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School of History

Dr Jonathan Smele


Senior Lecturer in Modern European History

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8372


I am a specialist in the history of the Russian revolutions and civil wars. I graduated from the Universities of Leeds, Glasgow and Wales and have taught at Queen Mary since 1992.

I am a long-standing member of the Study Group on the Russian Revolution and edited its journal, Revolutionary Russia, for a decade (2002–12).


Research Interests:

My research interests focus on late-imperial Russian and early Soviet history, with a particular emphasis on the revolutionary period (roughly 1881–1932).

My recent and forthcoming publications have explored the multifaceted and multinational nature of the conflicts that wrecked the Russian Empire and helped form the Soviet Union in the period 1916 to 1926, placing them within the context of the global upheavals engendered by the First World War.

  • Political and military history of the Russian Empire and early Soviet Union
  • The Russian revolutions and civil wars
  • Anti-Bolshevism and the first emigration
  • Anglo-Soviet relations (official and unofficial)
  • The history of Siberia



Articles and chapters

  • Smele, Jonathan D., “‘If Grandma had Whiskers…’ Could the Anti-Bolsheviks have Won the Russian Civil Wars? Or, the Limits of Counter-Factual History”, Revolutionary Russia, Vol. 32 (2019), No. 1 (Forthcoming).
  • Smele, Jonathan D. “Recent Books on the Centenary of the Russian Revolution (Review Article)”, European History Quarterly, Vol. 49 (2019 Forthcoming).
  • Smele, Jonathan D., "The Civil Wars", in Daniel T. Orlovsky (ed), The Blackwell Companion to the Russian Revolution. Oxford: Blackwell, 2018 (forthcoming).
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘Cursed Days: The “Russian” Civil Wars’, in Katrina Rogatchevskaia (ed.), Russian Revolution: Hopes, Tragedy, Myths. London: The British Library, 2017, pp. 110–145.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘Still Searching for the “Third Way”: Geoffrey Swain’s Interventions in the Russian Civil Wars’, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 68 (2016), No. 10, pp. 1,793–1,812.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘“Mania grandiosa” and “The Turning Point in World History”: Kerensky in London in 1918’, Revolutionary Russia (link is external), Vol. 20 (2007), No. 1, pp. 1–34
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘A Bolshevik in Brixton Prison: Fedor Raskol'nikov and the Origins of Anglo-Soviet Relations’, in Ian D. Thatcher (ed.), Reinterpreting Revolutionary Russia (link is external) (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 110–35.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘The Study Group on the Russian Revolution: The First Thirty Years’, Revolutionary Russia (link is external), Vol. 18 (2005), No. 2, pp. 201–38.
  • Smele, Jonathan D. ‘The Russian Civil War’, in The Reader’s Guide to Military History (link is external). London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001, pp. 510–15.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘What the Papers Didn’t Say: Unpublished Despatches from Russia by M. Philips Price, May 1918–January 1919’, Revolutionary Russia (link is external) Vol. 8 (1995), No. 2, pp. 129–165.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘White Gold: The Imperial Russian Gold Reserve in the Anti-Bolshevik East, 1918–? (An Unconcluded Chapter in the History of the Russian Civil War)’, Europe–Asia Studies (link is external) Vol. 46 (1994), No. 8, pp. 1317–47.
  • Smele. Jonathan D.,‘“What Kolchak Wants!”: Military Versus Polity in White Siberia, 1918–1920’, Revolutionary Russia (link is external), Vol. 4 (1991), No. 1, pp. 52–110.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘An Attempt to Utilize the Northern Sea Route to Siberia in 1919’, Sibirica (link is external), Vol. 4 (1988), pp. 28–40.
  • Smele, Jonathan D., ‘Labour Conditions and the Collapse of the Siberian Economy under Kolchak, 1918–1920’, Sbornik of the Study Group on the Russian Revolution, Vol. 13 (1987), pp. 31–60.

Other publications

Numerous book reviews in, inter alia, Revolutionary Russia, Slavonic and East European Review, European History Quarterly, Europe–Asia Studies/Soviet Studies, Russian Review, Slavic Review, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas, American Historical Review, History, Reviews in History, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Labour/Le Travail, Journal of Peasant Studies, Social History.

Editorial Positions 


I welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research in the following areas:

  • Political and military history of the Russian Empire and early Soviet Union
  • The Russian revolutions and civil wars
  • Anti-Bolshevism and the first emigration
  • Anglo-Soviet relations (official and unofficial)
  • The history of Siberia

Former PhD Students: 

Ben Wells (2004), The Union of Regeneration: The Anti-Bolshevik Underground in Revolutionary Russia, 1917–1919.

Robert Henderson (2009), Vladimir Burtsev and the Russian Revolutionary Emigration: Surveillance of Foreign Political Refugees in London, 1891-1905.

Heather Campbell (2013), Bolshevism, Islamism, Nationalism: Britain's Problems in South Asia, 1918-1923.

Current PHD Students

  • Katherine McElvanney – Female Journalists in the Russian Revolutions and Civil Wars: Case Studies of Ariadna Tyrkova-Williams and Larisa Reisner, 1917-1926.
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