My research focuses on the political and social impacts of veterans of the “Russian” civil wars in the early Soviet Union. Specifically, it explores the effect of violence on veterans’ politics and their attitudes towards Stalinism, by tracing their divergent life-paths at the provincial level and investigating how post-war social and institutional contexts shaped these trajectories. More generally, it asks how violence, identity, and ideology interact to produce authoritarian politics, and therefore speaks to a broader comparative literature on interwar Europe and post-civil war states. I am also interested in “Soviet Subjectivity”, the history of emotions, and the First World War.
I completed my BA in History and Russian at the University of Sheffield and my MPhil in Modern British and European History at St Antony’s College, Oxford. I then moved to the US to complete my PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, before returning to Oxford to teach at Keble College.
I am currently working on a book titled The Soviet Union After the Civil Wars: Rebels, Red Army Veterans, and “Democracy” in 1920s Tambov, which investigates the Soviet state’s emergence from the crucible of the civil wars (1918-21) through the lens of its interactions with the men who fought in them. Focusing on Tambov Province, site of a major peasant rebellion in 1920-21, it examines the post-war reintegration both of Red Army veterans and of former peasant rebels, as well as those who participated on both sides. It deploys a comparative perspective to demonstrate how post-civil war dynamics of repair and retribution, familiar from other contexts, were refracted through the prism of socialist revolution.
My next project, provisionally titled 'The Soviet “Front Generation” in Power', shifts the frame of analysis away from peasant veterans in Tambov to the provincial elite across the Soviet Union. Utilizing rich and as-yet-untapped collections of autobiographical texts written by mid- to high-ranking Communist veterans, it analyzes the interplay between violence, emotions, and self-representation in the formation of veterans’ politics, to provide a portrait of the civil war generation in power from 1917 until the Second World War. Borderlands form an increasingly central thread of my research. Recent scholarship has stressed the extent to which Stalin’s own mentality was forged in the experiences of the imperial peripheries during the civil wars, an insight that converges with research into the formative experiences of the German and East European far-right movements. My project asks to what extent this was true of the provincial elite who put Stalinist political culture into violent practice.