2019 Cohen-Tucker Fellows Announced

Publishing Date: 
Tuesday, May 14, 2019

ASEEES is delighted to announce the 2019 Stephen F. Cohen-Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship recipients. The Cohen–Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship (CTDRF) Program for Russian Historical Studies supports the next generation of US scholars to conduct their doctoral dissertation research in Russia. The CTDRF Program is sponsored by the KAT Charitable Foundation, which we thank for its generous support.

Tyler Adkins, Princeton University
Ismael Biyashev, University of Illinois at Chicago
Geoffrey Durham, University of Pennsylvania
W. Forrest Holden, University of Michigan
Svetlana Ter-Grigoryan, The Ohio State University

Nicholas Bujalski, Cornell University
Virginia Olmsted-McGraw, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Tyler Adkins
Princeton University

“Talkan in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Making, Working and Consuming in the Late-Soviet Altai Mountains”

Tyler Adkins’ project seeks to understand the indigenization of late Soviet modes of life in present-day Altai Republic, Russia through an oral history of domestic food production in rural areas. More specifically, this research project examines the paradox of why the domestic labor of food production—ostensibly a “survival” of pre-Soviet rural economy— is now remembered by post-Soviet Altai people as an exemplary instance of the virtues of the Soviet way of life. In combining oral history with ethnography, this project aims to understand not only the late-Soviet period but also contemporary, post-Soviet Altai and its relation to its Soviet past: how do Soviet-era ways of living and working now appear as objects of nostalgic desire, rejection or emulation in the creation of post-Soviet Altai selves?

Ismael Biyashev
University of Illinois at Chicago

“Beyond Myths and Ruins: Archaeology and Nomadism in Russia, 1850-1925” 

Bridging the divide between the disciplines of history and archaeology, Ismael Biyashev’s dissertation is the first attempt to write a history of the archaeology of nomadism in the Russian empire and the early Soviet Union, and therefore fills an important historiographic gap. Through the analytical framework of the imperial situation, his project builds on the existing historiography of knowledge production in the human sciences in the late-imperial and early Soviet context and introduces an international and intra-regional comparative element. Furthermore, he raises new questions about the nature of Russian imperial modernity and about the raptures and continuities between the late imperial and early Soviet contexts of studying nomadic archaeology. Cognizant of the post-colonial critique of the study of archaeology in the imperial context, his dissertation devotes special attention to native and indigenous historical actors in Southern Russia, Central Asia, and Siberia. Additionally, the case studies that he examines call into question the effortless transition between the imperial and national, thus reevaluating Russia’s trajectory as an imperial power. He considers how multiple imperial agents and subjects, including representatives of nomadic cultures under Russian imperial rule, self-proclaimed amateur archaeologists, and other actors interpreted and instrumentalized ancient nomadic material culture.

Geoffrey Durham
University of Pennsylvania

“The Standards of Evaluation: Weights, Measures, and the Politics of Building a Russian Imperial Economy, 1775-1857”

Durham’s dissertation investigates the drive to standardize the units of weight and measurement in the Russian Empire between 1775 and 1857. He begins with Catherine II’s attempts to implement metrological uniformity in order to foster commercial development, and end with the turn to replace Russian units with the metric system. He approaches these reforms as technologies of economy- and state-building enacted during a period marked by substantial territorial expansion, the Napoleonic Wars, and the renovation of imperial governance. In analyzing how the non-standardized metrological system functioned, he also explores why an ethos of standardization emerged in these years. Identifying nodes of support for and opposition to the reforms within the broader population is a central concern of his project. Through the reactions of peasants, merchants, landlords, industrialists, academicians, and bureaucrats he attempts to delineate the consolidation of interest groups along political and economic lines. This project is thus at once a study of the state’s plans to mediate commercial relations and of the people who constituted those relations.

