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Walter Gay

Ph.D. Student

At UNC since 2021
Advised by Professor Serenella Iovino


  • B.A. Russian Studies University of North Carolina- Greensboro Summa Cumme Laude 2016
  • M.A. Global Studies/Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European Studies 2020
  • About Walter

    Walter is a PhD student in Italian Studies. He is particularly intrigued by investigating the “Giolittian era” of Italian politics, the historical timeframe used by scholars to encompass the machinations of Giovanni Giolliti’s dominant position within Italian politics between 1892 to 1921, and the Italian state’s attempts to combat revolutionary movements, anarchist terrorism, other forms of anti-establishment resistance such as trade unionism and criminality. The period has largely been under-represented in Italian Studies academic literature despite its profound influence on the evolution of Italian politics, immigration practices, internal policing, foreign policy, as well as emigration to the United States throughout the century following his tenure.

    His Master’s thesis, which is entitled “No Roads into Rome,” investigates the failure of Russian spies to infiltrate the Kingdom of Italy prior to World War I. His thesis challenges the pervading historiographical narrative among Western historians about the exceptionalism of the Russian espionage system of the pre-World War era by highlighting the brilliance of the Italian counterterrorism intelligence schematics, which was developed under the auspices of Giovanni Giolitti, during his time an Italian Prime Minister between 1900 and 1910. Giolitti engineered one of Europe’s most efficient internal spy networks in the aftermath of the assassination of King Umberto I by Gaetano Bresci (28, July 1900), who was radicalized by Russian anarchist Emma Goodman, while he lived as an Italian immigrant in New Jersey.

    Under Giolitti, the Italian Ministry of Internal Security (Ministero dell’Interno) possessed one of Europe’s most ruthlessly efficient secret police organizations, which it used to stymie the further acts of terrorism on Italian soil. More impressively, it nullified the success of Imperial Russian government spies and assassins who blatantly disregarded Italian sovereign jurisdiction as they covertly hunted Russian anarchist fugitives hiding on the peninsula. The project was facilitated by archival study conducted at the Central Archive of the Italian State (Archivio Centrale Della Stato) in Rome, between December 15th 2017 and January 8th 2018.

    Typical Courses Taught

  • Foreign Language Area Studies Scholarship (FLAS) - Russian 2016-2017
  • Foreign Language Area Studies Scholarship (FLAS) - Russian 2017-2018