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May 2, 2018

Introducing “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism”

May 2, 2018 | By | No Comments

Today, I officially launch my website, “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism,” which uses my dissertation on temporary labor migration to Moscow to examine the interplay between communism and capitalism in Moscow. The project stemmed from both my dissertation research and my observations while living in Moscow. I was always struck by seeing the interplay of the Soviet socialist past and the Russian capitalist present in the architecture as I walked around Moscow. Moreover, I could see the logical outcomes of my dissertation topic spray painted on the concrete as advertisements for dormitory rooms and posted on fences as calls for temporary jobs that came with registration.

My website’s landing page provides an historical overview of temporary labor migration to Moscow, tracing the origins of these practices to end of the nineteenth century. In the imperial period, peasants made their way to the capital to work in factories and send cash, needed for redemption payments, back to families. The opening essay also introduces the Soviet internal passport and domicile registration systems that governed rural to urban migration from 1932 to the end of the Soviet Union. A timeline then provides information on the development of Moscow, as seen through the lens of temporary labor migration and population growth, from 1971 to 2002. The second page explains the changing places of origins of migrants and provides a map. While migrants originally arrived from the areas near Moscow, the near complete depletion of the youthful rural population meant migrants from Siberia, the other republics of the Soviet Union, and even countries beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union replaced arrived in larger numbers from the mid-1980s onward.

The next two pages use a series of graphs to explain population change. The first of these pages explains the centrality of migration to population growth by providing information on birth and death rates as well as the tempo of migration to the capital. If births provided 10,000 new residents annually, migration provided 50,000 to 70,000. The following page looks at the reception of migrants in the capital, paying particular attention to nationality and the changing role of citizenship. The last two pages are case studies – one of automobile factories, the other of the Olympics – of work places in which migrants dominated. I also explain the afterlife of these locations in the post-Soviet period.

It is my hope that my website will provoke its users to consider several important questions, such as the (dis)continuities between the Soviet and post-Soviet periods as well as the Soviet Union’s relationship to the history of postwar Europe, particularly in regards to migration. Before at last introducing my website, I must thank several people. Ethan Watrall, the director of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Program, and this year’s cohort of CHI fellows have helped me every step of the way. My advisor, Lewis Siegelbaum, has helped me conceptualize the research that I display here (and has also written extensively on the car factories that I discuss on my website). Lastly, Ramya Swayamprakash encouraged me to apply for the CHI Fellowship after sharing her positive experiences as a CHI Fellow in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Without any further ago, I give you “Moscow: The Corner of Communism and Capitalism”:



April 30, 2018

Migrants and Muscovites: The Memory of Migration

April 30, 2018 | By | No Comments

I am writing this blog from Moscow, the place that my website (now almost fully functional) is about. I find it appropriate to discuss all the ways that I have seen migration play out over the course of my various stays here. I first came to Moscow in June 2011 as an undergraduate with one year of Russian under my belt. I’m not sure what I expected when my plane took off from JFK that summer evening, but I was shocked by the streets of Moscow. Growing up in the Bronx, I feel more at home in urban environments, but Moscow’s streets had kiosks everywhere. You could buy everything: fast food, cigarettes, beer, newspaper, SIM cards. It is probably more accurate to say that there was nothing that you couldn’t buy. It seemed to me that Russians ran many of these makeshift shops, but clearly migrants from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union had joined them.

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March 30, 2018

Mapping Movement

March 30, 2018 | By | No Comments

The most rewarding aspect of my project has been working on my map since it has been the most challenging. I opted to use leaflet.js to build my map, which shows how many migrants each region in Russia sent to Moscow in various years between 1970 and 2000.

I first used leaflet.js during one of our development challenges last semester, and I found it a bit confusing at first. The leaflet.js website has a tutorial, but it was unclear where to place the information for the JavaScript and CSS sheets with the other information from the bootstrap that we used. If we failed to properly place this information, the map would not run. Once we figured out where to place and how to properly label this information, the map showed up.

