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About me

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I’m a historian and sociologist and Professor of Multilingual and Transnational Post-Soviet Studies at the University of Mainz in Germany. My main research interests are in protest and social movements, commemorative practices, and war memorials and military cemeteries. I’m particularly interested in unexpected parallels and interconnections between these phenomena, such as structural similarities between protest and commemorative movements. Geographically, my work focuses on the Soviet Union and its successor states, especially but by no means exclusively Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. I am also interested in transnational connections and comparisons e.g. with Western, Central, and South-Eastern Europe and the Global South.

I’m currently working on five interconnected book projects, all in English, around the themes of war memorials and commemoration:

(1) A book (completed and forthcoming with CEU Press) about war memorials in the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, co-written with Mykola Homanyuk from Kherson State University;
(2) a book about the past and present of Soviet-style war commemoration;
(3) a history of Soviet war memorials;
(4) a book about the visual representation of war memorials in Soviet and post-Soviet history textbooks, expanding my article about this topic.
(5) a global history of eternal flames.

I also have a project about the author of a remarkable history of a small village in South-Eastern Belarus.

My approach owes most to Annales-style cultural history and French pragmatism, specifically the sociology of regimes of engagement. In addition to my interest in specific fields, I also have extensive experience as a professional mediator between different academic disciplines. My academic training and career has been entirely in programs and institutions (in Oxford, Paris, Moscow, Princeton, Potsdam, and Vienna) dedicated to interdisciplinary dialogue, and I spent many years working as a journal editor and translator.

Having effectively grown up quadrilingual, I publish regularly in English, French, German, and Russian. I also speak passable Italian, Spanish, and Ukrainian, have a good but largely passive understanding of Belarusian, Polish, Yiddish, and Portuguese, and can usually get the gist of texts in most other Romance, Slavic, and Germanic languages. I have also worked with documents in Estonian—one of my ancestral languages—and gained certificates in Japanese, Turkish, and Arabic in my teens and twenties (not to mention five years of Latin and one year of Ancient Greek). While I do not get regular practice in these languages, or a few others I have briefly studied, I have found that a few days’ immersion helps me get back to a very basic level of reading comprehension and conversation when needed.

An avid traveller, I have spent time in every European country as well as various parts of North America, North Africa, the Middle East, East Asia, and Australia. When not working in archives or doing ethnographic fieldwork, I’m happiest on a bicycle, a mountain hiking trail, or in a kayak. I’m vegan, and recommend that you stop or reduce your consumption of animal products.

This page includes overviews of some of my projects. Note that some sections are still missing, and that not all of the four language versions are equally complete.