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School of History

Dr Natalya Chernyshova


Lecturer in Modern European History



I am a historian of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe with nearly two decades of research and teaching experience. My expertise and publications focus on Belarusian history, Soviet nationalities politics, material culture and everyday life during late socialism. My research has been funded by the British Academy, Institute for Historical Research, Economic History Society, Royal Historical Society and others.

I received my MA and PhD from King's College London, following BAs from the American University in Bulgaria and Minsk State Linguistic University. Before joining Queen Mary in 2023, I taught at the University of Winchester (2008-2022) and King's College London. I also worked in media organisations, including the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (London, UK) and IREX/ProMedia (Belarus). I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Higher Education Academy.

I regularly comment on Belarusian and Soviet history and politics for a variety of media in the UK and internationally.


Research Interests:

My research interests lie primarily in the post-Stalin period of Soviet and Belarusian history, ranging thematically from Soviet nationalism and ethnic relations to material culture and everyday life.

My first book, Soviet Consumer Culture in the Brezhnev Era (Routledge), was a pioneering study of state policies, public debates and everyday practices of consumption in the USSR between 1964 and 1985. The book challenged the stereotype of socialist consumers as passive, eternally-queuing victims of the dysfunctional command economy and showed that a rapid rise in living standards transformed socialist society, altered citizens’ relationship with the state, and had profound consequences for the Soviet project.

My current research focuses on Soviet Belarus. It began as a political biography of Petr Masherau, the Belarusian Communist Party’s First Secretary (1965-1980). In 2020-22, a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship enabled me to expand the project into a much broader national, regional, and interregional history. The resulting book project, ‘Reconstruction, modernity and nation-building in Soviet Belarus, 1965-1980’, will be the first in-depth history of Belarus during a crucial period of its development as a modern nation and its relations with Moscow. The project contests the view of Belarus as nothing more than 'the most Soviet republic' devoid of distinctive national identity and aims to advance our understanding of the long-term interplay between nationalism and colonialism in this sensitive region, a topic whose acute importance has been thrown into such painful relief by the war in Ukraine.


• Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
• British Association for Slavic and East European Studies (BASEES), UK
• BASEES Study Group for Minority History, UK



'Soviet consumer culture in the Brezhnev era' (Routledge, 2013), 280 pp. Paperback edition: 2015.

In progress: 'Reconstruction, modernity, and nation-building in Soviet Belarus, 1965-1980', a project supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, 2020-2022.

Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters:

‘Between Soviet and Ethnic: Cultural Policies and National Identity-Building in Soviet Belarus under Petr Masherau, 1965-1980,’ Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History (forthcoming in vol. 24, no. 3 (Summer 2023)).

'The Soviet Roots of the 2020 Protests: The Unlikely History of Belarusian Civic Nationalism,' in Elena A. Korosteleva, Irina Petrova and Anastasiia Kudlenko (eds.), Belarus in the Twenty-First Century: Between Dictatorship and Democracy (Routledge, 2023), pp. 33-49.

'Social Deviants, Urban Myths, and the Socialist Everyday', Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, vol. 23, no. 2 (Spring 2022), 431–442 (review article). 

‘De-Stalinization and Insubordination in the Soviet Borderlands: Beria’s Attempted National Reform in Soviet Belarus’, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 73, no. 2 (March 2021) 387–409. Free e-print can be accessed here

‘The Great Soviet Dream’: Blue Jeans in the Brezhnev Era and beyond’ in Graham H. Roberts (ed.), Material Culture in Russia and the USSR: Things, Values, Identities (Bloomsbury, 2017), pp. 155–172. 

‘Consumers as Citizens: Revisiting the Question of Public Disengagement in the Brezhnev Era’ in Artemy Kalinovsky and Dina Fainberg (eds.) Reconsidering Stagnation in the Brezhnev Era: Ideology and Exchange (Lexington Books, 2016), pp. 3–20. 

'Philistines on the Big Screen: Consumerism in Soviet Cinema of the Brezhnev Era', Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Vol. 5, No 2 (December 2011), pp. 227–254. 

'Consuming Technology in a Closed Society: Household Appliances in Soviet Urban Homes of the Brezhnev Era', Ab Imperio: Studies of New Imperial History and Nationalism in the Post Soviet Space, Issue 2 (July 2011), pp. 188–220. 


