Michael Urban was born in Los Angeles, California, USA, on 28 May 1947. On graduating high school, he entered Seattle University on a basketball scholarship where his interests in politics and philosophy blossomed and his desire to play basketball disappeared after the first year. After taking a B.A. in political science in 1969, he served in the US government program, Volunteers in Service to America, in the state of Georgia and worked at a psychiatric hospital in San Francisco before fleeing to Canada to escape military conscription. He took a master's degree in political science, specializing in Soviet and East European studies, at the University of Alberta and then entered a Ph.D. program in those same fields at the University of Kansas. Combining that study with a year of area studies at the Institute of Soviet and East European Studies at the University of Glasgow, he completed his doctorate in 1976. Thereafter, he found employment as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Montana (1976-78), the State University of New York at Oswego (1978-82) and Auburn University in Alabama, where he was promoted to the rank of professor (1982-1991), and the University of California at Santa Cruz (1991- ). He has taught courses on political discourse as a visiting professor at the European University at St. Petersburg in 1998 and 2003. His research has benefited from some twenty visits to the USSR and Russia between the years 1979 and 2003.
Professor Urban has published numerous articles in scholarly journals - including THE BRITISH JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS, SOVIET STUDIES and EUROPE-ASIA STUDIES, COMPARATIVE POLITICS, SLAVIC REVIEW, THE RUSSIAN REVIEW and POLIS- and in edited volumes. In addition to editing IDEOLOGY AND SYSTEM CHANGE IN THE USSR AND EASTERN EUROPE (1992), he has authored: THE IDEOLOGY OF ADMINISTRATION; AMERICAN AND SOVIET CASES (1982), AN ALGEBRA OF SOVIET POWER; ELITE CIRCULATION IN THE BELORUSSIAN REPUBLIC, 1966-1986 (1989), MORE POWER TO THE SOVIETS: THE DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION IN THE USSR (1990), THE REBIRTH OF POLITICS IN RUSSIA (1997), and RUSSIA GETS THE BLUES: MUSIC CULTURE AND COMMUNITY IN UNSETTLED TIMES (2004).
Professor Urban is married to the former Veronica McGill. They have two children, Emily and George.