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PhD and a Cup of Tea: Reconfiguring Humanitarianism in the Margins of Empire – Displacement and Relief in Turkestan, 1914-1924

January 17, 2024 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

To the starving Volga Region from Red Turkestan’ (Tashkent, 1921). Source: Russian Perspectives on Islam

To the starving Volga Region from Red Turkestan’ (Tashkent, 1921). Source: Russian Perspectives on Islam

Part of our new seminar series, Humanitarianism, Refugees and the Holocaust

During the First World War, nearly 300.000 refugees and prisoners of war were displaced to Turkestan, which brought the local population into direct contact with a conflict that was being waged thousands of miles away in Russia’s Western borderlands and on the Caucasus front. After the end of the war and the collapse of the Russian Empire, Central Asia once again became host to refugees fleeing catastrophe in Soviet Russia. In 1921, when famine struck the Volga region, the Soviet government transported thousands of people to remote parts of the nascent USSR.

This presentation will examine efforts to provide relief to displaced persons in Central Asia during the First World War and the early 1920s, in order to understand how it was reconfigured under the conditions of the new revolutionary state. What practices of relief survived the collapse of the old regime? How were these adapted by the Bolsheviks to fit the political context of early 1920s? What can this tell us about how the Red Cross was thought to contribute to building the new, socialist order?

More broadly, it will explore how the nature of humanitarianism changed in this period. While the domestic the activities of voluntary organizations such as the Russian/Soviet Red Cross act as a starting point, my project also explores the transnational connections created by humanitarian aid and hopes to integrate the Russian/Soviet case into the wider literature on the history of humanitarianism, which still tends to neglect non-western perspectives.

About the Speaker:

Hanna Matt is a PhD candidate at the Humanitarianism and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. Her dissertation examines humanitarian relief in late Imperial Russia and the early Soviet Union by considering different groups of displaced persons, including refugees, prisoners of war, and victims of famine in Central Asia. In 2022/23 she spent time in Tashkent as an affiliated visiting researcher at the History Institute of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences. She is also the postgraduate representative for the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies’ Eurasian Regions Study group and a co-editor for the UK-based digital histories project ‘Peripheral Histories?’.

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This event is free, although registration via the link below is required. Please note that our free events are run by staff volunteers. Thank you for your patience should we have any technical or audio difficulties. We will do our best to correct them but this is not always possible.

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