Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History

2016 Citation Recipient

Adeeb Khalid

The Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the field of history in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Adeeb Khalid
Title: Making Uzbekistan: Nation, Empire, and Revolution in the Early USSR (Cornell University Press)

Adeeb Khalid’s seminal study of Uzbekistan is more than an enormously erudite and superbly researched book. It is a book that turns the traditional historiography of the Soviet nationality policies inside out. Khalid convincingly shows that Uzbekistan was not primarily a creation of Soviet revolutionary policies that emanated from Moscow. Instead, the idea of the Uzbek nation was a product of the Muslim intellectual elite with roots in the Jadid movement prior to the revolution. Thus, the emergence of Uzbekistan in the 1920s was a result of a complex interaction between the modern Muslim intelligentsia and the early Soviet policies.

Khalid shows how, throughout the 1920s, the Muslim intellectuals nationalized the Bolshevik revolution by eschewing the contradiction between the concepts of Soviet and Uzbek. The Muslim intelligentsia saw the revolution, above all, as a cultural project on the road to modernization. Khalid argues that the region experienced a cultural revolution throughout the 1920s, and much of the book examines the emergence of a new literary tradition and modern Uzbek language. By the end of the decade, the new Soviet policies left little room for the national Communists, as Moscow pushed to reign in the national elites, to introduce collectivization, and to intensify the anti-religious campaign. When the Muslim intelligentsia resisted Moscow’s policies perceived as a continuation of tsarist colonialism, the Soviet regime unleashed the first wave of purges in 1929- 1930. By the late 1930s, the Muslim intelligentsia in Central Asia was no more.

The book is based on an extraordinarily wide range of archival and print sources in Russian, Turkic and Tajik languages. The large empirical base, erudite discussion, and novel view of Central Asia and early Soviet policies make this a truly path-breaking book.

Honorable Mention: Eileen Kane
Title: Russian Hajj: Empire and the Pilgrimage to Mecca (Cornell University Press)

In this beautifully written and exhaustively researched book, Eileen Kane offers a history of Russia’s sponsorship of hajj infrastructure that obliges us to rethink basic assumptions concerning the empire’s relationship to Islam, to population movement within and across its borders, and the projection of Russia’s power in the world. Pushing back against historiography that portrays an imperial state as seeking to isolate the Muslims in the empire from those beyond it out of fear of pan-Islamism, she demonstrates that the imperial elites that supported the hajj used it as a mechanism of integration as well as informal expansion into Ottoman lands.  When the government took advantage of the new transportation technologies —railroads and steamships— it exploited the emergence of the Russian empire at a global hajj crossroads, central to major routes to Mecca used by Muslims from Russian, Persian, Afghan, and Chinese lands.  But Kane recasts our understanding of the Russian hajj not only by demonstrating the previously unrecognized political, economic and imperial ambitions of the elites who promoted it.  One of the book’s most astonishing achievements is allowing readers to see the hajj as a contingent, collaborative process created through interaction between Russian officials and Muslim pilgrims, a decades-long improvisation that went on inside and beyond the Russian empire’s formal boundaries.  Based on previously untapped Russian and Ottoman archival materials, Kane’s book has opened a new and important chapter in the historiography of the Russian empire.