Ben Eklof

Professor Emeritus

Department of History

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

Research Profile:

My research and writing has centered upon village life in Imperial Russia before the Revolution; on schools; on reform movements and policies from the time of the Great Reforms to the perestroika era. My most notable books early in my career were Russian Peasant Schools  (1986) The World of the Russian Peasant  (1990), Soviet Briefing (on the Gorbachev era) and Russia's Great Reforms  (1994). My various research interests came together in articles and books I have edited or written on the Gorbachev and post-Soviet era attempts by the Kremlin  to reform its school system and universities, and on the daily life of the Russian school since 1985 [The Reform of Education in Post-Soviet Russia (2005). However my most recent work has been on revolutionary Populism. My co-author Tatiana Saburova and I recently published a lengthy biography of one such Populist, Nikolai Charushin (1851-1937), which approaches Populism through the lens of  micro- and local history, generational studies, memory studies, gender and political and social history. This book was published in Moscow under title Дружба, Семья и Революция. Николай Чарушин и поколение народников 1870-х годов.  A significantly revised version was published in English by Indiana U Press in 2017 (A Generation of Revolutionaries: Nikolai Charushin and Populism from the Great Reforms to Perestroika). Recently I have returned  to work on pre-revolutionary education (primary and secondary), with a focus on Kazan' education district, encompassing several multi-ethnic and multi-confessional provinces.


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 a better 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 there  totally caught up in Soviet life in the Brezhnev era, and worked as a free-lance consultant for CBS. In all I have spent about seven years of my life in residence in Russia.  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 .

Honors and Awards

  • Three-time recipient of Fulbright Fellowships
  • Woodrow Wilson Center Senior Fellow

Research Interests

  • Modern (Imperial, Soviet post-Soviet) Russia
  • Education, politics and policy making in Russia
  • Russian daily life
  • Russian peasantry
  • Russian revolutionary movement


  • B.A. at Middlebury College, 1968
  • Ph.D. at Princeton University, 1977

Courses Taught

  • Empire of the Tsars
  • The Gorbachev Revolution
  • Heroes and Villains in Russian History (Biography and Mythmaking)
  • Colloquium in Imperial Russia
  • Introduction to the Professional Study of History



 Дружба, Семья и Революция. Николай Чарушин и поколение народников 1870-х годов (Moscow, NLO, 2016)

  • Educational Reform in Post Soviet Russia. New York: Routledge, 2005.
  • [Translator] Boris Mironov, A Social History of Imperial Russia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.
  • [Editor] Russia’s Great Reforms. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
  • Soviet Briefing: The Gorbachev Revolution Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990.
  • Russian Peasant Schools. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1986.