"Perestroika's Dark Side: Nationalism, Racism and Crisis on Moscow Streets at the End of the Soviet Union" with Jeff Sahadeo, Professor at Carleton University.
LECTURE DESCRIPTION: Migration from the Soviet South (Caucasus and Central Asia) to the capital, Moscow, dramatically increased in the 1980s. Newcomers sought to take advantage of top-quality education, professional opportunities and to trade as economic conditions in their homelands grew more challenging. Street traders from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, whose fruit and flowers fetched much higher prices than they might at home, came to symbolize a changing Soviet Union for Moscow’s residents. Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to bring openness (glasnost) and economic restructuring (perestroika) to the USSR brought initial enthusiasm to Soviet citizens, who hoped for increased social mobility and economic opportunity. As reforms faltered, however, as prices rose and shortages appeared in the planned economy, the goods and services provided by these Soviet southerners became at once more important and more resented by Moscow’s Slavic majority. Nationalist and racist ideas, percolating under the surface alongside increased south-north movement, burst into the open in the late 1980s and changed life plans of many of these southern migrants. Based on oral histories of the time, this presentation reveals connections between mobility, nationalism and racism in Moscow and across the USSR. By 1990, when hope for progress ebbed, the Soviet maxim of the Friendship of the Peoples evaporated and migrants no longer considered Moscow “their” capital.
SPEAKER DESCRIPTION: Jeff Sahadeo is a Professor at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Department of Political Science. His presentation is drawn from his recent book, Voices from the Soviet Edge: Southern Migrants in Leningrad and Moscow (Cornell University Press, 2019). Professor Sahadeo is also the author of Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent, 1865-1923 and the co-editor of Everyday Life in Central Asia, Past and Present. His current research examines the intersection between nature and society through a study of rivers in tsarist and Soviet Georgia