Dr Robert Collis

Rober Collis

BA (Hons), MA (The University of Sussex)
PhD (The University of Turku, Finland)

Contact Details

Tel: +44 (0) 7814157182

Email: r.collis@sheffield.ac.uk


I grew up in Suffolk and went on to take a history degree at the University of Sussex. A deepening interest in Russian history and culture led me to study for an MA in Russian Studies at Sussex.

I began my PhD studies at The University of Sheffield in 2000, where I focussed on a semiotic study of Russian radicals in the nineteenth century.

After a year at Sheffield I decided to spend a year learning Russian in St. Petersburg in 2001. On my return to England I soon left again, this time moving to Finland, where I began PhD studies at the University of Turku. I completed my doctoral thesis in 2008 on a study of religion, science and esotericism at the Court of Peter the Great. I am currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow, undertaking a project on Western esotericism and the Russian aristocracy between 1689-1825.

When not researching weird and wonderful aspects of Russian history, I enjoy playing football, tennis and have recently taken up marathon running. I also enjoy strumming a guitar.

Research Interests

My main area of research concerns aspects of Western esotericism in Russian history. I am also interested in the history of fraternalism in Russia (especially in the eighteenth century).



  • The Petrine Instauration: Religion, Esotericism and Science at the Court of Peter the Great, 1689-1725 (Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Edited Volume:

  • Freemasonry and Fraternalism in Eighteenth-Century Russia, with Andreas Önnerfors (Sheffield: Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, 2009).

Selected Articles

  • ‘Merkavah Mysticism and Visions of Power in Early Eighteenth-Century Russia: The New Year Panegyrics of Stefan Iavorskii, 1703-1706’, Russian Literature, special issue on Russian literature of the eighteenth century, guest edited by Joachim Klein (forthcoming in 2012).
  • ‘Magic, Medicine and Authority in Mid-Seventeenth-Century Muscovy: Andreas Engelhardt (d. 1683) and the Role of the Western Physician at the Court of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, 1656-1666’ (forthcoming in 2012).
  • ‘The Petersburg Crucible: Alchemy and the Russian Nobility in Catherine the Great’s Russia’, Journal of Religion in Europe, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2012), 56-99.
  • ‘Andrei Vinius (1641-1716) and the Transmission of Western Esoteric Philosophy to Russia’, Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, vol. 12:2, pp. 191-220. 
  • ‘Jolly Jades, Lewd Ladies and Moral Muses” Women and Clubs in Early Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, Vol. 2 No. 2 (2011), 202-235.
  • ‘Using the Stars: Astrology at the Court of Peter the Great’, in Nicholas Campion (ed.), Astrologies: Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Sophia Centre Conference 2010 (Lampeter: Sophia Centre Press, 2011), pp. 125-150.
  • ‘”Stars Rule Over People, but God Rules Over the Stars”: The Astrological Worldview of Boris Ivanovich Kurakin (1676-1727)’, Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteruopas, 59:2 (2011), pp. 195-216.
  • ‘Maxim the Greek, Astrology and the Great Conjunction of 1524’, The Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 88, Number 4 (Oct. 2010), pp. 602-23.
  • 'Chivalric Muses: The Role and Influence of Protectresses in Eighteenth-Century Jacobite Fraternities', in Maire Cross (ed.) Gender and Fraternal Orders in Europe from 1200 Until the Present (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010), pp. 102-32.
  • ‘Jacobite Networks, Freemasonry and Fraternal Sociability and their Influence in Russia, 1714-1740’, Politica Hermetica, vol. 24 (2010), pp. 89-99.
  • ‘Mag elizavetinskoi epokhi: astrologicheskaia kar’era Elizeusa Bomeliusa v Anglii v 1560-kh godakh’, Britanskie issledovaniia, Vypusk III (2010), pp. 154-77.
  • ‘Hewing the Rough Stone: Masonic Influence in Peter the Great’s Russia, 1689-1725’, in Andreas Önnerfors & Robert Collis (eds.) Freemasonry and Fraternalism in Eastern Europe: Sheffield Lectures on the History of Freemasonry and Fraternalism, No. 2 (Sheffield: The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, 2009), pp. 33-61.
  • ‘Freemasonry and the Occult at the Court of Peter the Great,’ Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, 6:1 (2006), pp. 1-26.
  • ‘Alchemical Interest at the Petrine Court,’ Esoterica, Vol VII, (2005) Online peer-reviewed journal hosted by Michigan State University. Go to www.esoteric.msu.edu.
  • ‘Peter the Great and the Petersburg Myth: Notions of Babylon and New Jerusalem,’ Faravid, 28 (2004), pp. 41-72.


  • RUS 117: The Soviet Union, 1917-1991
  • RUS120: Introduction to Russian Culture
  • RUS337/385/386: Project in Russian/Czech/Polish