Sälemetsiz be

Personal Statement:

What did (and does) it mean to be Russian, Qazaq or Soviet?

I’m Jesse Mikhail Wesso, from Illinois. I’m a third-year PhD student in the History Department at UCSB, where I am also a Lead Teacher’s Assistant for the Academic Year 2021/2022.

I am working with specialist Adrienne Edgar on histories of war, self and the environment in Qazaqstan. My recent work has dealt with emotional changes to understandings of home and mobility in war time for Soviet Qazaqs in the Second World War. I am drawn by changing patterns, perceptions and ideas of nature and environment. In my work I examine relationships between Russians and Qazaqs and their environments to offer insights into questions of nationality, ideology, and the self. 

The interdisciplinary focus of my past work has allowed me to develop research interests in empire and nation, religion, and the history of ideas, mainly drawn from non-Russian subjects of the empire and Soviet Union. I have worked on histories of ideas and political participation of minority groups in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, specifically the contested ideologies of world-making among Muslim modernists and Bolsheviks in Uzbekistan following the revolution.

Teaching Fields:

Environmental History of Central Asia, History of Modern Europe, Religious Studies, History of the Middle East

Courses Taught:

History 2B, World History
History 4B, Medieval and Early Modern Europe
History 2C, World History from 1700 to the Present
History 4C, History of Modern Europe from 1650 to the Present

Awards & Professional Activities:


  • Peer reviewer, Undergraduate Journal of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Roundtable participant, “History Labs for Active Learning,” with Jarett Henderson, Giulia Giamboni and Bradford Fried, Engaging Teaching Symposium, Departments of History and Education, University of California, Santa-Barbara
  • Fellow, Central Eurasian Studies Summer Institute (CESSI), University of Wisconsin-Madison


  • English, native
  • Russian, advanced
  • Qazaq, intermediate
  • German, intermediate