W. Forrest Holden
University of Michigan

“Disciplining Belief: Gender, Superstition, and Witchcraft Persecution, 1760-1860” 

W. Forrest Holden’s dissertation is a cultural history of magic-belief and witchcraft persecution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Drawing on trial records, published divination pamphlets, and literary representations of magic and witchcraft, it considers the relationship between the Enlightenment notions of individual subjectivity, the decriminalization of witchcraft, and the increasing tendency to accuse women, rather than men, of practicing magic. Based on these sources, this dissertation argues that the Enlightenment understanding of gender that emerged in Western Europe informed the practice of witchcraft persecution on both the part of the state, and on the part of ordinary accusers in witchcraft cases.

Svetlana Ter-Grigoryan
The Ohio State University

“There is No Sex in the USSR: Sex, Soviet Identity, and Glasnost”

Svetlana Ter-Grigoryan’s dissertation argues that Soviet public discourse, scholarly studies, and cultural representations on and about sexuality acted as a site for Soviet people to explore and negotiate larger issues around Soviet identity, moral upheaval, and rapid reform. Between 1987 and 1991, Soviet people engaged in literary, cultural, medical, and legal debates about the role of sex and sexuality in Soviet society. Prior to glasnost, the official stance of the state was that sex primarily a means to an end: the conception of future Soviet generations. Glasnost allowed people to reconsider several aspects of everyday life, including sexuality. Her project helps expand a limited understanding of the perestroika years by looking beyond the immediate political and economic instabilities and highlighting the country’s social and moral battles. She explores the mutually-constitutive relationship between sexuality and anxieties regarding gender, family, crime, identity, morality, and more under late socialism. Additionally, her project contributes to a growing body of work in the history of sexuality in Russian studies by arguing that sexuality was integral to how people shaped their very identities as Soviet subjects vis-à-vis the Soviet system and state.


Nicholas Bujalski
Cornell University

“Russia's Peter and Paul Fortress: From Heart of Empire to Museum of the Revolution, 1825-1930”

Nicholas Bujalski’s project is a cultural, intellectual, and spatial history of Russia’s Peter and Paul Fortress: founding site of St. Petersburg, mausoleum of the imperial family, and Romanov Russia’s most notorious political prison. Here the empire’s most illustrious dissidents – Bakunin, Chernyshevsky, Kropotkin, Trotsky – not only suffered, but also wrote novels and treatises, planned future political activities, and reimagined what it meant to be a revolutionary actor in tsarist Russia. As successive dissident generations learned to navigate (and narrate) the Fortress prison cell, this citadel was gradually transformed from a site of autocratic pageantry and mute discipline into a stage for the production of the radical self and, eventually, a soviet Museum of the Revolution. Tracing this development from 1825 to 1930 leads us to new insights into the birth of the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia; the entwinement of symbols, spaces, and subjects in cultures of dissent; and the history of political imprisonment in European modernity.

Virginia Olmsted-McGraw
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Soviet by Design: Fashion, Consumption, and International Competition during Late Socialism, 1948-1980”

Virginia Olmsted-McGraw’s dissertation examines the evolution of a Soviet fashion industry and the primary state institution of clothing design, the All-Union House of Design (ODMO). The ODMO could influence every level of production, as its designers not only designed clothing, but also advised factory managers, decided which clothing went into mass production, and bore responsibility for marketing. Designers believed that fashion could unify the Soviet Union on two fronts: at home, with citizens wearing Soviet-designed and manufactured clothing, and abroad, at international competitions, as a symbol of the USSR’s artistic and cultural dominance. Olmsted-McGraw studies the ODMO in order to gain a greater understanding of the artistic and cultural history of the USSR, the “cultural” Cold War, and the nature of the command economy. Her project draws on the methodologies of institutional, gender, cultural, and transnational history, which allows me to examine the ODMO’s place within the Soviet state and economy, the impact of the organization domestically and internationally, as well as the artistic and cultural context influencing design. Her study speaks to the limited scholarship on Russian, Soviet, and Eastern bloc fashion, to debates on Cold War competition and consumption, and to emerging discussion of everyday life and the nature of “late” socialism.