Ronald Grigor Suny is the William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago, and Senior Researcher at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The grandson of the composer and ethnomusicologist Grikor Mirzaian Suni and a graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University, he taught at Oberlin College (1968-1981), as visiting professor of history at the University of California, Irvine (1987), and Stanford University (1995-1996). He was the first holder of the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan (1981-1995), where he founded and directed the Armenian Studies Program. He was Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Social and Political History at the University of Michigan from 2005 to 2015 and director of the Eisenberg Institute of Historical Studies from 2009 to 2012.
He is the author of The Baku Commune, 1917-1918: Class and Nationality in the Russian Revolution (Princeton University Press, 1972); Armenia in the Twentieth Century (Scholars Press, 1983); The Making of the Georgian Nation (Indiana University Press, 1988, 1994); Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History (Indiana University Press, 1993); The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford University Press, 1993); The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (Oxford University Press, 1998, 2011); and “They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else:” A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2015). He is also the editor of Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (Michigan Slavic Publications, 1983; University of Michigan Press, 1996) The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents (Oxford University Press, 2003, 2013), and The Cambridge History of Russia, III: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and co-editor of Party, State, and Society in the Russian Civil War: Explorations in Social History (Indiana University Press, 1989); The Russian Revolution and Bolshevik Victory: Visions and Revisions (D. C. Heath, 1990); Making Workers Soviet: Power, Culture, and Identity (Cornell University Press, 1994); Becoming National (Oxford University Press, 1996); Intellectuals and the Articulation of the Nation (University of Michigan Press, 1999); A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (Oxford University Press, 2001); and A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). He is currently working on a co-authored history of Russia entitled Russia’s Empires; a two-volume biography of Stalin; and a series of historiographical essays on Soviet history.
Professor Suny’s intellectual interests have centered on the non-Russian nationalities of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, particularly those of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). The “national question” was an area of study that was woefully neglected for many decades until peoples of the periphery mobilized themselves in the Gorbachev years.
His aim has been to consider the history of imperial Russia and the USSR without leaving out the non-Russian half of the population, to see how multi-nationality, processes of imperialism and nation-making shaped the state and society of that vast country. This in turn has led to work on the nature of empires and nations, studies in the historiography and methodology of studying social and cultural history, and a commitment to bridging the often-unbridgeable gap between the traditional concerns of historians and the methods and models of other social scientists.