Dr Zoe Knox

Associate Professor of Modern Russian History Zoe Knox

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 2711

Personal details

My PhD examined religious pluralism in late Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, particularly the Russian Orthodox Church's role in shaping discourse on religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. It was completed at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia). I later held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Monash before moving to Rice University (Houston, USA) for an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2006, I took up a lectureship in modern Russian history at Leicester.

My first book Russian Society and the Orthodox Church: Religion in Russia after Communism was based on my PhD research. My second book Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World: From the 1870s to the Present argued that Jehovah’s Witnesses have shaped understandings of freedom of conscience in a wide range of historical and geographical settings to the extent they might be regarded a litmus test for religious tolerance worldwide. You can hear me interviewed about it in this New Books Network podcast . My most recent book presented documents and artefacts in the Keston Archive, a collection of material on religious persecution under Soviet-style communism at Baylor University. Published in 2019, Voices of the Voices: Religion, Communism and the Keston Archive , co-edited with Prof. deGraffenried, highlights the treasures of this unique archival collection.

I am Treasurer of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies, the UK’s leading learned society for those researching the region. I am the co-convenor of the BASEES Study Group Religion and Spirituality in Russia and Eastern Europe , which creates links between academics and postgraduate students in Britain and beyond researching religion and spirituality. I am on the Editorial Board of the journal Religion, State & Society current and a Trustee of the Oxford-based charitable organisation the Keston Institute UK , founded in 1969 to study religion under communist regimes.

In 2013 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society


My teaching at Leicester includes a wide range of modules, at all year levels, on modern European history, twentieth-century Russian history, and religious history. These range from an introductory course on Soviet history (i.e. the second year Option ‘The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union’) to a very detailed examination of religion in modern Russia (i.e. the year-long Special Subject ‘Church, State and Belief in Soviet Russia, 1941-1991’).

I supervise third year dissertations and MA dissertations across a broad range of subjects relating to late Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia as well as the history of religion in modern Europe. There is a close link between my teaching areas and research interests.

Examples of modules that I teach:

  • Church, State and Belief in Soviet Russia, 1941-1991
  • Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union
  • Religious History

Recent Publications


  1. co-edited with J. deGraffenried), Voices of the Voiceless: Religion, Communism, and the Keston Archive (Baylor University Press, 2019
  2. Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World: From the 1870s to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan,2018)
  3. Russian Society and the Orthodox Church: Religion in Russia after Communism (Routledge, 2005; paperback 2009)

Articles and chapters

  1. 'A Greater Danger than a Division of the German Army': Bible Students and Opposition to War in World War I America’, Peace & Change 44, no 2 (2019), pp. 207-243.
  2. Jehovah’s Witnesses as Extremists: The Russian State, Religious Pluralism, and Human Rights’, The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 46 (2019), pp. 128-157.
  3. (co-authored with Emily Baran), ‘The 2002 Russian Anti-Extremism Law: An Introduction’, The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 46 (2019), pp. 97-104.

  4. The History of the Jehovah's Witnesses: An Appraisal of Recent Scholarship’, Journal of Religious History 41, no. 2 (June 2017), 251–260.
  5. (with A. Mitrofanova), The Russian Orthodox Church’ in L. Leustean (ed.), Eastern Christianity and Politics in the Twenty-first Century (Routledge, 2014), pp. 38-66.

PhD Supervision

I have supervised numerous PhDs to completion and am currently the first supervisor of three PhD students, working on the creation of Soviet civil religion, Anglo-Russian relations, and Orthodox missions. I am second supervisor to five PhD students working on aspects of Russian history or religious history. I would be delighted to hear from potential students interested in researching religious tolerance and intolerance in Europe and the USA in the twentieth century; religion, state and society in Russia; religion in the Soviet Union; or Jehovah’s Witnesses in the modern world’.

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