I am a social and cultural historian of the Soviet Union, with emphases on Central Asia, the Second World War, and comparative empires. At CEU I teach seminars on the Russian Revolution, Central Asia, transnational and imperial history, the Soviet war experience, biography and history, as well as yearly departmental writing seminars and a core course, Grand Debates in Russian and Eurasian history. I welcome M.A. thesis applicants on a broad array of topics and have recently advised projects on Soviet architecture, early Soviet dissidents, post-war theater in Tashkent, and atheistic education in Kyrgyzstan.
My book project, When Muhamed Became Misha: Central Asia and the Soviet Empire at War, 1941-1953, examines how World War II transformed the Soviet empire and Central Asia’s place within it. The title references a 1945 letter from an Uzbek soldier to a teenage kolkhoz heroine in his native Fergana valley in which he employs both his given name – Muhamed – and his frontline nickname – Misha. The author’s split identification exemplifies the central question of the project, namely how to interpret the Sovietization of war, in what context it was created, and how it endured.
The project examines Central Asian military service, labor mobilization, kolkhoz reorganization, and cultural production (literature and film), and emphasizes the assimilatory striving of Central Asian soldiers to challenge Soviet interethnic hierarchies as well as the collaborative efforts of evacuated and local cultural elites to mediate interethnic relations of the Soviet war effort. It argues that in Red Army overcoats, Central Asians became Soviets in new and lasting ways but that Sovietization was refracted by age, gender, and the urban-rural divide. “Central Asianization” also occurred as the region gained new visibility in Soviet culture and, in the process, changing what “Soviet” meant.
My next project, tentatively titled The Soviet Silk Road, will investigate Central Asia’s role in the Cold War. I plan to focus on the emergence of a tourist infrastructure, architectural preservation, and Soviet oriental studies to explore the region’s status as custodian of cultural traditions in common with its neighbors to the South.
AWARDS AND HONORS
Harriman Institute, Columbia University, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2015-16 (declined)
Simpson Dissertation Fellowship, Institute of International Studies, UC-Berkeley, 2014
Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Summer Grant, UC-Berkeley, Uzbek, 2008
Michael I. Gurevich Memorial Prize in Russian History, UC-Berkeley, 2008
FLAS Summer Grant, Stanford University, Uzbek, 2007
FLAS Academic Year Grant, Stanford University, CREEES, Kazakh, 2006
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute, “China and the Islamic World,” Columbia University, 2005
Richard Smoke Summer Fellowship, Soros Foundation – Almaty, Kazakhstan, Brown University, 2002
“Soldiers’ Letters to Inobatxon and O’g’ulxon: Gender and Nationality in the Birth of a Soviet Romantic Culture,” Kritika 17, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 517-552.
“The Last Soviet Park In Russia,” The Appendix, Vol. 2, Issue 1, January 2014.
“Friendship under Lock and Key: the Soviet Central Asian border, 1918-1934,” Central Asian Survey, Vol. 30, Issue 3-4 (2011), pp. 331-348.
"The Gur-i Amir Mausoleum and the Soviet Politics of Preservation," Future Anterior, Vol. 8 (2011), pp. 42-63.
Courses taught in the previous years
- Historiography II: Grand Debates on Issues of the History of Russian and Eurasian History (together with Jan Hennings)
- Mobility, Exchange, and Revolution: Introduction to Modern Central Asia
- Socialist Intermediaries: the Institutions and Practice of Transnational Communism (together with Constantin Iordachi)
- Soviet History: a Multinational Approach
- World War II in Soviet History
- The Connections of Moscow-based People's Friendship University with the Developing World 1960-1982: A Case Study of Soviet Soft Power and Transnational Relations / Riikkamari Muhonen (current)