Professor Lynne Viola

Professor Viola attended Barnard College in New York, graduating with honours in 1978. From 1978 to 1984, she pursued her graduate studies in history at Princeton University. She subsequently held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Russian Research Center of Harvard University in 1984 and 1985, followed by an appointment to assistant professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton from 1985 to 1988. She and was appointed assistant professor in history at the University of Toronto, receiving tenure and promotion to associate professor in 1989 and to full professor in 1996. She holds a cross-appointment to the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the Munk Centre.

The main contribution of her professional work has been in historiography and archival research. She is one of less than a handful of scholars who work on the Soviet peasantry; most scholars focus on the urban scene of the Communist Party, curiously omitting the majority of the population (the peasantry). In addition to her work on the peasantry, she was a major participant in the 1980s debate on the issue of the social base of Stalinism, and led the 1990s discussion on the nature of resistance under Stalin. Subsequently (and to the present), her focus has moved to state violence and the gulag, two topics of study that are currently at the center of debate in the field. Throughout her career, she has worked toward ridding the field of the negative impact of cold-war thinking, attempting to push Soviet history toward more scholarly historical approaches. She has also consistently worked at breaking down barriers in the archives, gaining access to untapped sources (in Moscow’s central achieves as well as in provincial archives in Riazan, and in Vologda and Arkhangel’sk in Russia’s far north), playing a role in the declassification of documents, and putting in the public domain formerly classified documents in published collections.

Her first monograph focused on the role of factory workers in collectivization in an attempt to understand Stalinist mentalities and the basis of Stalin’s social support. Her second monograph examined peasant responses to collectivization, highlighting the hitherto unknown wave of resistance that engulfed the countryside in 1930 and exploring the topic within the context of peasant studies and cultural history. This book was one of the first western scholarly monographs to be based on research in Soviet archives. It received honourable mention in the 1997 competition for the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize of the Canadian Historical Association. Her third monograph led into uncharted territories again, focusing on the fate of the kulaks after dekulakization and the existence of an entire sector of the gulag (the special settlements) formerly unknown. This book was based on archival research in Moscow, Vologda, and Arkhangel’sk. , Her last two monographs have been translated into Russian and published by Rosspen in 2010 and 2011. Additionally, she has edited or co-edited four other books and published over 30 articles.

Professor Viola has also taken part in several collaborative projects, including The Tragedy of the Soviet Countryside project. This is a six-volume documentary history of collectivization based on the work of a staff of over 30 Russian historians and archivists. They had access to all central archives in Moscow, including the archives of the former KGB and the so-called Presidential or Kremlin archive (one of only two international projects with access to these archives). Russian’s leading scholarly press, Rosspen, has published this series in six volumes. Yale University Press will publish a condensed, four-volume version of the series in translation in its “Annals of Communism” series. She has completed volume one of the English translation (published 2005) and will serve as a coeditor of volume four. This project has been funded, since 1995, by a series of NEH large-scale collaborative grants. Funding before 1995 came from the University of Toronto’s Stalin-Era Research and Archive Project which was funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1994-1999), as well as from seed grants from the Social Science Research Council and the (then) Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Toronto.

The Stalin-Era Research and Archive Project also sponsored her work on two other documentary projects: Riazanskaia derevnia v 1929-1930 gg: khronika golovokhruzheniia [The Riazan Countryside in 1929-1930: A Chronicle of Dizziness], ed. Lynne Viola, Sergei Zhuravlev, Tracy McDonald, and Andrei Mel’nik (Moscow: Rosspen, 1998); and Kollektivizatsiia I krest’ianskoe soprotivlenie na Ukraine: noaibr’ 1929-mart 1930 [Collectivization and Peasant Resistance in Ukraine, November 1929-March 1930], ed. Valerii Vasil’ev and Lynne Viola (Vinnitsa: Logos, 1997). Both projects were based on previously classified documents from regional archives. The Riazan book is based almost exclusively on secret police reports on collectivization, dekulakization, and peasant resistance in 1930.

During Professor Viola’s career, she has held grants from the International Research and Exchange  Board (1981-1982, 1991); Harvard University’s Russian Research Centre (1984-1985); the Social Science Research Council (Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1987-1989); the Connaught Foundation (1988-1989, 2001); the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1992-1994, 2000-2003; 2005 to present); the Killam Foundation (2004, 2005, Killam Research Fellowship); and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2003). She is on the editorial board of three journals, including Slavic Review, and serves on the Social Science Research Council’s Title VIII committee. She is also a member of the editorial board of Rosspen’s (Moscow publisher) series, “The History of Stalinism.”