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
Researchers from HSE University have analysed why people feel happier when they help others. It turns out that joy is caused by different reasons, depending on who we help — relatives or strangers. In both cases, happiness brings moral satisfaction from doing a good deed, but helping loved ones is also associated with satisfying the need for belonging and acceptance, while helping strangers provides a sense of autonomy. The results of the research were published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Although there is a larger percentage of drinkers among high-status professionals and executives compared to low-status workers, the former consume less alcohol. This is one of the findings of a study carried out by researchers of the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences and published in Voprosy Statistiki.
‘Studying at HSE Was a Chance for Me to Get to Know Some Supportive Seniors, Knowledgeable Professors, and Wonderful Friends’
On August 4, 2023, a pre-defence of the thesis on ‘Refugee-Host Community Conflict over Assimilation, Integration, and State Legitimacy: The Case of Rohingyas in Bangladesh’ by Md. Reza Habib will be held at HSE University. The preliminary defence will take place at a joint meeting of the HSE School of Sociology and the International Laboratory for Social Integration Research. Md. Reza Habib shared his experience of studying and preparing his PhD with the HSE News Service.
Economists and sociologists who study alcohol consumption patterns often link them to people's living conditions and human capital such as education, work experience, and knowledge. Researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Labour Market Studies and the HSE Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology have found that non-cognitive skills developed in childhood and adolescence can have a major effect on the likelihood of alcohol abuse later in life and can diminish the role of education in this respect. The paper has been published in the Journal of Comparative Economics.
Using a multidimensional approach, sociologists from HSE University have identified some vulnerable categories of the population that have rarely been the focus of research on poverty. According to their calculations, pensioners and people with disabilities also fall into the ‘poor’ category. The study was published in the Russian Journal of Economics.
An international team including HSE researchers has conducted the largest ever cross-cultural study of appearance-enhancing behaviours. They have found that people worldwide spend an average of four hours a day on enhancing their beauty. Caring for one's appearance does not depend on gender, and older people worry as much about looking their best as the young do. The strongest predictor of attractiveness-enhancing behaviours appears to be social media usage. The study findings have been published in Evolution and Human Behaviour.
Sociologist Valeria Kondratenko used data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey-HSE (RLMS-HSE) to demonstrate that the percentage of young Russians aged 14 to 22 who consume alcohol decreased by 2.3 times from 62.1% to 26.9% between 2006 and 2019. This paper also explores the correlation between the alcohol consumption habits of children and those of their parents. A paper with the findings of this study has been published in the Bulletin of RLMS–HSE.
Researchers of the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research (LCSR), jointly with colleagues from research centres in Germany, Australia and China, examined the relationship between national variations in obesity rates and cultural dimensions. The associations they found were tested empirically through analyses conducted across 51 countries worldwide. Individualism appears to be associated with a higher prevalence of obesity, but only in the male population. The study findings have been published in Social Science & Medicine.
HSE Researcher Ekaterina Nastina has found that the more often Russians help others (whether loved ones or strangers), the more satisfied they are with their lives. However, if a person is over 50 years of age or if values of social justice are important to him or her, helping family and friends has no significant influence on his or her psychological well-being. On the other hand, pro-social, altruistic behaviour towards strangers is equally beneficial to people of all ages and beliefs. A total of 757 respondents took part in the study. An article containing the results was published in the Sociological Journal.
‘We Have Always Loved You, Sakhalin’: Research Expedition Studies Sociocultural Anthropology of Miners' Working Life in the USSR
Researchers from the School of Foreign Languages and the Group for Historical Research, together with students of the History programme at the HSE University campus in Perm, have come back from an expedition to Sakhalin Island, where they studied Soviet industrial culture and the working life of miners. The expedition participants shared their impressions of their ‘immersion into the past’ and the extraordinary landscapes of the island with the HSE News Service.