Every year, the Alumni Association honors a select group of outstanding young faculty members. In 2018, Alexander Angelov, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, was among that number.
Professor Angelov grew up at the intersection of two worlds. In Soviet-allied Bulgaria, his parents were educated in the communist system, which promoted atheism. His grandparents, however, were pious, observing long-held Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions.
These two worldviews were at odds, and Angelov was fascinated by the ways the old and new in Bulgaria interacted. He made the study of religion, especially Christianity, his life’s work and came to the United States to study and then teach history, anthropology and philosophy.
Angelov holds master’s degrees in history and classical Greek and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan. He has done research and worked in Rome, Paris, London and Jerusalem. He came to William & Mary in 2011 and joined the faculty at the Department of Religious Studies, then became a member of both the Russian and Post-Soviet Studies program and the Medieval and Renaissance program.
“William & Mary attracted me with its rich history and vibrant intellectual community. As a scholar of Christianity who is interested in interdisciplinary work and collaboration with colleagues and students, this is a perfect place for me,” he says.
Angelov’s students describe him as approachable and inspiring, able to answer any question and invested in each student’s well-being. He encourages students to think critically about their own experiences as well as the class materials, challenging them to dig deeper into their understanding of each topic and its relevance to their lives. He is excited to see his students succeed and go on to pursue careers that aspire to help others and make a difference in the world.
He is about to publish his book comparing conversions to Byzantine Christianity between 300 and 900 CE, the period in which Eastern Orthodoxy expanded the most. He also examines the way historians and politicians since have described the events of this period in ways that further particular agendas.
During his upcoming sabbatical, he will travel to Eastern Europe and Russia to conduct research for another upcoming book that explores Orthodox Christianity from the turn of the twentieth century and through the years of communism. He will focus on the way in which leading communist ideologues, educators and politicians interacted with religion and how they communicated their utopian ideas and notions of scientific and economic progress to societies steeped in folklore and rural traditions.
At William & Mary, Angelov especially enjoys teaching his Introduction to Christianity course, his largest class, which contains students from many different backgrounds.
“Everyone, even those who didn’t grow up Christian, is affected by the world’s largest religion very directly: culturally, politically and historically,” says Angelov. “My teaching philosophy is to connect the students’ personal experiences to a larger context, in effect bridging their own lives and values to the lives and values of others."