Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History


Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Bolton
Title: Worlds of Dissent: Chater 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech Culture under Communism(Harvard University Press)

Worlds of Dissent is an original and well researched contribution to the cultural and intellectual history of late socialism in Eastern Europe. Drawing upon diaries, correspondence, and essays, Jonathan Bolton explores the resistance to political and cultural repression by examining how the Czech intellectuals, writers, and artists understood and experienced their struggles against the post-1968 regime in Czechoslovakia. Bolton casts his net widely, focusing not only on the luminaries such as Vaclav Havel but also the obscure and forgotten men and women who played major roles in the world of dissent. The book is a compelling account of political and cultural dissent that restores historical contingency to the analysis of the movement and offers what is perhaps the most illuminating discussion of Havel’s writings.

Honorable Mention: Christina Ezrahi
Title: Swans of the Kremlin: Ballet and Power in Soviet Russia (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Christina Ezrahi focuses on the Bolshoi and Kirov ballet companies to illuminate the complicated relationship between late Imperial Russian debates about the nature of ballet and the communist regime’s efforts to use ballet as a means of political education. She explores how the ballet companies’ insistence on preserving pre-1917 balletic traditions should be seen as a way to maintain a degree of creative and professional autonomy and challenged the Kremlin’s efforts to impose its vision of ballet in particular and culture in general. Swans of the Kremlin revises our notion that challenges to the ideological straitjacketing of the Kremlin tended to come from the artistic fringes influenced by European and American counterparts rooted in modern and even post-modern trends. The conservatism of the Bolshoi and Kirov ballet companies reveals an effort to “repossess” the ballet and evade the unpleasant task of producing ballet imbued with communist values. Moreover, the book illuminates the process by which art and culture were made in the Soviet Union.

Winner: Scott Ury