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Defectors: How the Illicit Flight of Soviet Citizens Built the Borders of the Cold War World

Date & Time

Dec. 18, 2023
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET


Online Only
Zoom Webinar


Defectors, the new book by award-winning historian Erik R. Scott, shows how the Cold War treatment of those fleeing the Communist world shaped present-day restrictions on cross-border movement. This far-ranging study charts a global struggle over defectors that unfolded among rival intelligence agencies operating in the shadows of an occupied Europe, in the forbidden border zones of the USSR, in the disputed straits of the South China Sea, on a hijacked plane 10,000 feet in the air, and around the walls of Soviet embassies. Challenging our conventional understanding of Cold War divisions, it reveals that the competition for defectors paved the way for collusion between the superpowers, who found common cause in regulating the spaces through which defectors moved.

Erik R. Scott is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kansas, the Director of KU’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and the Editor of The Russian Review. A scholar of Russian and Soviet history, the Cold War, comparative empires, and global migration, his publications include Familiar Strangers: The Georgian Diaspora and the Evolution of Soviet Empire (Oxford University Press, 2016), “Bordering Transnationalism: Soviet History Across the Globe” (American Historical Review, March 2023), and “The Hijacking of Aeroflot Flight 244: States and Statelessness in the Late Cold War” (Past & Present, May 2019).

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partner (the George Washington University History Department) for their continued support.

Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more

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