Citations for Past Winners of the W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize



Rebecca Mitchell for Nietzsche’s Orphans:  Music, Metaphysics, and the Twilight of the Russian Empire (Yale University Press)

In this engaging and intellectually elegant book, Rebecca Mitchell explores how music emerged as a key instrument in the construction of Russian identity.  Drawing on an exceptional range of archival and published sources, she traces music’s central importance to the Silver Age era and to the aesthetic community she terms “Nietzsche’s orphans.”  Mitchell argues that, at once inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s call for “myth creation” yet troubled by many of the implications of his thought, the late imperial Russian cultural elite envisioned music as a unifying force that could overcome the divisions of modern life and usher in a new stage in human history.  Mitchell charts the rise and disintegration of this musical metaphysics amidst the turmoil of political crisis, war, and revolution.  She explores the elaboration of musical metaphysics through the lives, thoughts, and compositional language of the composers Aleksandr Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Nikolai Medtner, while also reconstructing the flow of ideas and influences through a cultural network comprised of composers, music critics, and music lovers.  Mitchell’s intellectual history of music’s cultural meaning contributes to the fields of cultural history, music history, philosophy, the history of emotions, and the history of social networks.   It is a model of innovative interdisciplinary research.


Russell Martin for A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia (Northern Illinois University Press) 

In this innovative study, Russell Martin uses the early modern bride-show – an intricate ritual through which royal brides were chosen – to shed new and interesting light on high politics in Muscovy. Drawing on an impressively broad range of primary sources related to royal marriage, Martin convincingly argues that this seemingly exotic ritual was embedded in a complicated set of political negotiations among the Russian ruling elite. The bride-show enabled the tsar to choose a native-born bride from outside the ruling boyar clans, while still enabling boyar elites to exercise influence over that choice. Through this one event, the marriage of the tsar, we can observe the delicate balance of political power at the centre and the practical limits to monarchical authority. In addition to politics, this book makes an important contribution to social and cultural history. Martin offers a fascinating account of the early modern bride show, persuasively demonstrating that it was not a peculiarly Russian cultural artifact, but a ritual similar to those observed across Eurasia in various periods. Martin’s study is meticulously researched, rich in detail, and engagingly written.


Tracy Dennison for The Institutional Framework of Russian Serfdom (Cambridge U Press)

In The Institutional Framework of Russian Serfdom, Tracy Dennison offers a compelling new interpretation of Russian serfdom that makes us rethink Russian rural history and the history of Russian economic development. Based on painstaking research and rigorous analysis, the book paints a richly textured and often surprising portrait of serfs' lives and economic relations on the Voshchaznikovo estate, a Sheremetyevo family holding in the Yaroslavl region. Deftly moving between the micro history of a single estate and the master narratives that have shaped Russian rural and economic history, Dennison skillfully challenges the "peasant myth" that has long presented Russian rural society as dominated by communal landholding and collectivist behavior. In its stead, she reveals a rural world in which serfs participated in markets in land, labour, and credit, all enabled by the institutions of serfdom. The result is an ambitious, nuanced, and thought-provoking treatment of serfdom, Russian society, and the vagaries of Russian economic development in the century preceding emancipation. It is a model of empirical historical scholarship.

Honorable Mention

Kristin Roth-EyMoscow Prime Time: How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire that Lost the Cultural Cold War (Cornell U Press)

In Moscow Prime Time, Kristin Roth-Ey takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the Soviet media empire, from its inception in the 1950s through to its zenith under late Socialism. This smart and engaging book offers a probing analysis of the cultural mission that animated Soviet cinema, radio and television and of the forces that shaped and constrained it, including cold-war competition, technological change, and popular taste. Beautifully written and subtly argued, Moscow Prime Time casts new light on the mechanisms of Soviet cultural production and on the tensions that defined Soviet Culture in the mass media age. It is a lively, ambitious, and original study, with significant conclusions about both the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet project.


Rebecca Manley for To the Tashkent Station: Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War (Cornell University Press)

Movingly written and exhaustively researched, Rebecca Manley's To the Tashkent Station portrays a legendary but poorly understood aspect of the Soviet war experience: the massive evacuation of more than sixteen million Soviet citizens from the combat zones deep into the Soviet interior, and their eventual return. Situating the story in the Stalinist context of mass mobilization and police controls, Manley deftly weaves a narrative that leads the reader from the offices of institutional policy makers to the inner worlds of Soviet men and women from all walks of life who bore the devastating impact of mobilization, evacuation, and return. A stimulating analysis of the workings of the Soviet state during the Second World War, as well as its cultural and moral order, Manley's book moves from political to social to experiential themes with ease, and sustains its analysis with unfailing rigor. The result is a compelling, deeply informative, and synthetic study—a model historical work.


