I studied Russian and French at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before moving to the School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, University College London, where I gained an M.A. in History and later my PhD. I held a Scouloudi History Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research (2002-03) and a one-year lectureship at the University of Liverpool (2003-4), before starting at Sheffield in September 2004.
My first monograph Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform After Stalin won the 2010 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize awarded by Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies ‘for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year’. I am currently principal investigator on a four-year AHRC-funded project entitled ‘Protestants Behind The Iron Curtain: Religious Belief, Identity, And Narrative In Russia And Ukraine Since 1945’.
My research interests lie in the history of the Soviet Union, with a particular emphasis on the social and cultural history of post-war Russia. My first book explored popular responses to the reforms of the Khrushchev era, in particular the massive exodus of prisoners from the Gulag. Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform After Stalin examined the impact of these returnees on communities and, more broadly, Soviet attempts to come to terms with the traumatic legacies of Stalin’s terror.
My current project explores the history of Baptist and Pentecostal communities in the Soviet Union. In this project I will study state-church relations in the late Soviet period, exploring on the one hand how the government used bureaucratic, legalistic and propagandistic means to curb religious activity and on the other how religious groups sought to evade or at least attenuate this control. The project will explore the experience of belonging to a congregation and the meaning of belief in a radically atheist state. It draws on archival materials as well as oral history interviews which will be carried out as part of the AHRC-funded project.
- Khrushchev’s Cold Summer: Gulag Returnees, Crime, and the Fate of Reform After Stalin (Cornell University Press, 2009) [2010 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize]
- Reading Primary Sources: The Interpretation of Texts from Nineteenth and Twentieth Century History, co-edited with Benjamin Ziemann (Routledge, 2008)
- ‘Cold Summer of 53’, Directory of World Cinema: Russia, ed. Birgit Beumers (Intellect, 2010), pp. 72-73.
- ‘”Show the Bandits No Mercy!”: Amnesty, Criminality and Public Response in 1953’, The Dilemmas of De-Stalinisation: A Social and Cultural History of Reform in the Khrushchev Era, ed. Polly A. Jones (RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), pp. 21-40.
- ‘The Post-Stalin Era: De-Stalinisation, Daily Life, and Dissent’, Kritika, 12, 4 (2011), pp. 905-924.
- ‘POWs and Purge Victims: Attitudes towards Party Rehabilitation in Vladimir and Moscow, 1956-7’, Slavonic and East European Review 86, 2 (2008), pp. 328-345.
- British Association for Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (BASEES) – Member
- BASEES Study Group on Religion and Spirituality in Russia and Eastern Europe (RSREE) – Co-Convenor