Professor Polly Jones

MA (Oxon) MPhil (Oxon) DPhil (Oxon)
Associate Professor of Russian

Associate Professor in Russian, Schrecker-Barbour Fellow, University College


Dr Polly Jones teaches a wide range of modern Russian literature and Russian language at undergraduate and graduate level for the faculty and college. Her research interests centre on 20th-century literature and culture, especially of the post-Stalin period (1953-91). She has published widely on Soviet culture and politics, including Myth, Memory, Trauma. Rethinking the Stalinist Past in the Soviet Union, 1953-70 (Yale University Press, 2013), The Dilemmas of De-Stalinization. Negotiating Cultural and Social Change in the Khrushchev Era (Routledge, 2006), The Leader Cult in Communist Dictatorships (Palgrave, 2004), a special issue of SEER on ‘The Relaunch of the Soviet Project, 1945-64’ (2008), as well as numerous journal articles. She writes regularly for the TLS and the Times Higher, has appeared several times on BBC radio and TV to talk about Russian culture (e.g. ‘Stalin’s Ghost’, BBC Radio 3:, and recently acted as consultant to Armando Iannucci’s film ‘The Death of Stalin’ (2017).

More broadly, her research interests include: Soviet literature and literary politics (1917-91); the Gulag and terror in literature; memory and trauma theory; Soviet and socialist bloc propaganda and censorship; samizdat and dissidence; biography in Russian culture; Russian and Soviet historical fiction. She is currently researching the writing and reading of biography in late socialism, drawing on a wide range of Soviet archives as well as oral history, and writing a monograph, under contract with OUP and provisionally entitled Revolutionary Lives. Writers, Readers and Publishers in Late Socialism, 1964-91. In connection with her interests in biography and autobiography, she organised a major international conference on Russian biography in Oxford in 2014 (, and she is now editing a special issue of the Slavonic and East European Review featuring some of the research presented at the conference. She is also co-convenor of the TORCH-sponsored Russian and Soviet Cultural and Social History Seminar ( and head of the CEELBAS-funded ‘Russian Archive Training Scheme’, a Moscow-based training program for UK graduate students.

Dr Jones is currently supervising doctorates on Soviet and post-Soviet commemorations of Stalinism, and the ‘framing’ of Soviet memories in post-Soviet media. She welcomes research student enquiries on any topic in Soviet-era literature and cultural studies, and comparative and interdisciplinary work on the socialist bloc and memory studies.

Dr Jones completed her BA, MPhil and DPhil degrees at Oxford (New College and St Antony’s College). She was the Harlech scholar at Harvard (1997-98) and held junior research fellowships at St Antony’s college (the Max Hayward fellowship) and Worcester College, as well as a fellowship at Princeton University’s Davis Center for Historical Studies. She taught for seven years at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London before taking up the Schrecker-Barbour fellowship and Associate Professorship at University College in 2012. Her research has been funded by the British Academy, CEELBAS and the John Fell Fund, Oxford.


Monographs and edited volumes:

Myth, Memory, Trauma. Rethinking the Stalinist Past in the Soviet Union, 1953-70 (Yale University Press, 2013 (paperback 2016):

The Dilemmas of De-Stalinization. Negotiating Social and Political Change in the Khrushchev Era (London: Routledge, 2006; paperback edition 2009)

The Leader Cult in Communist Dictatorships. Stalin and the Eastern Bloc (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2004). Co-edited with B. Apor, J. Behrends, A. Rees.

The Relaunch of the Soviet Project, 1945-64, special issue of Slavonic and East European Review, 2: 2008. Co-edited with J. Fuerst, S. Morrissey.

Policies and Practices of Transition in Soviet Education from Revolution to the End of Stalinism, special issue of History of Education, 2006. Co-edited with A Byford.

Articles and book chapters:


‘Life as big as the ocean’: Bolshevik Biography and the problem of personality from late Stalinism to Late Socialism’, Slavonic and East European Review, 2018

The Poetics and Politics of Modern Russian Biography’, Slavonic and East European Review, 2018

‘The Zones of Late Socialist Literature’, The Cambridge History of Communism, ed. J. Fuerst, S. Pons, M. Sandle (Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 376-98.

‘Diagnosing the Stalinist Sickness. Images of Illness in Aleksandr Bek and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’, MLR, 111. 4 (October 2016), pp. 1062-89.

The Fire Burns On? The Fiery Revolutionaries Biographical Series and the Rethinking of Propaganda in the Early Brezhnev Era’, Slavic Review, 74: 1 (2015): 32-56

‘Worlds of Discontent and Dissent after Stalinism’, Kritika, 15, 3 (Summer 2014): 637-52

‘Iurii Trifonov’s Fireglow and the “Mnemonic Communities” of the Brezhnev Era’, Cahiers du Monde Russe, 54, 1-2 (2014): 1-26

‘The “thaw” goes international. Soviet Literature in Translation and Transit in the 1960s’, in A. Gorsuch, D. Koenker, The Socialist Sixties. Crossing Borders in the Second World (Indiana University Press, 2013)

‘The Personal and the Political: Opposition to the “Thaw” and the Politics of Literary Identity in the 1950s and 1960s’, in D. Kozlov, E. Gilburd, eds, The Thaw. Soviet Society and Culture during the 1950s and 1960s (Toronto University Press, 2013)

Between Post-Stalinist Legitimacy and Stalin’s Authority: Memories of 1941 from Late Socialism to the Post-Soviet Era’, Canadian Slavonic Papers, vol. LIV, nos 3-4 (2012): 61-82

‘Reimagining the Enemy. Soviet Images of the West after the Second World War’, in Drawing the Curtain. The Cold War in Cartoons (London: Fontanka, 2012)

‘Breaking the Silence: Iurii Bondarev’s Quietness between the “sincerity” and “civic emotion” of the Thaw’, in M. Steinberg, V. Sobol, eds, Interpreting Emotion in Russia and Eastern Europe (Northern Illinois University Press, 2011)

‘Memories of Terror or Terrorizing Memories? Terror, Trauma and Survival in Soviet Culture of the Thaw’, Slavonic and East European Review, 82:2, 2008.

“Idols in Stone”, or Empty Pedestals?: Debating Revolutionary Iconoclasm in the Post-Soviet Transition’, in R. Clay, S. Boldrick, eds, Iconoclasm: Contested Objects, Contested Terms (London: Ashgate, 2007)

‘“A Symptom of the Times”: Assigning Responsibility for the Stalin Cult in the Soviet Literary Community, 1953-64’, Forum for Modern Language Studies, 42: 2, 2006

‘Du Prix Staline au Prix Lenine: L’Emulation Honorifique dans la Russie Sovietique’, Genèses, 55, June 2004

‘From Stalinism to Post-Stalinism: De-Mythologising Stalin, 1953-56’, in Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, vol. 4, no. 1, 2003; reprinted in H. Shukman, ed., Redefining Stalinism (London: Frank Cass, 2003)

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