Monday, May 11, 2020

2020 Cohen-Tucker Fellows Announced

ASEEES is delighted to announce the 2020 Stephen F. Cohen-Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Fellowship recipients. The Cohen–Tucker Dissertation Fellowship (CTDF) Program for Russian Historical Studies supports the next generation of US scholars to conduct their doctoral dissertation research in Russia. The CTDF Program is sponsored by the KAT Charitable Foundation, which we thank for its generous support.

Elizabeth Abosch, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Samuel Finkelman, University of Pennsylvania
Kamal Kariem, Princeton University
Harrison King, University of California, Berkeley

Matthew Honegger, Princeton University
Matthew Klopfenstein, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Elizabeth Abosch
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“The ‘Outcry from the Criminal Soul:’ The Social Imaginary of Song, Community, and State Power in the Soviet Union, 1920-1980”

My dissertation, “The ‘Outcry from the Criminal Soul:’ the Social Imaginary of Blatnaia Pesnia, Community, and State Power in the Soviet Union, 1920-1980,” will examine the creation and function of a social imaginary of the criminal underworld in Soviet history from 1920 to 1980, from the jazz performer Leonid Utesov’s first years in the Soviet limelight as a performer of blatnaia pesnia—criminal, underground, and prison songs—to the songs of Arkadiy Severny, the “king of underground music.” My research will reveal the history of a seldom studied but dynamic genre of Soviet music. I investigate the paradox of the popularity—or perhaps, necessity—of this social imaginary of a criminal society that had no right to exist in the Soviet project. My dissertation will the ways that people engaged with it to negotiate what it meant to be a Soviet citizen, and their relationship with state authority. It will interrogate the effects and of audiovisual technologies of the twentieth century on popular and mass culture, and the influence on or appropriation of folk cultures into mass culture.

Samuel Finkelman
University of Pennsylvania

“Ghetto, Gulag, Geulah: Jewish Nationalism, Inter-ethnic Encounters, and Collective Memory of Catastrophe in the Post-Stalin Soviet Union, 1953-1982”

This dissertation explores the encounter between Jewish and Russian nationalist intellectuals and activists in the post-Stalin Soviet Union, focusing on their mutual efforts to construct collective memories of national catastrophe. The protagonists are Soviet Jews who endeavored to revitalize Jewish national consciousness throughout the Soviet Union in the decades following “the black years” of postwar Stalinism, and their Russian interlocutors. The project’s main primary source base is the self-published literature, or samizdat, these activists and intellectuals produced and disseminated to galvanize national identity throughout the 1960s-1980s. Soviet-Jewish national activists’ exchanges, tensions, and affinities with their Russian counterparts–particularly over the topics of nationally experienced suffering, incarceration, and political violence–motivated new Jewish thinking about nationhood, political community and homeland. Exploring the common ideas and dilemmas, the interactions and exchanges, that linked the Jewish and Russian national movements, this dissertation shows why forces traditionally thought of as hostile to Jewish interests nonetheless significantly influenced Soviet Jews in their formulation of a politics rooted in national redemption, or what Jews call in Hebrew “geulah.” Ideally, this reassessment of late-Soviet Jewish nationalism will stimulate further research on how inter-ethnic exchange paradoxically invigorated nationalist politics throughout the Soviet Union in the post-Stalin era.

Kamal Kariem
Princeton University

“Believing Conservation: Altering Land Relations and Indigeneity on the Bikin River”

My proposed project broadly investigates environmental governance in the Russian Far East (RFE) through the lens of the recently founded Bikin National Park. Founded in 2015, this National Park is located in the Pozharskii District of Primorskii Krai with offices in Luchegorsk and Krasnyi Yar. Research for the project would primarily occur in Krasnyi Yar and on the Park’s territory and in Vladivostok. This Park is the only protected area in Russia, which has goals not only for the protection of biodiversity but also for the preservation of indigenous culture and traditional ways of life. The largest indigenous group in the region of the Park is the Udege, a small-numbered indigenous people (an official legal designation). From exploratory research conducted during winter 2018, many Udege are happy with the arrangement and the protection of their traditional lands. This satisfaction with the National Park stimulates my research interest in the Bikin National Park as a potential model for how protected areas and indigenous people could relate. Through my project, I aim to understand Post-Soviet transformations in nature, identity, and property triggered by conservation, with an eye toward how conservation work protects biodiversity and preserves cultural practices and ways of life.

Harrison King
University of California, Berkeley

“From Porous Frontier to Cold War Boundary: A Biography of the Russian-Ottoman and Soviet-Turkish Border, 1878-1991”

My dissertation explores the entangled histories of the Soviet Union and the Turkish Republic through the prism of state and nation-building campaigns in the former Russian-Ottoman borderlands. Focusing on the provinces of Batum, Kars, and Ardahan, annexed by the Russian Empire in the Russo-Ottoman War (1877-78), I trace the remaking of this multiethnic frontier as it was divided between two revolutionary states after the First World War. Through a bottom-up comparison of Soviet and Turkish modernization drives in Batumi in Soviet Georgia and Kars in eastern Turkey, I juxtapose the process of building a multinational socialist state in Transcaucasia with the equally transformative drive to construct a homogeneous Turkish nation-state, underscoring the affinities between two utopian political projects that aimed to reshape their societies in radical ways. Grounding my research in the experiences of predominately Muslim populations as they encountered and contested Sovietization and secularizing Kemalist reforms at the local level, I demonstrate how similar post-imperial trajectories unfolded across the Soviet-Turkish border as internationalist Bolsheviks and Turkish nationalists observed each other closely and violently enacted their kindred visions of modernity. Lastly, as both states became increasingly concerned with securing their borderlands and forging “ideal” citizens, I show how fruitful cooperation and anti-imperialist solidarity during the interwar period descended into a bitter Cold War rivalry that persisted until the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.

Matthew Honegger
Princeton University

“Stalinist Cultural Diplomacy and the Origins of Soviet-U.S. Musical Exchange, 1925-1960”

“Stalinist Cultural Diplomacy and the Origins of Soviet-U.S. Musical Exchange, 1925-1960” recovers an early history of Soviet efforts to forge musical ties with the United States. Drawing on institutional records, correspondence, scores, recordings, memoirs, and published and unpublished music criticism gathered through extensive archival work in the United States and Russia, I reassess this contact’s extent and legacy. I trace its beginnings during the interwar period, its culmination during the Second World War, and its demise and transformation during the first years of the Cold War. My work tells an institutional story of how and why the intimate model of Stalinist cultural diplomacy came to be replaced by the formal and highly publicized reciprocity of Cold War cultural diplomacy and a microhistorical story about the ways in which the idiosyncrasies of state-backed exchange shaped personal relationships, memory, emotions, and self-fashioning. By emphasizing continuity between the interwar and postwar periods, I demonstrate that the “beginning” of Cold War exchange in the late 1950s was less a beginning than a reset, reconfiguration, and reimagining.

Matthew Klopfenstein
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Performing Death, Embodying Modernity: Media Spectacle, Public Emotion, and Modern Selves in the Celebrity Funerals of Russian Female Performers, 1859-1919”

In my dissertation, I analyze the public funerals of famous women opera stars, actors of the stage and screen, and popular singers as a social phenomenon in late imperial Russia. While scholars have recognized major public funerals as important social events in the Russian Empire, attention has focused almost exclusively on the deaths of male writers, thinkers, and political figures. Through five in-depth case studies, I demonstrate that female performers were the subject of some of the largest and most-discussed public events in Russian history at the time. I analyze the empire-wide press coverage of the deaths and funerals of these performers to argue that emotion, gender, and mass media were interrelated elements central to the history of the Russian public sphere in the tumultuous period before the 1917 Revolution. I argue that these funerals and the enormous press attention they generated show that these women were among the era’s most socially-resonant figures; their lives provided influential new models of modern identity rooted in an emotionally performative idea of sincerity, and their deaths were public spectacles prompting debate on pressing issues of cultural and social boundaries, health and the body, and the state of society.

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