In our final episode (for now), we talk to Ronald Grigor Suny, the William H. Sewell Junior. Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. Besides a long-standing reputation for having been an early exponent and pioneer of Soviet and Nationalist Studies as areas of historical inquiry, Professor Suny has also garnered international recognition for his work on the South Caucuses before and after 1917, most notably Armenia.
Surveying how these fields of study he originally championed have since developed following the end of the Cold War in 1991, Suny not only provides us with a comprehensive retrospective but also offers an eloquent rebuttal to critiques of having normalised Soviet domination while seeking to delegitimise national identities. Such perspectives represent these specialisms’ failure to break from a Western-academic mooring and provide an effective counter-discourse to nationalist narratives. Nowhere is this better encapsulated than in the Republic of Armenia. Despite ongoing efforts at producing a more balanced picture, understanding of the Soviet past continues to be subsumed into wider notions of perpetual victimisation at the hands of external aggressors. Through this, Suny weaves together the key analytical throughlines explored in this podcast and illustrates the many challenges for those who study minority history.