Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize

2013 Citation Recipient

Michael Westren

The Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize, established in 2006 and sponsored by the KAT Charitable Foundation, is awarded annually (if there is a distinguished submission) for an outstanding English-language doctoral dissertation in Soviet or Post-Soviet politics and history in the tradition practiced by Robert C. Tucker and Stephen F. Cohen. The dissertation must be defended at an American or Canadian university and completed during the calendar year prior to the award.

Winner: Michael Westren, University of Chicago
Title: “Nations in Exile: The ‘Punished Peoples’ in Soviet Kazakhstan”

The committee members have agreed to award the Tucker/Cohen prize for 2013 to Michael Westren for his dissertation, “Nations in Exile: The ‘Punished Peoples’ in Soviet Kazakhstan, 1941-1961” (University of Chicago, 2012). We find it a mature and comprehensive account of the deportations of the suspect Soviet ethnic nationalities to Central Asia during World War II. Westren draws effective comparisons among the affected groups, and identifies the three major phases in the deportation process: the decision to deport, life in exile, and the return to the home regions. Westren makes a convincing argument that the basic motivation for the deportations was the leaders’ fears that these nationalities were insufficiently imbued with Soviet values and loyalty, rather than being an act of genocide directed against peoples based on their ethnicity. A particularly impressive element of the dissertation is the treatment of the exiled people’s lives in Kazakhstan. Westren does not try to impose a single causal argument on the study, but demonstrates the interplay of multiple actors and influences. He also effectively grounds the wartime deportations in the broader history of deportations of entire peoples in Europe before and during the war. Revealing multiple connections among Soviet state policy, wartime exigency, and the complex realities of a multinational society, the dissertation is a significant contribution to the literature on Soviet history and politics. We salute Dr. Westren, and his advisor, Sheila Fitzpatrick, on an excellent piece of research.