Wesleyan portrait of Victoria  Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

Associate Professor of History

Public Affairs Center,

Tutor, College of Social Studies

Associate Professor, Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies



Visit Professional Website

BA Sarah Lawrence College
PHD University of California, Berkeley

Victoria Smolkin

A scholar of Communism, the Cold War, as well as atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union, history professor Victoria Smolkin's expertise also covers religious politics and secularism, the Soviet space program, and East European and Eurasian studies. Interviewed by the BBC (“Belief and Unbelief in Russia”) as well as National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition (">“Don’t Call It a Christmas Tree: How’s Russia’s ‘Yolka Survived”). Smolkin recently published her first book A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (May 2018, Princeton University Press). The book presents the first history of Soviet atheism from the 1917 revolution to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. It explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, for Communist ideology, and for Soviet politics.

Published articles and chapters include "The Ticket to the Soviet Soul: Science, Religion, and the Spiritual Crisis of Late Soviet Atheism," in the Russian Review and "'The Confession of an Atheist Who Became a Scholar of Religion': Nikolai Semenovich Gordienko’s Last Interview," and a chapter in Into the Cosmos: Space Exploration and Soviet Culture.

In recent years she has given public talks on the return of religion in Russia as well as the Soviet Union’s space program at venues ranging from the British Academy (Defending the Faith: Religious and Secularist Apologetics in Twentieth-Century Politics), the British Science Museum, the Woodrow Wilson Center and elsewhere. Smolkin's editorials include “What are Russians celebrating when they celebrate National Unity Day?” She is currently working on a new book, “The Crusade Against Godlessness: Religion, Communism, and the Cold War Order.”

Smolkin earned her doctorate and her master’s degrees at the University of California-Berkeley and her undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College.

Other professional websites:

Professional website: http://vsmolkin.faculty.wesleyan.edu/

Personal website: victoriasmolkin.com

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

Spring 2020:  Mon/Wed, 3-4 p


Fall 2021
HIST 219 - 01
Russian & Soviet Hist 1881/Pre

HIST 318 - 01
The Politics of Death