Biography

Zbig Wojnowski specialises in the socio-political history of Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and socialist Eastern Europe during the twentieth century. He holds degrees from the University of Durham and University College London, where he completed his PhD in 2011. He was the Petro Jacyk postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto in 2011-12. Before joining the University of Roehampton in 2017, Zbig was an Associate Professor in History at Nazarbayev University in Astana.

Research interests

Zbig Wojnowski’s work places the USSR in a transnational and comparative context. He is particularly interested in the history of Soviet social, cultural, and political interactions with Eastern Europe after 1945. Working with sources produced in Moscow and the non-Russian peripheries of the Soviet bloc, Zbig focuses on ethnic minorities and other groups that are normally excluded from mainstream historiographies. This helps him challenge long-held assumptions about the role of ideology and the meanings of nationhood under state socialism, as well as to bring out important links between Soviet foreign policy and interethnic relations at home.

Zbig has recently published a book entitled The Near Abroad: Socialist Ukraine and the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe. Itexamines the relationship between Ukrainian nationalism and Soviet patriotism in the USSR, focusing on how these identities were formed not only in relation to Moscow, but also to the USSR’s neighbours in Eastern Europe. Rather than the usual story of growing alienation from the communist project in postwar USSR, Zbig explores how anti-Western sentiments, myths of East Slavic brotherhood, and opportunities for social mobility preserved Soviet patriotic sentiment among the population of Ukraine. The book contributes to the growing body of literature on de-Stalinisation and empire. Illuminating the mechanisms that govern the diffusion of ideas across borders, Zbig explores mental geographies that still shape relations between Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe.

Zbig’s new research continues to examine the history of interethnic relations in the USSR, albeit with a much stronger focus on perestroika and interactions between European parts of the USSR and Central Asia. Zbig has recently launched a book-length project that examines the history of popular music in the eastern and western borderlands of the Soviet bloc. Cheap to stage and produce, pop music reached the most remote parts of the USSR and thus provided an important means of forging cultural ties between Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Pop further helped to build new economic and cultural ties between the USSR and the capitalist West, all the while shaping the parameters of cultural Cold War in the Third World. Zbig’s project traces the development of the socialist entertainment industry from the relatively stable 1970s, through the turbulent reforms of the 1980s, to the capitalist 1990s. It thus examines the causes and costs of the political, social, and economic transformations of the late 1980s and the 1990s. 

Teaching

'The Soviet Experiment, 1905-1945'

'The Cold War at Home: Soviet Society after 1945'

Qualifications

  • PhD in History, 2006-2011

School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

Title: ‘Patriotism and the Soviet Empire: Ukraine Views the Socialist States of Eastern Europe, 1956-1985’

  • MA in History with Distinction, 2006

School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

  • BA in History with First-Class Honours, 2005

University of Durham

Research projects

Zbig is currently working on a book-length project which examines the collapse of state socialism in Eastern Europe through the prism of popular music and the popular music industry.

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