Deborah Kaple

Research Scholar
Office Phone
353 Wallace Hall

Deborah Kaple is a Research Scholar and Lecturer at Princeton University.  She has studied at Princeton University (PhD), George Washington University (MA), Vermont College (MFA) and Ohio State University (BA).  She teaches a Freshman Seminar on the Cold War, and Sociology 308, Communism and Beyond: Russia and China. In her scholarly work, she is interested in the workings of large Communist government agencies such as the Soviet Advisors’ Program that sent Soviet experts to China to restore China’s economy in the 1950s, the “mass campaign style” of building a new railroad line in Russia in the 1980s, and the mechanics of China’s copying “a governing model” with which Mao’s government implemented Soviet-style communism in China in the 1950s.

What is Communism? How did the Sino-Soviet Friendship in the 1950s work? What effect does the communist legacy have on post-communist nations? 

I am a comparative historical sociologist working on the Cold War, in particular on the USSR and the PRC. I am interested in the organization and the organizational foundations of communist rule, and the effects of communist rule on those countries that are shedding or have shed their communist past. How did a system with such obvious political and economic dysfunctions work for so long? How did its ideas become codified in expected behaviors? Why is communist China so successful, when others have failed? What are the lasting legacies of living under such a system? These are some of the questions we raise in my classes at Princeton.

Listen | Socialist Friendship Space: Soviet Advisors in Communist China

Selected Publications

Let’s Be Modern and Soviet! High Stalinism, Socialist Modernity and the Transformation of China in the 1950s, book in progress (under contract with Oxford UP)

“Agents of Change: Soviet Advisors and High Stalinist Management in China, 1949-1960,” Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1, Winter 2016, pp. 1-26 

“Soviet and Chinese Comrades Look Back at the Friendship Decade,” Modern China Studies, Guest Editor Deborah Kaple, Special Issue on China and the USSR, The Forgotten Decade: A Retrospective Look at the 1950s,2015.

Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir. New York & London: Oxford University Press, 2011.

“Soviet Assistance and Civilian Cooperation in China,” in Odd Arne Westad, ed., Brothers in Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1948-1963. Washington, D.C. Stanford University Press, 1999

Dream of a Red Factory: High Stalinism in China.  New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1994

Socialist Economic Development: The Transportation Bottleneck in China.  China Transport Division, The World Bank, Washington, DC, 1990

 “The BAM (The Baikal-Amur Railroad): Labor, migration and prospects for settlement,” Soviet Geography 27, 1986