Professor Vladislav Zubok

Professor Vladislav Zubok

Professor - Stevenson Professor of International History

Department of International History

Room No
Office Hours
Friday, 2pm - 3pm and 5pm - 6pm
Key Expertise
Cold War; 20th-Century Russia

About me

Vladislav Zubok is professor of international history, with expertise on the Cold War, the Soviet Union, Stalinism, and Russia’s intellectual history in the 20th century. Among his books are: The Idea of Russia: The Life and Work of Dmitry Likhachev (2017), Dmitry Likhachev. The Life and the Century (in Russian, 2016) A Failed Empire: the Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007) and Zhivago’s Children: the Last Russian Intelligentsia (2009). His most recent book is: Collapse. The Fall of the Soviet Union, was published by Yale University Press (London and New Haven, USA) in October 2021, and available in paperbook and audiobook.

Professor Zubok was born and educated in Moscow. He studied for his undergraduate degree at the Moscow State University and studied for his PhD at the Institute for the USA and Canada in Moscow.

In 1994 he became a fellow at the National Security Archive, non-government organization at the University of George Washington. He continued his academic career in the United States as a visiting professor at Amherst College, Ohio University, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan, and in 2004 became a tenured professor at Temple University.

His books earned the Lionel Gelber Prize and the Marshall Shulman Prize of the American Association for Advancement of Slavic Studies. Professor Zubok received numerous grants from the McArthur Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, and from the Yeltsin foundation and the Russkii Mir foundation. Aside from academic work, Professor Zubok organized a number of international archival and educational projects in Russia, Ukraine, and South Caucasus. He held numerous fellowships, including the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Wilson Center in Washington DC, Collegium Budapest, the Free University for Liberal Studies in Rome, the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, and the Hoover Institute at Stanford University.

Professor Zubok also consulted a number of documentary films, most importantly Sir Jeremy Isaac’s twenty-four series “Cold War” on CNN. He also published in: The Spectator, The Foreign Affairs, Boston Globe, the Guardian, and other public venues. His most recent publication in Foreign Affairs (with Sergey Radchenko) is “Blundering on the Brink. The Secret Story and Unlearned Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis”.

Download the CV

Other titles: Research Committee ChairHead of the Cold War Studies programme, REF Co-ordinator 

Expertise Details

Cold War; 20th-Century Russia

Teaching & supervision

Professor Vladislav Zubok usually teaches the following courses in the Department:

At undergraduate level:

HY242: The Soviet Union: Domestic, International and Intellectual History

At postgraduate level:

HY463: The Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1962


He also supervises the following students:

 Research student  Provisional thesis title
Jeffrey Hawn Jr The False Dawn US-Russian Relations 1991-1993

Professor Zubok supervised the following PhD graduates:

 Research student  Thesis title
 Isaac Scarborough (2018)  The Extremes it Takes to Survive: Tajikistan and the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1985-1992


Professor Vladislav Zubok recent publications include:


 Zubok - Collapse Collapse. The Fall of the Soviet Union (2021)
ZubokTotalitarianSocieties  Totalitarian Societies and Democratic Transition: Essays in Memory of Victor Zaslavsky (2017) [English edition of Società totalitarie e transizione alla democrazia, co-edited with Tommaso Piffer]
 ZubokIdeaRussia The Idea of Russia: The Life and Work of Dmitry Likhachev (2017)
 ZubokDmitryLikhachevRussian Dmitry Likhachev. The Life and the Century (2016)[Extended Russian edition]
 ZubokCurrentDebatesInternationalRelations Current Debates in International Relations (2015) [with Eric B. Shiraev]
 ZubokInternationalRelations International Relations (2015) [second edition, with Eric B. Shiraev]
 NoBookCover Contemporary Scholarship on International Relationship Abroad (3 vols.) [co-edited with Eric B. Shiraev] (not available online)
 NoBookCover D.S.Likhachev v obshchestvennoi zhizni Rossii kontsa XX veka [Dmitry Likhachev in the public life of Russia at the end of the 20th century] (2011)
 ZubokSocietatotalitarie Società totalitarie e transizione alla democrazia [Totalitarian society and transition to democracy] (2011) [co-edited with Tommaso Piffer]
 ZubokMasterpiecesHistory Masterpieces of History: A Peaceful End of the Cold War in Europe, 1989 (2010) [co-edited with Svetlana Savranskaia and Thomas Blanton]
 ZubokZhivagoChildren Zhivago’s Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia (2009)
 ZubokFailedEmpire A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007)
 ZubokAntiAmericanismRussia Anti-Americanism in Russia: From Stalin To Putin (2000) [with Eric B. Shiraev]
 ZubokInsideKremlinColdWar Inside the Kremlin's Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev (1996) [with Constantin Pleshakov]

News & media


Cundill History Prize award ceremony

Professor Vladslav Zubok went to Montreal, Canada on 1st December as one of the three finalists for the Cundill History Prize, along with Ada Ferrer and Tiya Miles. The prize is awarded annually to the book that embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal.


Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History

Professor Vladislav Zubok's book, Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union, has won the 2022 Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History.


Cundill History Prize shortlisting

Professor Vladislav Zubok's book, Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union, has been shortlisted for the 2022 Cundill History Prize


New Article in the Foreign Affairs

Professor Zubok's article in Foreign Affairs provides a historically informed approach to thinking about the war in Ukraine and what it will mean for Russia. Read the article.


Essay on Roots of Ukraine-Russian War in Engelsberg Ideas

In a new essay by Professor Zubok, he focuss on the expansion of NATO and how this helped to tip a fragile balance between pro-Western and anti-American strands of Russia's politics after the Soviet collapse. The piece refers to newly declassified historical evidence, and takes a stab on a synthesis between Putin's geopolitical mythologizing and his attitudes to Ukraine.


Presentation at MIT Lectures Series

Professor Zubok spoke at an online session of the MIT 'Focus on Russia' Lecture Series on 25 April. His talk was on the subject of 'The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Seeds of the New European War'.


New Essay in Engelsberg Ideas

An essay by Professor Zubok on the Soviet collapse and its resonances in the present situation in Ukraine. He argues that the Soviet collapse pointed to the possibility of great reversals and historic surprises. Yet, in invading Ukraine, Putin may have sealed the demise of his political enterprise. 


Contribution to New Article in the Financial Times

Read a contribution by Professor Zubok in an article about Western brands feeling Russian in the unravelling of 'capitalistic diplomacy'. To him, the corporate retreat marks the end of the era whose beginnings he witnessed while passing Moscow’s first McDonald’s on his way to work each day. “It was a new smell, a new sensation — fast service, everything was clean. Moscow was incredibly colourless [under the Soviet system] and you suddenly had a small island of light, colour and efficiency in the midst of the collapsing Soviet economy,” he recalled. Read the article.


Professor Vladislav Zubok on the Ukraine Crisis

 As Western leaders warn of an imminent invasion, our own Professor Vladislav Zubok explains the history behind the crisis which has seen the build up of 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's borders. Watch the video via LSE's Instagram page.



The Strange Death of the Soviet Union

On 15 November Professor Zubok participated in a panel discussion with Professor Kristina Spohr and with Emeritus Professor Archie Brown (Oxford) on the collapse of the Soviet Union. The event, hosted by LSE IDEAS, marked the publication of his new book Collapse (Yale University Press). Watch the video recording


New book

The much awaited, Collapse. The Fall of the Soviet Union was released on 26 October. Published by Yale University Press, this major study of the collapse of the Soviet Union shows how Gorbachev’s misguided reforms led to its demise. Thirty years on, Professor Zubok, who observed the Soviet collapse for himself, offers a major reinterpretation of the final years of the USSR, refuting the notion that the breakup of the Soviet order was inevitable. Read more


Iran International documentary

Togerther with Dr Roham Alvandi, Professor Zubok was featured in a documentary film produced by Iran International, a London-based Persian-language TV station. “Red Boots: Soviets in Iran” discusses the Soviet occupation of Iran during and after the Second World War. Watch it here (in Persian).


20th Annual Alexander Dallin Lecture

Professor Zubok delivered the 20th Annual Alexander Dallin Lecture at Stanford University on 4 December. His talk, entitled "Reformed to Death: The Strange End of the USSR" was sponsored by CREEES (Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies). Watch his lecture on YouTube.


Guest panelist at Miller Center international conference

On 8 November, Professor Zubok was on a panel with former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott (Brookings Institution) and Professor Arne Westad (Harvard - former LSE International History) at an international conference in the Miller Centre, University of Virginia, US. The conference, titled "U.S. Presidents Confront the Russians: A Century of Challenge, 1917-2017", aimed to place the current US-Russia relationship into broad historical context by returning to key historical moments of crisis and controversy as well as restraint and compromise. By exploring U.S. presidents and their ties to Russian and Soviet leaders, and by analysing the perceptions of the latter, the event hoped to illuminate the real nature of the bilateral relationship: the underlying forces, ideological, geopolitical, strategic, historic—that have placed the United States and Russia at cross-purposes for the past century.


Public lecture in Oxford

Professor Vladislav Zubok gave a public talk at St Antony's College, University of Oxford, on 16 October. The talk, entitled “Dmitry Likhachev and the dilemmas of Russian Cultural Nationalism”, was based on his latest book, The Idea of Russia: The Life and Work of Dmitry Likhachev, which focuses on the life and work of one of the most prominent Russian intellectuals of the twentieth century.


Article on Soviet Union and China

'The Soviet Union and China in the 1980s: Reconciliation and Divorce' is Professor Vladislav Zubok's latest article in the Cold War History journal. The article discusses Soviet and Chinese reforms and foreign policies in the 1980s in comparative perspective, in the light of recent archival findings. It argues that key policy choices by Deng Xiaoping and Mikhail Gorbachev, which made possible China’s rise and the Soviet Union’s collapse, can be better understood in comparative perspective.


