Nataliia Laas is a Henry Chauncey Jr.’57 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jackson School of Global Affairs, Yale University. She specializes in political economy, consumer society, gender, the history of the social sciences, and environmental history in the Soviet Union. Laas currently works on a book project “A Soviet Consumer Republic: Economic Citizenship and the Economy of Waste in the Post-WWII Soviet Union.” This book overturns the conventional view that the late Soviet economy was primarily plagued by shortages and offers a different dimension, an “economy of waste,” to describe Soviet consumption. It argues that after World War II and especially with the onset of Cold War competition with the West, the Soviet state regularly confronted a new challenge: glutted markets, overproducing factories, and excess commodities. By focusing on how the economy of waste reshaped relationships between the state and its citizens, the book explores the emergence of socialist market research and consumer studies, a move that then invited the Soviet citizens to push back by asserting their consumer and environmental rights. While scrutinizing the nature of waste under socialism and popular activism grounded in “waste anxieties,” the project sheds new light on crucial commonalities between socialist and capitalist economic systems in generating wasted goods and wastefulness.
Laas also provides commentary on current affairs in Eastern Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. For her latest contribution, see a panel discussion “Destruction of the Kakhovka Dam: Ecocide, Humanitarian Crisis, and Societal Response,” which analyzes environmental effects of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Laas received her PhD in History from Brandeis University in 2022. Before coming to Yale, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, New York University.