"What was the multiethnic state of the Soviet Union, which after all determined the lives of over two hundred million people for seven decades? How did the multiethnic communities that existed in a multitude of Soviet cities for decades function together? In other words, how did people manage to look each other in the eye again after the excesses of violence – revolution, civil war, terror, the Second World War – and regain trust? Or were the decades spent together after Stalin's death nothing more than a holding out, a waiting for the 'end of history'?" The search for answers to these questions led Walter Sperling to the edge of the former Soviet Union, to Grozny, in this stirringly told everyday history. There, like in a burning glass, the power play of resistance and integration is bundled, in the struggle of the Russian empire and the periphery, of the colonizers and the colonized. First a garrison town, then a boomtown for oil, after the October Revolution a building site for socialism, a little later a frontline city targeted by the German Wehrmacht. After the deportation of the Chechens and Ingush in 1944 and their return in 1957, nothing was heard for a long time from the tranquil little town in the Caucasus, which struggled persistently for social peace. Until the first Russian Chechen war, when Grozny once again ended in ruins. Walter Sperling traces the escalation and radicalization. Above all, he makes the efforts to build bridges and mediate visible, because the elites of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious periphery knew what the price of unleashing was.
Walter Sperling, born in Karaganda in 1975, emigrated from the USSR to the Federal Republic of Germany in his childhood. After studying history, East European history and Slavic studies at the University of Bielefeld, with stays abroad in Yaroslavl' and St. Petersburg, he received his doctorate in 2010 and became an Akademischer Rat at the Faculty of History at the Ruhr University in Bochum. In 2016, he held a substitute professorship in the history of Eastern and East Central Europe at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. In 2018, he was a fellow at the German Historical Institute Moscow.