Faculty Profile: Kira Stevens

Laura Stoloff

A diverse background and worldly outlook has helped Associate Professor of History Kira Stevens lead her students and associates inside and outside the classroom.

As an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, Stevens completed her Bachelor’s degree in history and later earned her doctorate from the University of Michigan. Her specialties include Russia, late medieval and early modern Europe, women in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union and the indigenous peoples of Siberia.

At Colgate, Stevens is active in the community. She teaches two classes, takes a third, administers the history department, facilitates the Harassment Advisors Board and writes about Russian society.

Stevens’ background was unusual: her mother is a French native and her father grew up in Minnesota. She was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and her family migrated every two to four years. This allowed her to immerse herself in different cultures. As a young child, she learned French and Russian from her mother.

“Language and culture is fascinating,” Stevens said. She admits that she knows six languages in addition to English – French, Spanish, German, Old Church Slavic, Turkish and Russian.

Stevens uses her vast knowledge of Russian culture to instruct her students.

“I like understanding a society that doesn’t exist anymore,” she said, “and getting a palpable sense of what it was like to live in that society.”Stevens centers her study of Russia specifically on the years between 1600 and 1800.

Her research has led her to write a selection of works, including Soldiers on the Steppe (1995) about pre-Petrine Russian society and military history, and Problems of Abnormal Psychology (1993).

Continuing her literary legacy, she is currently working on two projects.

In 2003, Stevens found a pile of primary sources in the Military Historical Archive in Moscow concerning the Russian army. She is currently perusing the material in order to understand what it was like to be a camp follower in the Russian army during the 17th century.

Her findings are unique, she says, because it is uncommon to find first-person narratives in Russia during a time when the majority of people were illiterate.

Stevens’s next objective is to address the role of women and slaves in the army. Her other text involves the position of women in Russia.

Stevens lives with her husband Philippe and daughter Maya in Hamilton. Although she dedicates a vast amount of time to her intellectual life, she enjoys travel and hiking.

“I would have loved to hike in Russia, but I couldn’t get into the countryside under the Soviet Union,” Stevens said. She hikes in Hamilton and in the Adirondacks. Her desire for adventure gives her a worldly view, which she incorporates into the classroom and her writing.