Charles Shaw

Assistant Professor

Contact information

Vienna, Quellenstrasse 51
+36 1 327-3000 x 2308

I am a social and cultural historian of the Soviet Union, with emphases on Central Asia, the Second World War, and comparative empires. At CEU I teach seminars on the Russian Revolution, Central Asia, transnational and imperial history, the Soviet and global experiences of World War II, and biography and history. I welcome M.A. and Ph.D. applicants interested in topics related to the social and cultural history of the Soviet Union and Central Asia. 

My book project, When Muhamed Became Misha: Soviet Central Asia in World War II, examines how the war transformed the Soviet empire and Central Asia’s place within it. 

Concurrent research topics include: the entertainer Tamara Khanum; humor and satire during World War II; and photography and war. My next project, tentatively titled The Soviet Silk Road, will investigate Central Asia’s role in the Cold War. I plan to focus on the emergence of tourist infrastructure, architectural preservation, and Soviet oriental studies to explore the region’s status as custodian of cultural traditions in common with its neighbors to the South.

My writing has appeared in Slate, The Appendix, and The Moscow Times.

In 2022 I contributed two pieces to the online exhibition, "Soviet Central Asia in 100 Objects": a conceptual map of Soviet Samarkand and a Tajik soldier's photographs from World War II.   


“Love Letters to O’g’ulxon: Photography and Imperial Intimacy in the Great Patriotic War,” in Valerie Kivelson, Sergei Kozlov, and Joan Neuberger (eds.) Picturing Russian Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2024). 

"The Many Nationalities of Tamara Khanum: Friendship of the Peopls at Home, Abroad, and Within," The Russian Review 82, 3 (July 2023): 433-452.

"Intermediaries as Change Agents: Translating, Interpreting, and Expanding Socialism" (with Constantin Iordachi), The Russian Review 82, 3 (July 2023): 387-400.

“Soldiers’ Letters to Inobatxon and O’g’ulxon: Gender and Nationality in the Birth of a Soviet Romantic Culture,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 17, no. 3 (Summer 2016): 517-552. 

 “Friendship under Lock and Key: the Soviet Central Asian border, 1918-1934,” Central Asian Survey, Vol. 30, Issue 3-4 (2011), pp. 331-348.

 "The Gur-i Amir Mausoleum and the Soviet Politics of Preservation," Future Anterior, Vol. 8 (2011), pp. 42-63.


Advanced Research Fellowship, American Councils Title VIII Research Scholar Program, 2018-19 (Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan).

Harriman Institute, Columbia University, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2015-16 (declined)

Simpson Dissertation Fellowship, Institute of International Studies, UC-Berkeley, 2014

Recent courses taught

  • Historiography II: Grand Debates on Issues of the History of Russian and Eurasian History (together with Jan Hennings)
  • Mobility, Exchange, and Revolution: Introduction to Modern Central Asia
  • Socialist Intermediaries: the Institutions and Practice of Transnational Communism (together with Constantin Iordachi)
  • The Soviet Empire: National and Transnational Perspectives 
  • Great Lives: Biography and Individual Lives in Historical Writing” (with Prof. Brett Wilson)
  • 1917: Revolution and Reverberation
  • The World at War: Global and Imperial Perspectives on World War II
  • World War II in Soviet History 
  • States of Laughter: A History of Humor and Politics

Doctoral supervision

  • Producing 'Good Friends' of the Soviet Union? People's Friendship University in the Field of Soviet Educational Cooperation with the Developing World, 1960-1979 
  • Science, war, and religion in the making of modern Central Asia (1950s-1990s): A Microhistory of Sharora, Tajikistan 
  • Russia’s Land of the Future: Empires, People, and Resources in Yakutia, 1915-1930 
  • Inventing the East: Architectural Projects of Soviet Theaters in Central Asian republics 


Ph.D. History, University of California, Berkeley, 2015
M.A. Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Stanford University, 2007
B.A. History and Slavic Studies, Brown University, 2002

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