Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize

2010 Recipient

Miriam Dobson

Khrushchev's Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform after Stalin

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: Miriam Dobson
Title: Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform after Stalin (Cornell University Press)

Based on new archival research that incorporates unusual materials such as prisoners’ songs, tattoos, and anti-Soviet leaflets penned by gulag returnees, this lively and insightful history of crime and punishment challenges several truisms about Khrushchev’s “thaw” in the early 1960s. Dobson traces the wax and wane of the gulag population, the expansion of the death penalty, and the shifts in other criminal justice policies during Khrushchev’s regime, showing that at the height of de-Stalinization, a certain form of re-Stalinization was taking place. Using letters to the Soviet press, party officials’ reports, and petitions written by gulag inmates and returnees, she also proves that the Soviet public, having learned the “enemies of the people” rhetoric, could not let it go easily. By demonstrating what a complex and potentially destabilizing force the returning gulag prisoners could be, and documenting the repressive steps taken by the regime in response, Dobson alters our views of the Khrushchev period. A model of deep research, that presents a clear and compelling argument, this book is a pleasure to read.