2019 W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize
The 2019 W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize is awarded to Sarah Cameron for The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan (Cornell University Press)
Sarah Cameron’s book, The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan, is a pioneering and exceptionally well-written study of the disastrous forced collectivization of the nomadic peoples of Soviet Kazakhstan 1930-1933. This operation resulted in the destruction of age-old nomadic practices that worked well in the arid ecosystem of the steppe; it modernized and industrialized agriculture in a way that badly overtaxed the environment. Cameron asks how the ensuing famine, which killed about 25% of the ethnic Kazakh population, could stay hidden for so long, in contrast, for example, to the Ukrainian Holodomor. Using both Kazakh and Russian sources, she argues that the lack of foreign witnesses and the mere disappearance of nomads meant that the deaths 1.5 million people remained shrouded in silence. In addition, she succeeds in showing the tragic truth that the Soviet state drove a wedge into Kazakh society, turning some Kazakhs against their nomadic fellows. While she addresses the “special victim” aspects of the horrific Ukrainian story, Cameron’s argument shows an even more disastrous and horrifying centrally planned policy of rooting out old forms of agriculture and animal husbandry that were perceived to be in conflict with a grotesquely simplistic reading of Marxist-Leninist historical determinism.
Honorable Mention: Elizabeth McGuire
Title: Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution (Oxford University Press)
In her book, Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution, Elizabeth McGuire deploys formidable linguistic skills (in both Chinese and Russian) to tell a history of relations—both personal and public—between Chinese and Russian socialist true believers. Conceived in the genre of the romance of unrequited love, McGuire’s story starts in the 1920s and ends with the Chinese cultural revolution (1966-1976). Claiming that typically young radicals fall in love with the leaders of a previous revolution, McGuire shows how young Chinese revolutionaries who studied in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s became enamored of the Russian revolutionary model. The originality of Red at Heart lies in its subjective approach, telling the personal stories of Chinese and Russian students, who actually married and started families, and subsequently played interesting roles in their respective governments. McGuire offers a unique cultural and social story of interaction between Marxist ideology and the realities of building socialism.