John Randolph for A House in the Garden: The Bakunin Family and the Romance of Russian Idealism (Cornell University Press)

The selection committee judged John Randolph's monograph, A House in the Garden: The Bakunin Family and the Romance of Russian Idealism, to be an extraordinary piece of original research, careful analysis, and superb writing. Taking a subject thoroughly investigated by other historians, Randolph proves to be surprisingly innovative and original, not only drawing on a wealth of new information but also presenting a powerful argument about the impact of domestic life on the lives and thinking of the Russian intelligentsia. That argument provides a fresh new perspective on the Russian intelligentsia, going well beyond the traditional historiography that reduced the history of the Russian intelligentsia to an abstract Geistesgeschichte. This volume is also beautifully written, a model of elegant prose that serves as a tribute to the scholar in whose name this award was created.

Honorable Mentions

Jochen HellbeckRevolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin (Harvard University Press)

Marianne KampThe New Woman in Uzbekistan: Islam, Modernity, and Unveiling under Communism (University of Washington Press)

Ethan PollockStalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Princeton University Press)


Douglas Northrop for Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia (Cornell University Press)

Douglas Northrop's Veiled Empire is a book remarkable in its interdisciplinary and thematic breadth. Northrop uses the hujum—the Soviet government's campaign against female veiling in Uzbekistan from the 1920s through the 1930s— as the entryway to a complex analysis of the dynamics of nation building in the early Soviet state. Northrop explores how party ideologues struggled to define distinguishing traits of national and ethnic identity in the fluid situation of Central Asia, and finally made veiling a marker for Uzbek identity, despite the ubiquity of veiling practices across the region. He chronicles debates between central and local authorities about the attempt to fit Uzbek culture into a class-based formula of identity; he tracks how the Party pragmatically utilized categories of gender and ethnicity to forge Uzbek nationality. In its insistence on transforming daily life to conform to the norms of a presumed "superior" Russian civilization, Northrop argues, the early Soviet state acted as a colonial power, evoking a label that both the Soviet regime and its historians are loath to use. However, Northrop regards Central Asia as an atypical empire, comparable to the American empire of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which leaders and scholars are similarly reluctant to categorize as "colonial."

Northrop grounds his argument in massive empirical research. His focus is on the individuals who made, enforced, and resisted the policy of hujum; he draws evidence from public health records, ethnographic studies, memoirs, newspapers, and Party records. Informed by anthropological theory, Veiled Empire portrays "lived experience," transmitting the feel of the turbulent interplay of ideology, state power and community and individual resistance that plagued the Soviet effort to change patterns of daily life. His chapter on legal prosecutions of violations of dress policy particularly masterfully demonstrates the contradictions of central policy and the complexity of community resistance to it; his focus on women's agency encompasses not only those who resisted change, but also those who embraced it. His work is not devoid of irony, inasmuch as Northrop shows that Uzbek national identity was forged as much in the stubborn assertion of traditional cultural norms as in the adoption of new Soviet culture. Veiled Empire is a work of distinction, written with grace and depth and the prize committee—Gregory Freeze, Terry Martin and Nancy Kollmann— is pleased to present the second W. Bruce Lincoln Prize to Douglas Northrop.


Benjamin Nathans for Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia (University of California Press)

Benjamin Nathans' Beyond the Pale is a book remarkable for its originality of conception, its innovative and wide-ranging research, and its vivid characterization of the figures he describes. It accomplishes nothing less than a rethinking and reformulation of the Jewish experience in Russia. Shifting the focus from the shtetl to Petersburg and emphasizing the role of the Petersburg Jewish elite in defending Jewish interests, Nathans gives us new insights into the culture of Russian Jews and their relationship to Russian state and society. His concept of "selective integration" explains the seeming contradictory impressions we have of Jews as an oppressed and persecuted minority and yet numbering among them leading figures in the pre-revolutionary merchantry, intelligentsia, and bar. Although acutely aware of the barriers to Jewish mobility, Nathans does not emphasize anti-Semitism to explain the vagaries of tsarist policy or the disappointments and outright oppression of Russian Jews. He analyzes privileged Jews, their Russian colleagues, and tsarist policymakers with reference to broad patterns of political, social, and economic change in post-emancipation Russia. The chapters on the Jews in the university and in the legal system are particularly brilliant. They reveal the extent of Jewish involvement in pre-revolutionary intellectual life in Russia, and how Jews took advantage of the opportunities opened to them in the Russian educational and legal system. Nathans shows that though these opportunities were curtailed with the reactionary tendencies on the rise in the late nineteenth century, educated Jews, and particularly attorneys, played a crucial role in advancing Russian law and legal practice, as they came to see the legal system as the principal means to defend Jewish rights. In addition to telling a moving story of human struggle, hope, achievement, and failure, Nathans situates his subject in the broader picture of European Jewry and illuminates the larger problem of the birth of the modern world for European Jews, Russian Jews, and Russians themselves. Beyond the Pale is a work of great distinction, written with grace and power and the prize committee—Richard Wortman, Elise Wirtschafter, and Elizabeth Wood—is pleased to present the first W. Bruce Lincoln prize to Benjamin Nathans.