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Prof. Dr. Christoph Witzenrath

Christoph WitzenrathProf. Dr. Christoph Witzenrath

Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn 
Adenauerallee 18-22, 53113 Bonn 
E-Mail: cwitzenr[at]


Current Position: Professor of History

Field and specialities: Premodern Slavery and Strong Asymmetrical Dependencies, Russia to 1800, Political Culture, Empire, and Eurasia.



1991-1998         M.A. studies in History, Eastern European History and Political Science,
                          University of Freiburg, Humboldt University Berlin and Free University Berlin

1999-2005         PhD student in history, King’s College, University of London, UK

Academic Positions

2007 - 2009       Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Aberdeen, UK 200-2010

2009 - 2019       Honorary Research fellow, University of Aberdeen.

2010                  Shklar Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

2011                  Yale, Gilder Lehrman Center for the History of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition
                          Postdoctoral Fellow.

2012                  University of Toronto, Munk School for International Studies, Petro Jacyk Visiting

2013 - 2016       Principal Investigator [Projektleiter, wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter], University of

2017                  Principal Investigator, University of Bonn                

2017-present     Professor of Premodern Forms of Social Dependency in Asia



1998                 King’s College London research studentship award


Participation in Collaborative Project: 


Member of the DFG Priority Program “Transottomanica: Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian Mobility Dynamics” (2017-2020).


Additional Academic Activities: 


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




Centred on the Eurasian steppe and its neighbours, CW 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


Third-Party Funding:


Temporary Position for Principal Investigator, German Research Community (DFG) Priority Program “Transottomanica” (2017-2020). DFG Temporary Position for Principal Investigator (2013-16). Petro Jacyk Visiting Scholar, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto (2012). The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Fellowship, Yale (2011).          German Historical Institute Moscow Fellowship (2011). Shklar Fellowship, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (2010). Conference allowances (2009): British Association for Slavonic and Eastern European Studies; Leverhulme Trust. Leverhulme early career fellowship (2007-2009). King’s College London research studentship (1998-2001). A total of approximately 0.7 million Euro ad personam.


10 Selected Publications:


  1. 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: Routledge, 2009b. I cosacchi e l'impero russo, 1598-1725: condizionamento, ribellione ed espansione in Siberia. transl. Marco Barberi, Gorizia: LEG, 2009.
  2. ed., Eurasian Slavery, Ransom and Abolition in World History, 1500–1860, Farnham: Ashgate, 2015a.
  3. ‘“Sophia – Divine Wisdom” and Justice in Seventeenth-Century Russia’, Cahiers du monde russe, vol. 50.2-3 (2009d), pp. 409-30.
  4. ‘Literacy and Orality in the Eurasian Frontier. Imperial Culture and Space in Russia’, The Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 87.1 (2009e), pp. 53-77.
  5. ‘Slavery in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia: An Overview of the Russian and Ottoman Empires and Central Asia’ in Witzenrath, Eurasian Slavery, 2015b, pp. 1-77.
  6.  ‘The Conquest of Kazan’ as a Place of Remembering the Liberation of Slaves in Sixteenth– and Seventeenth–century Russia’, in Witzenrath (ed.), Eurasian Slavery, 2015c, pp. 315–332.
  7. Sklavenbefreiung, Loskauf und Religion im Moskauer Reich [Slavery, Ransom and Religion in the Muscovite Empire], in: Heike Grieser und Nicole Priesching (eds), Gefangenenloskauf im Mittelmeerraum. Ein interreligiöser Vergleich. [Ransom in the Mediterranean. An interreligious comparison], Hildesheim: Olms, 2015d, pp. 287-310.
  8. ‘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 and S. Trabelsi (eds), Esclavages en Méditerranée. Espaces et dynamiques économiques, Madrid: Velázquez, 2012, pp. 181–94.
  9. ‘S.U. Remezov, Cossack Adventurer, and the Opening of Siberia’, in: Donald Ostrowski and Marshall T. Poe (eds), Portraits of Old Russia: Imagined Lives of Ordinary People, 1300-1745, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2011a, S. 209-221.
  10. ‘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, Constance: UVK, 2006 [series ‘Konflikte und Kultur’; vol. 13], pp. 309-22, 387-88.
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