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Prof. Dr. Christoph Witzenrath

Christoph Witzenrath

University of Bonn
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Heussallee 18–24
D-53113 Bonn




Current Position

Professor of History

Field and specialities

Premodern Slavery and Strong Asymmetrical Dependencies, Russia to 1800, Political Culture, Empire, and Eurasia


Centred on the Eurasian steppe and its neighbours, Christoph Witzenrath researches the influence of nomadic-settled relations and the slave trade on social dependency and political representation. Stories of liberation as distinguished from the emphatic, individualized concept of freedom proliferated in various forms, such as widespread identification with the “New Israel” in Muscovy “liberating slaves” by military means and ransom. In a field of tensions and competing loyalties on various sides of the steppe, most captives sold by nomadic slavers mainly on southern markets ultimately remained in their new environments; however, some returned. Premodern peasants’ and workers’ duties, legal and practical arrangements were last studied in the Soviet period; local investigations are also needed for non-Slavic environments. Eurasian societies in various forms shared the gap between state and dependent social groups. The structural and cultural reasons for this defining difference have yet to be analysed in contradistinction to Africa characterized as predominantly community-oriented. Read more on his research field here.

1 monograph, 1 monograph translated into Italian, 1 paperback edition, 1 edited volume, 12 academic papers, 5 reviews, 40 national and international lectures.


  • 1999–2005          Ph.D. in History, King’s College, University of London, UK
  • 1991–1998          M.A. in History, Eastern European History and Political Science, University of Freiburg, Humboldt University
                                Berlin and Free University Berlin, Germany

Academic Positions

  • 2017–present     Professor of Premodern Forms of Social Dependency in Asia
  • 2017                   Principal Investigator, University of Bonn, Germany
  • 2013–2016         Principal Investigator [Projektleiter, wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter], University of Greifswald, Germany
  • 2012                   Petro Jacyk Visiting Scholar, Munk School for International Studies, University of Toronto, Canada
  • 2011                   Resistance and Abolition Postdoctoral Fellow, Gilder Lehrman Center for the History of Slavery, Yale, USA
  • 2010                   Shklar Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, USA
  • 2009–2019         Honorary Research fellow, University of Aberdeen, UK
  • 2007–2009         Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Aberdeen, UK


  • 1998                   King’s College London research studentship award

Participation in Collaborative Project

  • 2017–2020         Member of the DFG Priority Program “Transottomanica: Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian Mobility Dynamics”

Additional Academic Activities

  • 2015                   Discussant, ASEEES, panel “Language, Style, and Image in Service to Rulers and Rulership: The Royal Letter
                               in Muscovy”
  • 2014                   Conference organisation: Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) convention,
                               panel: ‘Early Modern Exile and Culture’ (organizer)
  • 2009                   International conference ‘Slavery, Ransom and Liberation in Russia and the Steppe Area, 1500-2000’
                               (Aberdeen, June 15-16): designer and organizer
  • 2009                   American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies convention, idea and co-organizer of the panel
                               ‘Religion and Representations in Muscovite Foreign Relations’

Third-Party Funding

  • 2017–2020         Temporary Position for Principal Investigator, German Research Community (DFG) Priority Program “Transottomanica”
  • 2013–2016         DFG Temporary Position for Principal Investigator
  • 2012                   Petro Jacyk Visiting Scholar, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto, Canada
  • 2011                   The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Fellowship, Yale, USA
  • 2011                   German Historical Institute Moscow Fellowship
  • 2010                   Shklar Fellowship, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
  • 2009                   Conference allowances: British Association for Slavonic and Eastern European Studies
  • 2007–2009         Leverhulme Trust. Leverhulme early career fellowship
  • 1998–2001         King’s College London research studentship

Total sum of approximately 0.7 million euro ad personam.

Selected Publications

  • Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia: An Overview of the Russian and Ottoman Empires and Central Asia. In Witzenrath: Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860. Farnham 2015, 1-77.
  • ‘The Conquest of Kazan’ as a Place of Remembering the Liberation of Slaves in Sixteenth– and Seventeenth–century Russia’. In Witzenrath (ed.): Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860, Farnham 2015, 315–332.
  • Sklavenbefreiung, Loskauf und Religion im Moskauer Reich. [Slavery, Ransom and Religion in the Muscovite Empire]. In: Heike Grieser, Nicole Priesching (eds): Gefangenenloskauf im Mittelmeerraum. Ein interreligiöser Vergleich. [Ransom in the Mediterranean. An interreligious comparison]. Hildesheim 2015, 287-310.
  • (ed.): Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860, Farnham 2015.
  • Rachat (« rédemption »), fortification et diplomatie dans la steppe – la place de l’Empire de Moscou dans la traite des esclaves en Eurasie. [Ransom („Redemption“), Fortification and Diplomacy in the Steppe – the Muscovite Empire in the Eurasian Slave Trade]. In: F. Guillén, S. Trabelsi (eds): Esclavages en Méditerranée. Espaces et dynamiques économiques. Madrid 2012, 181–94.
  • S.U. Remezov, Cossack Adventurer, and the Opening of Siberia. In: Donald Ostrowski, Marshall T. Poe (eds): Portraits of Old Russia: Imagined Lives of Ordinary People, 1300-1745. New York 2011, 209-221.
  • Cossacks and the Russian Empire, 1598-1725. Manipulation, Rebellion, and Expansion into Siberia, London: Routledge, 2007. (2nd, paperback edition, London: Routledge, 2009a. Kindle edition, London 2009b. [I cosacchi e l'impero russo, 1598-1725: condizionamento, ribellione ed espansione in Siberia]. transl. Marco Barberi, Gorizia: LEG, 2009.)
  • “Sophia – Divine Wisdom” and Justice in Seventeenth-Century Russia. In: Cahiers du monde "russe" 50/2-3 (2009), 409-30.
  • Literacy and Orality in the Eurasian Frontier. Imperial Culture and Space in Russia. In: The Slavonic and East European Review 87/1 (2009), 53-77.
  • Orthodoxe Kirche und Fernmacht. Das Moskauer Reich, die Kosaken und die Gründung des Bischofssitzes von Tobolsk und Sibirien. [Remote Power in the Orthodox Church. The Muscovite Empire, Cossacks, and the Foundation of the Episcopal Residence of Tobolsk and Siberia]. In Susanne Rau et al., (eds): Machträume der frühneuzeitlichen Stadt. (=Konflikte und Kultur 13). Constance 2006, 309-22, 387-88.
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