Department of History
 

Ben Eklof

  • Professor, Department of History
  • Adjunct Professor, School of Education

Education

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

Contact Information

Ballantine Hall, Rm. 831
(812) 855-6298

Background

Ben Eklof

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 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, totally caught up in Soviet life in the Brezhnev era, and worked as a free-lance consultant for CBS. 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 (when I am in one, I miss the other). My research and writing has centered upon village life in Imperial Russia before the Revolution; on schools; on reforms and on Mikhail Gorbachev, whom I admire (even if none of my Russian friends do) and had the privilege to meet. My various research interests came together in articles and books I have edited or written on the Gorbachev and post-Soviet era attempts by Moscow to reform the school system and universities, and on the daily life of the Russian school since 1985. I am currently publishing articles and reworking a manuscript on "classroom practices" in Imperial Russia, with a focus on multi-national Kazan educational district. Other active interests include local government in Imperial Russia and World War I as a global phenomenon.

Selected Awards

  • Two-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

Courses Recently 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

Publication Highlights

Books

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.