Biography

I've led a circuitous academic life, as my first interest (and master's degree) was in the field of religious studies, specifically focusing on Russian Orthodoxy and the translation of liturgical texts made by a once celebrated but now obscure literary figure, Isabel F. Hapgood.

Wanting to know more about the post-communist region in general and Russia in particular, I next completed a master's in Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies (REECA) at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Realizing that my core intellectual interests lay in deciphering how elites gain, transfer and legitimate the use of power--whether it be religious, military, economic or political--I finished my scholarly journey by pursuing a PhD in Political Science (also at Harvard).

My dissertation examined how contentious historical episodes and moralizing rhetoric were utilized by Russia to justify present-day foreign policy decisions, such as the annexation of Crimea. Specifically, I looked at contemporary relations between Russia, Poland, Ukraine and the EU through the lens of the 1940 Katyn massacre, the 1932-1933 Holodomor, and post-communist attempts by East-Central European politicians to equate the crimes of Stalinism to those of Nazism.

This project has morphed into a sizable book manuscript, one which combines historical analysis with qualitative process-tracing, elite interviews and quantitative content-analysis of speeches and policy statements.