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Professor of Russian, Schrecker-Barbour Fellow, University College

Research

The key question that I'm interested in is how citizens of authoritarian regimes, especially writers and other cultural practitioners, find ways to express themselves, by navigating or evading censorship and other political controls. Much of my research, including my two monographs, has concerned the ways that memories of Soviet and Russian experiences were articulated in Soviet-published, samizdat and tamizdat narratives in the Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev eras. I am now increasingly interested in the literature and culture of the Putin era, especially its intersections with contemporary memory politics of the Stalinist and Soviet past. I have recently completed  a book on Gulag literature from the 20th to the 21st century, and am exploring a new project on contemporary political prisoner narratives in Russian and Ukrainian literature and other media. I am also working on the collaborative project, 'The 101st kilometre. Provincial Marginality from Stalin to Gorbachev', which explores the migration and settlement patterns and communities produced by Soviet restrictions on residency in major Russian, Ukrainian and Latvian cities for Gulag returnees and other 'marginals'. A description of my collaboration with the Ukrainian historians Tamara Vronska and Olena Styazhkina on this project appeared in History Workshop, and academic articles from the project have appeared in Slavic Review and Europe-Asia Studies (forthcoming). My research has been funded by the British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, CEELBAS, John Fell Fund and EHRC. I appear regularly on UK and international radio, TV and podcasts to talk about Russian culture and history, and I acted as consultant to Armando Iannucci's film 'The Death of Stalin' (2017). 

Teaching

I  teach a wide range of modern Russian literature, culture and language at undergraduate and graduate level for the faculty and college,  including specialist courses on Gulag literature and late Soviet literature.  I welcome research student (DPhil, MPhil) enquiries for supervision of projects on 20th or 21st-century Russian literature and cultural history, and transnational or interdisciplinary projects on the socialist bloc, memory studies and biography. Current and recent research supervision includes:

  • Hybrid War and Hybrid Memories: the Russo-Ukrainian Сonflict in Film (Sofia Kosourova)
  • ‘Creative Support’. Easel Painting and Socialist State in the late 1950s—1980s (Vera Otdelnova)
  • Cults and Culture: Late Soviet Cultural Studies as Intellectual and Social Practice (Egor Sokolov)
  • Professional Theatres of the Soviet Gulag (Jake Robertson)
  • Soviet and post-Soviet commemorations of Stalinism (Antony Kalashnikov)
  • The historical 'framing' of Soviet memories in post-Soviet media (Jade McGlynn)
  • A Comparison of the post-totalitarian fiction of Vasilii Grossman and Heinrich Boll (Oliver Jones)

Biography

I completed my BA, MPhil and DPhil degrees at Oxford (New College and St Antony’s College). I was the Harlech scholar at Harvard, and held junior research fellowships at St Antony’s College (the Max Hayward fellowship) and Worcester College. I was lecturer for seven years at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, and a Davis fellow at Princeton University’s Davis Center for Historical Studies before taking up the Schrecker-Barbour fellowship and Associate Professorship at University College in 2012; I was promoted to Professor in 2020. 

I currently serve on the management committee of TORCH (the Oxford Centre for the Humanities), and the editorial boards of Bloomsbury's Russian Shorts series and Academic Studies Press Modern Biographies series. I have also been on the jury for BASEES' Alec Nove Prize since 2022. In the academic year 2023-24, I will be deputy chair of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages. I was appointed a trustee of Pushkin House in London in 2024.

Publications:

Gulag Fiction: Labour Camp Literature from Stalin to Putin (London: Bloomsbury, 2024)

Revolution Rekindled. The Writers and Readers of Late Soviet Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019)

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

Edited volumes and special issues

Writing Russian Lives. The Poetics and Politics of Russian Biography (MHRA, 2018) 

The Dilemmas of De-Stalinization. Negotiating Social and Political Change in the Khrushchev Era, edited volume (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 special issue 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

'Kilometres 51 and 101: the development of Soviet residency and banishment policies in Ukraine, 1917-1940' (co-authored with Olena Stiazhkina, Tamara Vronska), Europe-Asia Studies (forthcoming)

'The Censor', The Cambridge History of Russian Literature, eds Simon Franklin, Rebecca Reich, Emma Widdis (CUP, forthcoming)

'The Thaw's Provincial Margins: Place, Community and Canon in Pages from Tarusa'Slavic Review, vol. 80, winter 2021

Introduction to Vasilii Grossman, Life and Fate (Everyman Classics, Penguin, 2022)

'‘Life as big as the ocean’: Bolshevik Biography and the problem of personality from late Stalinism to Late Socialism', Slavonic and East European Review, 96:1 (2018), 144-73

'The Poetics and Politics of Modern Russian Biography', Slavonic and East European Review, 96:1 (2018), 1-15.

'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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