: Alterations to the Postcolonial Travel Narrative in Mariusz Wilk’s Wołoka”, winner of the Mid-Atlantic Slavic Conference competition.

The prize-winning paper for this year offers a subtle reading of Mariusz Wilk’s 2005 travelogue Wołoka, a book that explores the complexities of the historical relationship between Poland and Russia. Łukszo’s compellingly written paper uses Wilk to show that the experience of Poles in the Russian empire both clarifies and qualifies the propositions of postcolonial theory.


Colleen M. Moore, “The Popular Response to War and Mobilization in Russia in 1914,” winner of First Prize in the Graduate Paper Daniel Armstrong Memorial Essay Contest at Indiana University.

The prize-winning paper for this year is a re-examination of Russian popular attitudes toward Russia’s decision to go to war in July and August 1914. This engagingly written essay analyzes a substantial body of primary sources, among them national and provincial Russian newspapers, soldiers’ letters and memoirs, and compositions written by schoolchildren. Colleen Moore makes use of those materials to argue that the lower classes had a clear sense of the reasons their government entered the war and urged it on with overtly nationalist feelings. They were less enthusiastic about their own enlistment, but unlike other scholars she concludes that their looting of liquor stores was not a form of anti-war protest. Moore’s paper offers a bold and imaginative challenge to the historiography of World War I in Russia.


Emily Baran, “Communism or Armageddon? Representations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Soviet Press, 1954-1985”

The prize-winning paper for this year uses Soviet newspaper coverage of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a lens through which to view the complexities of Soviet policy toward religious adherents between the 1950s and 1980s. Baran shows that the Kremlin was forced to balance official atheism, Marxist ideology, and sensitivity toward ethnic minorities as it tried to contend with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an American-based religious group with mainly working-class adherents living mainly in the recently conquered western parts of the Soviet Union. Combining extensive primary-source research with jargon-free writing, Baran’s exemplary essay furthers our understanding of an under-researched period in Soviet history.


Diana Mincyte, “The Pasteurization of Lithuania: Informal Food Markets and Globalization,” winner of the graduate student essay competition held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Mincyte’s paper “The Pasteurization of Lithuania: Informal Food Markets and Globalization,” won the graduate student essay competition held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and is an extended version of a paper presented at the SOYUZ conference in March 2006. Examining widespread practices of raw milk distribution in Lithuania, Mincyte’s paper poses compelling theoretical questions about globalizing and rationalizing forces and their interaction with local processes in a postsocialist economy. Through a careful analysis of fieldwork findings, interviews, and comparative literature on globalization, Mincyte generates counterintuitive findings about both Europeanization and local habits. Mincyte’s dynamic and descriptively rich paper made the seemingly obscure topic of unpasteurized milk distribution quite intriguing.