Alun Thomas

Senior Lecturer

School of Justice, Security and Sustainability

I am a historian and Area Studies scholar focusing primarily on the modern history and contemporary affairs of Central Asia and Russia. I completed my PhD in July 2015 and joined Staffordshire University in September 2017, having previously worked as Tutor or Lecturer at a number of UK HE institutions.

Much of my research to date has focused on the revolutionary and early Soviet period in Central Asia, roughly 1917 to 1934. I began my doctoral studies in September 2011, funded by a full AHRC studentship. My doctoral thesis, ‘Kazakh Nomads and the New Soviet State, 1919-1934’ described the treatment of nomadic peoples by the Communist Party in the 1920s. It built upon original research with Russian-language archival sources in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Moscow, Russia. The thesis is reviewed here.

My first book emerged from my doctoral research and included further archival research in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Nomads and Soviet Rule: Central Asia under Lenin and Stalin was awarded the Alexander Nove Prize for scholarly work of high quality in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies by BASEES for the year 2018.

In addition to further research on the formative years of Soviet Central Asia, I also engage in extensive teaching and public engagement work on the history and current affairs of the Central Asian region. This includes work in partnership with UK public services.

Professional memberships and activities

  • Co-convenor of the Eurasian Regions Study Group (BASEES)
  • Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs
  • Member of the British Association of Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES)
  • Member of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS)
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Dr Thomas is co-editor of the ‘Peripheral Histories’ digital history project: peripheralhistories.co.uk

Academic qualifications

  • PhD, The University of Sheffield, 2015
  • MA Modern History, The University of Sheffield, 2011
  • BA (Hons) Russian and Politics, The University of Sheffield, 2009

Research interests

  • The history of Russia and the Soviet Union
  • The history of Central Eurasia
  • Imperialism; colonialism; decolonisation
  • Refugeedom; itinerance; nomadism
  • Nationalism; state-building; urbanisation
  • Memory; patrimonialisation
  • Contemporary Central Asian Affairs

Enterprise and commercial interests

During 2021-2022 I contributed an extended report and advisory presentations and documents to the Development, Doctrine and Concepts Centre (DCDC), an MoD Think Tank. My contribution focused on the near future of the five Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, including both their international relations and domestic affairs. Ultimately this work will support the next Global Strategic Trends document.

Teaching

  • Global Life Stories (Level 4, 20 credits)
  • Gender History and Sexual Politics (Level 5, 20 credits)
  • Nomads and Nation-States: Central Asia since 1700 (Levels 6, 20 credits)
  • International History since 1900 (MoD Top-Up, 15 credits, Distance Learning)
  • Concepts in International History (Level 7, 40 credits, Distance Learning)
  • Russia and Russian Security (Level 7, 40 credits, Distance Learning)
  • Dissertation supervisor at UG and PG level

I also lead on Area Studies teaching in the university’s partnership with the Ministry of Defence across various platforms.

Publications

Academic

'Revisiting the "Transcaspian Episode": British Intervention and Turkmen Statehood, 1918-1919’ Europe-Asia Studies (Summer 2021).

An Empire Remembered? Collectivization and Colonialism in Mukhamet Shayakhmetov’s 'TheSilent Steppe' in Dirk Göttsche (ed.), Memory and Postcolonial Studies: Synergies and New Directions across Literatures from Europe, Africa and the Americas (Peter Lang, 2018).

Nomads and Soviet Rule: Central Asia from Lenin to Stalin (I.B. Tauris, 2018).

‘The Caspian Disputes: Nationalism and Nomadism in Early Soviet Central Asia’, The Russian Review 76:3 (2017), pp. 502-525.

‘On Guard at BAMlag: Representations of Guards in the 1930s Gulag Press’, The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, 4:11 (2014), pp. 3-32.

Online Papers and Recorded Talks

‘Nomads in Early Soviet Central Asia’ The Cambridge Central Asia Forum Seminar, University of Cambridge (online), March 2021 [link]

Author interview ‘Земля номадов: кочевники и советская власть при Ленине и Сталине. Интервью’ [The Land of the Nomads: Nomads and Soviet Power under Lenin and Stalin. Interview], www.caa-network.org, April 2021 [link]

Author Interview ‘Nomads and Soviet Rule’ www.voicesoncentralasia.org, March 2020 [link]

Video interview with two founders of the Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, on behalf of the Peripheral Histories Digital Humanities project, December 2020 [link]

Podcast Interview for Nomads and Soviet Rule on New Books Network newbooksnetwork.com, 2018 [link]

Podcast Interview for Nomads and Soviet Rule on Sean’s Russia Blog srbpodcast.org, 2018 [link]

Top 15 for Teaching Quality

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021

6th for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022

Midlands University of the Year

Midlands Business Awards 2020