Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize


Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention: Michael Kunichika
Title: “Our Native Antiquity”: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Culture of Russian Modernism (Academic Studies Press)

Kunichika’s first book is a tour de force. It examines what modern Russian literature made of Russia’s “native antiquity,” in particular the stone “babas,” or statues left by Asiatic peoples on kurgans (burial mounds) throughout the Russian steppe, the mounds themselves, and the treasures concealed within. These antique objects constituted a mystery to be unraveled by archeologists, who in the late 19th and early 20th century studied their origins and meanings. At the same time, Kunichika shows that writers sought to discover whether these objects had some relevance to Russian culture and identity or were, in some way, foreign. Thought to be the product of Scythian culture, the babas and kurgans were subject to highly ambiguous interpretation in writing and art, both a distinctive feature of the Russian steppe, but also a representation of seemingly non-European culture. Just as French modernists embraced traditional African and Asian culture, Russian modernists embraced their “native antiquity” in the construction of modern art and cultural representations of the nation.

Honorable Mention: Douglas Rogers
Title: The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture after Socialism (Cornell University Press)

Douglas Rogers’ book explores the development of an oil state at the regional level in Russia and the ways it shaped an incipient civil society through a detailed analysis of the Perm region. Home to Lukoil, the oil and gas industry in Perm took on a new importance after the collapse of Communism. As the state pulled back in many areas and oil companies suddenly became massively profitable, oil companies throughout Russia took on a leading role in many natural resource-extracting regions. Oil industry and state institutions fused, and a revolving door was created between officials of the oil state. In turn, the emerging oil state helped to form a burgeoning civil society and cultural projects that emphasized the protection of traditional culture and regional identity. Rogers traces the changes that took place in Perm’s economy, institutional environment, governance and culture from the late Communist period through the post-Communist era. It is a sweeping work on a regional level that provides a vital regional perspective on the development of contemporary Russia’s oil state and culture.

Winner: Ronald Grigor Suny