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December 2001
400 pages  

6 x 9
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Stalin’s Railroad
Turksib and the Building of Socialism
Payne, Matthew
Matthew Payne details the building and impact of the Turkestano-Siberian Railroad, one of the major construction projects of Stalin’s first Five Year Plan.

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Matthew J. Payne is assistant professor of history at Emory University.
"Addresses some of the most important theoretical and conceptual issues of the day. This is a remarkable achievement." —Hiroaki Kuromiya, Indiana University

"Payne does a superb job of addressing a wide array of issues that defined the Soviet First Five-Year plan and the construction of Turksib. His work explores the ethnic and racial conflicts that ensued from a project that had, among its stated purposes, a civilizing mission that aimed to overcome Kazakh 'backwardness' and to bring 'new life and culture to the East.' A unique study, with intriguing and provocative qualities."—William J. Chase, University of Pittsburgh

“Discusses the construction of the Turkestano-Siberian Railroad, one of the major projects of the First Five Year Plan; sets the effort in its wider political, economic and social context.”---The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 21, 2001

“”...a work of remarkable achievement and considerable importance. . . . “Payne ... has discovered a rich microcosm of the early Soviet Union in the Turksib project. ... Payne adds significant insight into the ethnic and racial conflicts that resulted from Turksib and a fresh interpretation of Stalin’s crusade to overthrow all of existing society.”—Bob Edmonds, McCormick Messenger, 2/28/02

“Scholars looking to more fully comprehend the complex dynamic of Soviet industrialization and its interplay with nationality policy will learn much from this thoughtful study.”—The Russian Review, July 2002

“Payne’s research ... is exhaustive, and his style eminently readable ... A valuable book.”—History: Reviews of New Books, Spring 2002

“ . . . Provides valuable insights on the first years of the Soviet great industrialization drive. Those interested in Stalinisn, socialist industrialization, and ethnic relations will find it an enjoyable and stimulating reading.”—Martin Klesmet, Central European Univ., European Review of History, March 2002.

“A review does less than justice to this book, whose readability lies so much in its details. The Turksib provides a case study which the author has well exploited to show, among other things, that the view from the center of the Soviet labor and nationalities policies did not always reflect the complexity of the situation on the ground.”—J.N. Westwood, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, September 2002

“Payne’s book adds significantly to our knowledge of social and economic change in a non-Russian region of the country during a crucial period of Soviet history. For those interested in Stalinist industrialization, it is a very welcome addition to the existing literature.” —David L. Hoffman, American Historical Review, Feb 2003

“ A careful and detailed assessment of the complexities of planning and executing a grandiose, Stalinist-style project in a region that had neither the institutional capacity nor the social foundation for accommodating such an ambitious scheme. . . Payne’s book can be added to the list of required reading for anyone wanting to understand how Soviet Central Asia was built.” —Peter Konecny, Slavic Review, Spring 2003

“Succeeds on many levels, not the least of which is that it demonstrates the continued vitality of Soviet labor history.”—Lewis H. Siegelbaum, Journal of Modern History, September 2003

“This book belongs on your shelf if the social, political, and ethnic conflict underlying the building of a Communist-era railroad is of interest.”—Robert J. Powers, Railroad History, Fall-Winter 2003

Complete Description Reviews
Russian and East European Studies
Russia and East Europe/History

The Turkestano-Siberian Railroad, or Turksib, was one of the great construction projects of the Soviet Union’s First Five-Year Plan. As the major icon to ending the economic "backwardness" of the USSR’s minority republics, it stood apart from similar efforts as one of the most potent metaphors for the creation of a unified socialist nation. Built between December 1926 and January 1931 by nearly 50,000 workers and at a cost of more 161 million rubles, Turksib embodied the Bolsheviks’ commitment to end ethnic inequality and promote cultural revolution in one the far-flung corners of the old Tsarist Empire, Kazakhstan. Trumpeted as the "forge of the Kazakh proletariat," the railroad was to create a native working class, bringing not only trains to the steppes, but also the Revolution. In the first in-depth study of this grand project, Matthew Payne explores the transformation of its builders in Turksib’s crucible of class war, race riots, state purges, and the brutal struggle of everyday life. In the battle for the souls of the nation’s engineers, as well as the racial and ethnic conflicts that swirled, far from Moscow, around Stalin’s vast campaign of industrialization, he finds a microcosm of the early Soviet Union.


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