Rory Finnin’s Blood of Others is a timely and brilliantly insightful study of the role of literature in highlighting the injustice of the deportation of Crimean Tatars from their homeland in 1944 and their continued decades-long forced exile in Central Asia and Siberia. It shows how poetry played a galvanizing role in focusing attention on the suffering of the Tatars, both within the Soviet Union and in the international community. Finnin highlights the power of literature not only to create public pressure to affect political outcomes, but also to forge new connections among colonized and disadvantaged populations. He traces the impact of the deportation not just on the literary consciousness of the Crimean Tatars themselves, but also its impact on Ukrainian, Russian, and Turkish culture. In doing so, Finnin highlights the interconnections among key cultural figures of the four societies and explains how these interactions had the effect of boosting the visibility of the Crimean Tatars’ cause beyond anything that Tatar activists may have been able to produce on their own. The political and moral significance of the alliance between Tatar and Ukrainian activists, and the lasting solidarity that emerged out of it is particularly highlighted.
A highly engaging read, Blood of Others excels at drawing the reader in to the story not just of the deportation, but of the Soviet regime’s efforts to erase all traces of the Tatars’ presence in Crimea. Finnin does this by drawing on primary sources in four languages. He also brings the story up to the present day by discussing the role of activist literature in the Tatars’ repossession of Crimea after the breakup of the Soviet Union and in the Tatars’ reaction to Russia’s forced annexation of the region in 2014.
Adrienne Edgar’s monograph, Intermarriage and the Friendship of Peoples, is a fascinating and deeply researched study of Soviet multinationalism, nationality policies, and racialization explored through the story of mixed couples and families in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in the late Soviet and post-Soviet eras. Drawing on more than eighty oral history interviews as well as memoirs, films, interviews with Soviet academics, and both published and unpublished Soviet documents and articles, Edgar invites the reader into the lives and experiences of ordinary citizens who were at once celebrated as symbols of the internationalist Soviet vanguard and exposed to the limitations of the Soviet national project and, increasingly, ethnic primordialism and racialization. Her narrative moves deftly between official narratives and personal experiences, bringing to life a history of ethnic intermarriage that has been long neglected in studies of the USSR despite commanding significant attention in other historiographies.
Attentive to the drastic changes that people in this region have experienced in the past thirty years, Edgar brings her analysis through to the present day exploring not only how the present shapes remembrances of the past but also the contradictory ways in which attitudes toward and experiences of interethnic marriage have—and haven’t—changed since independence. The book closes with a grim and timely reminder that history is not linear and progressive movement toward inclusivity and equality is never certain.
The winner of the 2023 Rothschild Prize was chosen by the following scholars:• Dmitry Gorenburg, Harvard University; Committee Chair• Krista Goff, University of Miami• Florian Bieber, University of Graz• John Paul Newman, National University of Ireland Maynooth