hansen chair in history, university of melbourne

Soviet History




School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Room 516, Arts West (West Wing) The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010


+61 3 8344 0523

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Historian of the Soviet Union

Mark Edele is a historian of the Soviet Union and its successor states, in particular Russia. A former Australian Research Council Future Fellow, he is the inaugural Hansen Professor in History at The University of Melbourne. He was trained as a historian at the Universities of Erlangen, Tübingen, Moscow and Chicago. His publications include Soviet Veterans of the Second World War (2008), Stalinist Society (2011), Stalin’s Defectors (2017), Shelter from the Holocaust: Rethinking Jewish Survival in the Soviet Union (with Atina Grossmann and Sheila Fitzpatrick, 2017), The Soviet Union. A Short History (2019), Debates on Stalinism (forthcoming 2020); and, with Martin Crotty and Neil Diamant, Winners and Losers: War Veterans in the Twentieth Century (forthcoming 2020). He is currently working on a history of Stalinism at war.

A history of Russian and Soviet studies at the University of Melbourne is available here.

Key Research Areas

Soviet Union in the Second World War, historiography, Stalinism, war and post-war Soviet society, war and displacement, History of veterans (Soviet and comparative).

Latest news

Dan Stone reviews Shelter from the Holocaust in Patterns of Prejudice. Excerpt: “For those who think that there is nothing new to be said in Holocaust Studies, this book will come as a revelation. Although research into the Polish Jews who spent the war years in the Soviet Union has been steadily growing in recent years, it remains a remarkably under-researched topic. As a result, this volume, with its carefully researched chapters and wide scope, is hugely welcome. Although conceived as a place-holder, promising much more research to come, it represents the state of the art and offers not only an accessible introduction to a much-neglected topic, but also explanations as to why it has been neglected and why that situation is rapidly changing.”

Stalin’s Defectors reviewed by Peter Whitewood of York St John University in British Journal of Military History 5.1 (2019). Excerpt: “… the book presents convincing challenges to recent research on popular support for Stalinism. … Edele’s book will remain the definitive account of defection in the Red Army and it moves contested debates about the nature of Soviet society further forward. … Challenging a recent school of thought emphasising ideology and ‘Stalinist subjectivity’ as underpinning Stalinism…, Edele instead convincingly argues for a mass sense of defeatism in Soviet society from the very start of the war.”

A recording of my lecture at King’s College London of 29 April 2019, “Stalinism at War: A new History of the Soviet Second World War” is now available here.

My essay on the uses and abuses of historical knowledge was published on Pursuit on 7 June 2019: “What history can really teach us.”

Stalin’s Defectors reviewed by Helmut Langerbein in Holocaust and Genocide Studies 33.1 (2019): “Stalin’s Defectors is a great introduction to the complex issues of defection and collaboration, and a successful synthesis of different subfields and specializations in history. “ “Edele’s greatest strength is his careful and nuanced evaluation of the sources and the circumstances under which they were collected, and he refrains from unwarranted judgments.”

My essay on The Soviet Culture of Victory is now published, “online first”, in Journal of Contemporary History. Abstract: “The Soviet Union after the Second World War can serve as a prime example of how victory ’locks in’ a political system. In a mirror image of Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s argument of how ‘cultures of defeat’ encourage social and political innovation, the Soviet ‘culture of victory’ reaffirmed a dictatorial system of government and a command economy based on collectivized agriculture and centrally planned industry. At the same time, however, the war also engendered changes, which played themselves out somewhat subterraneously at first. They include a complex system of veterans’ privileges, a growing welfare state, a more routinized administration, and an economy where individual and family farming played a major role in the provisioning not only of the rural, but also of the urban population. Moreover, counter-narratives and counter-memories of this war could never be completely silenced by the bombastic war cult and would break forth at the end of the Soviet century. Finally, the economic and human costs of this victory were such that they formed a constant dark underbelly to the celebration of the ‘Great Victory’. This article surveys these contradictory legacies of the war and the ways in which they helped shape late Soviet society.”

Two new reviews of Stalin’s Defectors. In Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 66, No. 3 (2018), German scholar Andreas Hilger complains bitterly about the price, but once he started reading, he found the book “worthwhile:”“Edele’s study will contribute to safeguarding the historical analysis of this topic against one-sided political-historical instrumentalization." Karel Berkhoff, author of pathbreaking books on the occupation of Ukraine and of Soviet wartime propaganda, writes in Slavic Review 77, No. 4 (2018): “the author establishes clearly, on the basis of enormous research, that Soviet desertion was special. … The book is engagingly written. … Edele uses all the right sources, poses smart questions about a difficult and understudied topic, and clearly presents answers that significantly advance our understanding. For all these reasons, this excellent book must be highly recommended.”

Jonathan House of the US Army Command and General Staff College reviews Stalin’s Defectors in Russian Review 77.1 (2018): 160-61. Excerpt: “This brief review cannot do justice to the sophisticated quantitative and qualitative analysis Edele has produced. This is a highly readable, thought-provoking book that addresses key issues of both wartime defection and loyalty to the Stalinist regime."

Stalin’s Defectors reviewed by Robert Dale in Slavonic and East European Review 2018/4. Excerpt: “Stalin’s Defectors works across a rich palette of sources and approaches, combining military, intellectual, statistical, social and cultural approaches to the past with fascinating results. Edele writes fluently and precisely, and is careful to not stretch his evidence too far. The book makes an important contribution to ongoing debates about the war on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1945, and deserves to read widely, by anybody interested in either side of this conflict.”

The recording of my  Dean's Lecture at the University of Melbourne, 3 September 2018, is now available: Why and How the Soviet Union Won the Second World War in Europe.

My review of Timothy Snyder's Road to Unfreedom was published by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on 27 July 2018.