Article on Europe's external relations

Professor Zubok has a new article out with Professor William Wohlforth in the July Special Issue of International Politics. The Special Issue, entitled “Europe and the World: Rethinking Europe’s External Relations in an Age of Global Turmoil” is already available online and Professor Zubok’s article, "An Abiding Antagonism: Realism, Idealism and the Mirage of Western–Russian Partnership after the Cold War", can be read with subscription or free for LSE users. The article asserts that Europe’s security environment is critically dependent on nature of the relationship between Russia and the broader west and addresses the obstacles in the way of a stable partnership.


English edition of Totalitarian Societies and Democratic Transition out now

The English edition of Società Totalitarie e Transizione alla Democrazia, initially published in Italian by Il Mulino in 2011, was published by Central European University Press under the title, Totalitarian Societies and Democratic Transition. Essays in Memory of Victor Zaslavsky, earlier this month. The book, co-edited by Professor Vladislav Zubok and Dr Tommaso Piffer (University of Cambridge) is a tribute to the memory of Victor Zaslavsky (1937-2009), sociologist, emigre from the Soviet Union, Canadian citizen, public intellectual, and keen observer of Eastern Europe. In seventeen essays leading European, American and Russian scholars discuss the theory and the history of totalitarian society with a comparative approach. They revisit and reassess what Zaslavsky considered the most important project in the latter part of his life: the analysis of Eastern European - especially Soviet societies and their difficult "transition" after the fall of communism in 1989-91. The book promotes new theoretical and methodological approaches to the concept of totalitarianism for understanding Soviet and East European societies, and the study of fascist and communist regimes in general. Order the book on Amazon UK.


New book, The Idea of Russia

Professor Vladislav Zubok’s newest book, The Idea of Russia: The Life and Work of Dmitry Likhachev, was released by IB Tauris in January 2017. As the title indicates, The Idea of Russia focuses on the life and work of one of the most prominent Russian intellectuals of the twentieth century, Dmitry Likhachev (1906-1999). His life spanned virtually the entire century - a tumultuous period which saw Russia move from Tsarist rule under Nicholas II via the Russian Revolution and Civil War into seven decades of communism followed by Gorbachev's Perestroika and the rise of Putin. In 1928, shortly after completing his university education, Likhachev was arrested, charged with counter-revolutionary ideas and imprisoned in the Gulag, where he spent the next five years. Returning to a career in academia, specialising in Old Russian literature, Likhachev played a crucial role in the cultural life of twentieth-century Russia, campaigning for the protection of important cultural sites and historic monuments. He also founded museums dedicated to great Russian writers including Dostoevsky, Pushkin and Pasternak. In this, the first biography of Likhachev to appear in English, Professor Zubok provides a thoroughly-researched account of one of Russia's most extraordinary and influential public figures. Buy The Idea of Russia on Amazon. The Idea of Russia is a shorter English version of Dmitry Likhachev. The Life and the Century also authored by Professor Vladislav Zubok and published in Russia by Vita Nova in 2016.


Dmitry Likhachev out in Russia

Professor Vladislav Zubok’s new book, Dmitry Likhachev: The Life and the Century, was launched in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of a series of events taking place around the city celebrating the 110th anniversary of the birth of academician Dmitry Likhachev. On Tuesday, 29 November, Professor Zubok’s book was presented to the public at the State Museum of Political History of Russia. The event was mentioned by Russia News Today. Professor Zubok’s book analysis “archival materials and includes more than 150 photos from the collections of the family of the scientist, the Pushkin house and the Foundation named after Likhachev”.


Symposium dedicated to James Billington, Emeritus Director of the Library of Congress

On 16 November 2016, Professor Vladislav Zubok was a guest speaker at a symposium dedicated to the long-serving Director of the Library of Congress, James Billington. The symposium, titled “Culture as Conversation: A Classic Turns Fifty — A Symposium Dedicated to Re-ExaminingThe Icon and the Axe”, took place in the Washington College of Law, American University, and was organised by the Carmel Institute for Russian Culture and History in cooperation with the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute. Professor Zubok gave a speech largely based on his forthcoming book about James Billington’s Russian friend, D.S. Likhachev. Other speakers included Dr. Anton Fedyashin (Carmel Institute Director Associate Professor of History American University), Matthew Rojansky (Director of the Kennan Institute) and John R. Beyrle (US Ambassador to Russia, 2008-2012.


46th Annual Convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

On November 21, 2014 Professor Vladislav Zubok was an invited speaker at the Presidential Plenary Session of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies in San Antonio, Texas. The panel’s theme was: “25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall: Historical Legacies and New Beginnings.” He spoke on the topic: “What can we learn from the Cold War now? Personality, Contingency, Identity Politics, and the Role of Money.”

As Western leaders warn of an imminent invasion, our own Professor Vladislav Zubok explains the history behind the crisis which has seen the build up of 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's borders. Watch the video via LSE's Instagram page.