Willard Sunderland

Willard Sunderland


Henry R. Winkler Professor of Modern History

Professional Summary

Professor Sunderland received his BA in Russian Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and his masters and doctorate in history from Indiana University, Bloomington. Since joining the department in 1996, he has taught in the fields of Russia and the Soviet Union, modern Europe, and world history.

Sunderland's principal research interests are in the history of the Russian Empire in the modern period.  Over the course of his career, he has lived and traveled extensively throughout the Russian Federation as well as the other states of the former Soviet Union. 

He is the author of two books and co-editor of four volumes of scholarly essays on varied topics connected to Russia's imperial history.  His The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution, appeared with Cornell University Press in 2014 and was recognized with publication awards from the Association for the Study of the Nationalities (ASN), the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), and the Ohio Academy of History. 

Sunderland's current book-in-progress is a travelogue/history of John Quincy Adams' voyage to Russia in 1809 as the first US ambassador appointed to the Russian court.  Following John Quincy's route, Sunderland sailed to the edge of Russia himself with his friends and fellow Cincinnatians Tom and Chuck Lohre in his sailboat Clio in the summer of 2023.  John Quincy's trip from Boston to St. Petersburg took 80 days.  Sunderland's from Boston to Kotka, Finland, located just shy of the Russian border, took 76. 

In addition, Sunderland is also working on a book focused on the history of Russia and the world in the age of Peter the Great as well as new research related to Russian maritime history, the history of the Russian Far East and Northern Pacific, and Sino-Russian relations.

From 2015 to 2022, he worked as a co-editor for the journal Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, and served from 2018 to late 2021 as academic supervisor for the international research laboratory "Russia's Regions in Historical Perspective" based at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow. 

Sunderland's research has been supported by grants from a range of leading institutions and organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the Social Sciences Research Council, and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. 

Abbreviated Publications


Regiony rossiiskoi imperii: identichnost’, reprezentatsiia, (na)znachenie [Russia’s Imperial Regions: Identity, Representation, Meaning] (Co-edited with Ekaterina Boltunova) (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2021)

Russia's Great War and Revolution in the Far East: Re-Imagining the Northeast Asian Theater, 1914-22 (Edited with David Wolff and Yokote Shinji) (Slavica, 2018)

The Baron's Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution (Cornell University Press, 2014)

Russia's People of Empire: Life Stories from Eurasia, 1500 to the Present (Edited with Stephen M. Norris) (Indiana University Press, 2012)

Peopling the Russian Periphery: Borderland Colonization in Eurasian History (Edited with Nicholas Breyfogle and Abby Schrader) (Routledge, 2007)

Taming the Wild Field: Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe (Cornell University Press, 2004; Paperback: 2006)


Russia and the former Soviet Union

Courses Taught

Survey Courses: The History of Russia: From Perun to Putin; The Soviet Experience, 1917-1991; Russia Between Reform and Revolution, 1855-1917; World History, from Ancient Times to the Present

Special Topics Courses: Anna Karenina's Russia; Vereshchagin's World: Russian Imperialism in Life and Art; Land of the Giant Tsar: Russia in the Age of Peter the Great; War and Peace: Russia and Napoleon in History and Myth; Comparative Frontiers in World History; Travel, Exploration, and Empire in the European Experience, 1500-1900

Graduate Courses: War and Revolution in the Modern World, 1750-1914; The Literature of Modern European History, 1700-1900; Frontiers and Frontier Societies in Comparative Perspective; Methodologies of World History; Empires and Imperialism in European History, ca.1000-1914