Professor Alexei Yurchak Awarded Russian Book Prize

December 09, 2015
Alexei Yurchak at Award Ceremony

Associate Professor of Anthropology Alexei Yurchak has been awarded the the 2015 Prosvetitel (or Enlightener) Prize, the most prestigious Russian literary award for works of nonfiction.

Two areas of nonfiction are recognized by the Prosvetitel award: one for exact sciences (math, physics, biology, evolution, etc.) and one for humanitarian sciences or humanities (history, literary studies, and anthropology). His book received the humanities award.

While an Assistant Professor in 2003-04, Yurchak was a Townsend Faculty Fellow, and subsequently went on to publish his book, Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More (Princeton, 2007), which received the Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian and Slavic Studies (ASEEES).

Reviewing this volume, Sheila Fitzpatrick of the London Review of Books writes,

Anthropologists usually get their information by talking to people, but if the information you want is about the past this technique doesn’t work: by definition, Russians are not talking Soviet anymore. So Yurchak had to become a quasi-historian and look for documentation of past ways of talking, which he did quite ingeniously.

‘The last Soviet generation’ is Yurchak’s own, which means that the book, despite its disguise as Western theoretically-informed anthropology, has a submerged relationship to a favourite Russian genre, the ‘history of my generation’, non-confessional autobiography that tells the story of a milieu rather than a person.

His book was rewritten and expanded considerably in Russian, and published under the title Ėto bylo navsegda, poka ne konchilosʹ : poslednee sovetskoe pokolenie in 2014 (Moskva: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie).

Yurchak received his award at a ceremony in Moscow in November 2015.