Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Benjamin Nathans


“Porous Empire” is a study of the relationship between Soviet institutions, Soviet society and the millions of foreigners who visited the USSR between the mid-1950s and the mid-1980s. “Porous Empire” traces how Soviet economic, propaganda, and state security institutions, all shaped during the isolationist Stalin period, struggled to accommodate their practices to millions of visitors with material expectations and assumed legal rights radically unlike those of Soviet citizens. While much recent Soviet historiography focuses on the ways in which the post-Stalin opening to the outside world led to the erosion of official Soviet ideology, I argue that ideological attitudes inherited from the Stalin era structured institutional responses to a growing foreign presence in Soviet life. Therefore, while Soviet institutions had to accommodate their economic practices to the growing numbers of tourists and other visitors inside the Soviet borders and were forced to concede the existence of contact zones between foreigners and Soviet citizens that loosened some of the absolute sovereignty claims of the Soviet party-statem, they remained loyal to visions of Soviet economic independence, committed to fighting the cultural Cold War, and profoundly suspicious of the outside world.

The gap between Soviet concessions to the era of international mobility and Soviet attitudes to the outside world shaped the peculiar nature of globalization in its Soviet context: even as the Soviet opening up to the world promoted Westernization and undermined some of the ideological foundations of Soviet power, it also generated, within the bowels of Soviet institutions, a profound and honestly-held commitment to authoritarianism and social discipline as an instrument of geopolitical resistance, a mental attitude that still shapes Russian official approaches to the outside world 25 years after the fall of the USSR.

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