I am a social and cultural historian of the Soviet Union with an emphasis on Central Asia. A faint family connection to Russia – only gradually revealed to be Ruthenia – sparked my initial journey to study Russian history and later its language. And a chance trip to the mountains of Kazakhstan and the old cities of Uzbekistan prompted me to view Soviet history from the Central Asian periphery for the first time, opening a comparative, imperial lens that has inspired my research and teaching interests ever since.
As part of my training at UC-Berkeley I advised senior thesis writers and led a seminar on the making of Soviet Central Asia and the region’s role in global politics. At CEU I look forward to expanding on these themes and plan to offer courses on topics like comparative empire, architectural history, travel and mobility, and war and culture.
My research is centered in the transformation of Central Asia from a borderland connecting three empires to an integral part of the Soviet project, a process that in many ways culminated in World War II. My book project based on my dissertation, Making Ivan-Uzbek: War, Friendship of the Peoples, and the Creation of Soviet Uzbekistan, 1941-1945, argues that processes like mobilization, evacuation, and deportation helped to integrate the region into a larger sovetskii narod, or “Soviet people,” fundamentally reshaping Eurasian political identities. I explore themes of imperial flexibility and national mobilization to show how the stresses of total war forced Moscow to make compromises with local society, including Islamic practice in the army and a violently enforced postwar conservative rural social order. Thus although the war created avenues for Uzbeks to become more Soviet, they succeeded while 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 model Soviet East and a 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)