Robert C. Tucker/Stephen F. Cohen Dissertation Prize

2018 Recipient

Rhiannon Dowling

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: Rhiannon Dowling, UC Berkeley
Title: “Brezhnev’s War on Crime: The Criminal in Soviet Society, 1963- 1984″

Dr. Dowling presents a nuanced view of legal institutional culture in the late-Soviet era that has broad relevance for law and politics. As Dowling’s dissertation so clearly and compellingly illustrates, the Brezhnev era was not one of stagnation but of intense citizen engagement in the system. The author uses debates and initiatives surrounding crime as a supposed holdover of the bourgeois past to get at the intense level of popular engagement in one of the most utopian conceptions of Soviet ideology. Drawing on meticulous archival research and a nuanced and creative reading of various popular culture sources, Dowling shows that there was widespread faith that the Soviet socialist system could eliminate crime. Citizens, law-enforcement authorities, and the party itself were drawn into this multifaceted effort to sweep crime into the dustbin of history. Ultimately, however, one of the unintended effects of these campaigns was to highlight widespread, systemic corruption and thus to solidify a view of the system as criminally corrupt and beyond repair.