front cover of Bread upon the Waters
Bread upon the Waters
The St. Petersburg Grain Trade and the Russian Economy, 1703-1811
Robert E. Jones
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013
In eighteenth-century Russia, as elsewhere in Europe, bread was a dietary staple—truly grain was the staff of economic, social, and political life. Early on Tsar Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg to export goods from Russia’s vast but remote interior and by doing so to drive Russia’s growth and prosperity. But the new city also had to be fed with grain brought over great distances from those same interior provinces. In this compelling account, Robert E. Jones chronicles how the unparalleled effort put into the building of a wide infrastructure to support the provisioning of the newly created but physically isolated city of St. Petersburg profoundly affected all of Russia’s economic life and, ultimately, the historical trajectory of the Russian Empire as a whole.

Jones details the planning, engineering, and construction of extensive canal systems that efficiently connected the new capital city to grain and other resources as far away as the Urals, the Volga, and Ukraine. He then offers fresh insights to the state’s careful promotion and management of the grain trade during the long eighteenth century. He shows how the government established public granaries to combat shortages, created credit instruments to encourage risk taking by grain merchants, and encouraged the development of capital markets and private enterprise. The result was the emergence of an increasingly important cash economy along with a reliable system of provisioning the fifth largest city in Europe, with the political benefit that St. Petersburg never suffered the food riots common elsewhere in Europe.

Thanks to this well-regulated but distinctly free-market trade arrangement, the grain-fueled economy became a wellspring for national economic growth, while also providing a substantial infrastructural foundation for a modernizing Russian state.  In many ways, this account reveals the foresight of both Peter I and Catherine II and their determination to steer imperial Russia’s national economy away from statist solutions and onto a path remarkably similar to that taken by Western European countries but distinctly different than that of either their Muscovite predecessors or Soviet successors.


front cover of Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution
Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution
Mob Justice and Police in Petrograd
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa
Harvard University Press, 2017

Russians from all walks of life poured into the streets of the imperial capital after the February Revolution of 1917, joyously celebrating the end of Tsar Nicholas II’s monarchy. One year later, with Lenin’s Bolsheviks now in power, Petrograd’s deserted streets presented a very different scene. No celebrations marked the Revolution’s anniversary. Amid widespread civil strife and lawlessness, a fearful citizenry stayed out of sight.

In Crime and Punishment in the Russian Revolution, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa offers a new perspective on Russia’s revolutionary year through the lens of violent crime and its devastating effect on ordinary people. When the Provisional Government assumed power after Nicholas II’s abdication, it set about instituting liberal reforms, including eliminating the tsar’s regular police. But dissolving this much-hated yet efficient police force and replacing it with a new municipal police led rapidly to the breakdown of order and services. Amid the chaos, crime flourished. Gangs of criminals, deserters, and hooligans brazenly roamed the streets. Mass prison escapes became common. And vigilantism spread widely as ordinary citizens felt compelled to take the law into their own hands, often meting out mob justice on suspected wrongdoers.

The Bolsheviks swept into power in the October Revolution but had no practical plans to reestablish order. As crime continued to escalate and violent alcohol riots almost drowned the revolutionary regime, they redefined it as “counterrevolutionary activity,” to be dealt with by the secret police, whose harshly repressive, extralegal means of enforcement helped pave the way for a Communist dictatorship.


front cover of The Mitki and the Art of Postmodern Protest in Russia
The Mitki and the Art of Postmodern Protest in Russia
Alexandar Mihailovic
University of Wisconsin Press, 2019
During the late Soviet period, the art collective known as the Mitki emerged in Leningrad. Producing satirical poetry and prose, pop music, cinema, and conceptual performance art, this group fashioned a playful, emphatically countercultural identity with affinities to European avant-garde and American hippie movements.

More broadly, Alexandar Mihailovic shows, the Mitki pioneered a form of political protest art that has since become a centerpiece of activism in post-Soviet Russia, most visibly today in groups such as Pussy Riot. He draws on extensive interviews with members of the collective and illuminates their critique of the authoritarian state, militarism, and social strictures from the Brezhnev years to the present.

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Nikolai Evreinov & Others
»The Storming of the Winter Palace«
Edited by Inke Arns, Sylvia Sasse, and Igor Chubarov
Diaphanes, 2017
In 1920, on the third anniversary of the October Revolution, dramatist Nikolai Evreinov directed a cast of 10,000 actors, dancers, and circus performers—as well as a convoy of armored cars and tanks—in The Storming of the Winter Palace. The mass spectacle, presented in and around the real Winter Palace in Petrograd, was intended to recall the storming as the beginning of the October Revolution. But it was a deceptive reenactment because, in producing the events it sought to reenact, it created a new kind of theater, agit-drama, promulgating political propaganda and deliberately breaking down the distinction between performers and spectators.

Nikolaj Evreinov: “The Storming of the Winter Palace” tells the fascinating story of this production. Taking readers through the relevant history, the authors describe the role of The Storming of the Winter Palace in commemorating Soviet power. With a wealth of illustrations, they also show how photographs of Evreinov’s theatrical storming eventually became historical documents of the October Revolution themselves.

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Shock Therapy
Psychology, Precarity, and Well-Being in Postsocialist Russia
Tomas Matza
Duke University Press, 2018
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia witnessed a dramatic increase in psychotherapeutic options, which promoted social connection while advancing new forms of capitalist subjectivity amid often-wrenching social and economic transformations. In Shock Therapy Tomas Matza provides an ethnography of post-Soviet Saint Petersburg, following psychotherapists, psychologists, and their clients as they navigate the challenges of post-Soviet life. Juxtaposing personal growth and success seminars for elites with crisis counseling and remedial interventions for those on public assistance, Matza shows how profound inequalities are emerging in contemporary Russia in increasingly intimate ways as matters of selfhood. Extending anthropologies of neoliberalism and care in new directions, Matza offers a profound meditation on the interplay between ethics, therapy, and biopolitics, as well as a sensitive portrait of everyday caring practices in the face of the confounding promise of postsocialist democracy.

front cover of VISIONS OF EDEN
The Ohio State University Press, 1997
"Stephenson's story of the rise, fall, and resurrections of a good idea takes the reader on a whirlwind tour through planning, political, and public works history. It also contains several messages we should all bear in mind. One is that any city planning should be truly comprehensive and environmentally responsible, considering both what we have built and what we have inherited, and balancing what we want with what we need. Another is that planners and zoning officers must share the same goals. The third is a timely and painful reminder to those of us who frequently lose patience with the way things work, and that is that no one really cares about the future when the present is glittering so brightly." --Environmental History "This study is the first book-length treatment of St. Petersburg's development and is a major contribution to American urban and urban-planning history." --Choice Florida enjoys the only subtropical climate in the continental United States. Its burgeoning population and robust tourist economy attest to the state's special allure. Innovative new towns like Miami Lakes and Seaside, along with established communities such as Winter Park and Coral Gables, exemplify Florida's beauty and potential. St. Petersburg, the largest city in Florida's most urbanized county, epitomizes the best and the worst of the state's city planning history. Enterprise and technology transformed this once struggling backwater into an air-conditioned vision of Eden, but a heavy debt was accumulated in the process. Paradise is under siege: wetlands have been drained, mangroves cleared, sand dunes leveled, bays degraded and filled; water must be imported from inland wells. Although the city now has an innovative growth management system, it was perilously late in coming. In Visions of Eden, R. Bruce Stephenson examines how St. Petersburg learned to control its development. Since the turn of the century, the opportunity to design a city nestled in a subtropical garden has attracted the nation's preeminent planners to St. Petersburg. The most ambitious plan was developed in 1923 by John Nolen, who believed that an interconnected system of preserves and parks would enhance the city's development and attract tourists for generations. His initiative failed miserably at the polls, however, because it threatened the conflicting notion of paradise held by hundreds of investors, who were profiting from the greatest real estate boom in the nation's history and feared that planning would curtail speculation. As Stephenson points out, a half century would pass until a series of ecological disasters in the 1970s finally compelled city officials to adopt an environmentally sound development plan that reflected Nolen's original vision. Stephenson carefully explores St. Petersburg's slow awakening to ecological responsibility--to the importance of designing a community that meets both human needs and economic demands. As the debate over the "New Urbanism" moves forward, this book will serve as a useful guide for those who will plan, build, and inhabit the cities of the twenty-first century. R. Bruce Stephenson is an associate professor and chair of the environmental studies department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

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The War Within
Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad
Alexis Peri
Harvard University Press, 2017

Winner of the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
Winner of the University of Southern California Book Prize
Honorable Mention, Reginald Zelnik Book Prize

