John Vsetecka

Year in Program: Fifth

Fields: Soviet/East European History (major); Modern European History (major); Communist Studies (minor); Violence and Memory (minor)

Advisor: Dr. Matthew Pauly

Committee: Dr. Matthew Pauly (Chair), Dr. Ronen Steinberg, Dr. Aminda Smith, and Dr. Amy Simon

Research Languages: Ukrainian, Russian

Educational Background: Master of Arts (History)-University of Northern Colorado, 2014; Bachelor of Arts (History; minor in English), 2012.


I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Michigan State University where I trained in the fields of Modern European history (with a specialty in Soviet and east European history), global communism, and memory studies. In general terms, my work seeks to understand how people make sense of tragedies and come to terms with difficult pasts.

My dissertation, (tentatively titled) “In the Aftermath of Hunger: Rupture, Response, and Retribution in Soviet Ukraine, 1933-1947,” is a historical case study of the 1932-1933 famine’s (Holodomor) immediate and long-term effects and implications, and I seek to better understand how the famine continued to impact, influence, and shape lives and life trajectories well after starvation officially came to an end. I examine how survivors dealt with the aftermath of the famine and attempted to understand it, the ways in which authorities and state institutions responded to and managed various problems caused by the famine’s disruption, and how a third famine in 1946-1947 came to represent a continuum of crisis in terms hunger and starvation in Soviet Ukraine. For the 2020/2021 academic year, I was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct dissertation research in Kyiv, Ukraine (grant deferred to 2021/2022 due to COVID-19).

In addition to my research, I am also the founder and current co-editor of H-Ukraine, part of the larger H-Net platform. You can find more on H-Ukraine here.

I welcome contact from those who have questions about graduate school, history as a discipline, and/or Michigan State University as a whole.

You can find my CV here.