One of the major issues I faced was not inherently technical but dealt with the best way to integrate my dissertation research into the map. Soviet authorities sometimes changed how they recorded statistical information. Every year through 1985, the Moscow Committee for Statistics (Moskomstat) recorded the place of origin by region (oblast) for migrants who arrived in Moscow from other locations within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). For Soviet citizens from one of the other 14 republics, only the republic, and not a specific region within the republic, was noted. Approximately every 5 years, Moskomstat recorded that nationality of all arrivals, which complicated my understanding of who these migrants were. Although the number of migrants from other Soviet republics began to rise throughout the 1980s, migrants remained primarily ethnic Russian, meaning that Russians were leaving other locations in the Soviet Union for the RSFSR.

Political reforms during perestroika and the breakup of the Soviet Union also changed statistical recordings. During perestroika, Moskomstat often simply recorded various types of internal migration: intra-region, inter-region, and inter-republic without specifying places of origin. In the post-Soviet period, the Northwestern Region separated into the Northwestern and Northern Regions, and across the Russian Federation, several regions changed their names. On my map, I have pop-ups for each small region surrounding Moscow (other areas in the Central Region), each large region across the RSFSR, and each republic of the former Soviet Union. I am currently deciding if I should include any other additional information in my popups. My next goal is to find an appropriate Soviet-era map, printed in English. The current map tiles that I am using through leaflet.js use local languages, which might make the maps difficult for my English-reading audience.



March 29, 2018

Charts, Graphs, and Coding, Oh my!

March 29, 2018 | By | No Comments

For my remaining blogs, I plan to address the different technological elements on my website. First up are the graphs that I have created using AM Charts, a website that allows you to build JavaScript charts, graphs, and maps. For my website, I built graphs that show for Moscow: births and deaths, natural and migration-related population growth, total population growth, and changing nationality and place of origin.

AM Charts provides a very user-friendly system that provides you with multiple options for building your charts and graphs. First, you can download free versions of AM Chart’s products. The website advertises that, “The only limitation of the free version is that a small link to this web site will be displayed in the top left corner of your charts.” The download comes with over 80 sample charts that you can view and examine the code. The graphs range from simple bar graphs to complex bar and line graph combos with interactive elements that explain data points. The download also comes with a brief tutorial and various JavaScript and CSS sheets. The second option for using AM Charts is paying for it, which I cannot comment on, except to say that if the creators are correct, it should be similar to what I have described.

I have also used the third option: the online chart editor. This option requires you to create a free account with AM Charts. The online chart editor provides you with several dozen templates to work with. After selecting your template, you may either upload a CSV file with your data or input it manually. I found it somewhat difficult at times to adjust the legend and axis labels, but I discovered that there are multiple ways to address these issues. The chart builder allows you to select and alter options through an input interface, but you can also access the code to edit your chart there. Once your chart is complete, you can use an embedded link to present it on your website. AM Charts will save your graphs that you built while logged in to your free account.

The graphs that I have created have helped me understand my research data better. On my website, I have three line graphs that depict population growth in Moscow. The first shows births and deaths on the same graph. Until 1984, births and deaths rose together, which did not radically alter Moscow’s population. In 1989, deaths surpassed births and continued to do so throughout the 1990s. My second line graph illustrates population growth related to migration and live births on the same plane. Migration consistently played a larger role in contributing to population growth, but tended to mimic the patterns of natural births. In 1989, deaths surpassed births while migration did not contribute to Moscow’s population decline until 1992. Migration to Moscow dropped sharply, but rebounded before birthrates did, contributing to population growth. The last graph shows Moscow’s overall population growth.

My current dilemma is how to use graphs when methods of recording data changed. In the Soviet period, place of origin and nationality were not necessarily the same thing. For example, an Armenian could have lived in Azerbaijan before moving to Moscow. Soviet statistic takers in Moscow recorded place of origin for all migrants annually, and nationality every several years. Statistics in the post-Soviet period tend to only record place of origin, which obscures information and poses a challenge in creating graphs.





February 13, 2018

Introducing the Basics of My Website!

