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Jeffrey Burds

The history department is sad to report the passing of Professor Jeffrey Burds. Jeffrey was a brilliant and generous scholar, a dedicated teacher, and a kind colleague. He will be missed.

An associate professor in history, Jeffrey published widely on Ukranian nationalism, Soviet counter-insurgency, and the Soviet secret police.  His published works include, Holocaust in Rovno: The Massacre at Sosenki Forest, November 1941 (2013) (also translated in Russian, Ukrainian and Polish); “Sexual Violence in Europe in World War II,” published in Politics and Society (2009) (also translated into Ukrainian); Espionage and Nationalism (published in Russian in 2010), and Soviet Informants’ Networks(published in Russian in 2007). He was principal investigator for the Soviet Archive Project, a joint collaborative effort with Russian scholars and archivists to produce and publish detailed inventories of archival collections in Moscow. Educated at Northwestern University and Yale University, Professor Burds was the recipient of numerous grants and honors from IREX, Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the National Council, and the Holocaust Educational Foundation. He was also a Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (2008), and the 2014 Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecturer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 

Jeffrey was well-known for his classes on espionage and assassinations. Students often remarked on the passion he brought to his subjects, the great stories he could spin, and the intensity with which he pursued historical inquiry. He was committed to helping students understand how to identify and assess information, to parse fact from fiction even in a world where those lines were blurred. 

I will most miss Jeffrey’s integrity. He always said it how he saw it, even if what he had to say ruffled a few feathers. He was committed to serious intellectual inquiry and debate. From the first day I arrived at Northeastern in 2013, Jeffrey invited me to participate in conversations about the cold war, security, and global affairs. Sometimes we argued, but we always ended on good terms. 

Even if we went months without seeing one another in Meserve, he would occasionally check in. Usually with an email containing obscure documents he had uncovered in the archive and wanted extra eyes on. When I received tenure, he showed up with a box of cold war unicorn figurines, which have been on the top shelf in my office ever since. A small kindness that was demonstrative of his attention to detail and connection.

Gretchen Heefner
Chair, History Department 
March 2024

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