Dr Peter Whitewood

A picture of Peter Whitewood

Peter completed his PhD at the University of Leeds in 2013 and joined York St John soon after. His research interests focus on the political and diplomatic history of the early Soviet state and Stalin period. His 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, his research 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.

He was also recently involved in a collaborative project on transnational volunteer soldiers, focused on the host countries. He wrote about the Soviet case: foreign soldiers in the Red Army in the Russian Civil War.

Peter's next project will explore how the Soviet-Polish War was understood and articulated by the Soviet elite and what impact this had on the evolution of the Soviet state in the 1920s. Rather than analyse the Soviet-Polish War just as a military campaign, the project will focus on how the aftershocks of war contributed to the emergence of the Stalinist system and the transformation of the Revolution.

Publications and Postgraduate Supervision


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

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

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

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

I regularly write book reviews for several journals, including Europe-Asia Studies, Slavonic and East European Review, European History Quarterly, and Revolutionary Russia.

Postgraduate Supervision

I am interested in supervising research projects in any area of the Stalin period, but especially its political, military, and diplomatic history.