Member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and thereby authorized to supervise theses and Professor Emeritus

B.A., University of British Columbia
M.A.,University of British Columbia
Ph.D., University of Helsinki

Room: MHN 207
Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 1007
Work E-mail:

Andrew Donskov


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In the face of tragic historical circumstances in Russia, my grandfather and his eldest son (my father) fled to Serbia in the autumn of 1920. My grandfather, Andrej Nikolaevich Donskov, was a general in the Astrakhan’ Cossack forces. My father, Aleksandr Andreevich Donskov, graduated from the Nepljuevsk Cadet Academy in Orenburg in 1917. Unfortunately, they would never again be reunited with their sorrowing family or gaze on the vast natural expanses of their native Russia they so dearly cherished.

In Serbia, my father married my mother, Olivera Zdravković, a staunch Serb and russophile, who bore him four children. My siblings and I frequently listened to our grandfather’s stories about Russia — a land vast, unfathomable and marvellous that won the hearts of not only its native-born inhabitants but also many from abroad who sought its shelter and protection. My mother herself deserves most of the credit for imbuing her children with an inextinguishable love for the Russian language, its majestic culture and the great Russian people.

After subsequently emigrating to Canada and graduating from The University of British Columbia with a B.A. (1966 in Slavic Studies and English Literature), I earned an M.A. in Slavic Studies from UBC in 1967 and a Ph.D. in Russian Literature in 1972 at the University of Helsinki under Prof. Valentin Kiparsky. Over many years of subsequent teaching (ten years at the University of Waterloo, five at the University of Victoria and since 1981 here at the University of Ottawa), I have consistently attempted to impart to my students the significance of the innumerable contributions Russians have made to the treasure-trove of world culture.

For several decades now, my scholarly and academic interests have been focussed on the nineteenth-century period of Russian theatre and drama, Russian peasant literature, the Doukhobors (who emigrated to Canada at the end of the 19th century) and especially the astonishing literary career and legacy of Leo Tolstoy.

In 1998 I was appointed founding Director of the Slavic Research Group, which has been recognised by world Slavic scholarship as a major force in archival research in Russian and Polish studies. During my fifteen-year tenure in this position, with the support of the Faculty of Arts and the central university administration, I was able to establish priceless memoranda of agreement with the most prominent academic institutions in Russia, Poland and Serbia, which resulted in our being granted exclusive rights of publication to a large number of rare historical materials.

I have been recently devoting considerable time and effort to unpublished memoir literature reposing in a variety of Russian archives — notably, Sofia Tolstaya’s My life, her correspondence with Tolstoy’s last secretary, Valentin Bulgakov, and her literary works. My edition of Bulgakov’s seminal work V spore s Tolstym: na vesakh zhizni [Arguing with Tolstoy: in the scales of life] was published in October 2014. This complements my 2012 edition of his autobiographical work Kak prozhita zhizn’: vospominanija poslednego sekretarja L.N. Tolstogo [How a life was lived: reminiscences of Tolstoy’s last secretary].

Currently, I am working on the complete correspondence between Sofia Andreevna Tolstaya and her husband (including 200 of Sofia Andreevna’s hitherto unpublished letters). In 2017, 250 of their letters were published in English by the University of Ottawa Press.
I am married to biologist Natalia Smirnova, daughter of the late prominent scientist Dr Wladimir Smirnoff, F.R.S.C., O.C.; we have three children and six grandchildren.


Courses taught

  • RUS2102 Dostoevsky & Tolstoy
  • RUS3901 Advanced Russian I


  • 2015 Received Tolstoy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Tolstoy Studies, awarded by the L.N. Tolstoy Museum, Moscow 
  • 2013 Appointed member, Academic Council, L.N. Tolstoy Museum, Moscow
  • 2012 Appointed member, Russian Union of Writers, Moscow
  • 2010–12 Interim Honorary Editor (Fellow obituaries), Royal Society of Canada
  • 2008 Received Russian Presidential Pushkin Medal, awarded by President Vladimir Putin
  • 2006 Certificate of recognition, Foundation for Russian Culture, Moscow
  • 2005 Appointed full member, Editorial Board, 100-volume edition of Tolstoy’s works currently being published by the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • 2003 Appointed Distinguished University Professor, Univ. of Ottawa
  • 2002 Elected Full Member, Petrovskaja Academy of Arts & Sciences (Petri Primi Academia Scientiarum et Artium), St-Petersburg
  • 2001 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Academy of the Humanities & Social Sciences)
  • 1998 Received Pushkin Medal & Citation, International Association of Professors of Russian Language & Literature
  • 1997 Elected Corresponding Member, International Academy of Sciences, Pedagogical Division, Moscow

Fields of Interest

  • Russian language and literature
  • Tolstoy
  • Doukhobors
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