Faith Hillis

Assistant Professor of Russian History and the College
PhD 2009 Yale University

Social Science Research Bldg., room 508 – Office
(773) 702-5601 - Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 - Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 E. 59th Street, SS Box 42
Chicago, IL 60637

On Research Leave, 2014–2015

Field Specialties

Modern Russia; Ukrainian history; modern Europe; urban history; nationalism; borderlands; comparative empires; history of political ideas and cultures; migration and mobility.


I am an historian of imperial Russia, with a special interest in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century politics, culture, and ideas. In my research and teaching I explore how Russia’s peculiar political institutions—and its status as a multiethnic empire—shaped public opinion and political cultures. I also consider where the Russian experience belongs in the broader context of European history.

My first book, Children of Rus’: Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation, was published by Cornell University Press in 2013. It examines why Russia’s southwestern borderlands,one of its last territorial acquisitions and most diverse corners,produced the empire’s most aggressive and politically successful Russian nationalist movement. Complicating a historiography that has tended to foreground the struggle of Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish national liberation movements against the imperial state in the nineteenth-century borderlands, this work reconstructs the ideas and activities of a forgotten group of intellectuals who attempted to reconcile the interests of the imperial metropole, the idea of a unified East-Slavic nation, and local concerns specific to the southwest. These individuals, who identified as “Little Russians”—that is, as Orthodox believers who embraced what we today would understand to be Ukrainian culture while eschewing Ukrainian national separatism—described themselves as the most authentic paragons of an East-Slavic nation that they traced to the ancient Rus’ state; at the same time, they defined their neighbors of other religious and cultural traditions as internal threats to the Rus’ nation. A careful consideration of how the Little Russian idea transformed local politics in the borderlands over the long nineteenth century, this project also argues for its importance in shaping ideologies and identifications across the Russian empire—and beyond its borders.

I have recently begun work on a second book, a synthetic history of the so-called “Russian colonies” that sprung up in Europe’s large cities in the nineteenth century. Examining the interactions of political émigrés, the tsarist secret police who pursued them overseas, and the ordinary Russians who left the empire in search of employment and educational opportunities, this project also considers how the presence of large Russian populations in the continent’s urban centers influenced European politics and everyday life.

Before joining the Chicago faculty, I was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute.


Children of Rus’: Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian NationIthaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

"Ukrainophile Activism and Imperial Governance in Russia’s Southwestern Borderlands." Kritika 13, no. 2 (Spring 2012): 301-26.

"Making and Breaking the Russian Empire: The Case of Kiev’s Shul’gin Family." NCEEER Working Paper, 2012.

"Migration, Mobility, and Political Conflict in Late Imperial Kiev." In Russia on the Move: Essays on the Politics, Society and Culture of Human Mobility, 1850-Present. Edited by John Randolph and Eugene Avrutin, 25-42. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, Studies of World Migrations Series, 2011.