Russian Themes

“Smolensk is the Russian city that is most closely identified with the Dnipro, a city with riverside parks and open access to the water.”
The reader is guided along the river not only in space but also in time.
“Ukrainians typically consider Russian claims of descent from Kyivan Rus’ as a hijacking of their proud history.”
“In 1775 Empress Catherine the Great ordered Nova Sich to be destroyed. After that, the Cossacks left the Dnipro altogether.”
“Ukrainian territory had special significance for the Russian state because it (1) enabled Russia to devise a link to the legacy and geographic territory of Rus’; (2) provided the empire with ice-free ports on the Black Sea; and (3) placed the Russian Empire on a parallel footing with other European empires that had established colonies across the seas. While Novorossiya was the formal name, Russians referred to the steppes as dyke pole .”
“Zaporizhians had a special role in the building of socialism, defeating the Nazis, and making the Soviet Union into a powerful country, they became disproportionately proud and loyal Soviet citizens.“

“Aleksey Mares’ev was a perfect fit for the profile of the heroes of the late Stalinist period, in which Russian nationalism and Soviet patriotism assumed central roles. Also, the pilot had the right proletariat origins who owed his career to Soviet might, had proven his ideological resolve, and had performed superhuman feats.”
A chapter in the volume on the intertwined relationship between public health and nation building discusses the disabled hero of the Great Patriotic War.
Mares’ev and Kozlovskiy, another heroic pilot became the highlight of Soviet propaganda several years after the tragic events that led to the amputa­tion of their legs.
Another chapter reviews the efforts of the imperial government to delineate the railway community with regard to medical care. How to tackle their inherent mobility, and whether to include in-laws, life partners, foster children etc.

“The Bessarabian question was among the most sensitive issues in Russian-Romanian relations. Mutual interest in a future anti-Ottoman alliance precluded any open discussion of the matter and left ample space for all kinds of interpretations.“
“Bessarabia was initially perceived as a showcase province meant to attract the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire. In this sense, Bessarabia was one of multiple ‘orients’ that the Russian Empire acquired.”
Bishop Lebedev, in his 1878 sermon presented Southern Bessarabia as a living member of the body of the Russian people, and construed the Danube as a “river of our native songs, just like the Volga and the Don.”
“Russian and Romanian intellectuals and elites engaged in symbolic competition over Bessarabia without eliciting any significant responses from the region itself. The Bessarabian intellectual stratum was negligible before the early twentieth century.”
“The local population was traditionally regarded as staunchly loyal to the Russian throne, and its closeness to the Great Russians was the result of its adherence to the Orthodox Church and its sharing in the economic benefits of the all-Russian market.”

Titles from the CEU Press backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“Orbán’s system approaches the Putin model of the mafia state by a detour, through the West, and establishes itself as a Trojan horse of the post-communist mafia states within the ramparts of the European Union . While Orbán’s regime grew out of the corrupt state administration of liberal democracy, in Russia a regime combining an anarchy of the oligarchs with a weak central power was replaced by a pyramid like chain of command built on the networks of patron-client relationships, a shift that could not have occurred without the monopolization of political power.”
“Gazprom, Rosneft, Rosatom are not run-of-the-mill corporations with mere economic interests, but also the instruments of Russian imperial interests supported by their secret services, extensions of the rekindled Russian imperial influence. They fit snugly into these ambitions—their motive is not merely profit maximization, but also serving national interests.”
“From 2010 onwards, Orbán has broken the tradition of politics conducted since 1993: the anti-Russian sentiment linked to anticommunism.”

“There is a kind of a modern martyrological imperialism going on in typical official Russian proclamations, the victims who are discussed lived well beyond the territory of today’s Russian Federation.”
“The Famine in the USSR, 1930–1934, a glossy, full-color anthology of archival documents explicitly refuted Ukrainian claims of exceptionalism and genocide, stressing the breadth of the famine’s impact on Russian, Cossack, and Kazakh populations, and the coercive but nonmurderous intent of the period’s punitive policies.”
“Documents on the Katyn massacre supported the official Russian position that the tragedy was the result of the officials’ abuse of power rather than any officially sanctioned action.”
“In history textbooks, things are described in such a way that it makes your hair stand on end.” Putin’s populist demand for a unified patriotic curriculum found immediate support in public opinion polling.

