Hanna Matt

Thesis title

Soviet Humanitarianism? The Soviet Society of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Disaster, Relief and Soviet Modernity in Central Asia.


I have been fascinated by the history of the Soviet Union, and in particular the notion of an alternative Soviet modernity since the first semester of my undergraduate history degree. My PhD seeks to explore this concept through the lens of humanitarianism. Though the history of humanitarianism is increasingly well studied, our grasp of non-western forms of humanitarianism, particularly in ‘illiberal’ environments remains incomplete. In considering the case study of the Kazakh Famine of 1930-1933 I hope to better understand how modernity and disasters were experienced in the context of Soviet Central Asia and how responses to ‘domestic’ crises contributed to the development of relief practises in the Soviet Union. The activities of the Soviet Red Cross and Red Crescent act as a starting point for the exploration of Soviet relief in Central Asia. I am further interested in local responses to and personal experiences of famine in Kazakhstan.


  • Prof. Bertrand Taithe (Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, Professor in Cultural History)
  • Prof. Peter Gatrell (History and Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, Professor of Economic History)

Research interests

History of Humanitarianism, Non-western Variants of Humanitarianism, Soviet and Russian History, Central Asia, Personal Experiences of Crisis, Migration and Displacement, Refugees, Health

Teaching interests

  • HCRI10202 Introduction to Humanitarianism

Previous education

  • MA Humanitarianism and Conflict Response, University of Manchester
    • Dissertation Title: Decentring the History of Humanitarian Aid: Socialist Solidarity and the GDR in Vietnam, 1965-1975
  • BA History (Hons), University of Manchester
    • Dissertation Title: Accompanying Unaccompanied Jewish Displaced Children in post-war Germany, 1945-1949. 

Why I'm doing a PhD at HCRI

During my Master’s degree, I found the interdisciplinary and innovative research environment of HCRI incredibly intellectually stimulating. I am looking forward to working on my PhD here and I am excited to be part of such a dynamic department.