News: Meet the New Faculty: Dr. Clare Griffin


Dr. Clare Griffin is a historian of science with interests in practical knowledge, commodity exchange, and translation in the early modern global world. She was awarded her PhD from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, for a dissertation on translation and medical knowledge exchange at the seventeenth-century Russian palace. Prior to joining NU, she held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, and was a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. Clare is also editor of H-EarlySlavic, an academic discussion list concerned with pre-modern Eastern European history.

Dr. Griffin says, “As a historian, I am very interested in old things. But I am also fascinated by new things: going new places, meeting new people, having new experiences. I have lived and worked in a lot of old places – London, Cambridge, Berlin, Moscow – so to come to Astana, with all its shiny new buildings, and to NU, itself very new by the standards of universities, was for me too good an opportunity to pass up. To be here for the early stages of building an institution is a great challenge. I also confess to being a language nerd, so living in the open air Russian-Kazakh phrasebook that is Astana is fascinating and fun. And hey, NU also took us new staff to an Ethno Auyl, and I held an eagle! I am very excited to be here right now, and to see what happens next.”

For the fall 2017 semester Dr. Griffin will be teaching HST 123: Introduction to the History of Science and Technology and HST 240: Representations of Nature in the Early Modern World.

Welcome to NU Dr. Griffin!


News: Forêt organised two conferences on Smart Cities with ZHAW


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Towards a smart and sustainable Astana

Philippe Forêt participated in the organization of two international conferences related to Expo 2017, on June 11-14 and on June 12-15. The two leading institutions that joined us for these events were Nazarbayev University and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Swissnex and swissuniversities provided the financial support needed for all our participants. “Towards Smart Sustainable Cities” was the title we chose for our seminar at Nazarbayev University, which followed a parallel session we held at the Ministerial Conference & the 8th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development.

The delegation from Zurich, Berne, Lucerne, and Lugano had exchanges with the professors and students of the School of Engineering of NU, with who they discussed smart governance, smart energy systems, smart buildings, smart transportation, and finally smart waste and water management. We believe that the challenges of the 21st century can be addressed at the city level. Cities can promote techniques for energy transition and educate their populations about mobility, efficiency, and recycling. The concept of Smart Cities results in new opportunities for intelligent networking. Our integrated approaches have proposed solutions for the knowledge society, and addressed the conditions needed for better life quality, public involvement, and resource consumption. Philippe Forêt and Andrey Filchenko (LLL) gave lectures on the governance of strategic metals and on the discourse held on energy.

On these topics, historians may enjoy titles like Daniel A. Barber’s new Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold war (Oxford University Press, 2016), and Richard W. Unger, ed. Energy Transition in History : Global Cases of Continuity and Change (Rachel Carson Center Perspectives, 2013). The involvement of HPRS in these emerging areas for interdisciplinary research is in response to invitations made by government ministries, public research agencies, and private corporations that seek the views of humanists and social scientists on pressing concerns and global issues. The announcements made at the two conferences have been followed by a roundtable and meetings on bilateral cooperation with Switzerland, and by invitations to join ministerial discussions on the creation in Astana of a United Nations center on green energy :

More information and the presentations held on the days of the conference can now be found online on the conferences’ official website:

Job: Assistant Professor of History, fixed term.


The Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan invites applications for a fixed term position as Assistant Professor of History.

We plan to employ someone either for an academic year (September 2017 to July 2018) or for an initial period of four months (from September 2017), with the possibility of an extension for another seven months (January to July 2018).

The department is especially interested in candidates with teaching competence in one of the following fields:

  • the History of Kazakhstan
  • 20th Century European History or Post-1945 World History
  • History, Philosophy, and Religion in Imperial China

The complete ad for this post can be found here and in other venues.

The deadline is 14 July 2017.


Publication: Morrison on the second Anglo-Afghan war


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Monument to the Jamskii Otriad (Jam, Uzbekistan).

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new article by our colleague Dr Alexander Morrison:

‘Beyond the ‘Great Game’: The Russian origins of the second Anglo–Afghan War’

Modern Asian Studies Vol.51 No.3 (May 2017) pp.686-735 (

This paper was originally presented during the SHSS Seminar Series 2014-2015 (link).


Drawing on published documents and research in Russian, Uzbek, British and Indian archives, this article explains how a hasty attempt by Russia to put pressure on the British in Central Asia unintentionally triggered the second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-80. This conflict is usually interpreted within the framework of the so-called ‘Great Game’, which assumes that only the European ‘Great Powers’ had any agency in Central Asia, pursuing a coherent strategy with a clearly-defined set of goals and mutually-understood rules. The outbreak of the Second Anglo-Afghan war is usually seen as a deliberate attempt by the Russians to embroil the British disastrously in Afghan affairs, leading to the eventual installation of ‘Abd al-Rahman Khan, hosted for many years by the Russians in Samarkand, on the Afghan throne. In fact the Russians did not foresee any of this. ‘Abd al-Rahman’s ascent to the Afghan throne owed nothing to Russian support, and everything to British desperation. What at first seems like a classic ‘Great Game’ episode was a tale of blundering and unintended consequences on both sides. Central Asian rulers were not merely passive bystanders who provided a picturesque backdrop for Anglo-Russian relations, but important actors in their own right.

Why major in History? Adina’s view




Click on the image to start the video.


Are you undeclared and considering a major or a double-major in History? Are you coming to NU and looking for your place in it? Are you curious about History in general?

