Dr James Ryan
Lecturer in Modern European (Russian) History
I am a historian of modern Russia, and more specifically of Soviet Russia between the world wars. My published work is mainly in the area of political violence and intellectual history. It concerns the relationship between violence and ideology in order to understand why the Soviet state proved to be the most violent and destructive state system in modern peacetime European history.
My first book was a comprehensive study of violence in the political thought of V.I. Lenin, the Bolshevik Party leader and effective first leader of the Soviet state, with the title Lenin's Terror: The Ideological Origins of Early Soviet State Violence (London, 2012). I am currently engaged in a project to write a book on the intellectual history of Soviet state violence, 1918-1941.
In addition to my work on Soviet state violence, I am very interested in the politics of history and the significance of collective memory. In particular, I follow discussions about the Soviet past in Russia today. I have written about the Russian government's commemoration of the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and about perceptions of Stalin and Stalinism in Putin's Russia.
In my teaching, I offer a second-year undergraduate module that takes a broad look at the history of Russia's twentieth century, and a third-year advanced option module that looks more specifically at my current book project, the relationship between violence and ideology in inter-war Soviet Russia.
Education and qualifications
2005-2009: Ph.D Modern History, National University of Ireland (Cork)
2002-2005: BA (Hons) First Class, National University of Ireland (Cork)
2011-2014: Government of Ireland/Marie Curie COFUND Postdoctoral Mobility Research Fellow in the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Warwick and University College Cork
2010-2011: Assistant Lecturer, School of History, University College Cork
Honours and awards
2017: Elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS)
2015-17: Erasmus Plus International Credit Mobility Scheme award to oversee teaching exchange partnership between SHARE, Cardiff University, and the History Faculty, State Academic University for the Humanities, Russian Academy of Sciences
2011-14: Government of Ireland/Marie Curie CARA Postdoctoral Mobility Research Fellowship
2007-9: Government of Ireland Postgraduate Research Scholarship
2005-7: Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Research Scholarship, University College Cork
- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS)
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA)
- Member of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)
- Member of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES)
- Member of the BASEES Study Group on the Russian Revolution
- Member of the Irish Association for Russian, Central and East European Studies (IARCEES)
- Member of the Irish Association of Professional Historians (IAPH)
Since 2015, I have been reviews editor for the journal Revolutionary Russia.
2017: 'Lenin and Leninism: a Centenary Perspective,' Institute of History Research, London, 1917 Centenary Public Lecture Series, 25 April
2015: 'They know now what they do?' Bolshevik Understandings of the Agency of the Perpetrator, 1918-1930,' Fisher Forum: Violence in Twentieth-Century Russia and Eurasia: Experience, Affect, Memory, and Legacies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 19-20 June
2014: 'They know not what they do…or do they?' Bolshevik Understandings of the Agency of the Perpetrator, 1918-1928,' Study Group on the Russian Revolution, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 3 January
«Сакрализация насилия: Большевистское оправдание насилия и террора во время Граждансой Войны» ('The Sacralization of Violence: Bolshevik Justifications for Violence and Terror during the Civil War'), Взгляд Сквозь Века: Россия и мир в оценках современных исследователей. All-Russian Scientific Conference, Moscow State Pedagogical University, Moscow, 29 November
'The Ideological Dimension of Soviet State Violence during the Civil War: Justification, Ambiguities, Disagreements,' Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), Boston, 23 November
'Messianism and the Sacralization of Violence: The Ezhenedel'nik VChK as a window on early Soviet terror,' Study Group on the Russian Revolution, University of East Anglia, Norwich, 5 January
- HS1776 The Soviet Century
- HS1883 Violence and Ideology in Inter-War Soviet Russia
- HS1107 History in Practice
- HS1105 Making of the Modern World
- HS1801 Dissertations
My teaching focuses on modern Russian and especially Soviet history, with an emphasis on notions of cultural revolution; political violence; ideology; and economic factors in political decision-making. My teaching also engages with political violence and related issues in a broader, comparative context. I would be happy to supervise students in any of these areas.
'We value and love life too much': An Intellectual History of Soviet State Violence, 1918-1939
This project aims to provide the first comprehensive study of the intellectual aspects of Soviet state violence during the inter-war period. It examines how violence and related issues of punishment and repression were discussed in the Bolshevik/Communist party and Soviet state institutions: how and why violence was justified, excused, and criticised, and how these conceptions and opinions developed over the twenty-year period of the study.