He was born and educated in Moscow. He received his undergraduate degree at Moscow State University in 1980, and his PhD at the Institute for the USA and Canada in 1985.
Zubok became a fellow at the National Security Archive, a non-government organization at the George Washington University from 1994 till 2001. He has been a visiting professor at Amherst College, Ohio University, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan, and in 2004 he became a tenured professor at Temple University.
He also was a director of Russia and East Block Archival Documents Database Project of the National Security Archive, George Washington University and Cold War International History Project, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C., funded by Smith Richardson Foundation, where he created an English language catalogue of newly available documentation from 1996 till 2001.