Samuel Finkelman

I am a historian specializing in Soviet and modern Jewish history. I received my Ph.D. from Penn in December 2023.

My current book project—Ghetto, Gulag, Geulah: The Soviet Jewish Movement’s Russian and Ukrainian Encounters, 1953-1991— explores how Jewish activists’ triangular encounter with Russian and Ukrainian nationalists shaped grassroots Jewish national activity in the post-Stalin USSR. While many studies isolate Soviet Jews from the broader galvanization of national consciousness that transpired during these decades, Jewish activists interacted extensively with Russian and Ukrainian nationalists in prison camps, literary polemics, and collective acts of protest. These confrontations, I argue, determined the ethos, tactics, and goals of late Soviet Jewish nationalism. Drawing on dissidents’ memoirs and self-published literature (samizdat), and materials from seven archives in Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, and Israel, Ghetto, Gulag, Geulah recounts the comparable and entangled ways in which Jewish, Russian, and Ukrainian dissidents marshalled the memory of recent catastrophe—particularly Stalinist terror and the Nazi occupation—in the service of future national redemption, or what Jews call in Hebrew geulah.

I have also researched and written on trials against former Jewish functionaries in Nazi camps and ghettos in Lithuania, prosecuted in the postwar USSR for crimes of collaboration. My research has been supported by numerous grants including awards from the American Association of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) in Budapest, and the U.S. Department of Education FLAS program.

Research languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew 

Advisor: Benjamin Nathans 


Ph.D. - History - University of Pennsylvania (2023) 
M.A. - History - University of Pennsylvania (2020) 
M.A. - East European Studies - Universiteit van Amsterdam (2016)
B.A. - International and Global Studies - Middlebury College (2014)

Research Interests

The Soviet-Jewish experience; nations and nationalisms in the USSR; dissidence and sedition in the USSR; transitional justice, Holocaust memory, and the collective memory of catastrophe in the postwar Soviet Union. 

Courses Taught

Global Studies 3800 
 Portraits of Contemporary Russia: Politics, Culture, and Conflict (Summer 2024; Penn LPS Online) 

Teaching Assistant 
History 421
European International Relations Since 1914 (Spring 2021; W. McDougall)                    

History 177 Afro-American History, 1876-present (Spring 2020; M. Bay)     

History 134 The Origins of Nazism: From Democracy to Race War and Genocide, 1918-1945 (Fall 2019; A. Berg)                                                                     

History 141 Jews in the Modern World (Spring 2019; B. Wenger) 

History 135
The Cold War: A Global History, 1945-1991 (Fall 2018; B. Nathans)           

Selected Publications

Book Reviews

Polish Jews in the Soviet Union (1939–1959): History and Memory of Deportation, Exile, and Survival. Edited by Katharina Friedla and Markus Nesselrodt (Boston: 2021), 350 pp. Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 37, no. 1 (2023): pp. 188-190.

Lviv’s Uncertain Destination: A City and Its Train Terminal from Franz Joseph I to Brezhnev. By Andriy Zayarnyuk (Toronto: 2020), 390 pp. Canadian Slavonic Papers, vol. 64, no. 4 (2022): pp. 516-518.

The Universe Behind Barbed Wire: Memoirs of a Ukrainian Soviet Dissident. By Miroslav Marynovych (Rochester: 2021), translated by Zoya Hayuk, edited by Katherine Younger, with a foreword by Timothy Snyder, 477 pp. Canadian Slavonic Papers, vol. 64, no. 1 (2022): pp. 121-123.

Online Essays

“The Jews of Russia,” My Jewish Learning (2024)