Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Voices from the Soviet Edge: Southern Migrants in Leningrad and Moscow by Jeff Sahadeo

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

Click here to purchase Voices from the Soviet Edge from Book Culture NYC.

Please join us for the inaugural event of the Minority Inclusion and Exclusion in Soviet and Post-Communist Societies Speaker Series, a discussion with Jeff Sahadeo, Associate Professor at the Institute of Europe, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University, and author of Voices from the Soviet Edge: Southern Migrants in Leningrad and Moscow (Cornell University Press, 2019).

Jeff Sahadeo reveals the complex and fascinating stories of migrant populations in Leningrad and Moscow. Voices from the Soviet Edge focuses on the hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks, Tajiks, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, and others who arrived toward the end of the Soviet era, seeking opportunity at the privileged heart of the USSR. Through the extensive oral histories Sahadeo has collected, he shows how the energy of these migrants, denigrated as “Blacks” by some Russians, transformed their families’ lives and created inter-republican networks, altering society and community in both the center and the periphery of life in the “two capitals.”

Voices from the Soviet Edge connects Leningrad and Moscow to transnational trends of core-periphery movement and marks them as global cities. In examining Soviet concepts such as “friendship of peoples” alongside ethnic and national differences, Sahadeo shows how those ideas became racialized but could also be deployed to advance migrant aspirations. He exposes the Brezhnev era as a time of dynamism and opportunity, and Leningrad and Moscow not as isolated outposts of privilege but at the heart of any number of systems that linked the disparate regions of the USSR into a whole. In the 1980s, as the Soviet Union crumbled, migration increased. These later migrants were the forbears of contemporary Muslims from former Soviet spaces who now confront significant discrimination in European Russia. As Sahadeo demonstrates, the two cities benefited from 1980s’ migration but also became communities where racism and exclusion coexisted with citizenship and Soviet identity.

Jeff Sahadeo is Associate Professor at the Institute of European Russian and Eurasian Studies at Carleton University. He is the author of Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent 1865–1923 and co-editor of Everyday Life in Central Asia.



Minority Inclusion and Exclusion in Soviet and Post-Communist Societies

2020-2021 Speaker Series

As we continue to struggle with issues of discrimination and systemic racism in our own country, it’s important to broaden our perspectives and examine the often-overlooked experiences of minorities and vulnerable communities living in Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe. Over the next couple of years, we have planned an academic speaker series that considers some of the latest academic research on issues of discrimination, representation, identity, and inequality in the USSR and post-socialist societies.

The series, organized by Postdoctoral Research Scholar Svetlana Borodina, will look at minorities and marginalized groups in the post-Soviet and post-socialist space—how they become folded into or erased from (post)socialist national projects. Speakers will engage with different national contexts and social groups to help the audience build a nuanced understanding of the wide spectrum of inclusion and exclusion measures practiced in Soviet and postsocialist societies. We will tackle the following questions:

What kinds of minority bodies and identities serve as tokens of national flourishing in (post)socialist societies? 

How do marginalized people reclaim their right to participate in shaping their future and the future of their countries, more broadly?

What is unique about postsocialist discourses of diversity and inclusion and what global challenges do they respond to?

DECEMBER 1, 2020
Voices from the Soviet Edge: Southern Migrants in Leningrad and Moscow

Jeff Sahadeo, Associate Professor at the Institute of Europe, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Carleton University

JANUARY 22, 2021
Mixed Messages: Mediating Native Belonging in Asian Russia

Kathryn E. Graber Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University Bloomington

FEBRUARY 17, 2021
Narkomania: Drugs, HIV, and Citizenship in Ukraine

Jennifer J. Carroll, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Elon University

MARCH 17, 2021
Post-Socialist Rehabilitations: Disability, Race, Gender and Sexuality and the Limits of National Belonging

Kateřina Kolářová, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, Charles University, Prague

APRIL 7, 2021
The War Between the Wars: The Turk, the Homosexual, and Temporal Condensation in Postsocialist Armenia

Tamar Shirinian, Postdoctoral Teaching Associate Department of Anthropology University of Tennessee Knoxville

Event Video