Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History

2009 Citation Recipient

Elena Shulman

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: Elena Shulman
Title: Stalinism on the Frontier of Empire: Women and State Formation in the Soviet Far East (Cambridge University Press)

Within a highly competitive field, Elena Shulman’s pathbreaking study of a campaign to attract mainly female settlers to the frontier of the Soviet Far East in the late 1930s stands out for its painstaking research and sophisticated argument, presented in a clearly written and readable style. Shulman’s work makes a significant contribution to our understanding – and to some extent compels reinterpretation – in several major areas of Soviet history. Using the little-known movement of the so-called Khetagurovites, the work sheds new light on the history of the Soviet frontier; on gender relations in the 1930s; and on the relationship between repression and “enthusiasm” under Stalinism. Her work compels a major rethinking of the division between an early 1930s great leap/cultural revolution and a later 1930s “great retreat.

Shulman succeeds in explaining women’s sense of agency, control, and participation in a period otherwise understood as emphasizing the nuclear family and tyranny of all kinds. She brings her topic to life with compelling portraits of several participants in the movement: Khetagurova herself, whose call for settlement initiated the movement, but even more three otherwise ordinary young women whose lives she traces intermittently throughout the narrative. Fittingly, this reminds us of Reginald Zelnik’s own approach to writing the history of workers.

In short, Stalinism on the Frontier of Empire is a model of original research, interpretive imagination, and accessible scholarship.

Honorable Mention: Lewis H. Siegelbaum
TItle: Cars for Comrades: The Life of the Soviet Automobile (Cornell University Press)

This may well be the perfect subject for an historian of the Soviet Union who teaches in Michigan. Engagingly written with considerable wit and close attention to evidentiary detail, Cars for Comrades successfully combines technological, institutional, economic, social, and cultural history. Siegelbaum uses the automobile to shed considerable light on multiple facets of the Soviet experience, including urbanization, consumption, economic relations with the West, and the culture of everyday life. The book will enlighten and entertain specialists and students alike.