Erik R. Scott

Erik R. Scott
  • Associate Professor
  • Director, Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
  • Editor, The Russian Review
  • Modern Russia, Eurasia, and the Soviet Union; Global and International History; Migration and Diaspora; the Cold War and its Legacies

Contact Info

Wescoe Hall, Room 3622
Office Hours:
By Appointment


Erik Scott is an historian of modern Russia, the Soviet Union, and the global Cold War. His work examines migration, diaspora, and empire within and beyond the borders of Russia and Eurasia to illuminate the region’s diversity and reconsider its relationship to the broader world. 

His latest book, Defectors: How the Illicit Flight of Soviet Citizens Built the Borders of the Cold War World, 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 reveals how disputes over defectors shaped the governance of global borders and helped forge an international refugee system whose legacy and limitations remain with us to this day. The book brings together the history of the Cold War, decolonization, migration, and international law.

His first book, Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora and the Evolution of Soviet Empire, moves past the typical divide between center and periphery to look at the USSR as an “empire of diasporas.” Investigating Georgian political, cultural, and economic networks that spanned Soviet territory, the book views the evolution of Soviet empire from the perspective of its most prominent internal diaspora. The book 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 currently working on a global history of hostage-taking in the Cold War, examining it as a practice and paradigm that defined the era. The book project looks at how hostage-taking targeted the infrastructure of a decolonizing and globalizing world and was transformed into a televised spectacle, even as states sought to combat it with international law and special forces units. He is also writing an article exploring basketball, globalization, and the fragmentation of the Soviet “empire of sports” at the Cold War’s end.

He received his B.A. from Brown University, his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and he has held research fellowships at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and 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. In addition to his historical research, he is the author of several publications on contemporary Russia and Eurasia.

Since 2020, he has served as Editor of The Russian Review.




Modern Russia, Eurasia, and the Soviet Union; Global and International History; Migration and Diaspora; Mass Culture; the Cold War and its Legacies


Professor Scott teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Russian, Soviet, and global history. His classes emphasize the diversity of Russia and the Soviet Union and examine Russian history’s international context. 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 139: The Global Cold War
  • 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

  • Defectors: How the Illicit Flight of Soviet Citizens Built the Borders of the Cold War World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2023.
  • “The Black Sea Coast as a Landscape of Cold War Intelligence.” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 23, no. 3 (Summer 2022): 581-604.
  • “The Hijacking of Aeroflot Flight 244: States and Statelessness in the Late Cold War.” Past & Present 243, no. 1 (May 2019): 213-45.
  • “Soccer Artistry and the Secret Police: Georgian Football in the Multiethnic Soviet Empire.” In The Whole World Was Watching: Sport in the Cold War, edited by Robert Edelman and Christopher Young, 85-98. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019.
  • 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