2017 Citation Recipient

Louis Porter


The ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize, established in 2006, is awarded for an outstanding essay by a graduate student in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Winner: Louis Porter

Title: “No ‘Neutral Men’: A Day in the Life of a Soviet International Civil Servant, 1956-1967” (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The winner of the 2017 ASEEES Graduate Student Essay Prize is Louis Porter, who is completing his PhD in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His essay, “No ‘Neutral Men’: A Day in the Life of a Soviet International Civil Servant, 1956-1967,” is a chapter from his dissertation, which examines Soviet participation in UNESCO under N. S. Khrushchev and L. I. Brezhnev.

This engaging and innovative essay shifts attention away from the top decision makers in the Soviet political establishment to mid-level professionals working in an international organization, UNESCO. Focusing on the everyday life of the Soviet colony in Paris, Porter argues that unlike Soviet diplomats, UNESCO employees enjoyed partial autonomy and had to navigate between their Soviet identity and (informal) obligations to the Communist Party on one side, and their new professional identity as “international civil servants” at the UN on the other.

Porter draws on a rich selection of primary sources, including Russian state archives, the UNESCO archive in Paris, and the memoirs of Soviet of cials. These sources reveal both the attempts of the Soviet state to enforce ideological purity and the “socialist way of life” among Soviet citizens working abroad and the frequent failure to control them or provide resources. The essay makes a signi cant contribution to scholarship on the USSR and the Cold War, and will be of value to scholars from a variety of elds interested in the evolution of Soviet institutions and identities after Stalin.