Russian and American Empire

This week’s episode is the second of seven events for Distant Friends and Intimate Enemies: The US and Russia, the Fall 2020 Speakers Series at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. If you want to see the entire schedule go to REEES’ website.

The 19th century was the Age of Empires, as the late Eric Hobsbawm put it. Unlike the British and French empire, the Russian and American empires were continental—they expanded over land and either cleansed, displaced, or incorporated the indigenous populations they encountered. Moreover, the Russian and American empires included settlement, ideas of the frontier, and a shared sense of historical mission. Here’s Willard Sunderland and Daniel Immerwahr to discuss the similarities and differences of the Russian and American empires and how they fit into the larger Age of Empire.


Daniel Immerwahr is a historian of the United States and the world, serving in the history department at Northwestern University. His first book, Thinking Small, is a critical account of the United States’ pursuit of grassroots development at home and abroad in the middle of the twentieth century. His recent book, the bestselling How to Hide an Empire, is a narrative history of the United States with its overseas territory included in the story.

Willard Sunderland is the Henry R. Winkler Professor of Modern History in the Department of History at the University of Cincinnati and also is Academic Supervisor for an international research project focused on the history of Russian regions at the School of Higher Economics in Moscow. He’s published many articles on the history of the Russian empire and is the author of two books Taming the Wild Field: Colonization and Empire on the Russian Steppe and The Baron’s Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution, both published by Cornell University Press.


Killing Joke, “Empire Song,” Revelations, 1982.