The relationship between history and politics in Eastern Europe experienced many dramatic changes since the beginning of Perestroika over 25 years ago. The 1990s and the beginning of 2000s were very productive years for historians. The "archive revolution" defined this period. Nonetheless there was growing concern in Moscow over the intensification of Eastern European historical policies targeted at Russia in the 2000s. The dramatic U-turn historical politics took in Russia after 2009-2010 is a major focus of analysis.

‘The Soviet Union refused to participate in the multilateral Berne Convention, which, in their view, was a bastion of bourgeois legal concepts established by the capitalist monopolies to increase protection solely of their own intellectual property.”
A collection of essays on the expansion and institutionalization of intellectual property norms in the twentieth century.
“The copyright laws of the Eastern European countries tend to be structurally quite consistent and all-inclusive in the sense of the five-pillar model. Unfortunately that is no longer totally true for the new Russian copyright regulations which have become part of the codification of intellectual property within the Russian Civil Code, a concept which has been much criticized in Russia itself. Copyright provisions are now scattered throughout different chapters of the new Part IV of the Civil Code, a rather ineffective legislative technique.”

“Soviet modernization produced identity confusion and transformation for people across the Soviet Union throughout its history. However, this process was particularly acute among the indigenous Siberians whose small numbers have meant greater threats to their cultural preservation”. The phenomenon is examined on the example of the Buryat people and their republic in the Russian Federation.
“Beginning in the late 1960s, Buryat parents, educators, and officials began to question the value of this standard literary Buryat for a society that was rapidly urbanizing. Their concerns led to the cancellation of the teaching of Buryat in schools in the 1970s, which contributed to a sharp decline in the usage of the Buryat language… Soviet modernization created rapid social mobility, allowed for greater political control among ethnic Buryats, brought about general economic stability, and led to a strong sense of connection with the Soviet Union and Russia. Many Buryats were patriotic citizens and felt positively toward the benefits that Soviet modernization had brought”.

Thatcher said Gorbachev was an unusual Russian in that he was much less constrained, more charming, open to discussion and debate, and did not stick to prepared notes.
Reagan: We in the West have great strength—Europe alone has four times the GNP of the Soviet Union. We must deal with the Soviets from a position of strength. But we also know that in a nuclear war there would be no winners.
Thatcher interjected that this is why she had emphasized and praised the deterrence system that has worked so well for so many years. Strength is our best deterrence. December, 1984
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders on 1000 pages.
Reagan: One of the things that created mistrust of the USSR by the U.S. was the realization of the Marxist idea of helping socialist revolutions throughout the world.
Gorbachev: The U.S. should not think that Moscow was omnipotent and that when he woke up every day he thought about which country he would now like to arrange a revolution in… The U.S. speaks of Afghanistan and Ethiopia as if it were the Soviet Union that stirred the pot there. But we first heard of revolutions there on the radio.
Reagan: Every military judgment has it that Soviet forces are designed for offensive operations. November, 1985
Reagan
commented that there was a legacy of mistrust because of Soviet expansionism. Gorbachev commented that compared to American expansionism the Soviet side’s was a small child. Reagan responded that there had been four wars in his lifetime, and the U.S. had not gained an inch of territory… He mentioned Berlin. He felt Gorbachev could and should tear down the Wall that day. December, 1987
Gorbachev:
President Giscard said I must be ready to deal with a Federated State of Western Europe. As Europeans, we try to put this into the context of the “common European house.” Eastern Europe is changing to be more open, democratic and to respect universal human values.
Bush: You expressed reservations about “Western values.” A Western value is glasnost—openness—it isn’t our word but we value lively debate, pluralism and openness. Western values are free markets and openness. December 1989

"A person outside of Moscow Conceptualism is regarded as a priori incompetent (although he is given a chance to prove the opposite)." A critic's remark grasped the mind-set evolved among avant-garde artists in the Soviet environment. With the collapse of the Soviet system guitarist bards gave way to marketed performers: similar transition happened in the visual arts as well - this is the last phase of the story of an art movement that began in the 1970s, told in the book that seeks to understand the fate of the artistic imagination in one of the most ideologically charged moments of the twentieth century.

“In the cultures of the communist era, dramatists expressed in their plays the politically forbidden. To paraphrase Solzhenitsyn’s dictum about writers in the Soviet Union, plays—in the former Soviet bloc countries—are powerfully subversive and insurrectional, and dramatists function as a second (or shadow) government.”
“The model was that of the earlier Soviet culture of the 1930s, when Shakespeare was more acclaimed in Soviet Russia than in England, thanks to Stalin’s aspirations to demonstrate the capability of the Marxist-Leninist system to generate a superior civilization to that of continental Europe by showing more attention to culture than other countries. Adapting to the specificity of the new communist culture, all the theaters were ‘Shakespearized,’ by undergoing a manner of rewriting the Bard’s plays to fit the style of the proletarian art and censorship.”
“By transforming, editing, or reshuffling classical models in order to foreground their own political and cultural circumstances, these plays have been instrumental in identifying the conspiratorial, conniving, and scheming politics of the communist era in Eastern Europe.”

Essays on women and war mirrored in the arts, portraying also Russian (and Soviet) cases. These range from Mother Russia in movies, women in novels, films and songs about World War II, up to the Black Widows in the Chechen conflicts.

A tribute to the memory of Victor Zaslavsky (1937–2009), sociologist, émigré from the Soviet Union, Canadian citizen, and keen observer of Eastern Europe, who wrote, among other Class Cleansing: The Massacre at Katyn, a brilliant reconstruction of the background, planning, execution and aftermath of a horrific event.
“Victor Zaslavsky’s chief contribution to the theory of totalitarianism is the argument that Soviet society experienced not one but two totalitarian moments: the Lenin-Stalin period and the Brezhnev era that followed a brief Khrushchev interregnum.”
This volume is also an attempt to keep the debate alive and the attention of contemporary analysts focused on the social and cultural legacies of totalitarian experience in the space between Prague and Pyongyang.

Boris Pasternak, Vladimir Maximov, Vassily Aksyonov, Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalya Gorbanevskaya,, Yuli Daniel, Andrei Sinyavsky, Andrei Amalrik, Zhores Medvedev, Andrei Sakharov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn – a book about their and other non-conformist writers’ and intellectuals’ vicissitudes in the Soviet Union.
Publication bans, loss of employment, secret police surveillance, judicial trial and condemnation, prison camps, forced psychiatry, coerced emigration – literary policy measures on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. In response – illegal self-publishing, manuscripts smuggled to the West, publishing in exile, acts of cross-border solidarity, and eventually Nobel Prizes.

The huge book distribution program of the CIA that spanned 35 cold-war years and reached hundreds of thousand East-Europeans included books in Russian: works by Mandelshtam, Pasternak, Sakharov, Sinyavski, the Medvedev brothers and many others.

It was the Moscow International Economic Conference in April 1952, when—among others—“peaceful coexistence” was first pronounced. With no direct follow-up: Stalin may have viewed a closer partnership with the West as too dangerous.
This book offers a new, Euro-centered account of the Cold War. The essays point to inconsistencies in the US-dominated narrative of the “victory in the Cold War.”
“Détente started in 1953 and ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The short period between 1953 and 1956 was a major landmark, after which the Cold War meant something else than before.”
“For the Soviet Bloc leaders it meant a competition between the two blocs, which they believed they would eventually win. This did not mean giving up the class struggle as such: it only meant that the focus of the class struggle was redirected from Europe to the Third World.”
“The Soviet leaders never expected any serious Western response to their crisis management within their own sphere of influence. Their only miscalculation was the invasion of Afghanistan, deemed on the Western side a grossly illegitimate expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence.”

"No one ever dared to suggest that Hitler or Stalin be invited to this country. Why then Khrushchev, whose personal record is just as amoral and ruthless?" The 'Hangman of the Ukraine' and the 'Butcher of Budapest' was received in America in 1959 with the honors of a head of state, which de jure he was not. The book on how the US government sponsored exile movements against communism studies the limited effect of protests laid by the Assembly of Captive European Nations against the visit. Khrushchev returned for another 25 days in 1960. It is not commonly known that his shoe banging at a UN session had to do with Soviet oppression of nations in Eastern Europe; a Filipino delegate drove him mad by proposing that a declaration on colonialism should include the Soviet practice.

“Between 1947 and 1953 Soviet cultural policy had become more deeply xenophobic, nationalistic, and autarkic than ever. The newly established Academy of Arts dogmatically insisted upon the pedigree purity of a Russian canon—based on the model of the nineteenth-century Russian realism of the Peredvizhniki—as the patrilineage of socialist realism, while ‘ethnically cleansing’ alien influences.” – from a collective book with 35 contributors that analyzes artistic interactions both within the Soviet bloc and with the West between 1945 and 1989.
“A period of intensive reacquaintance with international art of several centuries, and also with aspects of Russia’s own suppressed artistic heritage, began in 1954. The USSR Ministry of Culture organized exhibitions of West European art on the basis of Soviet collections, suddenly exposing the Soviet public to contemporary and historical foreign culture.”
“Those seeking to uncover the suppressed history of Russian modernism were occasionally able to see still forbidden work by Malevich, Tatlin, Kandinsky, Chagall, and others in the cellars of the Ermitazh in Leningrad and the State Tret’iakov Gallery in Moscow if brave curators were prepared to risk their jobs to conduct them into the museums’ underworld.”

In Narva in the extreme east of Estonia, during the interwar period about one-third of the population was Russian-speaking (today, as a result of Soviet rule, the percentage has risen to over 90 percent).
Narva Jews historically used Russian almost on par with Yiddish. Although Jews sent their children to Russian as well as Estonian elementary schools, when it came to high school, they usually opted for the Russian-language education.
When the Russians finally reached a consensus on the issue of autonomy in the late 1930s, the authoritarian system was already in place. The Russian minority embraced the idea of cultural autonomy as a means of halting the further Estonianization of their schools and surnames. In June 1939 Russian organizations decided to renew their efforts on behalf of cultural autonomy, but to no avail.
It is impossible to determine the exact proportion of Jews in the NKVD. As of early summer 1941, the total number of people working for the regime in Narva was 3,424. By ethnicity, 38 percent were Russian, 26 percent Estonian, and 32.2 percent of ‘unknown’ ethnicity.

“Russian soldiers took two barrels of wine from Simion Banu and sacks full of oats from Constantin Cristea. The nun N.N. was raped.” (Report no. 640 of the Romanian General Inspectorate of the Gendarmerie in 1944.)
This documentary collection on the Soviet occupation of Romania, Hungary, and Austria is the result of an academic collaboration between many historians from these three countries.
“The Allied Control Commission cannot help but note completely unsatisfactory progress in implementing the armistice agreement, which can be explained by a lack of desire and goodwill on the part of the Romanian government. Thus far, not all German and Hungarian subjects living on Romanian territory have been interned…” (Vinogradov to Sănătescu, November 1944)
“The percentage of immoral incidents among members of the Komsomol is considerably lower compared to communists and non-party-members—it makes up 1.7 percent… The homecoming will be used broadly for political and party work—it should help to teach the soldiers to love their homeland, its people, and the Bolshevik party infinitely.” (Report on the moral discipline of MVD troops in Austria, October 1946.)

“Mankind will soon forget ‘functionalism’ and Soviet architecture will achieve greatness similar to Ancient Greece or the Italian Renaissance”—proclaimed Lunacharsky before Moscow became a showcase of Soviet modernity in the course of the second five-year plan. Western models and the involvement of international experts on city planning were nevertheless decisive as elsewhere at the periphery of Europe—in Athens, Helsinki, Kaunas, Kiev, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius, Warsaw, Zagreb, examined one by one. St. Petersburg, the other Russian metropolis “was long viewed as a masked city, as a façade of Westernization behind which loomed disorder and backwardness… Fact and fiction blurred. And people continually ‘deceived themselves’ about themselves. The ‘power of illusion’ was overwhelming.” Masks and masquerade are leitmotifs in the analysis of the modernization of the city.

Comintern functionaries were a bunch of odd personalities. József Schwarz became an early communist protagonist in Hungary as József Pogány, then in America as John Pepper, and characteristically found his death in Stalin's purge.

The rose’s bud had blossomed out / Reaching out to touch the violet … And you oh Georgian, by studying / Bring joy to your motherland – the first and last lines of Stalin’s youthful poem written in Georgian. “Young Stalin’s poems were real collection of clichés of European romanticism and Persian ornamentalism.”
The literary output of Joseph Stalin is discussed together with that of other despots.
In the strict sense of the word the Soviet dictator did not produce literature in Russian. However, his “biographies of Lenin and Stalin and the Short Course can be understood not simply as works of socialist realism, but as its meta-texts. Stalin was the major Soviet writer.”
“His narrative is in constant stylistic flux. It can shift into the language of a school textbook designed not even for pioneers, but for very young children, and then suddenly simulate the style of historical-party scholarship”.
“The complete lack of self-irony could easily be read as an antimodernist disposition, which Stalin felt not only toward the artistic avant-garde but also for modernism in general.”

Greeted by some as belonging to the "bourgeois-democratic" phase of the socialist revolution, abhorred by others for the gratuitous violence committed by the "dark" and "savage" mass, the 1905 peasant revolts fit into the process that began in 1902 (Poltava, Kharkov) and was ultimately put down by the Red Army during 1920-1922.

Ethnographers helped to perceive, to understand and also to shape imagined communities also in imperial Russia and later in the USSR. The imperial framework in which Russian anthropology emancipated itself as a science favored tendencies of Russian nationalism and 'mission civilisatrice', and indeed subsequently the adaptation to Stalinism. Essays discuss the evaluation of concepts, the main research methods and dominant narratives, early maps and reports on Siberia, the ethnography of children, the dilemmas of research on Ukrainian folklore, the identification of the Chechen and the Ingush, the changing attitude of Karaites to Jewishness, and more.

"There is a blue sea, a stone is in the sea, a church is on the stone; in the church lies a dead man, who does not have a toothache. So let the teeth of Masha not cause pain." This spell takes us to an entirely different world, that of traditional Russian charms. Scholars have engaged into creating an international comparative charm index, based on the typology of magical texts and prayers. The endeavor implies a number of methodological challenges which are discussed in connection with setting up an index of the East Slavic charms. One more example is a charm for stopping bleeding: "Christ is baptised in the Jordan, the Jordan stops; as the River Jordan stops, so let the blood stop in Sergey's wound."

“White smoke ascended from the edges of the fields. This was the city of Dzaug, which had been changed by the Russians into Vladikavkaz.”
The expansion of the empire as perceived and depicted by the late 19th c. Georgian writer.
“It is instructive to compare Cossack stinginess with the generosity of the Chechens, whose faces were luminous with joy when they saw a guest approaching. There were no drunkards among them. By contrast, there was never any shortage of Russian women hovering drunk by the tavern doors.”
“Anzor remembered how they used to drive the livestock of their enemies to their own territories, and how they plundered the Russians, bringing joy to their wives when they returned home… With trembling hands and a pale face, Anzor set his house on fire, to keep it from being plundered by the Russians.”

“For Peter and his successors, the state was always represented as the Russian, not the Romanov Empire, in contrast to the dynastic terms used to characterize the Habsburg (not German) and Ottoman (not Turkish) Empires.”
“At the end of the 18th century, nation and empire largely coincided: East Slavs constituted about 84% of the empire’s population. As a result of subsequent annexations of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Finland, Bessarabia and the Kingdom of Poland, the share of East Slavs decreased to 68%, and that of Great Russians to 46%.”
“With Alexander III, instead of the ethnically inclusive liberal nationalism of 1860–70, an exclusive nationalism with clear racial motives moved to the forefront of Russian politics. He was the first Romanov after Peter I’s father Alexey Mikhailovich to wear a beard, and its shape was similar to that of Russian peasants.”
“Russia was unique in nationalizing enormous territories in the imperial borderlands. This success was mostly achieved by the Great Russian and Little Russian peasant and Cossack colonization. Cossacks, who performed the role of the armed vanguard of the settlement movement, were targeted with brutal repressions as the foes of the Soviet power.”

More monographs from our backlist:

  • Adopted for courses at dozens of American universities: the memoirs of a Russian serf, originally published in 1877;
  • How the Russian empire handled the Ukrainian question, and how did the Romanov empire function as a Russian-dominated multiethnic empire?
  • The monograph on the medical profession and the state in Czarist Russia examines the role of an emerging professional class and its relationship to the legal system;
  • Back in time, Lithuanians and Jews searching positions during the demise of the Russian empire: confront or collaborate?
  • The first concise history of Russian-Jewish literary prose between 1860-1940, the pitfalls of assimilation and the different forms of anti-Semitism;
  • The Stambolov and Zhivkov era are closely linked to Russia (Soviet Union): two of four vital phases of Bulgarian history writing;
  • On the waves of grain and other food shortages in Russia: were Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev right in theory but failed in practice because of unpredictable weather?
  • The search of identities in the official and alternative "Belarusianness", defined of course vis-à-vis "Russianness"; also in the sovereignty movement taking place in Tatarstan; Kalmykia presented to the English reading academic world;
  • Among twenty-nine post-communist transition models the political and economic performance of Russia is also examined; privatization, its policies, practices and outcomes in six transition economies, including the Russian Federation.

Chapters relate to Russians and Russia in comparative and collective volumes, such as:

  • Medieval Muscovite records of witchcraft investigation, 16th c. shamans in north Russia, as well as magic lore among Jews of Carpatho-Russia;
  • Imperial Russia and other empires;
  • The Russian Empire exercised conversion “tous azimuts” with various intensity: Uniates, Protestants, Muslims, Jews etc; the reunification of Greek Catholics with the Russian Orthodox Church advanced sovietization of Western Ukraine, and church attendance in what formerly was Russian Poland;
  • The period of “high Stalinism” has been revisited by multiple generations of scholars: Stalin and his rule provides ample material for historians;
  • The book on the impact of western broadcasts on the USSR;
  • When Russian intelligentsia began losing any hope of reforming Soviet-style communism: did the 1968 spring in Prague and Paris have an impact on this?
  • The analysis of core-periphery relations and globalization embraces a broader
    scope in time and space: Russia is a recurrent topic also in these contexts;
  • Studies on subjects like motherhood, childbearing, single mothers, divorce etc. present family life and childhood in Soviet times and in post-Soviet Russia and the Baltic States.
  • Fresh interpretation of the contexts, meanings, and consequences of the revolutions of 1989 discusses the demise of the Soviet Union from various angles;
  • The true motivations of Gorbachev and other global politicians as revealed in 122 top-level Soviet, European and American archival records from 1989;
  • A collection of documents that are essential to understanding Russian foreign policy and analysis by leading scholars of Russia's post-Soviet foreign policy.
  • The anatomy of the Soviet past in contemporary Russian cinema in the context of post-1989 representation of communism;
  • With regard to the use of media in our age in the post-communist countries, one edited comparative volume seeks to characterize media systems: the Russian case wavers between a polarized pluralist model, a polarized corporatist model, or simply an authoritarian model. Another collection of essays observes media in the context of identities, discussing among others cases of Russian minorities in Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine.