Militarism in Post-Soviet Russia: War, Identity and Culture, 1990-2000

In this post, Swansea University PhD student Allyson Edwards explains her research project…

Scholarship about militarism in the Soviet Union and Russia concentrates on the role of men in the armed forces, with minimal focus on how the military culture affected the family unit or the women within it. This is surprising, considering the extent to which the military shaped Russian culture, society, and political life. Whilst men were glorified for their role in the military, women were praised for their role as the mother and wife of those within the armed forces. During the final years of the Soviet Union and the early years of the Russian federation, there were cutbacks in the army. Whilst the man lost his role within the army, the woman maintained her role as the mother and wife.


In July, I was awarded funding by the DTC-ESRC studentship to explore ‘Militarism in Post-Soviet Russia: War, Identity and Culture, 1990-2000.’ My project aims to understand the gendered aspects of militarism, more specifically the extent to which militarism in post-Soviet Russian culture reinforced the patriarchal social structures and in what ways demilitarisation shaped the post-Soviet Russian family. To achieve this, the project focuses on the soldiers that were demilitarised throughout the Yeltsin regime. It will utilise the diaries and memoirs of former soldiers and their partners to identify the extent to which the military defined their identity, how societal perceptions of the military transformed aspects and characteristics of masculinity, and the implications of this process for Russian politics, society, and culture.

Call for Contributions: Twin Cities

Call for Contributions, from Dr Tom Allbeson and Dr Christoph Laucht

Special Issue: ‘Twin Cities – Reconstruction and Reconciliation after 1945’

We are seeking to publish a special issue on the topic of twin cities in the postwar period. We made initial contact with Urban History, which would be our preferred journal for this research.

Deadline for Abstracts: 20 January 2017

Twinships between cities have long played an important role in transnational relations, taking different forms that include school exchange programmes, economic links, sports competitions or cultural events such as theatre performances, food festivals or Christmas markets. Shortly after the end of the Second World War, cities in the former enemy nations contributed to an emerging process of reconciliation by forging ties between municipalities in Germany, Italy and Japan and their British, French and American counterparts. During the Cold War, cities from across the two blocs formed partnerships in an attempt to further the understanding between East and West. And in organizations such as International Cities for Peace or Mayors for Peace city officials engaged in peace campaigning.

Yet, twin cities have so far received relatively little interest from urban historians. While there have been some studies of particular twin cities such as Dresden and Coventry or Birmingham and Frankfurt or partnerships between cities in divided Germany during the Cold War, no broader conceptual attempt has yet been made to explore the place and significance of twin cities in urban history, the ways in which these partnerships manifested themselves socially and culturally, and the relation between the reconstruction of devastated urban centres and postwar reconciliation after 1945.

The proposed special issue on ‘Twin Cities: Reconstruction and Reconciliation after 1945’, thus, sets out to shed more light on this pivotal, yet neglected area of urban history. Through a set of case studies, it seeks to explore different facets and varieties of partnerships between cities with particular reference to the process of reconciliation that occurred during the postwar reconstruction of cities after 1945. We invite contributors to address a range of questions and areas relevant to twin cities, including: in what ways did the postwar construction of international city partnerships relate to the postwar reconstruction of urban centres? To what extent did relations between twin cities reflect larger trends in international relations? How did partnerships between cities in Germany, Italy and Japan, on the one hand, and urbanities in Britain, France and the United States, on the other, shape the agendas and serve the purposes of reconciliation between former foes? What role have twin cities played in the memorialization of the Second World Wars? How did municipal officials and civil servants organize themselves nationally and transnationally to form networks campaigning for peace and reconciliation? What were the most successful foundations (e.g. economic, social, cultural, educational) of twin city partnerships?

Submission Details:

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and full contact details to both Dr Tom Allbeson ( and Dr Christoph Laucht ( by 20 January 2017. We aim to invite approximately 7 contributors to submit original research articles of 8,000 words in January 2018. These will be subject to the journal’s peer review process.

