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Catalog Archive / Spring 2023

Black Earth, White Bread
A Technopolitical History of Russian Agriculture and Food

How agrotechnology served—and undermined—Soviet and Russian political projects

Like all facets of daily life, the food that Russian farms produced and citizens ate—or, in some years, didn’t eat—underwent radical shifts in the century between the Bolshevik Revolution and Vladimir Putin’s presidency. The modernization of agriculture during this time is usually understood in terms of advances in farming methods. Susanne A. Wengle’s important interdisciplinary history of Russia’s agriculture and food systems, however, documents a far more complex story of the interactions between political policies, daily cultural practices, and technological improvements.

Examining governance, production, consumption, nature, and the ensuing vulnerabilities of the agrifood system, Wengle reveals the intended and unintended consequences of Russian agricultural policies since 1917. Ultimately, Black Earth, White Bread calls attention to Russian technopolitics and how macro systems of government impact life on a daily, quotidian level.


Susanne A. Wengle is the Nancy R. Dreux associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame and the author of Post-Soviet Power: State-Led Development and Russia’s Marketization.




“Who eats what? Susanne A. Wengle’s important and gripping book recasts a century of Russian history as a series of revolutionary transformations of the country’s food system. Answers to problems of food production and consumption are central pillars of political power and legitimacy for communist and post-communist regimes alike.”
—Henry Thomson, Arizona State University

“This eminently readable book, based on fascinating research, serves as an urgent reminder that techno-scientific projects in agriculture have deep histories and variegated geographies, and thus are hardly an invention of Silicon Valley start-up culture.”
—Julie Guthman, University of California, Santa Cruz

“A comprehensive and very refreshing technopolitical history of Russia’s agrifood system. Wengle’s nuanced account of Russia’s remarkable rise from a Soviet-era food importer to a rising global powerhouse has resulted in a timely book—a tour de force that is nonetheless narrated in an extremely concise and lively way.”
—Oane Visser, International Institute for Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam

“Challenges you to think beyond the confines of your respective specialty and consider big themes in agricultural history and policy. . . . Wengle should be commended for her lucid prose and sharp analysis, as well as the inclusion of several maps created by the author herself.”
H-Net Reviews

“Offers a novel approach to the transformations of Soviet and post-Soviet agriculture, emphasizing the connections between the state, production, and technology, as well as consumers and nature, the latter two often neglected in political science.”
Foreign Affairs

“The author impressively shows how unique yet globally integrated the Soviet and post-Soviet system of food production was and is, and how politics, everyday cultural practices, and technological change shaped these modes of production.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“Offers rich insights into the past 100 years of Russian food production, distribution, consumption and politics. . . . Offers important new perspectives on the study of the Russian food system, and food systems more generally.”
Europe-Asia Studies

“Unusually timely. . . . As the next chapter of this history of being written before our eyes, Black Earth, White Bread provides important historical context to facilitate an understanding of both Russia’s recent ascent to one of the dominant players in the global food system and the political significance of food in Putin’s Russia.”
Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas



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New in Paperback!

May 2023
LC: 2021015818 HD
328 pp. 6 x 9
15 b/w illus., 6 maps, 16 tables

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Paper $29.95 S
ISBN 9780299335441
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Printed Case $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299335403
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