2019 Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize
The 2018 Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize was awarded to Eleonory Gilburd for To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture (Harvard University Press)
Building on scholarship that takes seriously both agency and ideology, Eleonory Gilburd explores how Soviet elites, cadres, and average citizens engaged Western and Soviet culture in the aftermath of Stalinism and Khrushchev’s Thaw. Using a variety of archival sources and employing a style that draws the reader into mass events and personal accounts, Gilburd shows us that the post-Stalin era was not a generic “opening” after Stalinism, but a true attempt at “translating” Western culture into novel cultural experiences. Gilburd portrays a nuanced and sometimes contradictory era in which Soviet citizens, in various social and institutional positions, tried to make sense of their place in the world and of that new world itself. Western writers and directors, playwrights and performers, some of whom had been embraced and then banned in the 1930s, became the fulcra for evaluating and inspiring the alternative Soviet civilization. (Papa Hemingway, it seems, was a cultural father to a far more enormous flock than was once imagined.) The Cold War comes across not only as a sabre-rattling episode that created new material borders, such as in Berlin, but also as a period when Soviet citizens and artists, American tourists and French filmmakers, as well as diplomats and bureaucrats of all stripes sought to cross those borders as much out of curiosity and engagement of “the Other” as for geopolitical advantage. Official reports from inside the state, Western and Soviet own accounts, Eastern and Western comments on exhibitions, movies and books, in addition to recollections and personal collections, all tell a tale of how, in the midst of superpowers daring each other to blink first, East and West engaged each other in myriad forms of “cultural exchange” that challenged ideologies on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Honorable Mention: Benn Steil
Title: The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War (Oxford University Press)
The Marshall Plan was an attempt to rebuild Europe and facilitate a new interstate community after the destruction of World War II. At the same time, this massive aid effort also contributed to the distrust and opposition that turned into a fifty-year Cold War. How could something so seemingly constructive from the perspective of one side, even if permeated with geopolitical interests, contribute to a confrontation that would threaten humanity? Benn Steil reveals not only the role of geopolitical interests (especially but not only of Stalin and American elites), but also the centrality of miscommunication and complexity of diplomatic networks between and within elites of leading countries. Steil shows how a program designed ostensibly for aid turned into a tool that hastened the creation of opposing armed camps in Europe and beyond.