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Mark Harrison: Current Research

About my research

This is an essay in autobiography. I describe my time as a graduate student of economic history in Moscow in 1972/73, at a tense moment in the Cold War. I write about my preparations, my induction into academic and non-academic aspects of Soviet life, some short journeys that I made into the provinces, and my confusion on coming home. I tried to see the Cold War from both sides. I conclude by contrasting what I understood then about the Soviet economic system and political order to what I know now. Four appendices reproduce items that are of relevance to my theme but distinct from the narrative.

Work in progress

This paper is a draft chapter for a Festschrift in honour of Hein Klemann, in preparation. It is based on two presentations, one to a meeting of the King’s College London/Defence Academy UK Economic Warfare Research Group at the Victory Club, London, on 1 December 2022; and the second to a conference on ‘Economic Aspects of the War in Ukraine 2022-2024’, held at Wolfson College, Oxford, on 14 and 15 December 2023.

Economic warfare was a product of the total wars of the twentieth century. Four lessons are discussed: (1) Modern economies are resilient under attack. (2) The action of economic warfare is slow. (3) Economic warfare is powerful—eventually. (4) The threat of economic warfare is also powerful—although not always as hoped. To conclude, economic warfare belongs to wars of attrition. In such wars, economic and military measures are complements, not substitutes.

Who is targeted by preventive repression and why? In the Soviet Union, the KGB applied a form of low-intensity preventive policing, called profilaktika. Citizens found to be engaging in politically and socially disruptive misdemeanors were invited to discuss their behavior and to receive a warning. Using novel data from Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, in the late 1950s and the 1970s, we study the profile and behaviors of the citizens who became subjects of interest to the KGB. We use topic modeling to investigate the operational focuses of profilaktika. We find that profilaktika began as a way of managing specific threats or “known risks” that arose from the experience of postwar Sovietization. The proportion of “unknown risks” – people without risk factors in their background or personal records – increased by the 1970s. These people were targeted because of their anti-Soviet behaviour, which the KGB attributed to “contagious” foreign influences and the spread of harmful values.

    Mark Harrison

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