Although I am of French-Canadian and Swedish background, in high school I became fascinated with Russian history after reading many of the great Russian literary classics by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Not being able to pronounce the latter, I decided to pursue the Russian language, which has captivated me ever since. Like many in my generation, the Vietnam war shaped my consciousness and led me to history in search of understanding of the Cold War and America's place in the world. I traveled to Russia on a Fulbright Grant to conduct research on my doctorate, and ended up staying more than three years, totally caught up in Soviet life in the Brezhnev era, and worked as a free-lance consultant for CBS. It was anything but boring for a young American to live in Moscow, and the reality I experienced had little in common with what Western scholars were writing about "totalitarian" regimes. Under the surface of monolithic uniformity was a fascinating society teeming with contradictions and rich in art and the life of the mind. Ever since that experience I have belonged to two worlds: Russia and the United States (when I am in one, I miss the other). My research and writing has centered upon village life in Imperial Russia before the Revolution; on schools; on reforms and on Mikhail Gorbachev, whom I admire (even if none of my Russian friends do) and had the privilege to meet. My various research interests came together in articles and books I have edited or written on the Gorbachev and post-Soviet era attempts by Moscow to reform the school system and universities, and on the daily life of the Russian school since 1985. I am currently publishing articles and reworking a manuscript on "classroom practices" in Imperial Russia, with a focus on multi-national Kazan educational district. Other active interests include local government in Imperial Russia and World War I as a global phenomenon.
Professor, Department of History
Adjunct Professor, School of Education
Department of History