February 13, 2018 | By | No Comments

Since returning for the spring semester, I have been hard at work on getting my website up and running. As I have discussed previously, my website focuses on urbanization and migration to Moscow from other parts of the former Soviet Union from 1970 to the present. Today, Moscow is a world capital with designer boutiques and Michelin rated restaurants, but its socialist past is still visible from the metro system to its prefabricated apartment blocks. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx argues that bourgeois industrialization saved peasants from “the idiocy of rural life.” The 1970 Soviet census recorded that for the first time, more Soviet citizens lived in urban centers than rural ones. Soviet demographers, geographers, and others argued that this “urbanity” symbolized the ultimate success of socialism in the Soviet Union. This website examines Soviet urbanity as it existed and developed in the last two decades of the Soviet Union, tracing its afterlife in present-day Moscow. Drawing upon the research of scholars of second world urbanity, the website demonstrates how the Soviet project of building socialism focused on making citizens both urban and urbane. The socialist city was, in short, a social contract with its residents, providing them with their basic needs.

This website uses temporary labor migration to explore what urban and urbanity meant and still means in Moscow and interrogate who reaped the benefits of the (post)-socialist city. The website will showcase several essays that explain: (1) the centrality of Moscow for access to goods and services; (2) the process of temporary labor migration; and (3) the outcomes and consequences of migration for migrants, Muscovites, and the city itself. The website focuses on the trajectories of 4 locations: the Olympic Village, the Olympic Center, the Likhachev Automobile Factory, and the Lenin Komsomol Automobile Factory. The latter two were built by migrants, and the third employed several thousand migrant laborers. All three have left important traces in Moscow today, offering housing and cultural centers.

This project has two main areas of importance. First, it provides a case study of temporary labor migration, comparing socialist and capitalist practices. Crossing the Soviet and post-Soviet divide is a comparison itself that elucidates what is unique and what is not to socialism. Moreover, this website provides information that will allow others to make comparisons with other guest worker and postcolonial migration patterns. Second, this website both preserves and explains the history of Moscow. Projects for building new apartments and updating infrastructure for the World Cup are recreating and erasing the Soviet legacy. This website explains movement toward these goals while providing a repository of information on part of Moscow’s past.

The website will consist of a landing page that outlines the history of labor migration to Moscow and its economic and social outcomes from 1971 to 2002. The landing page will also host an interactive timeline of events related to population growth, labor migration, and larger events in Soviet history. The website will have five subsequent pages that will each address: (1) the practice of allocating labor in the Soviet Union; (2) changing demographics and borders of Moscow; (3) perceptions of migrants; (4) the history of labor migration related to automobile factories in Moscow; and (5) the history of labor migration related to the Olympics. Each page will act as a stand-alone historical analytical essay that elucidates a specific aspect of temporary labor migration to Moscow through text and interactive elements.

Page one will host two maps, one of the Soviet Union and one of Moscow, illustrating where migrants left and where they worked in Moscow. Page two will consist of four line graphs that will illustrate changing birth, death, migration, and population growth rates in Moscow. Page three will have a line graph to illustrate the changing places of origin for migrants. Pages four and five will show photographs that I have taken.

The website will use a multipage bootstrap to host the various website pages. For the timeline on the landing page, I will use Knight Lab since it allows me to use my own pictures and to illustrate 3 distinct timelines of population change, labor migration, and other events in Soviet history.

For the map on the first page that describes the history of labor migration to Moscow, I will use leaflet.js to construct a map that shows the 15 largest migrant-sending regions of the Soviet Union. Each pop-up will contain the area’s population in each census year (1970, 1979, 1989, 2002, 2010) as well as the number of migrants sent to Moscow in those years. I will also construct a map of Moscow that shows the 12 largest migrant-employing enterprises, and each pop-up will provide information on how many migrants worked there, the size of the overall workforce, and the type of work done at each location.

For the graphs that will chart the changes in birth rates, death rates, migration rates, overall growth of the city, and changing place of origin from 1970 to the present, I will use AM Charts, with Frappe being my backup. I opt to use either because they provide pop-ups that include data information and an explanation if necessary.




December 5, 2017

Visualizing Change Over Time in the Digital Humanities

December 5, 2017 | By | No Comments

My blog posts thus far have focused on illustrating change over time in some way, shape, or form given that my project grapples with the relationship between Soviet and post-Soviet. My second blog addressed the shortfalls for mapping demonstrating change over time. My most recent blog post discussed how to illustrate changing migration policies and their implications. While I concluded that I had pictures from my research trip to Moscow, I concluded that I needed to explore more ways to show change over time. Our last rapid development challenge reminded me that I had ignored the historian’s most obvious tool: a timeline.

Our last rapid development challenge asked us to visualize data using a JavaScript framework, and we opted to use a timeline to track the addition of locations in China to the UNESCO world heritage sites list. We opted to use the timeline framework provided by Knight Lab. The framework was extremely user friendly. Users can download a pre-formatted Google Doc and insert their data into it. For the data, we were able to note the year in which a specific site was added to the UNESCO list, a brief description of the site, and a photograph. Moreover, we could distinguish variables, so the timeline differentiated among cultural, natural, and mixed heritage sites.

It seems comical that, as a historian, I ignored a timeline as a tool for my website. My proposed timeline on my website will cover major historical events in the Soviet Union, demographic changes, and developments related to labor migration from 1970 to the present. Although I plan to label all three as separate categories, visualizing all three trends together will help both the users and me conceptualize the interplay among migration policies, actual population movement, and broader trends in Soviet history. For example, as birthrates leveled off and death rates began to increase in the late 1970s, officials in Moscow implemented new means of recruiting and organizing laborers. While Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost’ encouraged openness and freedom, including freedom of mobility, perestroika, or the restructuring of the command economy, acted counter-initiatively to this principle. Economic liberalization and privatization led to increasing rates of unemployment in Moscow and a temporary hiatus of hiring workers from outside the city on a temporary basis. A timeline links all of these various elements into one visual plane for users to understand migration in context, not in a vacuum.

I also plan to use line graphs to illustrate the changes in rates of births, deaths, and migration. While working in the Central State Archives of the City of Moscow, I collected statistics for each year from 1971 to 2002. Although I am aware of the larger trends in population changes, I hope that graphs will help me in locating smaller shifts and explaining unexpected drops and rises. I proposed for one page on my website to contain graphs for each of these factors and below, I will place my analysis to explain these changes. It is my ultimate hope that visualizing change over time will help not only webpage users but me as I make sense of my research.



November 15, 2017

How to Visualize Changing Cultural Practices

November 15, 2017 | By | No Comments

Our project proposals are soon due, and I have been thinking about what I would like to show on my future website. In my previous blogs, I have focused a great deal on showing how the physical space that is Moscow has changed, considering the intersections of Soviet and post-Soviet. Today, I turn my attention toward Soviet socialism’s influences on labor migration policies in Russian today, which will serve as the main focus of my website.

During the Soviet period, migration solved the problem of labor shortages in Moscow. Since 1932, the internal passports and domicile registration regulated movement within the Soviet Union. In order to live in the capital, would-be residents needed to prove they had employment within the city to then procure a domicile registration. In 1932, the domicile registration curbed rural to urban migration spurred by collectivization, industrialization, and famine, but by the 1970s, Soviet academics argued that such registration prevented urban sprawl and poverty seen in capitalist countries.

Restricting migration to Moscow (and other large Soviet cities for that matter) created a conundrum. Economic planners continued to open factories in Moscow, which then spurred the need for additional housing, schools, and the construction workers who made it possible. Although technically barred from in-migration, many Soviet citizens eagerly left behind rural villages for the city. To facilitate the symbiosis of a rural exodus to cities short on laborers, economic planners and the Moscow Soviet (city council) issued a temporary domicile registration and a bed in a dormitory to these labor migrants. In the course of four to six years, such migrants became eligible for permanent residency.

The Soviet practice of issuing temporary domicile registration offered migrants a sense of security – the legal right to live in the city (even if only temporarily at first) and a place to live. Additionally, many dormitories offered cultural development programs that provided classes for improving work qualifications, excursions throughout Moscow and the Soviet Union, and participation in intramural sports. Migrants became incorporated into a community, while enterprise directors also viewed these policies favorably, arguing that migrant involvement decreased hooliganism and absenteeism.

