Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Professor of History Ekaterina Pravilova Lauded for Her New Book


Earlier this year, she won the George L. Mosse Prize for the “intellectual and cultural history of Europe since 1500” from the American Historical Association. She was also awarded the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences by the Association for Slavic Studies, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES). Most recently, she was recognized with the Historia Nova Prize for Best Book on Russian Intellectual and Cultural History.
A Public Empire is the third book for Pravilova, a St. Petersburg native, who arrived in Princeton in 2006 to join the history department. Her work focuses on Russian history from the 18th century to the revolutions.
“We had high hopes for Ekaterina (Katya) Pravilova when we hired her,” says William Chester Jordan, the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History and chair of the history department. “She has more than fulfilled them. Her work tackles big and difficult problems in creative ways. It is solidly based in archival research and is brilliantly framed. When you add to this Pravilova’s sensitivity to the social and political contexts of the issues she studies, one knows one is encountering a genuinely great historian in her work.”
In her book, Pravilova tackles the emergence of Russian property regimes from the time of Catherine the Great through World War I and the revolutions of 1917. She also explains the new Russian practice of owning “public things” and how certain objects — rivers, forests, minerals, historical monuments, icons and Russian literary classics — should have public status. During that period, more liberal politicians advocated for property reform that tried to exempt public things from private ownership, while the tsars and the imperial government wanted to protect the sanctity of it.
“When I initially set out to write the book, I was heading in a different direction,” Pravilova says. “I then became intrigued about property rights in Russia and wrote a paper on public rivers for a conference. I started thinking about other public things such as forests and historical monuments and wanted to explore them. I just love this idea of tracing things that people thought were private by definition, and how they came to be seen as public as a  society as sharing things. It was fascinating to me.”
Pravilova’s strong interest in history and research developed in St. Petersburg as a student of Boris Anan’ich who has been her lifelong mentor and friend. “He was a wonderful teacher, my advisor, and I defended my first dissertation with him at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. I started my career there.”
After serving as a research scholar at the Academy from 1995 to 2004, she went on to the European University in St. Petersburg where she stayed until her appointment at Princeton in 2006.
“I made the decision quickly to come to Princeton,” she continues. “This is a wonderful department and the people are incredibly supportive. It’s hard to believe that I’ve already been here for nine years.”
While not teaching at Princeton, Pravilova often travels back to her native Russia with her children, Zhenya, 16, and Elizaveta, six, where her husband, also a historian, resides, and where she can return to spend time in her favorite research libraries and archives, the treasure troves for her work.
You can read more about Pravilova’s book or order it here
Photo by Denise Applewhite

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