Dr Peter Whitewood

a staff profile photo of Dr Peter Whitewood

I completed my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2013 and joined York St John University soon after. My research interests focus on the political and diplomatic history of the early Soviet state and Stalin period. My first book, The Red Army and the Great Terror: Stalin's Purge of the Soviet Military, provided an entirely new explanation for Stalin's purge of the Red Army in 1937-1938. Taking a broader view of Soviet civil-military relations from 1917, I argued that this purge was launched from a position of panic and weakness, rather than being simply an expression of Stalin's desire to consolidate power. The book argues that without the military purge, there would have been no escalation of the Great Terror in 1937.

My current project on the Soviet-Polish War of 1919-1920 explores how this conflict shaped the Soviet state in the 1920s. The Bolsheviks' stunning loss of this war in August 1920 encouraged authoritarian responses during a critical transitional decade. In short, rather than moderate the regime as is often assumed, the loss of the war did the opposite. The aftershocks of war contributed to the emergence of a repressive totalitarian system and ultimately the transformation of the Revolution.

Further Information


I teach on the following modules:

1HI500: War and Society
1HI502: Empires
2HI503: Reds! The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism
3HI516: The Empire Strikes Back: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the Soviet Union
MHI200: Main Currents in International History



The Red Army and the Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Soviet Military (University Press of Kansas, 2015)

Edited book

Lara Douds, James Harris and Peter Whitewood (eds.) The Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution: Illiberal Liberation, 1917-1941 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)

Book chapters

‘Stalin’s Purge of the Red Army and Misperception of Security Threats’ in James Ryan and Susan Grant (eds.) Revisioning Stalin and Stalinism: Complexities, Contradictions, and Controversies (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming)

‘The International Situation: Fear of Invasion and Growing Authoritarianism’ in Lara Douds, James Harris and Peter Whitewood (eds.) The Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution: Illiberal Liberation, 1917-1941 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)

Journal articles

‘In the Shadow of the War: Bolshevik Perceptions of Polish Subversive and Military Threats to the Soviet Union, 1920-32’, Journal of Strategic Studies (forthcoming)

‘Nationalities in a Class War: Foreign Soldiers in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War’, Journal of Modern European History, 14. 3 (2016), pp. 342-358

‘Stalin’s Purge of the Military and the Soviet Mass Operations’, Slavonic and East European Review, 93. 2 (2015), pp. 286-314

‘Subversion in the Red Army and the Military Purge of 1937-1938’, Europe-Asia Studies, 67. 1 (2015), pp. 102-122

‘Towards a New History of the Purge of the Military, 1937–1938’, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 24. 4 (2011), 605-620

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