Erik R. Scott

Erik Scott
  • Associate Professor
  • Modern Russia, Eurasia, and the Soviet Union; Migration and Diaspora; Borders; Comparative Empires

Contact Info

Wescoe Hall, Room 3622


In his research, Professor Scott (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) explores migration and diaspora within and beyond the borders of Russia and Eurasia. His first book, Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora and the Evolution of Soviet Empire, moves past the typical divide between center and periphery, and colonizer and colonized, that guides most scholarship on empire to look at the USSR as an “empire of diasporas” defined by the mobility of diverse national groups inside its borders. Investigating Georgian political, cultural, and economic networks across Soviet territory, the book examines the evolution of Soviet empire from the perspective of its most prominent internal diaspora. Familiar Strangers received the Vice Chancellor for Research Book Publication Award, was an honorable mention for the Council for European Studies Book Award, and a finalist for both the Central Eurasian Studies Book Award and the Joseph Rothschild Prize in Nationalism and Ethnic Studies.

He is now at work on a second book, Soviet Defectors and the Borders of the Cold War World, which follows the movement of people across Soviet state lines through a global study of Soviet defection. The book traces the winding journeys of defectors from the Soviet Union to the West through border zones, extraterritorial spaces, and areas at the limits of state jurisdiction, such as international waters and airspaces. In so doing, it challenges the notion of the Cold War world as a place of stable boundaries and considers how disputes over defectors shaped the administration of an international refugee regime whose legacy and limitations remain with us to this day.

He has held research fellowships at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and at Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies. He has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, and Fulbright-Hays, among others.

He currently serves as Associate Editor for The Russian Review. In addition to his historical research, Professor Scott is the author of several publications on contemporary Russia and Eurasia.


Modern Russia, Eurasia, and the Soviet Union; migration and diaspora; borders; comparative empires


Professor Scott teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Russian, Soviet, and world history. His classes emphasize the diversity of Russia and the Soviet Union and examine Russian history’s global dimensions. In teaching, he draws extensively on literature, film, and music and encourages his students to consider what everyday life can tell us about broader historical changes.

Recent Courses:

  • HIST 117: Russia: An Introduction
  • HIST 301: The Historian’s Craft
  • HIST 376: Immigrants, Refugees, Diasporas
  • HIST 378: Beyond the Iron Curtain
  • HIST 568: Rise & Fall of the Soviet Union
  • HIST 808: Comparative Empires

Selected Publications

  • “The Hijacking of Aeroflot Flight 244: States and Statelessness in the Late Cold War.” Past & Present 243, no. 1 (May 2019): 213-45.
  • Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora and the Evolution of Soviet Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016; 2017 (paperback). Russian-language edition (Moscow: New Literary Observer), 2019.
  • “Edible Ethnicity: How Georgian Cuisine Conquered the Soviet Table” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 13, 4 (Fall 2012): 831-858.
  • Organized Crime and Corruption in Georgia (Co-editor and contributor). London and New York: Routledge, 2007; 2013 (paperback).  

Creative Works