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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages


Dr Josephine von Zitzewitz

Dr Josephine von Zitzewitz
Temporary Lecturer in Russian
Slavonic Studies
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages
Contact details: 

Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages
Raised Faculty Building
University of Cambridge
Sidgwick Avenue
United Kingdom


Josephine von Zitzewitz has held research and teaching posts at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol.

She is about to finish a monograph, entitled The Culture of Samizdat: Literature and Underground Networks in the Late Soviet Union, and preparing for her new project on contemporary Russian poetry on the internet and the importance of translation

In her free time J she translates from Russian, mostly poetry.  Her translations have appeared in Modern Poetry in Translation, Dream Catcher, Notre Dame Review and the award-winning anthology 100 Poems about Moscow

Teaching interests: 

Russian literature and culture of the 19th and 20th century

Translation into English

I lecture and/or supervise for Papers SLA1/SL1, SLB2, SL4 and SL14 

Research interests: 
  • Late Soviet literature, in particular the 1970s and 'underground' literature
  • Russian poetry in all its forms
  • Religious thought, in particular its bearing on literature
  • The literature and material memory of the Gulag
Recent research projects: 
  • “Samizdat as Social and Material Culture: From Reader to Activist” (2014-2017, funded by the Leverhulme Trust)

An interdisciplinary study of a special aspect of late Soviet culture, combining empirical data (interviews with samizdat editors and typists alongside responses to a year-long online survey of Russians with experience of reading samizdat) and theoretical approaches from reading communities research and media theory to offer a conceptualisation of the “ordinary” samizdat reader. This project forms the basis for the monograph I am currently writing.

  • Digital Poetry in Today’s Russia: Canonisation and Translation  (from 2019)

A study of Russian performance poetry and the online platforms used to stage it, this project will consider the way digital technology multiplies audiences beyond borders and institutions and narrow the distance between literary scholarship and translation practice

Published works: 


  • The Culture of Samizdat: Literature and Underground Networks in the Late Soviet Union (London: IB Tauris, forthcoming in 2019)
  • Poetry and the Leningrad Religious-Philosophical Seminar 1976-1980:  Music for a Deaf Age (Oxford: Legenda/MHRA and Routledge, 2016)


  • “Reading Samizdat” in Reading Russia: A History of Reading in Modern Russia, ed. by  Damiano Rebecchini, Raffaella Vassena (Ledizioni, Milan 2019)
  •  “The Role of Nature in Gulag Poetry: Shalamov and Zabolotsky” in Rethinking the Gulag: Identities, Sources, Legacies,  ed. Alan Barenberg and Emily D. Johnson (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2019) 
  • “Leningrad Samizdat Journals as Early Social Networks: Journals, Target Audiences and Distribution”, in Reading Communities, ed. Edmund King, (forthcoming in 2018)
  •  “Self-Canonisation as a Way into the Canon“: the Case of the Leningrad Underground”, Australian and East European Studies 31 (2017), pp. 197-228
  • “‘The Pearl of an Unreasonable Thought’: Religion and the Poetic Imagination”, in The Dangerous God: Christianity and the Soviet Experiment, ed. by Dominic Erdozain (DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, 2017), pp. 117-137
  • “From Underground to Mainstream: The Case of Elena Shvarts” in Reconfiguring the Canon of Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry, 1991-2008, ed. Katharine Hodgson and Alexandra Smith (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2017), pp. 225-264
  • “Reader Questionnaires in Samizdat Journals: Who owns Alexander Blok?” in Dropping out of Socialism, ed. by Juliane Furst and Josie McLellan (Lanham/Maryland: Lexington, 2016), pp. 107-127
  • “Oleg Okhapkin: Mezhdu poeziei i dogmoi” Okhapkinskie chteniia, almanakh 1, SPB 2015, pp. 36-50
  • Introduction, with Ann Komaromi, to the samizdat journal “37” for the Electronic Archive “Project for the Study of Dissidence and Samizdat” (University of Toronto)
  • “Leonid Borodin’s Rasstavanie: Orthodoxy and the Moscow Intelligentsia in the 1970s” in Models of Personal Conversion in Russian Cultural History of the 19th and 20th Centuries ”, ed. Jens Herlth (Bern: Peter Lang, Series “Interdisciplinary Studies on Central and Eastern Europe” 2015), pp. 191-209
  • “Religious Verse in Leningrad Samizdat: Origins and Confluences”, Enthymema 12 (2015)
  • “Olga Sedakova’s Journey Poems: The Spirituality of Form and the Journey into Silence”, Literature and Theology  29:2 (2015), pp. 183-198
  • “Poeziia kak molitva? Elena Shvarts i Oleg Okhapkin” in Vtoraia kul’tura:  Neofitsial’naia poeziia Leningrada v 1970-e-1980-e gody, ed. Jean-Philippe Jaccard (St Petersburg: Rostok), 2013, pp. 346-67
  • “Viktor Krivulin and Aleksandr Mironov: The Quest for Sacred Language in 1970s Russian Poetry”, Modern Languages Review 107 (2012), pp. 872-93