In certain ways, temporary labor migration to Moscow is similar to its Soviet predecessor. Today, the Moscow City Council sets quotas of foreign workers by sectors of the economy. Companies can then hire these workers on a temporary basis. Migrants can temporarily register their presence in the city and often live in dormitories or hostels. Despite the bureaucratic similarities, today’s migrants are often left more vulnerable. Companies do not run the dormitories, and therefore, few, if any cultural development programs exist. A lack of shared Soviet citizenship has also left migrants from the former Soviet republics with fewer legal protections.

My next task is to determine how to illustrate these changes. During my summer research trip to Moscow, I took pictures of Soviet structures to illustrate how they function today. I have archival information on Soviet and post-Soviet labor recruitment practices, but I will spend the next weeks discovering means of visualizing this information.



October 30, 2017

Mapping Moscow’s Past and Present

October 30, 2017 | By | No Comments

For the last several weeks, the CHI fellows have been working on a mapping challenge, in which we have made maps with a specific theme, complete with pop-ups. For my final project, I too hope to have a map to illustrate the locations of Soviet factories and dormitories, while my overall project will examine the relationship between Soviet and post-Soviet, socialist and capitalist. Working on our mapping challenge has made me consider the benefits as well as the limitations of using maps to illustrate how Moscow has changed from the 1970s to today.

The Russian Army Theater (formerly the Soviet Army Theater), located on the Street of the Soviet Army.

During the Soviet period, Soviet socialism was inscribed into the landscape. Streets and squares had names like “the 50th Anniversary of October” and “Dzerzhinsky,” referring to the surname of the first director of the Soviet secret police. Street names constantly reminded citizens of their collective history from the Great October Revolution to victory in the Great Patriotic War, the name given to the Soviet Union’s fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Many Soviet names remain in Moscow. I lived on October Street, a name that denotes the month of the Bolshevik victory over the Provisional Government in 1917. Soviet street names, it is worth noting, replaced tsarist ones. My street had previously been Alexander Street in honor of three of the Romanov tsars. Renaming streets not only served as a reminder of a shared Soviet history but also replaced the previous imperialist one.

The landscape of Moscow has also evolved since 1971, the year in which my research project begins. First, the borders of Moscow have expanded. In 1961, the Moscow Automobile Ring Road opened, demarcating the official boundaries of the capital. Since then, what were once “sleeping suburbs” outside of the Ring Road became neighborhoods of the capital. Second, the advent of capitalism in the former Soviet Union has also refashioned the appearance of streets. Designer shops now line Tverskaya Street the main drag heading north of the Kremlin, and shopping malls have emerged throughout the city. Since the early 1990s, tiny kiosks that served as grocery stores and cafes sprouted up on sidewalks and in alleyways until they were demolished in early 2016. Third, and perhaps most dramatically, new high rises are replacing older Soviet apartment buildings, inciting both the ire and support of Muscovites.

Maps have the power to shape reality, but which reality will I show? Simply comparing the Soviet and post-Soviet periods can obscure the over 25 years that separate the end of the Soviet experiment from today. The kiosks which shade my memories of my first trips to Moscow would be lost in a then-and-now comparison, but they played an important role in Moscow’s post-Soiet history. Maps can also only show so much. Even if Moscow’s landscape is decidedly market-oriented today, red stars and hammers and sickles also adorn that same space.



September 23, 2017

Introducing CHI Fellow Emily Joan Elliott

September 23, 2017 | By | No Comments

Hi All! My name is Emily Joan Elliott, and I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at MSU. I also happen to be a 2017-2018 CHI Fellow. I grew up in the Bronx, New York, and earned my BA in history at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 2012. There, I began my pursuit of studying Russian language and history.

I began my doctoral program of study in the History Department at MSU in fall 2012. I had no clearly defined dissertation topic when I began, but my advisor introduced me to migration in the Soviet Union. Migration is a good fit for me. I grew up in New York City, one of the great migration capitals of the world. I am interested in how migrants relate to their previous homes and forge new ones after moving. My dissertation, “Migrants and Muscovites: The Boundaries of Belonging in Moscow, 1971-2002,” examines temporary labor migration to Moscow from other parts of the Soviet Union. I investigate how migrants’ methods of and desires for relocation overlapped with and diverged from official regulations and goals for migration. I argue that shared Soviet identity, culture, and education made the process of becoming a Muscovite easier in the Soviet period than the post-Soviet one.

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