Andrey Shlyakhter is an international historian of the Soviet Union and its neighbors. His research explores the interaction of economics, security, and ideology at state frontiers. Dr. Shlyakhter received his PhD from the University of Chicago Department of History in December 2020, with the dissertation “Smuggler States: Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Contraband Trade Across the Soviet Frontier, 1919-1924.” The dissertation informs his postdoctoral book project, Smuggling Across the Soviet Borders: Contraband Trades, Soviet Solutions, and the Shadow Economic Origins of the Iron Curtain, 1917-1932. This study uncovers the coevolution of two fundamental features of the Soviet system: the black market and the border. Drawing on archives in (so far) seven countries (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and the US), it argues that, by linking Soviet consumers with the outside world against Moscow’s wishes, the ports and distilleries of Riga, Tallinn, Tartu, and Harbin and the cloth factories of Łódź inadvertently fashioned the foundations of an interwar Iron Curtain. Revising the received narrative, it demonstrates that Stalin did not simply seal the border to keep Soviet citizens in, and subversive ideas out. Even before the Kremlin embraced “Socialism in One Country,” the struggle against the contraband trade that blossomed during the Civil War and flourished under the mixed-market New Economic Policy (NEP) of the 1920s fostered the border control infrastructure, mechanisms of repression, and economic autarky that would make Stalinist isolation possible. The origins of the Iron Curtain lay in the shadows of the Soviet economy and its relationship with the outside world.
Title VIII Research Scholar, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center
Areas of Expertise