“Fascinating and perceptive.”
—Antony Beevor, New York Review of Books

“Stand aside, Homer. I doubt whether even the author of the Iliad could have matched Alexis Peri’s account of the 872-day siege which Leningrad endured.”
—Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator

“Powerful and illuminating…A fascinating, insightful, and nuanced work.”
—Anna Reid, Times Literary Supplement

“Much has been written about Leningrad’s heroic resistance. But the remarkable aspect of [Peri’s] book is that she tells a very different story: recounting the internal struggles of ordinary people desperately trying to survive and make sense of their fate.”
—John Thornhill, Financial Times

“A sensitive, at times almost poetic examination of their emotions and disordered mental states. It both contrasts with and complements the equally accurate official Soviet portrait of a stalwart population standing firm in the face of evil and in defense of Soviet ideals.”
—Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

In September 1941, two and a half months after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, the German Wehrmacht encircled Leningrad. Cut off from the rest of Russia, the city remained blockaded for 872 days, at a cost of almost a million lives. It was one of the longest and deadliest sieges in modern history.

The War Within chronicles the Leningrad blockade from the perspective of those who endured it. Drawing on unpublished diaries, Alexis Peri tells the tragic story of how young and old struggled to make sense of a world collapsing around them. When the blockade was lifted in 1944, Kremlin officials censored publications describing the ordeal and arrested many of Leningrad’s wartime leaders. Some were executed. Diaries—now dangerous to their authors—were concealed, shelved in archives, and forgotten. The War Within recovers these lost accounts, shedding light on one of World War II’s darkest episodes while paying tribute the resilience of the human spirit.


front cover of The Writer in Petrograd and the House of Arts
The Writer in Petrograd and the House of Arts
Martha Weitzel Hickey
Northwestern University Press, 2009
Founded by Maksim Gorky and Kornei Chukovsky in 1919 and disbanded in 1922, the Petrograd House of Arts occupied a crucial moment in Russia's cultural history. By chronicling the rise and fall of this literary landmark, this book conveys in greater depth and detail than ever before a significant but little studied period in Soviet literature.
Poised between Russian culture's past and her Soviet future, between pre- and post-Revolutionary generations, this once lavish private home on the Nevsky Prospekt housed as many as fifty-six poets, novelists, critics, and artists at one time, during a period of great social and political turbulence. And as such, Hickey contends, the House of Arts served as a crucible for a literature in transition. Hickey shows how the House of Arts, though virtually ignored by Soviet-era cultural historians, played a critical role in shaping the lively literature of the next decade, a literature often straddling the border between fiction and non-fiction. Considering prose writers such as Yevgeny Zamyatin, Olga Forsh, the Serapion Brothers group, Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, as well as poets including Alexander Blok, Nikolay Gumilev, Anna Radlova, Osip Mandelstam, and Vladislav Khodasevich, she traces the comings and goings at the House of Arts: the meetings and readings and lectures and, most of all, the powerful influence of these interactions on those who briefly lived and worked there. In her work, the Petrograd House of Arts appears for the first time in all its complexity and importance, as a focal point for the social and cultural ferment of the day, and a turning point in the direction of Russian literature and criticism.

front cover of Writing the Siege of Leningrad
Writing the Siege of Leningrad
Womens Diaries Memoirs and Documentary Prose
Cynthia Simmons
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005

Silver Winner, ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year, History

From September 1941 until January 1944, Leningrad suffered under one of the worst sieges in the history of warfare. At least one million civilians died, many during the terribly cold first winter. Bearing the brunt of this hardship—and keeping the city alive through their daily toil and sacrifice—were the women of Leningrad. Yet their perspective on life during the siege has been little examined.

Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina have searched archival holdings for letters and diaries written during the siege, conducted interviews with survivors, and collected poetry, fiction, and retrospective memoirs written by the blokadnitsy (women survivors) to present a truer picture of the city under siege. In simple, direct, even heartbreaking language, these documents tell of lost husbands, mothers, children; meager rations often supplemented with sawdust and other inedible additives; crime, cruelty, and even cannibalism. They also relate unexpected acts of kindness and generosity; attempts to maintain cultural life through musical and dramatic performances; and provide insight into a group of ordinary women reaching beyond differences in socioeconomic class, ethnicity, and profession in order to survive in extraordinary times.


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