Russian and Slavonic Studies

Russian and Slavonic Studies at Sheffield has a well-established and internationally recognised profile in research, both in the sphere of linguistics and wider cultural phenomena.

St Basil's Cathedral. Credit LaraBelova

Intellectual and Cultural History

Russian at Sheffield has particular strengths in intellectual and cultural history, especially of the Soviet period. This is consolidated by our two research centres, the Bakhtin Centre, which focuses on the history of cultural theory, with particular reference to the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and the intellectuals associated with him, and by the Prokhorov Centre which is the only research forum in the UK with an integrated focus on the intellectual and cultural histories of both Central and Eastern Europe, focusing on the historical roots of the distinction between an Eastern Europe and a Western Europe, Western European perceptions of Eastern Europe, and vice versa, literary, philosophical, and other constructions of Europe, the intellectual histories of Germany and Russia, and their interconnections.

It organises national and international conferences, workshops, exhibitions and annual Arts and Humanities Prokhorov Lectures, which are delivered by world-leading scholars and public intellectuals. It also manages the Prokhorov Fellowship scheme, which allows prominent Russian scholars to visit the University for a period of 6 months as research fellows.

We have particular specialisms in the early Soviet period, especially in Marxism, cultural theory, the history of linguistic thought and relations between the USSR and Asia (Brandist), as well as Stalinism, Soviet cultural history and nationalism (Dobrenko). Such research also bears on contemporary problems such as postcolonial theory and the critique of neoliberalism.

We welcome applications from prospective PhD students who seek to explore general historical and theoretical problems with reference to Russian and other Slavonic material.

Literary studies

Staff at Sheffield have published widely on Russian literature and literary theory. Soviet Literary Theory has been a particular strength (Brandist and Dobrenko), and staff have expertise in areas such as Modernism, the Avant-Garde and Socialist Realism as well as Soviet and post-Soviet literature and culture, Soviet national literatures, Russian and Soviet film.

Other areas of interest include emigre literature and the scope of the artist's production (Fergus).


Slavonic linguistics at Sheffield has a long history dating back to the founding of the department in 1965. Current research (Bermel) focuses on usage-based theories of language and advocates the use of empirical methods in Slavonic linguistics.

Usage-based theories posit that knowledge of a language resides in knowledge of actual usage and generalisations made as a result of people’s linguistic experiences. Large textual databases (corpora) and experiments provide the data we use to formulate and test hypotheses (see Acceptability and Forced-Choice Judgements).

Bermel has also worked extensively on topics at the intersection between language structure and sociolinguistics, such as language policy, language regulation and language change. An ongoing project (BermelKnittl) examines the use of multiple languages at Czech heritage sites, examining their linguistic landscape and applying elements of Language Management Theory.

We welcome applications for PhD study looking at Slavonic data, which aim to produce results that are of value to linguistic theory and methodology in general.

What can research students in Russian and Slavonic Studieslinguistics expect to find at Sheffield?

  • Close supervision, with regular meetings and prompt feedback
  • Guidance about venues for the presentation and publication of your research
  • Possibilities for collaborative research with your supervisor(s), resulting in joint conference presentations and publications
  • Membership of the Prokhorov Centre, the Bakhtin Centre, and/or the Faculty’s Centre for Linguistic Research
  • Training opportunities at workshops, conferences and panels run by department and School staff
  • Access to top-up funds for fieldwork abroad, conference attendance and the development and dissemination of research impact
  • Teaching opportunities in the Department and School (as appropriate and as funding allows)

Where are our alumni?

  • Jonathan Israel Escobar Farfán (PhD, 2019) is a research librarian at the National Library of Mexico 
  • Fadhel Shalal (PhD, 2018) is Head of the Language Laboratories Section at the Translation Department, Foreign Service Institute, Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  
  • Dario Lečić (PhD, 2017) is International Research Calls Co-ordinator at the Croatian Science Foundation.
  • Nina Szymor (PhD, 2017) is Translation Manager at Raspberry Pi.
  • Michelle Assay (PhD, 2016, Sheffield/Sorbonne joint degree) is BA Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at the University of Huddersfield
  • Alun Thomas (PhD, 2015) is Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Staffordshire. 
  • Teresa Wigglesworth-Baker (PhD 2015) is Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University and Director, Research, Training and Language Consulting (
  • Jane Klavan (PhD, 2012 - co-supervision with Tartu, Estonia) is Researcher at the University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia.
  • Marie Sanders (PhD, 2008) is Lecturer in Translation Studies and Interpreting at Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
  • James Wilson (PhD, 2007) is Lecturer in Russian and Languages Studies at the University of Leeds.
  • Dušan Radunović (PhD, 2007) is Associate Professor of Russian at the University of Durham.
  • Karen Smith (PhD, 2003) is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Greenwich