Current Institutional Affiliation
Due Diligence Researcher

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Pennsylvania
Porous Empire: Foreign Visitors and the post-Stalin Transformation of the Soviet Union

This project will study the interaction among foreign visitors, the Soviet state and Soviet society in the post-Stalin era. It aims to reconstruct both the socio-cultural impact of the tens of millions of foreigners who visited the Soviet Union between the late 1950s and the early 1980s, and the dilemmas the Soviet authorities faced as they negotiated the clashing imperatives of Cold War cultural diplomacy and their fears of foreign ideological and moral contamination. By looking at a series of case studies including Soviet attempts to control foreign traffic and visitors' efforts evade them, the impact of foreign travel on the Soviet western borderlands, the experience of foreign students in Soviet universities, and foreign support for the Soviet Jewish immigration movement, I will argue that the encounters between Soviet citizens and foreigners in the post-Stalin era constituted a vast transnational network that injected new ideas, identities, fashions and patterns of consumption into a hitherto closed society. The existence of this network and the Soviet failure to sever or control it weakened the ideological control mechanisms of the Soviet party-state and demonstrated the extent to which the post-Stalin Soviet Union became enmeshed in the emerging global regime of increased human, information and capital flows. The Soviet experience of foreign travel and its contribution to the disintegration of the socialist project constitutes therefore a case study of globalization and its impact on the late 20th century erosion of authoritarian regimes and non-capitalist social orders. By studying the Soviet Union's foreign encounters, this project aims to place the post-Stalin era in a global comparative context, to contribute to the growing literature on the influence of transnational forces on Soviet history, and to integrate the Soviet experience into our understanding of the history of the present-day globalized world order.