Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize

2007 Recipient

Alexei Yurchak

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation

Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize, sponsored by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies, is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year.

Winner: Alexei Yurchak
Title: Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (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.

Honorable Mentions: Robert Crews and Jochen Hellbeck and Valerie Kivelson and Ethan Pollock and Marci Shore