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ODU Prof’s Russia Expertise on Display in National Geographic Article and New Book

Photo of Austin JersildAustin Jersild

With the opening of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games this past weekend, the world's eyes have been collectively focused on a long troubled and frequently misunderstood region of Russia. To help provide context to the security threats and other challenges organizers face, National Geographic recently published a primer that included valuable historical perspective from Old Dominion University's Austin Jersild.

The Feb. 6 Daily News article, "What You Don't Know About Sochi," is the latest example of how Jersild, who is an associate professor and history department chair at ODU, has become a sought-after expert on subjects related to the Soviet Union and Russia.

Jersild notes in the article that the 2014 Olympic Games fall during the 150th anniversary of the defeat of the region's "Circassian" tribe by the Russian Empire, an event that spurred a diaspora that is still used by Islamist radicals who seek to foment instability through recurring acts of terrorism - a significant threat as athletes and spectators from dozens of countries gather for the two-week sporting spectacle.

"The region around Sochi would have been one of the last strongholds as the mountaineers retreated down the ravines to the Black Sea to desperately take ships to the Ottoman Empire," Jersild says in the National Geographic article. "Those mountains and ravines where they were murdered as they fled are where the games are being held. The coming-together of contemporary politics, geography, and history in this one place at this one time is almost bizarre."

To read the full "What You Don't Know About Sochi" article, visit the National Geographic website.

The Olympics article coincides with the February release of Jersild's most recent book, "The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History," published by the University of North Carolina Press.

In the book, Jersild argues that a 1950 friendship treaty between the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China, intended to break with the colonial past, ultimately failed due to an enduring problem of Russian imperialism.

Qiang Zhai, of Auburn University at Montgomery, characterized the book as a "truly international history of the socialist bloc advising relationship in China," while Sergey Radchenko, of Aberystwyth University, called it "a superb treatment of the subject."

For more information about Jersild's new book, visit the UNC Press book page for "The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History."