Professor and Director of USF Institute on Russia
Home Campus: Tampa
Office: SOC 369
Telephone: (813) 974-6649
Office Hours: By appointment
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1996
M.A., Yale University, 1988
I teach a variety of courses on topics related to contemporary Russian politics and society, modern Europe and the Soviet Union. My undergraduate and graduate courses tend to focus on conflict in the world, comparative dictatorship and authoritarianism, the problems of war and revolution, as well as genocide and human rights. When possible, I try to engage student interest by incorporating a variety of media (art, film, music) and assigning diverse readings (primary sources, literature, memoirs, poetry). In particular, I enjoy showing students my slides from when I lived in the Soviet Union and Russia under Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin. Over the years, I have advised many bright USF students, both graduate and undergraduate. Some of them have been accepted into first-rate doctoral programs in Russian/Soviet history, others have joined the Peace Corps or pursued careers in international law and business, the military, diplomacy, teaching, and journalism.
My current work examines the threads that connect twentieth-century Soviet and twenty-first-century Russian authoritarianism, especially in the dis/information space.
My most recent book, Illness and Inhumanity in Stalin’s Gulag, was published by Yale University Press in 2017. The work examines the system of violent human exploitation in the Stalinist forced labor camps, 1929-1953. It draws upon recently declassified archival materials from the Gulag health department to reveal how prisoners were fundamentally dehumanized and managed as commodities. Mortality was much greater than the official Soviet records indicate, as prisoners were routinely released on the verge of death. The book argues that human exploitation in the Stalinist camps was deliberately destructive and that the regime concealed the Gulag’s destructive capacity.
My first book, Stalin’s Outcasts: Aliens, Citizens, and the Soviet State, 1926-1936 (Cornell, 2003), examines Stalin’s disenfranchisement policy, and the lives and voices of those deprived of rights (lishentsy). At the center of the work is an analysis of over five hundred petitions to Soviet officials for the reinstatement of rights. I discovered these handwritten letters from social outcasts in a closed archive in western Siberia just months after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The book demonstrates how, from Kremlin leaders to marked aliens, many engaged in identifying citizens and non-citizens and challenging the terms of social membership in the Stalinist state.
Russia and the Soviet Union, Stalinism and authoritarianism, medicine/health and society, political violence and human rights, disinformation and security