Anthropologist wins Russian book award

Berkeley anthropologist Alexei Yurchak has received the 2015 Prosvetitel (Enlightener) Prize, Russia’s most prestigious award for the best nonfiction book of the year in the humanities. The award was given for a Russian version of his Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton University Press 2006), which focuses on the last decades of the Soviet Union and its sudden collapse.

Alexiei Yurchak received his award in Moscow in November.

Alexei Yurchak received his award in Moscow in November.

He received the award in a ceremony in the Moscow Academy Theater in late November.

The original English version of his book won the 2007 Wayne Vucinic Book Award for best book of the year from the American Society for Eastern European, Eurasian and Slavic Studies. Yurchak rewrote the Russian version of the book, revising and expanding it extensively for Russian readers. It was published in Moscow in 2014.

“Writing about something that everyone in the country has an opinion about, and yet being able to say new things and moreover, being recognized by the people there in this way — this is the ultimate award,” said Yurchak in an email. “Also, I really appreciate what the Prosvetitel (Enlightener) award stands for – for supporting truly critical intellectual discourse in the country, despite all political permutations.”

Yurchak is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology. He earned a graduate degree in physics in Russia and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Duke University. He specializes in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology and post-Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe.