The University of Illinois has long been a center for Russian Studies and the Department of History offers a comprehensive and innovative graduate program in the study of Russian and Soviet history.

ru1Courses offered in recent years cover the full range of Russian and Soviet history, often in a comparative perspective, and have emphasized the examination of major historiographical controversies, new methodological and theoretical approaches, and such key themes as the exercise and legitimation of power, industrialization and urban life, rural society, social conflict and cohesion, reform and revolution, intellectual and cultural movements, ideologies, gender and family, everyday life, popular culture, religion, ideas of nation and empire, and visions of the future. Graduate students in Russian history are also trained to ensure a strong grounding in comparative history and in historical methodologies and theory and to gain teaching and field research experience.

Students preparing preliminary examination fields in Russian history are encouraged to construct individual reading lists based on the preliminary exam reading list in consultation with the faculty.

Core faculty in the program:

Eugene M. Avrutin is Associate Professor of modern European Jewish history and Tobor family scholar in the Program of Jewish Culture and Society at the University of Illinois. He is the author of Jews and the Imperial State: Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia (Cornell University Press, 2010). Avrutin has published articles on documentation practices, the concept of race, and religious toleration and neighborly coexistence in the East European borderlands. His new book, The Velizh Affair: The Story of Jews, Christians, and Murder in a Russian Border Town, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2018. He is at work on two projects: a short book tentatively entitled Race in Modern Russia: Critical Perspectives, and a longer book on crime and criminality. His scholarship has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

John Randolph specializes in Russian intellectual and cultural history, 1750–1850. His work focuses on the role played by imperial institutions in creating political, intellectual, and practical frameworks for modern Russian civilization. He is the author of The House in the Garden: The Bakunin Family and the Romance of Russian Idealism, published by Cornell University Press in 2007. This book won the W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize (2008) given by ASEEES (for best first monograph in history), and the Best Book in Literary or Cultural Studies Prize (2008), given by AATSEEL. John’s new project, When I Served the Post as a Coachman, is a history of relay obligation in the eighteenth-century Russian Empire. It tells the story of how millions of Imperial Russian subjects were required to provided horses and labor for Russia’s posts, and considers how this system of creating communication across Russia’s gigantic spaces shaped the Russian Enlightenment. John is also a lead developer of the SourceLab initiative, a Digital Humanities program at Illinois that encourages students to create new ways of publishing the past online. He currently serves as Director of the Russia, East European, and Eurasia Center.

Faculty in other departments with expertise in Russian history and who can serve on graduate exam and dissertation committees in history:
  • Donna Buchanan - (School of Music: Musical southeastern Europe, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union (particularly Russia); nationalism in Russian and East European classical music; ethnomusicology; Mussorgsky; Shostakovich.)
  • Cynthia Buckley – (Department of Sociology: Central Asia, global health, migration.)
  • David Cooper – (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures: Czech, Slovak, and Russian literatures)
  • Michael Finke – (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures: 19th and 20th century Russian literature; aviation and popular culture)
  • Robert Geraci -- (University Library: Russian empire, nationalities, empire, commerce)
  • Jessica Greenberg – (Department of Anthropology: Serbia/Yugoslavia; democracy; revolution; political communication; postsocialism; youth and student activism)
  • Lilya Kaganovsky - (Departments of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature: Soviet literature and film)
  • Carol Skalnik Leff - (Department of Political Science: Soviet and post-Soviet politics, nationalism, democratization).
  • Harriet Murav - (Departments of Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature: Russian literature, cultural history, Jewish intellectual history)
  • Valleri Robinson – (Department of Theatre: Russian-American cultural exchange, Cold War performances, transnational theatre historiography, and Chekhov in translation and adaptation)
  • Kristin Romberg – (Art History Program: 20th century Russian art, constructivism)
  • Valeria Sobol – (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures: 19th century Russian literature)
  • Richard Tempest - (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures: Russian intellectual history)

Graduate education in Russian history at the University of Illinois is further enriched through contacts with programs in other disciplines and at other Universities, participation of students and faculty in the biannual Midwest Russian History Workshop, by the diverse activities of interdisciplinary Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (a Title VI National Resource Center), involvement in varied departmental and university colloquia and workshop (including the faculty-graduate Russian Studies Circle, or simply the Kruzhok), and by the presence of one of the premier Slavic Library collections in the country (and which also cosponsors a national Slavic Reference Service, summer national workshops, and series of lectures and conferences). Other important campus resources include The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory and the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities.

Dissertations Completed in Russian History since 2000

  • Susan Smith, "Genesis of a Public Sphere in Russia: Vladimir Province, 1785-1861," 2000
  • Jeffery Sahadeo, "Creating a Russian Colonial Community: City, Nation, and Empire in Tashkent, 18651923," 2000
  • Marjorie Hilton, "Commercial Cultures: Modernity in Russia and the Soviet Union, 1880-1930," 2003
  • Christine Varga-Harris, "Constructing the Soviet Hearth: Home, Citizenship, and Socialism in Russia, 1956-64," 2005
  • Gregory Stroud, “Retrospective Revolution: A History of Time and Memory in Urban Russia, 1903-1923,” 2006
  • Erica Fraser, “Masculinities in the Motherland: Gender and Authority in the Soviet Union During the Cold War, 1945-1968,” 2009
  • Dmitry Tartakovsky, "Parallel Ruptures: Jews of Bessarabia and Transnistria Between Romanian Nationalism and Soviet Communism, 1918-1940," 2009
  • Sharyl Corrado, "The 'End of the Earth': Sakhalin Island in the Russian Imperial Imagination, 1949-1906," 2010
  • Randall Dills, "The River Neva and the Imperial Facade: Culture and Enviroment in Nineteenth-Century St. Petersburg, Russia," 2010
  • Andy Bruno, “Making Nature Modern: Economic Transformation and the Environment in the Soviet North,” 2011.
  • Rebecca Mitchell, “Nietzsche’s Orphans: Music and the Search for Unity in Revolutionary Russia, 1905-1921,” 2011
  • Maria Cristina Galmarini, “The ‘Right to Be Helped’: Welfare Policies and Notions of Rights at the Margins of Soviet Society, 1917-1950”, 2012.
  • Gregory Kveberg, “Moscow by Night: Musical Subcultures, Identity Formation, and Cultural Evolution in Russia, 1977-2008,” 2012
  • Jesse Murray, “Community, Belonging, and Identity: Conversion in the Russian Empire, 1810-1917,” 2013
  • Steven Jug, “All Stalin’s Men? Soldierly Masculinities in the Soviet War Effort, 1938-1945,” 2013
  • Elana Jakel, “Ukraine without Jews?" Nationality and Belonging in Soviet Ukraine, 1943-1948,” 2014
  • Rachel Koroloff, “Seeds of Exchange: Collecting for Russia’s Apothecary and Botanical Gardens in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” 2014
  • Patryk Reid, “Managing Nature, Constructing the State: The Material Foundation of Soviet Empire in Tajikistan, 1917-1937,” 2016
  • Deirdre Ruscitti Harshman, "A Space Called Home: Housing and the Management of the Everyday in Russia, 1890-1935," 2018
  • Benjamin Bamberger, "Mountains of Discontent: Georgian Alpinism and the Limits of Soviet Equality, 1923-1955," 2019
  • Matthew Klopfenstein, "Performing death: Celebrity women's funerals and the emotional public sphere in late imperial Russia," 2021