Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, James Madison University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of Illinois / Urbana-Champaign
The "Right to be Helped": Welfare Policies and Notions of Rights at the Margins of Soviet Society, 1917-1953

The Soviet alternative to notions of rights is still uncharted in global social history. In my dissertation I will trace its course cross the first three decades of Soviet history (1917-1953). I will examine the multiplicity of ideas that underlie the defense of rights with reference to four major groups of marginalized citizens: blind and deaf-mute, orphans and disabled children, single mothers, and political prisoners. Beliefs in human dignity, notions of citizenship, and legal claims to aid were variously associated in the mental frameworks and emotional worlds of these individuals. Using citizens' requests for help as a major arena where ideas of entitlement were concretely played out, my research seeks to disentangle this tightly woven net of concepts and test whether a consciousness of rights permeated the Russian intellectual soil during Stalinism. I would propose the term "right to be helped" to signify a longstanding Russian tradition that related help to the needy with the rights of the human person. The Stalinist state buried this tradition and misconstrued notions of legal rights, but, perhaps, never obliterated a consciousness of rights in its citizens.