Riccardo Cucciolla – Pursuing Postdoctoral Studies on the History of Soviet Uzbekistan
On November 1, Riccardo Cucciolla began a postdoctoral fellowship at the HSE International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences. During his year at HSE, he intends to pursue a research project that follows from his dissertation entitled ‘The Crisis of Soviet Power in Central Asia: The Uzbek Cotton Affair (1975–1991)’, which he wrote while completing a PhD in Political History at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca in Lucca, Italy.
Riccardo developed a keen interest in Soviet and Russian history at an early age when he sensed a passion for Russian studies while growing up in Rome. The role of World War II as the greatest trauma in recent Italian history, influencing the country’s collective memory and identity, played a significant role for him, as did his father’s role as an actor in a film on the era.
‘I was born with the mythical movie “Italiani Brava Gente” (“Attack and Retreat”), a 1964 Italian-Soviet movie known in Russia as “Они шли на Восток” where my father (Riccardo Cucciolla) played the role of Giuseppe Sanna, a pacifist and antifascist soldier. This movie and my father's character have deeply influenced me’, Riccardo says.
His interest in the Soviet world never waned. After completing an undergraduate degree in political science and a Master’s degree in international relations, he pursued doctoral research for four years in archives, libraries and research institutions in Russia, Uzbekistan, the U.S., and Europe, examining the ‘Uzbek affair’ from a broad historical perspective.
‘In 2014-2015, I spent long periods in Moscow, and I have very positively experienced the opportunity of working together with the team of scholars at HSE’, Riccardo says when asked about why he chose to accept an offer of a postdoctoral fellowship at HSE. ‘After my PhD, I wanted to join the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences where I could propose a new project that grew organically from my existing research. Indeed, working in an international and stimulating intellectual environment such as HSE and being based in Moscow, where the main Soviet archives are, was the best opportunity I could imagine to continue my studies on the Soviet world’.
In 2014-2015, I spent long periods in Moscow, and I have very positively experienced the opportunity of working together with the team of scholars at HSE
During his time at HSE, Riccardo intends to analyse the impact of the war economy on Uzbekistan in the period 1941–1966. Events that were all shaped in one way or another by developments in the 1941–66 period include the 1967 ‘general amnesty’ for many peoples convicted of ‘treason’ (excluding the Crimean Tatars and Meskhetian Turks), the Pakhtakor incidents (1969), the Soviet–Afghan War (1979–1989), the ‘cotton affairs’ (1983–1989), the dramatic Ferghana pogroms (1989), the return of Russian settlers during the 1990s, and the redefinition of the Republic of Uzbekistan as a post-Soviet entity.
Riccardo has several goals he is pursuing in his research. The first is to understand Uzbekistan as a ‘home front’, defining its role within the Soviet war machine. The second is to analyse political relations between centre and periphery during wartime as well as the role of the war in legitimizing veterans and the post-revolutionary political elite in power during the post-war period. The third goal is to gain insight on the impact of war on the Uzbek economy and society, its role in spurring cotton monoculture and in defining a multi-ethnic society polarized in urban and rural frameworks. The fourth goal is to analyse the role of World War II memory in defining a common Soviet (and even post-Soviet) identity. His final goal is to analyse the social legacies of war and its consequences in a republic that effectively became a basis on which to read the whole Soviet history.
I will push the limits of contemporary historiography forward and contribute to a scientific historical reconstruction of the post-war period based on primary sources and an analysis of historiography, political narrative and the use of memory
‘The significance of this project lies in the added value of a deep analysis of World War II in the Soviet periphery and filling the existing literature gap regarding the “home fronts”’, Riccardo says. ‘As I did in my PhD research, I will push the limits of contemporary historiography forward and contribute to a scientific historical reconstruction of the post-war period based on primary sources and an analysis of historiography, political narrative and the use of memory. In particular, I will strive to work with other fellows to formulate a research model suitable for other Soviet contexts, extending the theoretical and methodological bases for further research. I will also work to transform my PhD thesis – integrated with the new research carried out at HSE – into a monograph’.
Although he has spent long periods in Moscow during previous periods of study and research, Riccardo is looking forward to another year in the city.
‘I know how beautiful is to lose yourself in such a deep culture and crazy city that never sleeps’, he says. ‘I am expecting to spend beautiful moments with my colleagues, friends and family in a place that I feel to be home’.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service
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