Christoph Witzenrath
© Barbara Frommann

Prof. Dr. Christoph Witzenrath

University of Bonn
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Heussallee 18–24
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 / (0)228 / 73 62951

Current Position

Professor for 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 for Premodern Forms of Social Dependency in Asia
  • 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

Participation in Collaborative Projects

  • 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’


  • 1998                         King’s College London research studentship award

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

  • 2015. “Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia: An Overview of the Russian and Ottoman Empires and Central Asia.” In Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860, edited by Christoph Witzenrath, 1–77. Farnham: Ashgate.
  • 2015. “‘The Conquest of Kazan’ as a Place of Remembering the Liberation of Slaves in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Russia.” In Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860, edited by Christoph Witzenrath, 315–332. Farnham: Ashgate.
  • 2015. “Sklavenbefreiung, Loskauf und Religion im Moskauer Reich.” In Gefangenenloskauf im Mittelmeerraum. Ein interreligiöser Vergleich. Akten der Tagung vom 19. bis 21. September 2013 an der Universität Paderborn, edited by Heike Grieser and Nicole Priesching, 287–310. Hildesheim: Olms.
  • ed. 2015. Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860, Farnham: Ashgate.
  • 2012. “Rachat (‘Rédemption’), Fortification et Diplomatie dans la Steppe – la Place de l’Empire de Moscou dans la Traite des Esclaves en Eurasie.” In Esclavages en Méditerranée. Espaces et Dynamiques Économiques, edited by Fabienne Guillén and Salah Trabelsi, 181–194. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez.
  • 2011. “S.U. Remezov, Cossack Adventurer, and the Opening of Siberia.” In Portraits of Old Russia. Imagined Lives of Ordinary People, 1300–1745, edited by Donald Ostrowski and Marshall T. Poe, 209–221. New York: Routledge.
  • 2009. Cossacks and the Russian Empire, 1598–1725. Manipulation, Rebellion, and Expansion into Siberia. Routledge Studies in the History of Russia and Eastern Europe 8. London: Routledge. Ital. translation [I Cosacchi e l'Impero Russo, 1598–1725. Condizionamento, Ribellione ed Espansione in Siberia. Leggeri 34. Gorizia: Libreria Editrice Goriziana, 2009].
  • 2009. “ʻSophia – Divine Wisdom’ and Justice in Seventeenth-Century Russia.” Cahiers du Monde “Russe” 50(2–3): 409–430.
  • 2009. “Literacy and Orality in the Eurasian Frontier. Imperial Culture and Space in Russia.” The Slavonic and East European Review 87(1): 53–77.
  • 2006. “Orthodoxe Kirche und Fernmacht. Das Moskauer Reich, die Kosaken und die Gründung des Bischofssitzes von Tobolsk und Sibirien.” In Machträume der frühneuzeitlichen Stadt, edited by Susanne Rau and Christian Hochmuth, 309–322. Constance: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft.
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