My research and publications have concentrated on the social and cultural history of modern Russia and the Soviet Union. I have been most interested in the history of sexualities and gender in modernising Russia, and particularly the role of medicine and law in shaping the regulation of sexual and gender dissent and conformity. I have explored the history of homosexuality in tsarist and Soviet Russia, the nature of masculinity under socialism, and the problems of sexual disorders and sexual violence in twentieth-century Russia. Soviet penal systems and their medical services are a recent interest. I would welcome postgraduates wishing to work in these areas.
My published work in these areas includes the books Homosexual Desire in Revolutionary Russia: The Regulation of Sexual and Gender Dissent (Chicago, 2001), with a Russian translation issued in 2008, and Bolshevik Sexual Forensics: Diagnosing Disorder in the Clinic and Courtroom, 1917-1939(DeKalb, Il., 2009). I continue to publish on the history and politics of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Russia. Recently I have begun a study of the history of medicine in the Stalinist Gulag. I am interested in the range of medical services, personnel, and practices in the Soviet forced-labour camp system, and how medicine was experienced by prisoners as patients.
- History of LGBT Russia
- Russian and Soviet medicine and psychiatry
- Russian and Soviet penal institutions, the Gulag
My latest book, Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi, (Bloomsbury Academic), looks at the recent politics of homophobia in Russia in historical perspective. Taking the view that modern political homophobia began in Russia with Stalin’s rule, the book explores the fate of the queer in Stalin’s Gulag camps, the social and psychological worlds that queer men and women inhabited under the Soviet regime, and the rise in visibility of LGBT Russians at the end of the twentieth century. It concludes by examining the obstacles to understanding Russia’s queer past, and considering prospects facing LGBT Russians hoping for a queerer future.
I have long had an interest in the Soviet Gulag forced-labour camp system, and in particular, its medical services and their history. My project, ‘Medicine in the Gulag Archipelago, 1930-1960’ uses new archival sources to explore this topic. The 'Gulag Archipelago' or network of Soviet forced-labour camps spanned the length and breadth of the Soviet Union, and the 'Gulag' became a byword for cruelty and human degradation. Yet at the same time new sources from the camp system itself reveal the operation of an extensive and surprisingly sophisticated medical service. Embedded in the organisation of the secret police who ran the camps, the Gulag's medical clinics, stations and hospitals present a puzzle for the historian: why have these places of apparent humanity in the midst of suffering and high mortality? This project uses the archives of the Gulag's Sanitary Department, its embedded medical service, as well as the local archives of camps in far flung regions of the Soviet Union. I also draw upon doctors' and nurses' published and unpublished memoirs, on museum collections, and on the reminiscences of prisoner-patients and prisoner-medics. I explore the establishment and evolution of the camps' medical service, the practices of its socially and politically diverse staff, and the impact it had on police-colonies that eventually became 'ordinary' Soviet cities and towns.