Robert Johnson, Professor Emeritus, is a student of Imperial Russian and Soviet History, and has also taught a wide range of courses on other historical topics—in particular, the Cold War. His research concentrates on social and economic questions. He is the author of Peasant and Proletarian: Moscow’s Working Class at the End of the Nineteenth Century (1979), and co-author of The Seam Allowance: Industrial Homework in Canada's Garment Industry (1982). He also edited A Half-Century of Silence: The 1937 Census of USSR (Russian Studies in History, Summer 1992).
From 1989 to 2001 he served as Director of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (University of Toronto); during most of that period he was also Principal Investigator of the Stalin Era Research and Archives Project, which received major funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. (His own focus within that collaborative project was on population of the USSR in the 1920s and 1930s.)
He has written on labour and labour unrest, peasant family life, and other social and economic issues, as well as quantitative research methods. Recent publications include: “Quagmire of Convenience; The Chechen War and Putin’s Presidency “ (2005); “In the Stalin Archives,” (2002), a three-hour radio documentary for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; “The Cold War Declassified (2007), another three-hour radio documentary for CBC; “I Lost It At the Market: Thoughts on the Political Economy of Post-Soviet Russia” (2008); “’The Greatest Tragedy of the Twentieth Century’: An Interview with V. P. Danilov [1925-2004]" (2008); “But Can You Hit: What Can Universities Learn from Baseball?” (2009); “Paradigms, Categories or Fuzzy Algorithms: Making Sense of Class and Soslovie in Russia” (2011); and translation of Boris Mironov, “The Modernization of Russia and the Well-Being of the Population” (2012).
He has been a frequent commentator in the news media on current developments in post-Soviet Russia and neighbouring states.