I welcome applications from research students interested in working on any aspect of Soviet and 20th-century Belarusian history.

Public Engagement

Articles and policy papers:

'Failed Wagner Group coup leaves Putin humiliated and Belarus dictator Lukashenko more secure – for now', The Conversation, 23 June 2023 

'Arming Ukraine: lessons from the European conflicts of the twentieth century', History & Policy, 22 June 2023

'Ukraine war: Russia’s threat to station nuclear warheads in Belarus – what you need to know', The Conversation, 21 June 2023

'Russia’s war on Ukraine is deeply unpopular in Belarus', Australian Outlook, 14 July 2022 

'Ukraine invasion: How Belarus has become Russia's pawn', The Conversation, 7 March 2022 

'The West needs to appreciate how the protest movement in Belarus has been shaped by the Soviet past', History & Policy, 5 March 2021 

'The Belarus protests and Russia: Lessons for "Big Brother",' PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 693, George Washington University, 1 March 2021 

‘Belarus remembers’, History Today, Vol. 71, Issue 1, January 2021, pp. 90-93

'A very Belarusian affair: What sets the current anti-Lukashenka protests apart', Policy Memo No. 671, PONARS Eurasia, George Washington University, 17 September 2020

TV and radio:

Interviewed on ‘History of Belarus’, The Forum, BBC World Service, 15 December 2022. 

Interviewed on the three-part documentary The Chernobyl Disaster, Channel 5, 24-26 May 2022. 

Interviewed on Belarus in Russia's war on Ukraine by:
• Today FM current affairs programme, New Zealand (28 September 2022)
• ARISE TV News Channel (25 May 2022)
• FM4 Radio, Austria (9 March 2022)

Podcasts and digital:

Authored ‘Belarus’, a video on the 2020 protests, for PONARS Eurasia Online Academy, The George Washington University, USA, May 2022

Guest expert featured in Episode 3: Teddy Goes Shopping of the audio documentary Teddy Goes to the USSR by Sean Guillory. 

Guest expert on 'Khrushchev' episode (January 2022) and 'Malenkov' episode (August 2021), We Didn't Start the Fire. The History Podcast, hosted by Katie Puckrik and Tom Fordyce, Crowd Network. 

Guest speaker on PONARS Eurasia Podcasts (Lipman Series 2020), 'Understanding the Protests in Belarus', 11 September 2020. 

Contributed a module of translated primary sources and commentary on Soviet Belarus in the 1970s for the award-winning open-access online archive of primary sources, Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (2022)

Public talks and webinars (selected):

Authors' panel discussion at the Book Launch for "Belarus in the XXI century: between dictatorship and democracy", Philip House, London, 22 June 2023. Hosted by Oxford Belarus Observatory at U. Oxford, Research Center of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya Office, and Institute for Global Sustainable Development, Warwick U. 

The Multiethnic Soviet Union and its Demise: Brigid O'Keeffe in Discussion with Natalya Chernyshova, Pushkin House, London, 17 April, 2023

'Belarus: Protests, repression and the war in Ukraine', a Strategic Context lecture for the 77th Brigade Army Reserve Unit, 14 September, 2022.

'A Soviet success story: Petr Masherau and late socialist Belarus', a lecture for the Winchester branch of Historical Association, Hampshire, 12 January 2022.

Speaker at 'The trajectory of Belarus: From popular protests to international provocations', webinar at the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, the George Washington University, USA, 10 December 2021.

‘Belarus protests, national identity and the Soviet past’, invited public lecture at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, Miami University, Ohio, USA, 7 April 2021.

Speaker on Belarus at 'Protests and repression around the globe: A roundtable discussion on Hong Kong, Thailand, Russia, & Belarus', hosted by the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in partnership with the UCI Forum for the Academy and the Public, Wende Museum, CEU Democracy Institute, and the Index on Censorship, 10 March 2021.

'The crisis in Belarus: A discussion with Dr Natalya Chernyshova', Current Affairs Lecture Series at the Russian, East European and Eurasian Centre, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, 25 September 2020 (public lecture)

Co-organiser of the symposium ‘Seeing Red: One century of revolutionary ideas in global politics and history-writing’, U. of Winchester, October 2017 (public event)


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