The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize
Yanni Kotsonis, States of Obligation: Taxes and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and Early Soviet Republic. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.
In States of Obligation, Yanni Kotsonis examines the transformation of state fiscal power in Russia and the Soviet Union between 1855 and 1928. This book is about much more than taxation, however — it is a study of the fundamental relations between the state and the individual, between economic production and political authority, between the self and the collectives of village, city, region, and empire/republic. Kotsonis argues that the replacement of the eighteenth-century poll tax system with income and excise taxes introduced not only a new method of raising revenue, but also vital instruments of state-building and a crucial nexus for creating national accounting and the modern citizen. States of Obligation constitutes a crucial intervention in imperial Russian and Soviet history, demonstrating unexpected continuities between the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, challenging received understandings of the late imperial state’s reliance on agricultural taxation, and recalibrating the place of fiscality and the role of fiscal experts in the economic, political, and social shifts of the early Soviet period. Kotsonis ties his detailed examination of the processes by which imperial and Soviet authorities gathered information about people, trade, and property with similar processes in other countries, at the same time as he draws upon a broad historical and theoretical scholarship on taxation and state formation. As a result, while Kotsonis insists upon the particularities of the Russian and Soviet experiences, States of Obligation participates also in a much broader, transnational conversation about the global history of the modern state, its fiscal power, and the formation of citizenship.