Nathan Gerth

Author: Jennifer Fulton

Nathan Gerth is a doctoral candidate in History.  The Nanovic Institute awarded him a Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant to conduct dissertation research in Tver', Russia.  Nathan recently wrote about his experience:

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From December 29, 2013 through January 28, 2014 I conducted supplementary dissertation research at the archives and museum located in the Russian city of Tver’.  While working in these institutions I completed the research that I began last March. This report outlines my accomplishments during this trip, which was funded through the Nanovic Institute’s Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant.

During my month-long research trip to the Russian Federation I worked with materials related to the process of Russian state building in both central and regional archives. I spent several weeks working in the State Archive of Tver’ Province (GATO) and the Tver’ State Unified Museum (TGOM). At GATO I focused my attention on records created in response to the cholera epidemics of 1831 and 1848. During the epidemics the local government struggled to keep state and local society functioning. I used the governor’s correspondence with the local medical board to compare the different approaches taken by the government during these outbreaks.

While working in the archive maintained by TGOM, I conducted a close reading of the correspondence of Avgust Zhiznevskii, an official who served in Tver’ during the mid-nineteenth century. When writing about the topic of local officialdom I have struggled to find sources that illuminate the lived experience of officials. Unfortunately, while Russian officials generated no shortage of documents as part of their jobs, the bureaucratic records created by local government provide a limited perspective on the lives of these officials. In contrast, Zhiznevskii’s letters and memoirs provide a rich first person account of the struggles of a young official coming to terms with living in Tver’ and interacting with his colleagues. As a result, his letters and memoirs supply an invaluable counterpoint to the official records that I had focused on during my research last year. 

In light of these accomplishments, I feel that my research trip to the Russian Federation proved particularly successful. After all, I now have most of the materials to complete my dissertation and a new perspective on much of the work I completed last year.Ultimately, the Nanovic Institute’s Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant played an integral role in the realization of these plans, given the considerable cost of traveling to Russia. Therefore, I am grateful that the institute awarded me these funds.