Is Russia “a riddle wrapped in a mystery” as the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously put it? A state driven by “messianic expansionism” as described by the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Andrei Sakharov? A civilization stuck between apocalypse and revolution in the words of a 20th century Russian philosopher, Nikolai Berdyaev? Or is it simply a vast space defined by its size, imperial ideology, intertwined cultures, co-habiting civilizations, and deeply traumatized people? We shall look at the tumultuous history of Russia and the Soviet Union in the 20th century through a series of seemingly disconnected short stories in hope that this unconventional approach may lead to a better understanding of Russia’s past and present.
By Professor Michael Khodarkovsky, Loyola University Chicago
Khodarkovsky is a historian of the Russian Empire who specializes in the history of Russia's frontier and imperial expansion into the Eurasian borderlands. His first books examined the relationship between the expanding Russian state and the peoples across the colonial frontier, notably in Where Two Worlds Met: the Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600-1771 (Cornell University Press, 1992) and Russia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500-1800(Indiana University Press, 2002). He has explored the impact of organized religion, missionary work and religious conversion on Russia's non-Christian population in Of Religion and Empire: Missions, Conversion and Tolerance in Tsarist Russia (Cornell University Press, 2001), which he co-edited with Robert Geraci. His most recent book, Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus (Cornell University Press, 2011), is a history of the North Caucasus during the Russian conquest and written in a non-traditional historical genre.
He is currently working on a project, which compares the policies and practices of the Russian empire with those of its Eurasian counterparts between the sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The project is tentatively titled, Imperial Visions, Policies and Impacts: Russian and Eurasian Empires in Comparative Perspective, 1600-1800s.
Khodarkovsky has most recently lectured at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary; the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany; Humboldt Universität in Berlin; Georg-August Universität in Göttingen; Leibnitz Universität in Hannover; Hamburger Institut für Sozialforshchung; Kings College at the University of Cambridge; the Sorbonne in Paris; University College London, and the universities of Basel and Bern in Switzerland. In April 2012, the Association for the Studies of Nationalities held a special panel on Bitter Choices at Columbia University in New York. Khodarkovsky has written over forty articles and essays and thirty reviews published in English, French, Russian and German in a variety of journals, including Russian History, The Journal of Modern History, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and The International Journal of Turkish Studies.
Khodarkovsky has served on numerous boards and executive committees, including the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (2009-2012), the Midwest Consortium of Slavic and European Studies, and the Academic Freedom Press and Brill. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including those from the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship Program for Turkey (1983-1984), the Social Science Research Council (1989-1991), the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. (1992-93), the National Endowment for the Humanities (1995-1996), the National Council for Russian and East European Research (1996-1997 and 2006-2007), and the American Council of Learned Societies (2001-2002). In 2010, Khodarkovsky was named Distinguished Visiting Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. He has also written on Russia's past and present for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune.