Rachel Applebaum - "Empire of Friends" - Eleonory Gilburd & Tara Zahra

Thursday, May 23, 2019 - 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Rachel Applebaum

Rachel Applebaum will read from and discuss her new book from Empire of Friends: Soviet Power and Socialist Internationalsim in Cold War Czechsloavakia. She will be joined in conversation by Eleonory Gilburd and Tara ZahraA Q&A and signing will follow the discussion.

At the Co-op

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About the book: The familiar story of Soviet power in Cold War Eastern Europe focuses on political repression and military force. But in Empire of Friends, Rachel Applebaum shows how the Soviet Union simultaneously promoted a policy of transnational friendship with its Eastern Bloc satellites to create a cohesive socialist world. This friendship project resulted in a new type of imperial control based on cross-border contacts between ordinary citizens. In a new and fascinating story of cultural diplomacy, interpersonal relations, and the trade of consumer goods, Applebaum tracks the rise and fall of the friendship project in Czechoslovakia, as the country evolved after World War II from the Soviet Union’s most loyal satellite to its most rebellious. 

Throughout Eastern Europe, the friendship project shaped the most intimate aspects of people’s lives, influencing everything from what they wore to where they traveled to whom they married. Applebaum argues that in Czechoslovakia, socialist friendship was surprisingly durable, capable of surviving the ravages of Stalinism and the Soviet invasion that crushed the 1968 Prague Spring. Eventually, the project became so successful that it undermined the very alliance it was designed to support: as Soviets and Czechoslovaks got to know one another, they discovered important cultural and political differences that contradicted propaganda about a cohesive socialistworld. Empire of Friends reveals that the sphere of everyday life was central to the construction of the transnational socialist system in Eastern Europe—and, ultimately, its collapse.

About the author: Rachel Applebaum is Assistant Professor of Russian and East European History at Tufts University.

About the interlocutor: Eleonory Gilburd is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago. She is the author of To See Paris and Die: The Soviet Lives of Western Culture (Harvard University Press, 2018) and co-editor of The Thaw: Soviet Society and Culture during the 1950s and 1960s (University of Toronto Press, 2013). She is working on two projects: an interconnected history of Soviet political discourse and Russian language in the 20th century, and a history of tango in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

About the interlocutor: Tara Zahra is Homer J. Livingston Professor of History at the University of Chicago. She is most recently the author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration and the Making of the ‘Free World’ (Norton, 2016). Her previous books include The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families after World War II (Harvard University Press, 2011) and Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands (Cornell, 2008). Her current projects include a co-authored history of World War I in the Habsburg Empire (with Pieter Judson), and a history of deglobalization in interwar Europe.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637