The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - 4:30pm to 5:45pm
color book cover of the The Hungry Steppe

CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S354

Professor Cameron’s talk, which draws from her recent book, The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan (Cornell University Press, 2018), examines one of the most heinous crimes of the Stalinist regime, the Kazakh famine of 1930-33. More than 1.5 million people perished in this crisis, a quarter of Soviet Kazakhstan’s population, and the disaster transformed a territory the size of western Europe. 

Drawing upon a wide range of sources in Russian and in Kazakh, her talk brings this largely unknown story to light, revealing its devastating consequences for Kazakh society. It finds that through the most violent means the Kazakh famine created Soviet Kazakhstan and forged a new Kazakh national identity. But the nature of this transformation was uneven. Neither Kazakhstan nor Kazakhs themselves became integrated into the Soviet system in precisely the ways that Moscow had originally hoped. More broadly, she shows how the case of the Kazakh famine overturns several assumptions about violence, modernization, and nation-making under Stalin.


"Sarah Cameron unearths abundant new Russian and Kazakh language sources to tell a spellbinding story of vicious social engineering. Explaining what happened and why with utmost care, Cameron records the howls of suffering and mass death in the violent emergence of a Soviet Kazakh nation."
(Stephen Kotkin, John P. Birkelund '52 Professor in History and International Affairs, Princeton University) 

"Sarah Cameron provides the first scholarly account of the murderous famine of 1930-33, perhaps the central event in modern Kazakh history. Told with empathy and dignity, The Hungry Steppe recovers for historians a little-known tragedy of Stalinism."
(Adeeb Khalid, Professor of History, Carleton College, author of Making Uzbekistan) 

"Sarah Cameron demonstrates the relevance of the long-overlooked Kazakh famine to many bigger historical questions. The end result is a damning indictment of Soviet nation building that covers new ground and adds important dimensions to one of the epic stories of twentieth century social transformation."
(David Brandenberger, Professor of History, University of Richmond, and author of National Bolshevism)

"The Hungry Steppe is a compelling account of the Kazakh famine, situating it against the backdrop of changing Soviet perceptions of the steppe’s ecology and economy. Sarah Cameron ably and movingly documents the tragic consequences of the famine for the Kazakh population, and is the first to do so in the English language."
(Rebecca Manley, Associate Professor of History, Queen's University, and author of award-winning To the Tashkent Station) 

Sarah Cameron is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan (Cornell University Press, 2018), which won four book awards and two honorable mentions. Russian and Kazakh translations of the book are forthcoming. Her research has been supported by the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, Mellon/The American Council for Learned Societies and others. At present, Prof. Cameron is at work on a new book-length project examining the transformation of Central Asia's Aral Sea over the course of the twentieth century.


Sarah Cameron, Associate Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

Sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

For more information, please call 617-495-4037.


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