Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Russia’s Worlds: The Russian and Soviet North Pacific

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join us for an event in the Russia’s Worlds Lecture Series a discussion with Bathsheba Demuth (Brown University) and Ilya Vinkovetsky (Simon Fraser University).

Professor Vinkovetsy’s talk will focus on the Russian American Company in the context of global colonial studies. What was the place of the Russian American Company among the (otherwise West European-based) colonial companies? What does rule by a corporate contractor suggest about Alaska under Russian imperial rule?

Professor Demuth’s talk will examine the Soviet Union’s industrial whaling program in the North Pacific, in the context of the Cold War, the growth of environmentalism, and other nations’ whaling programs. What were the goals of Soviet whalers, and what do we learn about the Soviet project from whale ships?


Bathsheba Demuth is Assistant Professor of History and Environment and Society at Brown University, where she is also an affiliated faculty member in Native American and Indigenous Studies and Science and Technology Studies. An environmental historian, her research focuses on the lands and seas of the Russian and North American Arctic and on how the histories of people, ideas, places, and non-human species intersect. Her first book, Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait (Norton, 2019) examined capitalist and socialist attempts to transform the northern borderlands of both countries, while her new research turns to the Yukon River watershed and how rights for nonhuman beings have been conceived and codified across indigenous, imperial, and nation-state traditions.

Ilya Vinkovetsky is associate professor in the History Department at Simon Fraser University. His book Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire dealt with Alaska as a colony within the Russian Empire, the relations between Russian colonists and North American First Nations, and the reasons for the decision to sell Alaska to the United States in the 1860s. He has also written about nation-building in the Balkans following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. His current work examines the history of Russia’s roads and transportation networks before the advent of the railroad.


Russia’s Worlds Lecture Series:

In the last two decades historians have consistently challenged the center-periphery approach to the history of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, at the same time establishing the inadequacy of state boundaries to encompass imperial and Soviet experience. “Russia’s Worlds” brings together innovative work on connections between the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the outside world, looking at how these states, their cultures, and their subjects interacted with the wider world, other states, and the international scene based on religion, ethnicity, ideology and professional affiliations. In this series of six talks, twelve speakers working at the intersection of several fields will share new perspectives on how international law, migration, environment, traveling ideas, individuals and commodities tied Russia to a larger world and the other way around.

All events at 12:00pm Eastern unless noted otherwise.

October 28, 2020: The Russian Empire and International Law

Peter Holquist (University of Pennsylvania)
Will Smiley (University of New Hampshire)

November 19, 2020: Soviet Union and East Asia

Tatiana Linkhoeva (NYU)
Elizabeth McGuire (California State University, East Bay)

January 21, 2021: Russian Empire and the Ottoman World

Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky (UC Santa Barbara)
Eileen Kane (Connecticut College)

February 18, 2021: Soviet Union and the Middle East

Sam Hirst (Bilkent University, Ankara)
Masha Kirasirova (NYU Abu Dhabi)

March 18, 2021: The Russian and Soviet North Pacific

Bathsheba Demuth (Brown University)
Ilya Vinkovetsky (Simon Fraser University)

May 13, 2021: The Second World War and the Postwar Settlement

2:00pm ET
Michael David-Fox (Georgetown University
Francine Hirsch (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Event Video