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Regular version of the site

70 Years on: Remembering Victory in WWII — A View of Post-war Life in the Soviet Union

In the year that marks the 70th anniversary of victory in the Second World War, we talk to Kristy Ironside, who received her BA and MA from the University of Toronto before going on to complete her PhD at the University of Chicago, and who is currently researching life in the Soviet Union in the post-war years. Kristy Ironside’s work examines what the War meant to ordinary people, how their lives changed — and how Soviet society coped with the aftermath.

— You joined The International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences as a researcher last year. How did your cooperation with HSE start? 

— I applied for a postdoctoral position and was fortunate enough to get it. I was attracted by the possibility to collaborate with well-known Russian historians working on the Second World War and Soviet history, in general, and by the opportunity to be near my archives in Moscow, as I revise my dissertation to turn it into a monograph.

— 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II. What are your plans and goals as a researcher at the Center for this year? 

— Although I've researched and written about the war years, for my book, I focus more on the post-1945 period and the social and economic consequences of the war for ordinary citizens' living standards and the evolution of the communist project in the Soviet Union. Aside from collecting more archival materials and revising my existing dissertation materials for the book, I am also working on a side project about the bachelor tax, which was created by Khrushchev in 1941 to encourage people to have more children and replace the war dead. It was very unpopular because the consequences of the war made it difficult for citizens to have three children, the number below which one paid the tax. I am finishing up the archival research for this article at the Russian State Economic Archive in 2015.

I really like Moscow as a city: it's cosmopolitan, there are lots of things to see and do in your spare time. You feel very linked into an international network of scholarship here.

— What do you think young people know and feel about the World War II? 

— I think younger people know less about the everyday difficulties of the war years as time goes on. Both my parents were born during the war, not in Russia but in Scotland, and they remember rationing as children.

— You've devoted quite a lot of time to researching Soviet history. Your PhD thesis was 'The Value of a Ruble: A Social History of Money in Postwar Soviet Russia, 1945-1964'. What was the main trigger that sparked your interest in Soviet history? Who were your teachers and mentors?

— I simply found Soviet history fascinating as an undergraduate. I have no family or other connection to Russian history. I suppose it was simple exposure: I went to the University of Toronto as for my BA and for my MA, where I was able to work with leading Soviet scholars, especially with Lynne Viola. For my PhD, I attended the University of Chicago, where I worked with Sheila Fitzpatrick, one of the leading Soviet historians, especially for social history. I was one of her last students before she retired. 

— How is living and working in Moscow for an international expert? What's difficult and what is more positive?

— I really like Moscow as a city: it's cosmopolitan, there are lots of things to see and do in your spare time, and for me, as a Soviet historian, it's crucial to have access to Russian archives and libraries. The process of working through archival files is very slow, so having a year here is very helpful for my research. Sometimes I find the size and crowdedness of Moscow frustrating, but I feel the same way when I'm in New York. One really encouraging thing is the level of internationalization you feel at HSE: since September, we've had several well-known scholars come to give presentations. You feel very linked into an international network of scholarship here.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News Service 

See also:

‘The Past Is Never Dead. It's Not Even Past’

This summer, the HSE Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences was reorganized to become the HSE Institute for Advanced Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies. Oleg Budnitskii, Doctor of Historical Sciences, head of the Centre and director of the Institute, talked to the HSE News Service about the new division.

Research Shows That Creative Workers Are Motivated by Money and Social Guarantees More Than Artistry

Creators are also part of the job sector. Their work is increasingly oriented around commercial activities and in the pursuit of economic goals. As such, the organization of artists’ professional work and the motivations behind it are by no means unique. Rather, they straddle the line between ‘aesthetic’ and ‘market’ concerns.

Online Platforms Force Russian Freelancers to Work Nights And Weekends

To get work in a highly competitive environment, freelancers adapt their own routines to the needs of their clients, so they have to work long hours not only during the day but also during non-standard hours, obeying the unwritten laws of online platforms.

The Trauma of Chernobyl: Why Our Collective Memory of Disasters Tends to Fade with Time

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The event recedes ever further into the past, but the legacy of the trauma it caused endures. That stress produced trauma, and the trauma became part of Russia’s collective memory. Sociologists Yulia Belova, Margarita Muravitskaya and Nadezhda Melnikova of HSE’s Institute for Applied Political Research and Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology researched what this means for people who lived in the radioactively contaminated zone around the reactor and why the collective memory of the accident might disappear.

Russian IT Freelancers Face Gender Discrimination

Olga Vilkova, a PhD student of the HSE University's Faculty of Social Sciences, has proved that IT engineers face inequality and discrimination on the Russian online freelance market—websites offering jobs for self-employed people. The researcher analyzed the data on professional success of 54,000 IT engineers registered on the major Russian freelancing platform FL.ru. The research is published in the Monitoring of Public Opinion: Economic and Social Changes Journal.

Mothers of Three and More Children Face Career Struggles

Well-educated women having three or more children often try to return to work after maternity leave but face penalties for motherhood and 'overqualification', as potential employers offer them lower paid, lower-ranking jobs and treat them as second-rate employees. Some mothers of many children choose to leave the labour market altogether. A paper by Zlata Dorofeeva, Research Fellow of the HSE Institute for Social Policy's Centre for Longitudinal Studies, offers an insight into the career struggles faced by mothers of many children in Russia.

Exploring the History of Places and Environment in Russia

The collective volume Place and Nature: Essays in Russian Environmental History, co-edited by David Moon, Nicholas B. Breyfogle, and HSE researcher Alexandra Bekasova, was recently presented at a seminar of the Laboratory for the Environmental and Technological History of the Centre for Historical Research at HSE – St. Petersburg. The book is one of the fruits of a networking project carried out in 2013-2016 with active participation of HSE researchers.

Conference Brings Together New Perspectives on the Russian Far East

On March 28-31, 2021, the HSE International Laboratory ‘Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective’ held an international conference ‘The Russian Far East: Regional and Transnational Perspectives (19th -21st cent.)’. The event was jointly organized by the Laboratory with the German Historical Institute Moscow, Indiana University Bloomington (USA), and the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East FEB RAS (Vladivostok).

Twelve Trends Among Contemporary Russian Women

Every year, HSE University carries out dozens of studies on women’s lifestyles, behaviours, and changes in family, social, and economic status in Russia. IQ.HSE editors have selected the most essential trends revealed by these studies about Russian women today.

Studying the Middle Ages Is Fascinating

The recently launched Master's Programme in Medieval Studies is the only Master’s degree in Russia fully dedicated to medieval studies. HSE News Service spoke with Juan Sota, a second-year student of the programme, about its unique features, interacting with professors, and his research interests and aspirations.