Laurie Manchester photo webMost Americans are perplexed by the popularity of President Vladimir Putin in today’s Russia and suspect that ballot boxes are stuffed or violence is used to coerce voters.

At 10 a.m. Monday, March 4, Laurie Manchester, Ph.D., an associate professor of history at Arizona State University, will explain the mystery of Putin’s popularity.

Manchester says two factors have shaped Russians’ views. The first is what Russia underwent in the 1990s during the sudden, chaotic and violent transition to democracy and capitalism, which also included the overnight loss of a significant amount of its historic territory. The second is Western attitudes and portrayals of Russia in the media, of which Russians are acutely aware.

A Russia historian, she studied in the Soviet Union and has made dozens of extended visits to Russia. Her most recent work involves the return to Russia of the offspring of those who fled Russia after the Bolshevik takeover in 1917.  

The book she is currently writing, From China to the Soviet Union: The Return of the “True” Russians, will be the first comprehensive study of ethnic return migration to an illiberal homeland. From 2012-2017, she conducted nearly 100 oral interviews with repatriates to Chinese cities in the Urals, Siberia and the Far East. Her research has uncovered that, despite knowing about the gulag and endemic poverty in the Soviet Union, more than 150,000 Russians voluntarily repatriated, mainly in the 1950s. Most were the same Russians, or their offspring, who had fled Russia after the Bolshevik takeover in 1917.

She writes that, while contemporary policy makers may imagine that the global population is ever ready to migrate, most people remain rooted to an essentialized notion of homeland, and some, even when it can be considered unsafe to do so, chose to return “home.”

A native of New England, Manchester received her Ph.D. in history from Columbia University in 1995. Her book, Holy Fathers, Secular Sons: Clergy, Intelligentsia, and the Modern Self in Revolutionary Russia, won the 2009 Vucinich prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian and East European studies in any field of the humanities or social sciences.

Tickets to all Monday Morning Lectures are $5 at the door of the Renaissance Theater.

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