George Liber. Professor
(205) 934-8696
Heritage Hall 360S

Research and Teaching Interests: Soviet, post-Soviet, and East European social history; center-periphery relations in the Soviet Union and its successor states; nationalism and national identity formation; processes of democratization; 20th century Ukrainian history

Office Hours: Tu/Th 3:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.


  • BA, Indiana University, 1975, History
  • MA, Harvard University, 1977, Soviet Studies
  • PhD, Columbia University, 1986, History

Dr. George O. Liber was born in Australia, exactly one week after Joseph Stalin died. His family arrived in the US in 1958. Dr. Liber has lived in Western Australia, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, and Alabama, and has spent long periods of research in Washington, DC; Moscow, Russia; and Kyiv, Ukraine.

He enjoys reading novels (favorite authors are George Orwell, Milan Kundera, John le Carre, and Robert B. Parker), watching movies ("Rashomon," "The Battle of Algiers," "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "A River Runs Through It," "Earth," " My Dinner with Andre"), and consuming pizza at DaVinci's while mentoring his most successful students. Since 2010, Dr. Liber has been an international election observer for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and worked in Ukraine and Kazakhstan (its capital, Astana, has Star Trek architecture!). He enthusiastically recommends Nicolo Machiavelli's The Prince and John Nelson Bolles's What Color is My Parachute?: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers to all students.

In the Summer of 2016, Dr. Liber spent three weeks (June 21-July 12) in Poland and Ukraine, where he chaired and served as a discussant for a panel at an international conference in Lviv, Ukraine; gave four talks on his recent book, Total Wars and the Making of Modern Ukraine, 1914-1954, in Cracow, Kiev, and Warsaw; sought to solicit interest in Polish- and Ukrainian-translations of his book; and investigated the possibilities for future research projects. In Kiev, he was also interviewed on Hromadske Radio (modeled on NPR) and at The Economist-affiliated “Ukrains’kyi tuzhden’ ” (Ukrainian Week).

In the Spring 2017 Semester, Dr. Liber plans to teach a new course on the collapse of the USSR, the post-Soviet transitions, and President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to restore the Russian Federation as a great power. In the Fall of 2017, he plans to offer a course on the hundredth anniversary of the 1917 Russian Revolutions.

How I Teach History:

History is the study of how people and societies change over time. Most people in most ages embrace unspoken assumptions and engage in routines that rarely adapt to new circumstances. With the emergence of mass politics after the French Revolution, more people become involved in the political process. External factors (wars, economic crises, political conflicts, natural disasters, and betrayals) challenge their unspoken assumptions and inertia, igniting radical shifts, often leading to chaos and mass psychological disorientation. Good intentions often produce unintended consequences. Dazed and confused, men and women search for new certainties, seeking to create a new equilibrium, a new normal.

History, then, is the story of how men and women seek to create a sense of certainty for themselves, their families, and their societies. Rarely do they find a unanimous consensus. Internal conflict is an integral part of all organized societies. In our study of the past, we need to follow the advice of Frederic Bastiat and take into account what can be seen and what cannot be seen immediately. Historians are like geologists. Both investigate the surface of the earth, but also the physical and psychological tectonic plates underneath it.

Recent Courses

  • Western Civilization, Early Modern Period to the Present
  • The World Since 1945
  • The History to the Russian Empire to 1917
  • The History of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991
  • Historian's Craft
  • Stalin and Stalinism
  • Gorbachev and the End of the USSR
  • The World Since 1945
  • Nations and National Development Since 1789

Select Publications

Academic Distinctions & Professional Memberships

  • American Historical Association (AHA)
  • Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)
  • Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN)

Student Groups

  • Phi Alpha Theta, history honors society