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Vera Tolz-Zilitinkevic


Personal profile


Vera Tolz is Sir William Mather Professor of Russian Studies

  • MA Classics (St Petersburg, 1981)
  • PhD Russian and East European Studies (Birmingham, 1993)

Research interests

My research interests include:

Nationalism, ethnic politics and the relationship between imperial and national visions of collective identity in modern and contemporary Russia. I published a monograph, Russia: Inventing the Nation (2001), two co-edited books, Nation and Gender in Contemporary Europe (2005) and Nation and Empire at War (2015),  and multiple articles on the construction of different definitions of Russian nationhood by the intellectual and political elites in the course of the last three centuries. I have been particularly interested in the relationship between discursive constructions of identity and policies adopted by the ruling elites. 

Since 2010, my research has been focused on the uses of identity-related discourses in Russian state media for legitimizing the country’s policies at home and abroad. See my book with Stephen Hutchings, Nation, Ethnicity and Race on Russian Television (2015).

In my earlier work, I studied the relationship between academics, their scholarship and political power in late imperial Russia and the USSR in the 1920s-1940s. See my books 'Russia's own Orient': The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the Late Imperial and Early Soviet Periods (2011) and Russian Academicians and the Revolution (1997).

Research Posts, Grants and Fellowships:

2023-2026: AHRC research grant (with Profs. Hutchings and Mihelj and Drs Lewis, Sadler and Yates) ‘(Mis)Translating Deceit after the Cold War: Disinformation as a Translingual, Discursive Dynamic’ (£ 999,722) 

2024-2025: SSH Research Council of Canada and UKRI Knowledge Synthesis Grant (with Dr Kenzie Burchell, University of Toronto), 'Beyond Disinformation: The Strategic Techniques and Transnational Contours of Evolving Narratives and Diasporic Information Orders'

2017-2020: AHRC research grant (with Profs. Hutchings and Gillespie, and Dr Willis), 'Reframing Russia for the Global Mediasphere: From the Cold War to "Information War"?' (£ 885,125)

2010-2013: AHRC research grant (with Prof. Hutchings), 'An Analysis of Russian Television Representations of Inter-Ethnic Cohesion Issues' (£ 426,395)

2004-2007: AHRB research grant, 'Oriental Studies and Russian National Identity: the 1870s – 1920s'

2003-2004: British Academy Senior Research Fellowship

1999-2000: Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton

1994-1995: Fellow, Russian Research Center, Harvard University


PhD Supervision

I am happy to supervise research projects on a wide range of topics in Russian cultural and intellectual history, on nationalism, ethnic politics and the role of the media in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Most of my former PhD students have gone to work in academia in the UK and overseas. They have also received post-doctoral fellowships from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the EC-funded Marie Curie scheme. 

For the information about the PhD projects I have supervised, please see the section 'Supervised Work' on this site. In addition to the projects listed there, I also supervised to completion the following doctoral students: 

Rui Wang, 'Re-mediating Russian Strategic Narratives on the Chinese Video-Sharing Platform Bilibilli: A Case Study in Non-linear Soft Power Projection', passed in 2023

Mollie Arbuthnot, 'Identity and Image in Soviet Central Asia: 1920-1939', passed in 2020

Adelaide McGinity-Peebles, ‘Imaging the Russian Heartlands: The Representation of the Provinces in Recent Russian Film', passed in 2020

Vitaly Kazakov, 'Superpower Ambitions and Sports in the 21st Century: The Geopolitical Aims, Informational Means and Popular Reception of Russia's Sporting Mega-Events', passed in 2019

Piotr Goldstein, 'Building Bridges: NGOs and Civil Society Building in Mostar and Novi Sad', passed in 2013

Nely Saffiulina ‘The Role of Translation and the Politics of Culture in the Soviet Union in the 1930s’, passed in 2010

Maria Petrova, ‘Religious Movements of Indian Origin and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Russia’, passed in 2009

Sue-Ann Harding, ‘Translators, Translation and Conflict in the Caucasus post-1991’, passed in 2009

Ian Appleby, ‘Re-imagining the Kuban Cossack: Politics of Identity in Post-Communist Russia’, passed in 2009

Andrew Mycock, ‘Post-Imperial Citizenship and National Identity: A Comparative Study of Citizenship Education in Britain and the Russian Federation’, passed in 2006

Ewa Ochman, ‘The Politics of Rewriting the History of Polish-Jewish Relations in Post-Communist Poland’, passed in 2004


Further information

Research Management and Editorial Roles 

  • Co-Director of the AHRC-funded UK national Centre for East European Language-Based Area Studies (CEELBAS) (2012-2016)
  • Member of the Management Board of the AHRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in East European Language-Based Area Studies, CEELBAS CDT (2015-2022) 
  • Currently member of the editorial and advisory boards of Wiener Slavistisches Jahrbuch, Slavonica and The Library of Modern Russia book series at Bloomsbury 

International Collaborations

I was member of research teams of the following international collaborative projects:  

2013-2015 ‘Nation-building, Nationalism and the New "Other" in Contemporary Russia', led by Prof. Pal Kolsto (University of Oslo, Norway) (funded by the Research Council of Norway)

2009-2014 ‘Russia’s Great War and Revolution, 1914-1922. The Centennial Reappraisal,’ led by Prof. Anthony Heywood (University of Aberdeen) and Prof. John Steinberg (Georgia State University, USA) 

2000-2002 ‘Discourses of Global Ambitions and Global Failures: Transnational and Transsystemic Tendencies in Post-1945 Russia and East Central Europe,’ led by Prof. Gyorgy Peteri (University of Trondheim, Norway) (funded by the Research Council of Norway)

1998-1999 ‘State Patronage of Science and Culture in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: 1945-1989,’ directed by Prof. Gyorgy Peteri (University of Trondheim, Norway) (funded by the Research Council of Norway)

1996-1998 ‘Academia in Upheaval: The Origins and Demise of the Communist Academic Regimes in Russia and East-Central Europe,’ directed by Prof. Gyorgy Peteri (University of Trondheim, Norway) and Prof. Michael David-Fox (then at the University of Maryland, USA) (funded by the Spencer Foundation, USA)

I am an elected Fellow of the UK's Academy of Social Sciences (since 2018). 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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