298 episodes

To many, Russia, and the wider Eurasia, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But it doesn’t have to be. The Eurasian Knot dispels the stereotypes and myths about the region with lively and informative interviews on Eurasia’s complex past, present, and future. New episodes drop weekly with an eclectic mix of topics from punk rock to Putin, and everything in-between. Subscribe on your favorite podcasts app, grab your headphones, hit play, and tune in. Eurasia will never appear the same.

The Eurasian Knot The Eurasian Knot

    • History

To many, Russia, and the wider Eurasia, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But it doesn’t have to be. The Eurasian Knot dispels the stereotypes and myths about the region with lively and informative interviews on Eurasia’s complex past, present, and future. New episodes drop weekly with an eclectic mix of topics from punk rock to Putin, and everything in-between. Subscribe on your favorite podcasts app, grab your headphones, hit play, and tune in. Eurasia will never appear the same.

    The Rise and Fall of Yevgeny Prigozhin

    The Rise and Fall of Yevgeny Prigozhin

    

    It’s been a year since Yevgeny Prigozhin shocked the world with his ill-fated march on Moscow. Soon, it will be a year since Prigozhin was killed in a mysterious plane crash. But before all that, Prigozhin was “Putin’s chef,” and one of many violent entrepreneurs at the beck and call of the Boss in the Kremlin. A good boyar, the Chef, with the help of generous state contacts, supplied food to the Russian military. He reinvested those profits into troll farms to spread disinformation. Then he became the head of the primer Russian mercenary company, Wagner. His troops fought in Syria, central Africa, and in eastern Ukraine. Often Wagner’s successes outshined the Russian military. So just who was Evgeny Prigozhin? Where did he come from? And how did this former criminal become catapulted into the Kremlin’s orbit? What made him fly too close to the sun? And what does his rise and fall say about the political system in Russia and its future? To answer these questions and more, the Eurasian Knot talked to friends of the show Anna Arutunyan and Mark Galeotti about their new book Downfall: Prigozhin, Putin, and the New Fight for the Future of Russia published by Penguin.

    Guests:

    Anna Arutunyan is a Russian-American journalist, analyst and author. She is the Associate Director of the consultancy Mayak Intelligence and a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center. She is the author of several books on Russia, including The Putin Mystique, and her latest on Russia’s war in Ukraine, Hybrid Warriors: Proxies, Freelancers and Moscow’s Struggle for Ukraine.

    Mark Galeotti is one of the foremost Russia-watchers today, who travels there regularly to teach, lecture, talk to his contacts, and generally watch the unfolding story of the Putin era. A prolific author on Russia and security affairs, he frequently acts as consultant to various government, commercial and law-enforcement agencies.

    Together they are the authors of Downfall: Prigozhin, Putin, and the New Fight for the Future of Russia published by Penguin.

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    • 1 hr 9 min
    Russians in Latvia

    Russians in Latvia

    

    Since the end of the USSR in 1991, Latvia’s Russian speakers have been living under what Kevin Platt calls, “border conditions.” That is, a life in the liminal space between Latvia and the Russian Federation, the West and the East, a liberal present and a communist past. And all under the darkened shadow of a more revanchist Russia at war in Ukraine. And how do Russophone Latvians navigate this contradictory life? This week on the Eurasian Knot, Sean and Rusana talk with Kevin Platt about his new book, Border Conditions: Russian-Speaking Latvians Between World Orders. In the interview we discuss how Russian identity, and how Russophone Latvians make sense of their bifurcated life through cultural expression.   

    Guest:

    Kevin M. F. Platt is Professor of Russian and East European Studies and Chair of the Doctoral Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the founder and organizer of the poetry translation symposium Your Language My Ear. His new book is Border Conditions: Russian-Speaking Latvians Between World Orders published by Cornell University Press.

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    • 51 min
    Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip

    Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip

    

    In 1935, two Soviet funny men, Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov, set off to America. They didn’t emigrate. Or go to make an official state visit. Their mission, interestingly, was a particularly American one–to take a 10,000 mile road trip from New York to Hollywood and back. Armed with a used car, a map, and a Russian Jewish immigrant and his wife as translator and guide, the dynamic duo passed through cities big and small, the Midwest and the deep South, up and down the West and East coasts, and met a variety of people in between. Ilf and Petrov published their travelog as “One-Story America ” in 1937. What was the purpose of Ilf and Petrov’s road trip? Why a road trip? What did they think of America and Americans? And to what extent did their ideological lenses warp their perception of American realities? The Eurasian Knot put these questions and more to Lisa Kirschenbaum about her new book Soviet Adventures in the Land of the Capitalists: Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip published by Cambridge University Press.

    Guest:

    Lisa Kirschenbaum is an award-winning author whose research explores how individuals navigated the traumas of the twentieth century. Her books include Small Comrades: Revolutionizing Childhood in Soviet Russia, 1917–1932; The Legacy of the Siege of Leningrad, 1941–1995; and International Communism and the Spanish Civil War. Her most recent book is Soviet Adventures in the Land of the Capitalists: Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip published by Cambridge University Press.

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    • 51 min
    Soviet Afghan War and Islam

    Soviet Afghan War and Islam

    

    When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, they ignored one crucial issue: Islam. And not just in terms of faith, but Islam as a mobilizing force in Afghan society. It’s strange when you consider the long relationship the Soviets had with its own Muslim population. Yet they consistently saw Islam as having short roots or as a mere instrument of the US, Iran and Pakistan against Moscow. How to explain this blindness? And how did the Soviet Union’s reckoning with Islam prove to be too little too late? The Eurasian Know discussed this perplexing and crucial aspect of the Soviet-Afghan War at the center of his new book, A Slow Reckoning: The USSR, the Afghan Communists, and Islam.

    Guest:

    Vassily Klimentov is a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Zurich. Prior to this, he has worked for several years in the humanitarian field, including for two years in the Middle East. He’s the author of A Slow Reckoning: The USSR, the Afghan Communists, and Islam published by Cornell University Press.

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    • 59 min
    Populist Elitism in Russia and the US

    Populist Elitism in Russia and the US

    

    Convergence between the United States and Russia is most often expressed in socio-economic terms. Very rarely in regard to ideology. The political culture and history of the two nations are just too different. But the ideological convergence that was unthinkable decades ago is now not so easily dismissed when it comes to the far right. As Alexandar Mikahilovic explains in Illiberal Vanguard, rightists like Alexander Dugin and Kevin McDonald politically intersect. Steve Bannon keeps Lenin in his political toolkit. And American and Russian rightwing politics of homophobia, illiberalism, and ire for global elites are interchangeable. How did this convergence come to be? And what does it say about the United States and Russia in our present moment? The Eurasian Knot spoke to Alexandar Mikhailovic about this unlikely convergence between the American and Russian far-right.

    Guest:

    Alexandar Mihailovic is a Professor Emeritus of Russian and Comparative Literature at Hofstra University. He is the author of many books on Russian culture. His two most recent books are Screening Solidarity: Neoliberalism and Transnational Cinemas, co-authored with Patricia A. Simpson and Helga Druxes published by Bloomsbury and Illiberal Vanguard: Populist Elitism in the United States and Russia published by University of Wisconsin Press.

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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Soviet Industrial Ecology

    Soviet Industrial Ecology

    

    The Soviet economy used a lot of wood. For fuel, construction, consumer products, even in military weaponry. Wood could be shaped and transformed. But wood was also finite–and trying to balance the demand with the supply in forests was a delicate dance. The Soviet forestry industry understood this, and developed a unique form of industrial ecology—a practical approach toward natural resources for the economy and society to extract wood in a sustainable way. This ecological sustainability is not about preserving the natural world, like we think today. Rather, Soviet sustainability was about maintaining supply for production. What did this mean in theory and practice in the Soviet economy? How was it applied to cutting of forests, especially the so-called virgin forests of Siberia? To learn more about the Soviet world of wood, the Eurasian Knot turned to Elena Kochetkova to learn about her book The Green Power of Socialism: Wood, Forest, and the Making of Soviet Industrially Embedded Ecology.

    Guest:

    Elena Kochetkova an Associate Professor in Modern European Economic History at the Department of Archeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion at the University of Bergen. Her first book is The Green Power of Socialism: Wood, Forest, and the Making of Soviet Industrially Embedded Ecology published by MIT Press.

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    • 55 min

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