De'Vonte Tinsley


Ph.D. Candidate

Presidential Ph.D. Fellow
Fontaine Fellow

De’Vonte Tinsley is a first-year history doctoral student studying Soviet and Vietnamese history. De’Vonte is interested in many aspects of the Soviet-Vietnamese relationship, such as Vietnamese revolutionaries studying, working, and living in the Soviet Union, cultural connections formed between the two countries such as friendships, marriages, and children, and the lasting cultural, socio-economic, and political influence of the Soviet Union on Vietnam. In particular, De’Vonte is interested in the Soviet-Vietnamese relationship following Vietnamese unification in 1975, when cultural, political, and military ties increased sharply between the two countries. Within this time frame, De’Vonte has two major questions he would like to investigate. The first question involves the role of Soviet economic aid, advice, and ideological influence in helping Vietnam rebuild war-torn southern Vietnam. The second question De’Vonte hopes to explore is the divergence between Soviet and Vietnamese economic and political reforms in the 1980s, and why Soviet Perestroika and Glasnost failed, while the Vietnamese equivalent Đổi Mới (renovation) succeeded in implementing elements of a market economy and keeping the Communist Party in power.

Before coming to Penn, De'Vonte worked on the concept of a Kaleidoscope of Revolutions, which explored the Russian Revolution and Civil War through a local lens. In particular, De'Vonte wrote his Senior thesis on Dvinsk (Daugavpils), using the local newspaper Krasnoe znamia (Red Banner), which he collected while living in Daugavpils, to explore life in the city during the Revolution and Civil War. The paper, “Revolution on the Daugava: Dvinsk in the Context of War, Revolution, and Civil War”,  focused on topics as broad as Party organization, Soviet Democracy, Bolshevik nationality policy, famine, and economic collapse. While moving on to topics related to Soviet-Vietnamese relations, De'Vonte hopes to continue to develop his research on Daugavpils.

De'Vonte's work has appeared in the Wilson Center: Kennan Institute’s “The Russia File” Blog and ASEES online newspaper NewsNet.

Prior to joining Penn’s History community, De'vonte worked as a secondary school history teacher, teaching world history at William Fleming High School in Roanoke, Virginia, his hometown. De'Vonte also spent some time working in the Latvian National Library and the Communist Party Archive in Riga. During that 2022 research/language study trip, De'Vonte visited all three Baltic States, as well as Belarus.


Advisor: Peter Holquist



B.A., Russian Language (honors), History, Russian Area Studies, Magna Cum Laude, Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Virginia Tech), 2023.


Russian Language Proficiency

Oral Proficiency Interview Certificate: Advanced, low. (July 2022)

Advanced intensive Russian Course at Daugavpils University. (July 2022)

Critical Language Scholarship Program: Intermediate Russian in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. (virtual). (Summer 2021)


Research Interests

World Communism, Asian Communism, decolonization, Cold War in Asia, Bolshevik nationality policy, Bolshevik internationalism, Russian Civil War/Early Soviet Government, National Communism, Alternative Modes of Development/Alternative Modes of Modernity, Vietnamese Marxism, Intellectual History, transnational, Comparative studies

Selected Publications

De’Vonte Tinsley and Raneil Smith, ASEES NewsNet: Digital Newspaper, "Reflection: The REEES Think Tank and Diversity in Slavic Studies Two undergraduate participants of I.D.E.A.S. in REEES reflect on their experiences in the program.” March 2023,

De’Vonte Tinsley and Raneil Jordan Smith, “Putin’s ‘Popular Monarchism’ Leads Russia into Ruin | Wilson Center,” accessed November 25, 2022,

De’Vonte Tinsley and Tom Ewing, ASEES NewsNet: Digital Newspaper, "Two Men Who Gave Freedom: The Assassination of Alexander II in the Context of Russian-American Relations” September 2023,


Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEES)


CV (file)