On Thursday, April 11, the University announced that professor of history Kevin Kruse and professor of Slavic languages and literature Ilya Vinitsky have received 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships.
The awards will allow Kruse and Vinitsky to complete their current research projects.
Kruse was notified of his pending award about a month ago. Kruse specializes in the political, social, urban, and suburban history of 20th-century America and was awarded the fellowship in general nonfiction.
Kruse’s project, entitled “The Division: John Doar, the Justice Department, and the Civil Rights Movement,” focuses on the life of John Doar ’44, whom Kruse described both as “the face of the federal government to the civil rights movement” and “the voice of the civil rights movement back to the federal government.”
“Doar was at the center of the civil rights struggle and yet has not really appeared in a lot of the literature,” Kruse said. “This is largely due to a personal approach he had in which he believed you can get anything done as long as you didn’t care about the credit, so he often wrote himself out of the story.”
The project began when Kruse received an email from the head archivist at Mudd Library, saying that Mudd had recently acquired records of Doar’s civil rights advocacy.
“[The archivist] asked me if I could write a sentence for a press release. I sat down, and I tried to boil all the stuff I was excited about John Doar in a sentence, and I think I got it down to about three paragraphs,” Kruse said.
“As I wrote this, I thought, ‘Wow. This is gonna be a fantastic book for somebody,’” Kruse added. “At the end of the day, I thought, ‘This is going to be a fantastic book for me. I want this project.’”
Kruse expressed excitement about the project, and said he looked forward to delving even deeper into Doar’s story.
Vinitsky won the fellowship in intellectual and cultural history, and his project focuses on an earlier figure in both American and Russian history.
The project, “The Absolute Faker: The American Dreams of a Russian Con Man,” focuses on the life of Ivan Narodny, a Russian-Estonian-American arms dealer, journalist, writer, art critic, promoter, and, most notably, con man.
“He came to the United States in February of 1906, and he presented himself at the ship as John D. Rockefeller, because it was the richest name he knew,” Vinitsky said. “He was a master con man, and he fabricated tons of mystifications and forgeries.”
Vinitsky said Narodny published constantly and was responsible for disseminating misinformation all over the United States and the world.
“His hoaxes spread all over the world, and I’m diligently collecting them.” Vinitsky said.
Vinitsky is an expert in Russian Romanticism and Realism, the history of emotions, and 19th-century intellectual and spiritual history. He has recently become intrigued by the history and methodology of liars, which he calls “bubbleology.”
Studying Narodny and American history, Vinitsky said, intrigues him, particularly because of his Russian scholarly background.
“I take research as a challenge: learning what you do not know, applying what you already know, and moving forward in your intellectual journey toward the unknown,” Vinitsky said.
Kruse is the author of “White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism” (2005), “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” (2015), and “Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974” (2019), which he co-authored with fellow University history professor Julian Zelizer.
Vinitsky’s publications include “Ghostly Paradoxes: Modern Spiritualism and Russian Culture in the Age of Realism” (2009); “Russian Literature” (2009), co-written with Andrew Baruch Wachtel; “Vasily Zhukovsky’s Romanticism and the Emotional History of Russia” (2015); and “The Count of Sardinia: Dmitry Khvostov and Russian Culture” (2017).
Vinitsky joined the University faculty in 2016, while Kruse arrived in 2000. Kruse and Vinitsky are among 168 recipients of 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships, from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants.