Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Eeva Korteniemi
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aleksanteri-fellows [at]

Aleksanteri Institute
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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2016-2017

Stefan Guth, University of Bern, Switzerland
"Oasis of the Future. The Atomic City of Shevchenko/Aktau, 1959-2019"
(August - October 2016)

Stefan Guth is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of History at Bern University. He has held teaching positions at Bern and St. Gallen, and visiting scholarships at Leipzig and Stanford. His archival research to date has taken him to Germany, Poland, Russia and Kazakhstan. His academic interests focus on the co-production (Jasanoff) of orders of knowledge and socio-political orders in twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe. With his Ph.D. thesis on German-Polish relationships in the twentieth century, Guth has offered a case study in the political history of historiography that was awarded the Klaus Mehnert prize by German Society of Eastern European Studies (DGO), and has recently appeared in print (Geschichte als Politik, 2015).

Short description of on-going research:
In his postdoctoral project, entitled Oasis of the future – The Atomic City of Shevchenko/Aktau, 1959–2019, Guth investigates the role of nuclear technopolitics (Hecht) in the Soviet Union and beyond in a long term perspective. Shevchenko started life as a secret uranium mining camp for the Soviet A-bomb project in the Western Kazakh desert, but was later transformed into a showcase of atomic-powered Communism (Josephson) that relied on cutting-edge nuclear technology to support a modernist model city of eventually 200,000 inhabitants. Focusing on an urban microcosm, the project will tightly integrate the technological, environmental, political, social and cultural dimensions of the Soviet nuclear project – aspects that have hitherto mostly been studied in isolation from each other. At the same time, the project is conceptualized as a multi-level analysis of Soviet technopolitics in its local, all-Union and international dimensions.

At the Aleksanteri Institute Dr. Guth will study the global entanglement of the atomic city on the basis of rich archival resources that have already been collected in Moscow, Aktau and Stanford. Shevchenko's international and transnational dimension resulted from its status as a focal point of techno-diplomacy across the Iron Curtain; the nuclear technologies it boasted (breeder and seawater desalination technology) were core fields of Soviet cooperation with socialist and capitalist countries alike. Furthermore, the city served as a showcase of Soviet technological prowess vis-à-vis the Third World. International entanglement continued after 1991, when Shevchenko's aging reactor and sizable stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium spurred international decommissioning and non-proliferation efforts. During his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Guth will draft an English-language article on the topic and seek feedback from the Institute's experts. The article will also form the basis of one of the five main chapters of the final book.

Email: stefan.guth[AT]

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, Markku Kangaspuro