Ed A Hewett Book Prize

2015 Citation Recipient

Yanni Kotsonis

The Ed A Hewett Book Prize, established in 1994 and sponsored by the University of Michigan Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph on the political economy of Russia, Eurasia and/or Eastern Europe, published in the previous year.

Winner: Yanni Kotsonis
Title: States of Obligation: Taxes and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and Early Soviet Republic (University of Toronto Press)

Yanni Kotsonis’ States of Obligation is an exhaustively documented history of taxation and citizenship in imperial Russia and the early Soviet Republic. Kotsonis combines narrative and comparative analyses of Russian and European fiscal policy debates, and the impact of fiscal reform on the peasantry. Based on the mid-nineteenth century debates over civil rights, surveillance and individual autonomy, he traces the evolution of the Russian state into a “membership organization” by the late nineteenth century. He then shows how under the Bolsheviks the state absorbed the autonomies of both the state and the person, while European states continued to grapple with “the dualities and tensions” of modern polity. Drawing on Russian and European perspectives in economic and political thought Kotsonis illuminates the decision-making and the stakeholders in the processes of reforms in the imperial and early Soviet periods. The book provides an excellent assessment of the level and incidence of taxation, rooted in the social sciences, along with a solid foundation of Russian historiography. This is an outstanding study of some of the most controversial issues in Russian economic and political development, including the weight of industrialization and taxation on the peasants.

Honorable Mention: Kelly McMann
Title: Corruption as a Last Resort: Adapting to the Market in Central Asia (Cornell University Press)

In Corruption as a Last Resort, Kelly McMann addresses the issue of low-level corruption from the opposite direction of most scholars. Many analysts have explored why and how bureaucrats and other government officials use their public office for private gain. What is less investigated are the conditions under which citizens, who almost universally express disdain for corruption, are willing to pay the bribes at all.

Using case studies of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, a comparison with Uzbekistan, and a large-n statistical analysis, McMann shows that citizens bribe officials for crucial services when other potential suppliers—in particular, formal markets, charities, and families—cannot provide them. Furthermore, she demonstrates that market reforms, as typically designed, tend to undermine exactly those institutions, thereby increasing demand from below for corruption. Corruption as a Last Resort combines intensive fieldwork, qualitative data, and statistical analysis into a well-written book to answer an important question in the political economy of Central Asia and beyond.