We’re All Thieves Here: The Soviet War on Crime and the End of Criminal Justice Reform, 1959-1991

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St)

Please join us for a talk with Rhiannon Dowling, Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Harriman Institute.

Rhiannon Dowling will present on her book project, a cultural and intellectual history of crime in the Soviet Union, which argues that, of all of the promises that the Soviet state failed to fulfill, the most crucial, and most devastating, was the promise to eliminate crime with its causes. Dowling examines the changing approaches to the Soviet “war on crime” by intellectuals, bureaucrats, jurists, and the public (including convicted criminals) as the problem of crime became increasingly central to Soviet life and identity in the decades after Stalin’s death. Her project also investigates the Soviet Union's first post-Stalin criminological institute from its formation in 1963 through the height of its influence in the 1970s, along with journalistic writing, films, and television programs from the thriving genre of crime fiction. These sources, as well as private and public letters, diaries, memoirs, and other nonfiction writing, show that mass participation in the efforts to uncover the causes of crime led many to conclude that the root of crime was corruption, and the biggest criminal, the Soviet state. 

Rhiannon Dowling is a Modern European historian specializing in the history of Russia and the Soviet Union, and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Harriman Institute. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. She has published articles in the journal Aspasia: International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women’s History on the role of popular film in Soviet and U.S. Cold War propaganda campaigns, and in the journal Russian History, adapting a chapter of her dissertation into an article on gender and mass participation in the Soviet justice system during the Brezhnev era.