Robert Johnson

Professor Emeritus, History
Affiliated Faculty, Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies


416-946-8959 or 647-236-5284




Room 110N, 1 Devonshire Place


Robert Johnson, Professor Emeritus, studies Imperial Russian and Soviet History, and has also taught a wide range of courses on other historical topics—in particular, the Cold War. His research concentrates on social and economic questions. He is the author of Peasant and Proletarian: Moscow’s Working Class at the End of the Nineteenth Century (1979), and co-author of The Seam Allowance: Industrial Homework in Canada’s Garment Industry (1982) and Regent Park Redux: Reinventing Public Housing in Toronto (2017). He also edited A Half-Century of Silence: The 1937 Census of USSR (1992). From 1989 to 2001 he served as Director of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (University of Toronto); during most of that period he was also Principal Investigator of the Stalin Era Research and Archives Project, which received major funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. (His own focus within that collaborative project was on population of the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s.) He has written on labour and labour unrest, peasant family life, and other social and economic issues, as well as quantitative research methods. Recent publications include: “Quagmire of Convenience; The Chechen War and Putin’s Presidency “ (2005); “In the Stalin Archives,” (2002, a three-hour radio documentary for the Canadian Broadcasting System); “The Cold War Declassified (2007, a second three-hour radio documentary for CBC); “I Lost It At the Market: Thoughts on the Political Economy of Post-Soviet Russia” (2008); “’The Greatest Tragedy of the Twentieth Century’: An Inteview with V. P. Danilov (2008); “But Can You Hit: What Can Universities Learn from Baseball?” (2009); “Paradigms, Categories or Fuzzy Algorithms: Making Sense of Class and Soslovie in Russia” (2011); and translation of Boris Mironov, “The Modernization of Russia and the Well-Being of the Population” (2012); and

[in Russian]

“Making Space: The Malleability and Rigidity of Soviet Urban and Post-Soviet Environments,” (2015). He has been a frequent commentator in the news media on current developments in post-Soviet Russia and neighbouring states.


Russian and Soviet History
Social history (labor, peasants)
Demographic history
Cold War history


Ph. D – Cornell (1975)

B.A.   – Antioch (1965)


Senior Journalism Fellow, Massey College, 2013-present
PI, Stalin Era Research and Archives Project, SSHRC, 1994-2004
Director, Centre for Russian and East European Studies, 1989-2000


“Paradigms, Categories, or Fuzzy Algorithms?  Making Sense of Soslovie and Class in Russia,”  Cahiers du monde Russe, 51/1 (January 2011).

“‘The Greatest Tragedy of the Twentieth Century’: An Interview with Viktor Danilov (1925-2004),” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 9:2 (Spring 2008), pp. 345-371

Translation: Boris Mironov, “The Modernization of Russia and the Well-Being of the Population (80 pages, 30,000 words. This is Chapter 10 (Conclusion) of Mironov’s Standard of Living and Revolutions in Imperial Russia, 18th through 20th centuries  (routledge, 2012)

“Revising History,” two-hour radio documentary, broadcast in the series Ideas, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, April-May 2013

“The Cold War Declassified” Three-hour radio documentary.  Broadcast in the series Ideas,  Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  November 15-29, 2006

Recent courses

The Cold War From Its Archives

The Cold War

Cold War America

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