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Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies

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Dr Ben Phillips



01392 727507


I am an interdisciplinary historian of modern Russia with a special interest in the cultural, intellectual and literary histories of the late-imperial period (c. 1881-1921). My first monograph, Siberian Exile and the Invention of Revolutionary Russia, 1825-1917: Exiles, Emigres and the International Reception of Russian Radicalism (Routledge, 2022), examined the origins of Siberia's modern reputation as a place of exile, showing how the overseas circulation of this image in the years before 1917 stimulated the development of global radical networks and solidarities (broadly defined as 'revolutionary transnationalism') and, more broadly, helped shape Western understandings of the Russian Revolution. 

My current research focuses on political violence in early twentieth century Russia (c. 1905-1914). My work in this area explores how members of revolutionary terrorist groups understood the moral and ethical dimensions of killing in the name of an idea, how terrorist violence was portrayed in religious (i.e. transcendentalist) terms, how such acts were represented in the literature and culture of the time, and discursive connections between state and revolutionary violence. Broadly speaking, I am interested in how the revolutionary upheavals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century can be related to, and read in the context of, the longer Russian cultural tradition.

Before coming to Exeter, I taught at UCL's School of Slavonic & East European Studies (where I also completed my PhD) and Queen Mary University of London. I am a fellow of Advance HE (i.e. the HEA) and serve as comms officer for the British Association of Slavonic & East European Studies (BASEES). I am also co-convenor of the Anglo-Russian Research Network (ARRN), which has been based at Exeter since 2020. 

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My research interests / areas of expertise include:

  • Late-imperial and revolutionary Russia, c. 1881-1917
  • Russian revolutionary/opposition movements during this period
  • Terrorism, political violence, and cultural representations thereof
  • Russian exiles, emigres and their transnational connections
  • The history of the Russian intelligentsia 
  • Russian religious culture (sectarianism/Old Believers especially)

I welcome enquiries from students (undergraduate or postgraduate) interested in working on any of these topics. 

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| 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 |






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External impact and engagement

Contribution to discipline

I am currently comms officer for the British Association of Slavonic & East European Studies (BASEES) and co-convenor of the Anglo-Russian Research Network (ARRN). 

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I currently convene, or contribute to teaching, the following modules: 

  • MLR1001 Contemporary Russian Written & Oral
  • MLR1023 Russia: Empire and Identity
  • MLR1030 Russian for Beginners
  • MLR2021 Understanding Russia
  • MLR2024 Exploring Revolution
  • MLR2030 Intermediate Russian
  • MLR3027 The Making of Underground Russia, 1825-1917
  • SMLM235 Global Literatures and Cultures

I also contribute to teaching within the Department of History, including final-year dissertaton supervisions. 

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