Guest Editors:

Dr Tom Allbeson,

Lecturer in Modern History, Department of History, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP


Dr Christoph Laucht, FRHistS, FHEA

Senior Lecturer in Modern History, Department of History, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP





Online Exhibition: “Making War, Mapping Europe: Militarized Cultural Encounters, 1792–1920”

While the HERA project “Making War, Mapping Europe” (MWME) – in which CRAM member Dr Leighton James is involved – is approaching a conclusion, a central aspect of the collaborative research project’s output will continue to be available to scholars and the broader public alike: its online exhibition. This exhibition employs a wide array of objects and essays to explore intercultural contact within military contexts and can be found under this link:

In six thematic sections, the exhibition “Making War, Mapping Europe” portrays cultural contacts among soldiers from France, England, and Germany who were stationed at the periphery of Europe and in the Middle East during the “long 19th century.” The exhibition was conceptualized for both an academic audience and interested laypeople. Visitors here receive a visual impression of the presence of Napoleonic soldiers in Egypt, Italy, and Russia, as well as German military members’ encounters with the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan region during the First World War. Two further sections of the exhibition are dedicated to Bavarian soldiers in Greece in the 19th century and the British soldiers in Egypt from the 1880’s up to the end of the Great War.


These encounters are evidenced by the array of objects available for view in the exhibition: photographs, works of art, souvenirs, and various daily objects that have survived. Among these objects is a German steel helmet, specifically designed to enable Muslim soldiers to touch their forehead to the ground during ritual prayer, and a braid of hair that a Napoleonic officer, who had landed in Russian war captivity, had kept in memory of his Russian girlfriend. These objects and hundreds of other pictures and artifacts in the exhibition illustrate how military operations and expeditions ultimately functioned as catalysts for various forms of intercultural encounter. Their subject matter and greater implications cover a great spectrum ranging from questions of violence and gender, to knowledge transfer, and finally to the culture of memory surrounding these events.

Artifacts were collected with the support of many museums, archives, and private persons. The historians and art historians from the collaborative research project embedded them in the historical context. General thematic essays then augment the exhibition and simultaneously present the initial research findings of the three year project.

The online exhibition arose within the framework of the HERA-funded international research project ‘Making War, Mapping Europe,’ which is led by Professor Dr. Oliver Janz at the Freie Universität Berlin, and which is supported by its members at the Trinity College Dublin and the British universities of Swansea and York.

Dr Eugene Miakinkov on public attitudes to weapons technology….

This year I have started a new interdisciplinary project sponsored by Cherish DE ( Weaponization of artificial intelligence presents one of the greatest ethical and technological challenges in the 21st century and has been described as the third revolution in warfare, after the invention of gunpowder and nuclear weapons. Despite the vital importance of this turning point for modern society, legal and ethical practices, and technological development, there is little systematic study of public opinion on this critical issue. Our main objective is to analyze what factors determine public attitudes towards the use of autonomous weapons.

aTo do this, our research will use an innovative methodology of Youth Juries (18-25 years old) and vignettes that will produce a series of plausible but fictitious scenarios with autonomous weapons that will be presented to a ‘jury’. The jury will consider both problems and future recommendations about the role of AI in military conflict. Rob Wortham will provide technical expertise about the AI and robotics. Elvira Vallejos will design and organize the study. Eugene Miakinkov will contextualize the study in the fields of modern conflict and militarization of technology.

The value of this research lies simultaneously in its contribution to the emerging field of autonomous weapons and in generating recommendations that can influence government policy-makers, industry chiefs, and public discourse. This study is thus vital for a critical understanding of public perceptions of AI in armed conflicts and its implications for the future policy and industry decisions.

The outputs and dissemination for our project include a workshop at University of Nottingham in April 2017, engagement with a wider public through blogs, radio, and popular press, as well as an academic publication summarizing our findings for the specialist community.

Principal Investigator: Eugene Miakinkov (Political and Cultural Studies, Swansea University)

Investigators: Elvira Perez Vallejos (HORIZON Digital Economy Research, University of

Nottingham) and Rob Wortham (Department of Computer Science, University of Bath)

Luca Trenta on Targeted Killing in US Foreign Policy

Last September, I secured a British Academy Small Grant for my project on targeted killing in US foreign policy. The project aims at understanding how assassination re-emerged as a policy option in the 1980s in spite of the existence of an Executive Order (EO) banning this. To answer such a question, the project looks at the Congressional inquiries on the CIA assassination attempts during the 1960s. It explores how the Ford Administration reacted to these inquiries and the decisions that led to Executive Order (EO) 11905 banning assassination. Finally, the project explores how, in spite of reconfirming the ban on assassination on paper (with EO 12333), the Reagan Administration started a process of circumventing the order.

I became interested in this process through my research on drones and targeted killings. Literature on drones seems to identify EO 11905 as a watershed moment: the US was involved in assassination attempts before the order, but practice and discussions of assassination were completely banned after such Order and until 9/11. My project aims at elucidating the complexities regarding assassination by exploring how – mostly through re-definitions of the meaning of assassination and of the boundaries of the Order – assassination re-entered the range of policy options long before 9/11.

aDuring the Easter Break, I conducted research at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor (MI). Early in the summer, I presented a paper based on my work on Ford at several conferences including the Central and Eastern European ISA in Ljubljana and the HOTCUS conference in Middelburg. I also organised a panel on normative change surrounding assassination for the Conference of the Italian Standing Group for International Relations in Trento, Italy.

In July, I went back to the States for further research. I conducted archival research at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley (CA), and at the Library of Congress and the National Security Archives in Washington DC. I also conducted a series of elite interviews with former policymakers and academics. These included former Legal Adviser for the U.S. Department of State and the National Security Council John Bellinger III, former Director of the NSA and CIA Gen. Michael Hayden, and former member of the Clinton and Obama Administration Bruce Riedel, a leading expert on counter-terrorism.

Based on this additional research, I presented an updated paper at a conference on the nature of covert action at the University of Nottingham and I arranged a second panel on assassination for the BISA US Foreign policy working group conference at the University of Bath.

Luca Trenta is lecturer in the Department of Political and Cultural Studies at Swansea University.  His book, Risk and Presidential Decision-making: The Emergence of Foreign Policy Crises is available with Routledge.


Dr Tomás Irish on his summer of research and remembrance…

CRAM member Tomás Irish had a busy summer of research, conferences, and commemorative events. At the end of June he was one of the organizers of a summer school called ‘Faces of First World War Battles and Battlefields’ which brought together 25 doctoral and masters students from across Europe and North America who specialize in the study of the Great War. Over a week the group took in a range of battlefields, cemeteries, and memorials at the Somme, Verdun, Chemin des Dames, and other sites, while also participating in a range of workshops given by leading scholars of the First World War at the Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne.

The Summer School concluded at Thiepval on 1 July for the official ceremony to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.


David Cameron speaks at the Thiepval ceremony on 1 July 2016.

Dr Irish then spent three weeks in Paris conducting research on his new project which will look at the intellectual work of the League of Nations in the 1920s and 1930s. The project will examine the emergence of an international understanding of the intellectual (and their role) during and following the Great War. After fruitful stays at the Archives Nationales, the Bibliotheque de documentation international contemporaine, and the UNESCO archives, he travelled to Asiago in Italy for an international conference on the role of universities during the First World War. His  summer concluded in Swansea with a talk to the local branch of the Historical Association about the memory of the year 1916 in Ireland.

Dr Irish is author of Trinity in War and Revolution 1912-23. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy Press, 2015) and The University at War 1914-25: Britain, France, and the United States. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.


Ruins, reconstruction and photography in Europe after 1945

This summer CRAM member Dr Tom Allbeson has been working on a book for Bloomsbury. Provisionally titled Reconstructing Europe: Photography and the Cultural History of the City, c.1945-60, it will be published as part of their new series on photography and history. The book looks at the prominent role of urban photography in the debates about rebuilding the towns and cities of Britain, France and West Germany in the wake of the Second World War. It addresses a range of imagery from the dramatic depiction of war ruins (e.g. Jean Roubier’s photography of Normandy) to the ubiquitous architectural photographs of modernist tower blocks that began to spring up across the continent.


Jean Roubier, L’art française dans la guerre: Caen (Paris: Fayard, 1945).

The book will trace this dynamic visual discourse across the pages of exhibition catalogues, the illustrated press, coffee table books and all sorts of other photographically illustrated publications, from souvenirs to government-sponsored pamphlets. Tom will argue that – in the immediate aftermath of the bombing campaign and in the early years of the Cold War – the image of the city was a key symbol in Western Europe which facilitated both a negotiation of past conflict and a vision of future cooperation. The manuscript will be off to the publisher at the end of October.

Atlantic Politics, Military Strategy and the French and Indian War

Dr Richard Hall, CRAM member and lecturer in the Department of History at Swansea University, recently published his first book, Atlantic Politics, Military Strategy and the French and Indian War, with Palgrave.  Dr Hall agreed to answer a few questions for the CRAM blog.

How did you become interested in this topic?
I had a passion for the French and Indian War stretching back to my school days and this continued through my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Having had something of a hiatus between my MA and PhD (when I was a primary school teacher), I returned to academia with an idea for a thesis that explored a gap I had found in the historiography of British military defeat during the preliminary stages of the French and Indian War. This I carried through with the guidance of my supervisor, Steve Sarson and, eventually, I managed to get the then completed thesis published (with help from Steve, Leighton James and others) as a monograph with Palgrave Macmillan.

What was the most rewarding aspect of the research?

Finding a different historiographical angle with which to approach a well-studied area of early American history. This period also introduced me to a range of works that provided considerable motivation for my own project and indeed those I plan to undertake in the future.


What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently undertaking preliminary research into the clash of military cultures in North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, building upon an expanding area of early American historiography. I am also exploring the possibilities of a collaborative project concerning fear and soldiers/warfare in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Atlantic Politics, Military Strategy and the French and Indian War

‘1755 marked the point at which events in America ceased to be considered subsidiary affairs in the great international rivalry that existed between the colonial powers of Great Britain and France. This book examines the Braddock Campaign of 1755, a segment of the wider ‘Braddock Plan’ that aimed to drive the French from all of the contested regions they occupied in North America.  Rather than being an archetypal military history-styled analysis of General Edward Braddock’s foray into the Ohio Valley, this work will argue that British defeat at the infamous Battle of the Monongahela should be viewed as one that ultimately embodied military, political and diplomatic divergences and weaknesses within the British Atlantic World of the eighteenth century.  These factors, in turn, hinted at growing schisms in the empire that would lead to the breakup of British North America in the 1770s and the birth of the future United States.  Such an interpretation moves away from the conclusion so often advanced that Braddock’s Defeat was a distinctly, and principally ‘British’, martial catastrophe; hence allowing the outcome of this pivotal event in American history to be understood in a different vein than has hitherto been apparent.’

Swansea CRAM – Cardiff Workshop, Wednesday 18th May 2016

Location: Room B02/03 James Callaghan Building, Swansea University

12pm – Lunch (served in the Callaghan basement foyer)


Panel One – Ruination and Photography: Bodies, Minds and Buildings in Post-War Europe

This panel will examine the intersections between photography and history in the construction of European narratives of the Second World War in the late 1940s. The panel will investigate three ‘case studies’ that illuminate the role of photography as a visual medium mobilised to tell stories of the traumatic ‘ruins’ of war in these years. These photographic ruins all relate to legacies of war that touch on suffering and loss: the bodies of women who had their heads shaved at the liberation of France; the minds of child Holocaust victims cared for in post-war Britain and the buildings of post-war Germany. All three case studies approach photography as a key vector for understanding the context and debates that informed European intercultural relations and dialogue in the immediate post-war period. From ruination to reconstruction, such photographic images played their part in shaping the early visual landscape of the Second World War in European cultural memory.

Speakers: Dr. Tom Allbeson (Swansea); Dr. Rebecca Clifford (Swansea); Prof. Claire Gorrara (Cardiff).

Chair: Prof. Hanna Diamond (Cardiff)

2pm-2.15pm Break


Panel Two – Military Culture and the Militarization of Society and Culture

This panel will explore possibilities for a collaborative research project on military culture and the militarization of society and culture (whether from the top or at lower levels) in the second half of the 20th century and the early 21st century. The papers each examine particular aspects of military culture and/or processes of militarization relating to politics, culture, institutions and/or everyday life, against their broader historical contexts, covering four countries (Argentina, Britain, Italy and Russia).  Focusing on hitherto relatively unexplored aspects of this topic and new types of research materials, the papers place importance on the analysis of cultural mechanisms and strategies employed within the above processes, as evident, for example, in choice of language and styles, the adoption of rituals, and the use of cultural products.

Speakers: Dr Tilmann Altenberg (Cardiff); Dr Jonathan Dunnage (Swansea); Dr Christoph Laucht (Swansea); Dr Eugene Miakinkov (Swansea).

Chair: Dr Caroline Campbell (North Dakota)

4pm-4.45pm – Discussion

‘Playing with Uncertainty: The Politics of the Unknown and the Nuclear Threat in Britain, 1979-85’ Book Project

CRAM member Dr Christoph Laucht has been awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant to complete the archival research for his current book project. This study explores the role that uncertainty, as a result of a lack of verifiable knowledge, plays in liberal democratic societies. It examines this crucial, yet widely neglected subject through a micro historical study of the ways in which different actors, including the state, parliamentary and extra-parliamentary groups, experts from various disciplines as well as popular media, used, or ‘played with’, the uncertainty about the expected effects of nuclear war for political purposes. The book studies this politics of the unknown within the British context at a time when perceived fears of a nuclear threat intensified between 1979 and 1985. This research thus makes a major contribution to the study of the epistemological uses of uncertainty in liberal democracies, contributes to de-centring Cold War historiography away from the superpowers, and challenges established assumptions about the dominance of nuclear fear in every-day life.