Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize

2020 Recipient

Eliot Borenstein

Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism

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: Eliot Borenstein
Title: Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism (Cornell University Press)

Written with irony and wit, Eliot Borenstein’s Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism analyzes Russian national myths and disturbingly popular beliefs in the internet age. Borenstein’s tour of the darker side of Russian internet, popular fiction, television, and movies, where conspiracy theories flourish with baroque profusion, opens a window onto the engaging and terrifying landscape of contemporary Russian fantasy. Plots against Russian culture and sovereignty mingle with historical grievances, homophobia, and antisemitism. Far from being a “fringe” phenomenon, Borenstein argues convincingly, these beliefs inform many Russians’ attitudes toward the world, including the invasion of Ukraine, and Russian perceptions of “the west” (as rotten, diseased, yet threatening). This book offers insightful analysis of conspiracy narratives that shape public opinion and regime support in Russia today within the ludicrous froth of the Russian internet and popular culture. Far from dismissing contemporary Russian popular culture – even in its less agreeable manifestations – Borenstein demonstrates how a sense of historical loss and post-1989 political traumas have shaped a significant part of Russian political consciousness in the 21st century.

Honorable Mention: Joan Neuberger