My research to date has concentrated upon the history of religion in twentieth century Russia and the Soviet Union. I have focused on the Russian Orthodox Church and the state but have ranged more widely to include research into church-state relations, religious dissent and religious persecution and discrimination in the Soviet Union. My first book (Russian Society and the Orthodox Church, Routledge, 2005; paperback 2009) examined religious dissidents in the USSR and non-conformist clergy in post-Soviet Russia and argued that the Church is not a monolithic entity, as western analysts frequently portray it, but rather that Orthodoxy has had myriad influences in modern Russia. I am also interested in the history of religious minority groups in Soviet Russia, particularly in the post-war period, and my current research projects reflect this.
Current Research Projects
I have recently begun research on the continuities in church-state relations from the Soviet to the post-Soviet eras. There are striking continuities that connect the religious realms of these two eras. The treatment of illegal Protestant churches is of particular interest, as are the regime's attempts to suppress religious institutions that refused to cooperate with the state. An essay based on this research has recently been published in the edited collection Religion, Morality, and Community in Post- Soviet Societies
My research interests also focus on religious minority groups in the Soviet Union. My current project is entitled ‘Watchtower Theology and Soviet Ideology: Jehovah’s Witnesses in the USSR, 1939-1991’ and is funded by The Nuffield Foundation’s Social Science Small Grants Scheme. I will examine the clash between the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the ideology of Soviet communism for the first time. The Witnesses were not only denied the right to legally exist as a religious organisation in the USSR, but were persecuted particularly harshly by the regime, which decried the faith as the exemplar of a dangerous religious cult. This research will shed light on the perceived threat to communism posed by evangelical communities.
In 2010 I was awarded funding from the Keston Institute to support archival research for the project ‘Sectarianism in Soviet Russia’.
I am the Convenor (with Miriam Dobson, University of Sheffield) of a Study Group of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES) [http://www.basees.org.uk/] on Religion and Spirituality in Russia and Eastern Europe (RSREE). I have been on the Editorial Board of the journal Religion, State & Society [http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/carfax/09637494.html] since 2007. In 2010 I was elected to the Council of Management of the Oxford-based charitable organisation the Keston Institute, founded in 1969 to study religion under communist regimes.