Dr Zoe Knox

Associate Professor of Modern Russian History

School/Department: School of History, Politics and International Relations

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 2711



I joined Leicester as a lecturer in 2006. Prior to this, I was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University (Houston, USA) and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia). My PhD was completed at Monash and funded by the Australian Research Council. In 2019, I was elected Treasurer of the British Association of Slavonic & East European Studies (BASEES), the UK's leading learned society for those researching the region. I am co-convenor of the BASEES Study Group on Religion and Spirituality in Russia and Eastern Europe. I am Reviews Editor of the journal Religion, State & Society and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Ecclesiastical History. I am a Trustee of Keston Institute UK, a charity founded in 1969 to study religion under communist regimes. In 2013 I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


My interests centre on the history of religious tolerance and intolerance in the modern world. I have researched a wide range of related topics, from religious conscientious objectors in World War I America and legislation on freedom of conscience in post-Soviet Russia to the concept of extremism as applied to Jehovah's Witnesses in Putin's Russia and religion and the dissident movements under Soviet-style communism. 

In recent years, these interests have coalesced around Jehovah's Witnesses, a religious minority group which has been at the forefront of discussions about religious freedom worldwide since its emergence in Pennsylvania in the 1870s. This has been particularly notable throughout the former Soviet bloc. 

This research has led me to archives and specialist libraries in Australia, Hungary, Russia, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA, and to collaborate with other researchers around the globe.

The European Academy of Religion awarded my second book Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World a special mention of excellence in the senior scholar category of the Giuseppe Alberigo Award.


Zoe Knox & S. Rock, ‘Orthodox Pilgrimage in Eastern Europe: An Introduction’, Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies 4, no. 1 (2021), pp. 13-20. 

Zoe Knox, ‘Russian Religious Life in the Soviet Era’ in R. Poole, G. Patterson & C. Emerson (eds), Oxford Handbook of Russian Religious Thought (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2020), pp. 60-75.

Zoe Knox & J. deGraffenried (eds), Voices of the Voiceless: Religion, Communism, and the Keston Archive (Baylor University Press: Waco, TX, 2019)

Zoe Knox, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World: From the 1870s to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan: London, 2018)

Zoe Knox, ‘“A Greater Danger than a Division of the German Army”: Bible Students and Opposition to War in World War I America’, Peace & Change, 44, no 2 (2019), pp. 207-243.

Zoe Knox, ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses as Extremists: The Russian State, Religious Pluralism, and Human Rights’, The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 46 (2019), pp. 128-157.

Zoe Knox, ‘Jehovah's Witnesses as Un-Americans? Scriptural Injunctions, Civil Liberties, and Patriotism’, Journal of American Studies 47, no. 4 (November 2013), pp. 1081-1108.

Zoe Knox, ‘Preaching the Kingdom Message: The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Soviet Secularization’ in Catherine Wanner (ed.), State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 244-271.

Zoe Knox, ‘The Watch Tower Society and the End of the Cold War: Interpretations of the End-Times, Superpower Conflict, and the Changing Geo-Political Order’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 79, no. 4 (December 2011), pp. 1018-1049.

Zoe Knox, 'Writing Witness History: The Historiography of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania', Journal of Religious History 35, no. 2 (2011), pp. 157-180.

Zoe Knox, Russian Society and the Orthodox Church: Religion in Russia after Communism (Routledge: London, 2005; paperback 2009)


Currently I am supervisor to four PhD students. Their projects address religion in the Russian and Soviet empires or Orthodox Christianity: 

(1st supervisor) M. Gillam, 'Anglo-Russian Relations, 1700-1725'
(1st supervisor) N. Siniari, 'A History of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church's Mission to the Rastafari of the West Indies'
(2nd supervisor) A. Dell, 'The Eastern CDU in the Soviet Zone of Occupation and the German Democratic Republic, 1945-53'
(2nd supervisor) J. Guo, 'Russia, China and the Urban History of Harbin'

My career highlights include working with the four PhD students that I have supervised to completion, all of whom have secured posts at universities or research institutes (in Israel, Germany, and the US). 

I would be delighted to hear from potential MPhil or PhD students interested in religious tolerance and intolerance in the modern world; religion, state and society in Russia; religion and spirituality in the Soviet Union; or Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide. 

I have extensive experience mentoring History PhD students on funding applications and can advise on opportunities in the Midlands as well as schemes at Leicester to support doctoral research. 


I have taught at five universities in three different countries over the course of my career and bring a wealth of teaching experience to the undergraduate classroom. 

My teaching at Leicester has included a wide range of modules, at all year levels, on modern European history, late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russian history, religion in the USSR, and religious history more broadly. These range from an introductory course on Soviet history (ie. the second year Option module 'Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union') to a very detailed, primary-source based examination of religion in modern Russia (i.e. the year-long Special Subject 'Church, State and Belief in Soviet Russia, 1941-1991').

In addition, I have contributed to teaching on the History Master's programme in various ways, including sessions on archives and research methodology and a module entitled 'Religious Conflict and Coexistence', taught alongside early modernist and medievalist colleagues.  

I have supervised undergraduate dissertations and MA dissertations across a broad range of subjects relating to late Imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia as well as the history of religion in modern Europe. 

Press and media

Journalists may contact me about Christianity and religious tolerance and intolerance particularly as this relates to religious minority groups in Russia and the USA.


The European Academy of Religion awarded my 2019 monograph Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Secular World a special mention of excellence in the senior scholar category of the Giuseppe Alberigo Award.

Media coverage

My research has generated a great deal of interest and been the subject of podcasts ( interview for the New Books Network) newspaper articles (ie. an interview in the Norwegian daily Dagen) and radio broadcasts (ie. a public lecture was reported on Voice of America).
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