Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - History of Eastern Europe

Martin Wagner

Martin Wagner

Philosophische Fakultät → Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften → Geschichte Osteuropas
Visiting address
Friedrichstraße 191-193 , Room 5047
Phone number
0049 30 2093-70591
0049 30 2093-70654

German version


Curriculum Vitae | Research | Publications | Teaching


Curriculum Vitae

3/2020 Visiting Student Research Collaborator, Princeton University
1-2/2020 Visiting Scholar, Chinese University of Hong Kong
since 1.2020 Review editor for East European History at H-Soz-Kult
since 5.2018 Ph.D. Candidate and Research Fellow in projects funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) "Collective Leadership. Transformation of Power After Stalin and Mao, 1952-1957 and 1975-1981" (since 3.2019) and "Debts, Reforms, Wars. Russia's State Finances During the Napoleonic Wars 17961816“
2018 Humboldt Prize for the Master's thesis: "Abschied von Stalin und Mao"

Master of Arts in Chinese Studies, Freie Universität Berlin

Master's thesis: "Kritik an Stalin und Mao. Der Umgang mit dem Personenkult im Vergleich, Sowjetunion 1955–1956 und China 1978–1981"


Master of Arts in Modern European History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Master's thesis: "Abschied von Stalin und Mao. Der Personenkult post mortem im Vergleich, Sowjetunion 1953–1955 und China 1976–1977"

2016–2017 Visiting Student, Higher School of Economics Moscow
2012–2013 Visiting Student, Peking University

Bachelor of Arts in History and Social Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Extramural studies in Chinese Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin

Grants from: German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes), German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Foundation, Chinese Scholarship Council, Federal Ministry of the Interior (Austria), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Germany)



Ph.D. Project: "Collective Leadership. Transformation of Power After Stalin and Mao, 1952-1957 and 1975-1981"

Stalinism and Maoism were regimes of terror to which millions of people fell victim. In the Soviet Union and in China, Stalin’s and Mao’s despotic rule brought destruction to society, the political system and economy, spreading fear and terror among people. There is no doubt that those brutal excesses were initiated by the very tyrants who had assumed complete political power. It was them who started terror campaigns and stopped them again. After the death of Stalin in March 1953 and Mao Zedong in September 1976, mass terror came to an end, but not the systems that had helped the tyrants spread fear. Violence was stopped, and it was the perpetrators of terror themselves, Stalin’s and Mao’s henchmen and heirs, who did it. How could they put an end to violence without changing the system of rule? And why did the tyrants' followers agree to stop the terror and keep peace among themselves? This is the topic of our research project, which is dedicated to the first years of the transformation from tyranny to collective leadership.

Both in the Soviet Union of the early 1950s and in late-1970s China it was a so-called ‘collective leadership’ that engaged in crisis management and transformed a totalitarian into an authoritarian regime. After the death of the tyrants, the political systems could be stabilized only as representations of unity. In the Soviet Union, the Presidium (Politburo), the Council of Ministers, and the Supreme Soviet convened hours before Stalin's death to orchestrate the transition; a month later, they chose a phrase for their rule: collective leadership. In China, Hua Guofeng, who succeeded Mao as the administrator of his ideological heritage, took over in the autumn of 1976. However, after the rehabilitation of Deng Xiaoping (July 1977) and Chen Yun (December 1978), the Standing Committee of the Politburo acted as a unified group, despite the conflicts in China's central leadership.

Neither Stalin nor Mao had chosen a crown prince, prepared a successor, or said how they wanted the transition to take place. How did the answers that the heirs of power gave to this challenge differ in the Soviet Union and in China? Did Moscow's and Beijing's reformers learn from each other? This comparative investigation which seeks to explore how the principle of collective leadership tied together the new rulers and integrated the population, will be guided by the dimensions of rule and power enforcement, legitimacy and communication, and trust and reliability of expectations.



Edites Volumes and Special Issues

Crises in Authoritarian Regimes: Fragile Orders and Contested Power, ed. Jörg Baberowski and Martin Wagner (Frankfurt am Main and New York: Campus Verlag, 2022).

Hiroshima: Die Atombombe als Gegenstand der Globalgeschichte, ed. Lutz Raphael, Jan Eckel with the assistance of Martin Wagner, Zeitgeschichte-online, April 2017,


in Peer-Review Journals

“Excoriating Stalin, Criticizing Mao: Entangled Reevaluations of the Past in the 1950s Soviet Union and 1970s/80s China,” American Historical Review (forthcoming)

“Entanglement and Rivalry: Encountering “the Other” in Harbin’s Education, 1906–1932,” Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung 31, no. 3 (2021), forthcoming.

“KPD-Verbot – KPÖ-Gebot: Antikommunismen und staatlicher Umgang mit Kommunistischen Parteien in den 1950er Jahren,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 47, no. 3 (2021), 438–466.

Martin Wagner and Benjamin Conrad, “Scheine drucken, Schätze evakuieren: Kontingenzbewältigung in Russland angesichts der Bedrohung St. Petersburgs 1812,” Historische Zeitschrift 312, no. 1 (2021): 62–97.

“Revisionismus: Elemente, Ursprünge und Wirkungen der Debatte um den Stalinismus 'von unten',” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 66, no. 4 (2018), 651–681.


in Journals and Edited Volumes

“Rediscovering Lenin, Reinventing the Collective: Revolutionary Ideals in post-Stalinist and post-Maoist Transitions,” Dreams of Emancipation: A Transnational History of Revolutionary Russia, ed. Norihiro Naganawa, forthcoming.

“Über die Trennung sprechen: Das Erbe der Entstalinisierung und das Ende der sino-sowjetischen Freundschaft 1963,” Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2023, ed. Jörg Baberowski and Robert Kindler, forthcoming.

Jörg Baberowski and Martin Wagner, “Crises in Authoritarian Regimes: An Introduction,” Crises in Authoritarian Regimes: Fragile Orders and Contested Power, ed. Jörg Baberowski and Martin Wagner (Frankfurt am Main and New York: Campus Verlag, 2022), 11–26.


in Newspapers

Selbst totalitäre Ordnungen können sich von innen heraus wandeln – aber die Herausforderungen, die sich in einem Russland nach Putin stellen, sind riesig, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 10. Mai 2022, S. 28. (zugleich online:

Die Zukunft ist offen, und wir kommen nicht um sie herum: was wir aus einem Rückblick auf Napoleons Russlandfeldzug lernen, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 17. April 2020. (online:

Über Fehler sprechen, aber keine Fehler zugeben, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 17. Januar 2019, S. 43. (zugleich online:

„Mit Zunehmen der Unzufriedenheit ist das ein Risiko“. Der Leiter der EU-Kommissionsvertretung über die Gefahr von Massendemonstrationen und Radikalisierung als Folge der Finanzkrise, in: Der Standard, 30. März 2009. (online:


in Online-Publications

Der Vergessenheit trotzen. Die historische Ukraine mit Andreas Kappeler entdecken (Reviewessay on Andreas Kappeler: Kleine Geschichte der Ukraine. 5., überarb. und aktualisierte Auflage, München 2019), in: H-Soz-Kult, 23.3.2022,

Die Atombombenabwürfe auf Nagasaki und Hiroshima im August 1945: „Global Moments“?, in: Zeitgeschichte-online, April 2017, (with Kai Willms, Susanne Quitmann und Helge Jonas Pösche).

Bomben für den Frieden – Frieden ohne Bomben. Die Atombombe als Triebkraft der Ent- und Verflechtung internationaler Staatenbeziehungen, 1945–1968, in: Zeitgeschichte-online, April 2017, (with Helge Jonas Pösche).


Academic Translations

From German into English: Armin Nassehi, “Emergency as Normalcy: An Afterword,” Crises in Authoritarian Regimes: Fragile Orders and Contested Power, ed. Jörg Baberowski and Martin Wagner (Frankfurt am Main and New York: Campus Verlag, 2022), 365–372. (with Linda O’Grady).

From Russian into German: Extracts of Texts by L. I. Ginzberg, A. I. Danilov and L. Korsunskij on the Reception of Friedrich Meinecke in the Soviet Union, Friedrich Meinecke: “Die deutsche Katastrophe: Betrachtungen und Erinnerungen” Edition und internationale Rezeption, ed. Bernd Sösemann (Berlin: Lexxion Verlag, 2018), 310–312, 357, 359–362.

From Modern Chinese into German: Extracts of Texts by He Zhaowu, Shi Yonghe, Li Yang, Zhang Guiyong and Xu Xianyao on the Reception of Friedrich Meinecke in the PRC and Taiwan, Friedrich Meinecke: “Die deutsche Katastrophe: Betrachtungen und Erinnerungen” Edition und internationale Rezeption, ed. Bernd Sösemann (Berlin: Lexxion Verlag, 2018), 44, 187–191, 354–358, 423.



Daniel Leese: Maos langer Schatten. Chinas Umgang mit der Vergangenheit, München 2020, in: H-Soz-Kult, 25.5.2021,

Jonathan Harris: Party Leadership Under Stalin and Khrushchev. Party Officials and the Soviet State, 1948-1964, Lanham u.a. 2018, in: Historische Zeitschrift 312:1 (2021), S. 267–268.

Kirill A. Abramjan: 1937 god. N.S. Chruščёv i moskovskaja partorganizacija, Moskva 2018, in: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 68:3–4 (2020), S. 658–660.

Warren Sun und Frederick C. Teiwes: Paradoxes of Post-Mao Rural Reform. Initial Steps Toward a New Chinese Countryside 1976–1981, New York 2016, in: ASIEN – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 156/157 (2020), S. 208–210.

Li Danhui/Xia Yafeng: Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1959-1973: A New History, Lanham 2018, in: H-Soz-Kult, 11.12.2020,

Wie die Grenze in die Steppe kam: Zwischen China und Russland war Niemandsland. Bis nationale Interessen ihre Spuren hinterliessen. (Besprechung zu Sören Urbansky: Beyond the Steppe Frontier. A History of the Sino-Russian Border, Princeton 2020), in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 12. November 2020. (online:

Ethan Pollock: Without the Banya We Would Perish. A History of the Russian Bathhouse, Oxford 2019, in: Historische Zeitschrift 311:2 (2020), S. 405–407.

Thomas Maissen/Barbara Mittler: Why China Did Not Have a Renaissance – and Why That Matters. An Interdisciplinary Dialogue, Berlin/Boston 2018, in: Das Historisch-Politische Buch 68:1 (2020), S. 83.

Benedikt Tondera: Reisen auf Sowjetisch. Auslandstourismus unter Chruschtschow und Breschnew, 1953–1982, Wiesbaden 2019, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 68:6 (2020), S. 585–587.

Daniel Leese/Puck Engman (Hrsg.): Victims, Perpetrators and the Role of Law in Maoist China. A Case-Study Approach, Berlin/Boston 2018, in: WerkstattGeschichte 81 (2020), S. 207–209. (zugleich online:

Sammelrezension zu: Lucien Bianco: Stalin and Mao. A Comparison of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions. Transl. by Krystyna Horko, Hong Kong 2018; Elizabeth McGuire: Red at Heart. How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution, Oxford 2018, in: Historische Zeitschrift 310:1 (2020), S. 259–262.

Immo Rebitschek: Die disziplinierte Diktatur. Stalinismus und Justiz in der sowjetischen Provinz, 1938 bis 1956, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2018, in: H-Soz-Kult 28.05.2019,

Kathleen E. Smith: Moscow 1956. The Silenced Spring, Cambridge, Mass./London 2017, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 67:1 (2019), S. 87–89.

Natal’ja Aleksandrovna Volynčik (Hrsg.): Posle Stalina. Reformy 1950-ch godov v kontekste sovetskoj i postsovetskoj istorii. Materialy VIII meždunarodnoj konferencii, Ekaterinburg, 15-17 oktjabrja 2015 goda, Moskva 2016, in: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas/jgo.e-reviews 8:4 (2018), S. 78–82,

Aleksandr A. Fokin: “Kommunizm ne za gorami”. Obrazy buduščego u vlasti i naselenija SSSR na rubeže 1950-1960-ch godov, Moskva 2017, in: Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas/jgo.e-reviews 8:4 (2018), S. 29–31,

Cheng Li: Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era. Reassessing Collective Leadership, Washington 2016, in: ASIEN – The German Journal on Contemporary Asia 149 (2018), S. 146–148.

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Stalins Mannschaft. Teamarbeit und Tyrannei im Kreml. Übersetzt von Christiana Goldmann, Paderborn 2017, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 66:12 (2018), S. 1064–1066.

Joshua Rubenstein: The Last Days of Stalin, New Haven 2016, in: H-Soz-Kult 21.11.2018,

Susanne Hohler: Fascism in Manchuria. The Soviet-China Encounter in the 1930s, London 2017, in: H-Soz-Kult 25.09.2018,



Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Department of History

2018: Tutorial "Äpfel und Birnen. Vom Nutzen und Nachteil des historischen Vergleichs"

2019: Tutorial "China unter Mao. Die kommunistische Herrschaft 19491976"

2020: Tutorial "Change and Stability. The Soviet Union under Khrushchev and Brezhnev" (with Jonathan Raspe)