Our former student Adina Tulegenova (graduating class of 2016) has shared a video where she explains why all students should seriously consider majoring in History, and why she liked her experience.

Adina is now an MA student in Comparative History at Central European University in Budapest, where she was admitted with a full scholarship.


Publication: Beben on Ismailism in Badakhshan


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Our readers may remember about a paper by Dr Daniel Beben which we discussed in our History Reading Circle in Fall 2015. This paper has now been published as a chapter as:

“Islamisation on the Iranian Periphery: Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism in Badakhshan”

in: Islamisation: Comparative Perspectives from History, ed. Andrew Peacock (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017).

The paper can be accessed from Dr Beben’s page here.


Job: Teaching Assistant position open!


Nazarbayev University invites qualified candidates to apply for a Teaching Assistantship position (full-time) in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS). The SHSS Teaching Assistant will assist with various courses offered within the Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at SHSS.

Responsibilities will vary according to the appointment and may include:

  • Grading assignments and exams and recording grades for History of Kazakhstan
  • Holding tutorials and in-class activities under supervision of the instructor
  • Proctoring exams
  • Providing academic assistance to students during office hours
  • Other duties as assigned by the Department Chair

For the necessary qualifications, deadline, documents to submit, please refer to the official announcement on the NU website:


New publication: Wojnowski’s book is out!


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near abroad

It is a great honour for the HPRS department to announce the publication of Dr Zbigniew Wojnowski‘s monograph book:

The Near Abroad:

Socialist Eastern Europe and Soviet Patriotism in Ukraine, 1956-1985

with Toronto University Press (click on the cover image to purchase).


From the Soviet perspective, Eastern Europe was the near abroad – more accessible than the capitalist West, yet also unambiguously foreign. Observing their western neighbours, citizens of the USSR developed new ideas about the role of states, borders, and national identities in the Soviet empire.

In The Near Abroad, Zbigniew Wojnowski traces how Soviet Ukrainian identities developed in dialogue and confrontation with the USSR’s neighbours in Eastern Europe. The author aptly challenges the dominant chronologies of late Soviet history by arguing that patriotism framed heated debates about the future of the Soviet state even amongst the rising tide of cynicism and disengagement from public life. Wojnowski’s insightful analysis illuminates the mental geographies that continue to shape relations and conflicts between Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe to this very day. Unlike most other histories of Ukraine, The Near Abroad does not reduce Ukrainian nationalism to anti-Soviet views and behaviours.

Advance praise for The Near Abroad:

The Near Abroad is a brave book that makes bold claims. Marshalling and triangulating a wide range of sources, Zbigniew Wojnowski provides an informed and honest analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of those sources and how he works with them. The Near Abroad will be useful to those students, scholars, and members of the public alike, who want to understand the forces that forged today’s Ukraine, its relations with its neighbours, and its relationship with the West.

Tracy McDonald, Associate Professor of History, McMaster University

“In The Near Abroad, Zbigniew Wojnowski traces today’s crisis in Ukraine to late Soviet policies and politics, including an original use of the now familiar term ‘near abroad’ and the mobilization of World War II-era political labels like fascism. His conscious insistence not to treat Soviet Ukraine within the paradigm of Soviet nationality policies is a testament to the author’s originality.”

Mark von Hagen, Professor of History, Arizona State University

News: the Night of the HoKscars is coming!


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The History of Kazakhstan instructors have decided to reward students for their efforts in the digital storytelling assignments this semester. In pairs, students have produced short DST documentaries to answer essay-like questions on aspects of the History of Kazakhstan on the basis of primary sources. Some of them are quite brilliant and most deserve praise.

There are 402 students

…and only three awards available:

who will the winners be?

The winners of the three awards (best script, best technical quality/creativity, best overall) will be announced at the

Night of the HoKscars

in the Blue Hall on Thursday 4 May from 6pm.

Members of the NU community are invited to cheer our students and watch the award-winning documentaries!
The nominees are:

[1s Issa & Smagulov]
[2s Taktarbekova & Tolesheva]
[3s Abeldinova & Ryskulova]
[4s Bolatova & Narembekova]
[4s Mushkina & Zhakisheva]
[4s Rakhimzhanova, Kazi & Akhmetov]
[4s Sayakov & Turlybek]
[6s Sydzykova & Tatkeyeva]
[11s Yerbol & Yerzhigit]
[12s Nurlankul & Seisekin]
[16s Karatayev & Karimova]
[16s Yerbolova & Zhanaliyev]
[17s Yskakov & Tugekbayev]
[14s Abduvali, Zhandarbekova & Zhapparov]

News: HPRS at the NU Innovative Learning Showcase Day


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The History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies department was well-represented at this year’s NU Innovative Learning Showcase Day (formerly: Instructional Technology Showcase) on April 19.

Siegfried Van Duffel (Philosophy) presented on “Textual analysis with conceptual mapping” – a pedagogical tool he has virtually introduced at NU (see here).

Daniel Beben and Beatrice Penati (History) explained why and with what results Digital Storytelling has been introduced as a form of assessment for History of Kazakhstan. They also played some of the clips produced by our students.

The Showcase Day ended with the conferral of the traditional certificates of appreciation. Unfortunately Dr Beben and Dr Van Duffel were teaching, so no photo opp for them 😦


Penati gets her unavoidable certificate from the Provost.