Zbigniew Wojnowski is an Associate Professor of Soviet History at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He obtained his PhD from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL in 2011. Before joining Oxford in 2022, Dr. Wojnowski spent several years working at Nazarbayev University in Astana and the University of Roehampton in London. His research has focused on interethnic relations and imperial dynamics in Soviet Ukraine and Kazakhstan. His book entitled The Near Abroad: Socialist Eastern Europe and Soviet Patriotism in Ukraine was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2017. It examines how the flow of people and ideas across borders shaped Ukrainian and Soviet identities after the death of Stalin. Over the past few years, he has continued to publish on identity politics in Ukrainian Crimea, the role of popular culture during perestroika, and the impact of de-Stalinisation in the USSR’s Central Asian peripheries. This work has appeared in such venues as Contemporary European History, The Journal of Contemporary History, and The Journal of Modern History. It throws a unique light on the nature of socio-political unrest in the Soviet Union, public and cultural diplomacy in the Cold War, and the mental geographies that still shape international relations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Zbigniew Wojnowski is currently working on a monograph which extends the study of Soviet identity politics into the 1980s and the 1990s. As the lived experience of systemic transformation in the (former) socialist camp remains understudied, post-Soviet opinion leaders sustain a myth of the ‘wild 1990s’. To justify repressive measures at home and aggressive policies abroad, for example, Vladimir Putin claims that the dismantling of authoritarian controls produced economic hardship, social discord, and cultural stagnation. The history of show business challenges these politicised narratives by exploring how producers and consumers of popular culture engaged with market reform. Mining previously unexplored archival documents in Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom, Zbigniew Wojnowski analyses how economic reform transformed approaches to entrepreneurship, patterns of cultural consumption, and the limits of permissible expression in the late Soviet and early post-Soviet periods. The goal is to firmly integrate the USSR and its successor states within global histories of the ‘entrepreneurial self’.