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.
Like the migrants that I study, Moscow has become a second home for me. I have been fortunate enough to visit Moscow four times, twice for language training and twice for dissertation research. In addition to my scholarly pursuits, I love spending time with my two host families, chatting about everything from love to movies to politics. I love walking around the city and seeing the interplay among imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet history. Ancient churches, Soviet apartment blocks, and new shopping centers are all always a short walk away. To me, these buildings represent how Moscow’s historical past is constantly influencing and shaping its present.
My proposed project as a CHI fellow will use migration as a lens for understanding the relationship between Soviet and post-Soviet, socialist and capitalist in Moscow. During the past year, the local and federal authorities in Moscow have proposed a massive renovation project that would demolish most apartment blocks that were constructed under the Khrushchev period. While some Muscovites are thrilled to find a new, modern home, others chafe at the prospect of leaving home. Using this conflict as a starting point, I hope to examine how such buildings became home to large segments of the capital’s population. Temporary labor migrants, who primarily hailed from the rural regions surrounding Moscow, built many Soviet-era apartment blocks. After gaining permanent residency in the capital, these migrants moved into the apartment buildings that they often had helped to construct. Today, international temporary labor migrants, hired through similar processes, build the apartment blocks that will replace the Soviet ones. While the new buildings represent a new Moscow, the processes and practices are strikingly Soviet.