Kyrill Kunakhovich

Assistant Professor

434 924 6415
Nau Hall 252
Office Hours: By appointment; please email

Field & Specialties

Modern Europe
Cultural History
Cold War
European Studies


Ph.D. Princeton University, 2013

M.A. Princeton University, 2009

B.A. Yale University, 2005


I am an historian of modern Europe, with a particular focus on central and eastern Europe in the twentieth century. My first book, Communism's Public Sphere: Culture as Politics in Cold War Poland and East Germany, explores the political role of cultural spaces in the Eastern Bloc. Under communist regimes that banned free speech, political discussions shifted to spaces of art: theaters, galleries, concert halls, and youth clubs. I show how these venues turned into sites of dialogue and contestation. While officials used them to spread the communist message, artists and audiences often flouted state policy and championed alternative visions. Cultural spaces therefore came to function as a public sphere, or a rare outlet for discussing public affairs. By examining nearly five decades of communist rule, from the Red Army's arrival in Poland in 1944 to German reunification in 1990, I argue that such spaces played a pivotal mediating role. They helped reform and stabilize East European communism but also gave cover to the protest movements that ultimately brought it down.

My next project, tentatively titled "A History of Heritage," examines the origins of UNESCO and its concept of cultural heritage. 



Communism's Public Sphere: Culture as Politics in Cold War Poland and East Germany. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2022. You can find my blog post on the book here, and my New Books Network podcast on it here.

The Long 1989: Decades of Global Revolution. Co-edited with Piotr Kosicki. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2019. 

Articles and Book Chapters

“The Red Director: Karl Kayser and the Evolution of GDR Theater.” The German Studies Review 40:1 (February 2017), 103-121.

“Reconstruction as Revolution: Cultural Life in Post-WWII Kraków and Leipzig.” East European Politics and Societies 30:3 (August 2016), 475-495.

“Ties that Bind, Ties that Divide: Second World Cultural Exchange at the Grassroots.” In Patryk Babiracki and Austin Jersild (eds.), Exploring the Second World: Socialist Internationalism in the Cold War. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

“The Cultural Cold War on the Home Front: The Political Role of Theaters in Communist Kraków and Leipzig.” In Christopher Balme and Berenika Szymanski (eds.), Theatre, Globalization and the Cold War. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

“Cinema Cultures of Integration: Film Distribution and Exhibition in the GDR and Czechoslovakia from the Perspective of Two Local Cases, 1945-1960.” With Pavel Skopal. In Lars Karl and Pavel Skopal (eds.), Cinema in Service of the State: Perspectives on Film Culture in the GDR and Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960. New York: Berghahn Books, 2015.

“Postwar Cultures: Art and Communism in Kraków and Leipzig.” Pamięć i Śprawiedliwość [Poland] 25 (1/2015): 163-184.

Courses Taught

I teach courses on modern Europe, nationalism, communism, fascism, and the Cold War. I also teach in the European Studies program.

HIEU 1502, "The Berlin Wall: Lies and Spies in a Cold War City"

HIEU 1502, "Life in Dictatorships: Surviving Authoritarianism in Twentieth-Century Europe"

HIEU 2004, "Nationalism in Europe: From the UK to Ukraine"

HIST 2014, "Fascism: A Global History" (with Manuela Achilles)

HIEU 3670, "The Fall of Communism: How the Soviet Empire Lost the Cold War"

HIEU 4502, "Cold War Europe: One Continent Between Two Superpowers"

EURS 5000, "Europe and the World: An Introduction to European Studies"

EURS 6720, "Nations and Nationalism"

HIST 9029, "Tutorial in the History and Theory of Nationalism"

HIEU 9037, "Tutorial in Central and Eastern European History"