Brandon Schechter’s book manuscript, Government Issue: The Material Culture of the Red Army 1941-1945 uses everyday objects to tell the story of the Great Patriotic War as never before. The choice to concentrate on objects stems from the fact that it was the uniform world of material goods that united diverse soldiers in the ranks of the Red Army and was often all that separated civilians from soldiers. Each chapter features a series of related objects, such as weapons, uniforms, rations or the knick knacks in a soldier’s backpack, to narrate the experience of people at war and explore the changes taking place in Soviet society in the course of the most destructive war in recorded history. Mundane objects such as spoons, shovels, belts and watches are revealed to be as full of meaning and important to waging war as medals and tanks. Government Issue is currently under contract with Cornell University Press.
His next major projects explore the creation of meaning during war and explore Soviet History through objects. The former, Commissars, Chaplains and Psychiatrists: The Search for Salvation in World War II is a comparative study of the roles of commissars and other political workers in the Red Army with chaplains and psychiatrists in the US Army during the Second World War. This work will explore the shifting contours of political work and the functioning of the party in the Red Army alongside the rise of religious pluralism and growing role of psychiatry in the US Army during the war. The comparison of how an illiberal, authoritarian state and liberal democracy dealt with the existential threats of Fascism and Japanese Imperialism promises to yield new insights into the functioning of these two societies, both of which emerged from the war as global superpowers.
Dr. Schechter is on the editorial board of The Journal of Power Institutions of Post-Soviet Societies and has published stand alone articles on women in the Red Army, nationality politics in the Red Army and property during the Second World War. His research interests focus on violence, material culture and the diversity of experiences based on gender, class and nationality.
Receiving a Ph.D. in History at the University of California Berkeley in 2015, Schechter has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University (2015-2016) and a writer in residence at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia at NYU (2016-2017). In 2005 he received a B.A. in Russian Studies from Vassar College. He has also studied at Smolny College, Middlebury College, European University at St. Petersburg, Kazan Federal University and the Higher School of Economics, where he was a research fellow at The International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences in Moscow and the History Department in St. Petersburg with support from a Fulbright IIE Fellowship.
See Professor Schechter's presentation "The Soldier's Body" at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia from November of 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f3XVtimJQc