CamRuSS Patrons


Sir Tony Brenton

Sir Tony Brenton

Tony Brenton KCMG is a distinguished British diplomat, writer on international issues. He worked for over 30 years in the Foreign Office.

Tony first learnt Arabic and spent three years in Cairo working on the Middle East Dispute. From 1980-1989 he handled European matters in London and in Brussels, working on energy issues and the birth of European environmental policy. Back in London he ran UN issues in the Foreign Office and took charge of the preparation for the 1992 ‘Earth Summit’, which achieved the first global agreement on Climate Change.

After a year at Harvard he published a book about international environmental policy – ‘The Greening of Machiavelli’ (Royal Institute of International Affairs, Energy and Environmental Programme, 1994), learnt Russian and spent 1994-1998 in Moscow dealing with Russian economic reform.

After a further period in London on UN matters (including the establishment of the International Criminal Court), he was posted in 2001 to Washington dealing with the consequences of 9/11, the Afghanistan war and the Iraq war.

In 2004-2008 he was posted to Moscow as Ambassador where he managed Britain’s relations with Russia during a turbulent period.

He recently edited a publication Historically Inevitable?: Turning Points of the Russian Revolution (Profile Books, 2016).

Tony is a regular commentator in The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent and other British publications, Director of the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce and a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge.

Sir Tony Brenton has been a patron of the Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society since May 2018.


Libby Howie

Libby Howie

Libby read English Literature at Girton College before embracing her successful career at Sotheby’s where she became the first woman auctioneer at London’s oldest art auction house, before founding her own company. For the last thirty years Libby has been working as an independent adviser and art dealer for international clients.

She is a supporter of the Fitzwilliam Museum through the Marlay Group, and gives occasional talks at the Museum as a volunteer. Since her relocation to Cambridge from London in 2012 Libby has been an active member of the Cambridge Russian-Speaking community and of CamRuSS and has been studying Russian language. She co-curated and helped to organise the art exhibition and the programme of talks Elena Marttila: Art and Endurance in the Siege of Leningrad in Darwin College in January-March 2017.

Libby’s keen interest in Russian language and culture has also been stimulated by her family’s strong links to Russia. Libby’s daughter, who read Russian at Oxford, is married to a Russian and divides her time between London and Moscow.

Libby Howie is a patron of The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society since May 2020.


Dr Rachel Polonsky

Dr Rachel Polonsky

Rachel Polonsky’s scholarly interests include nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century poetry, fiction, and memoir, often with a comparative emphasis, and the place of Russian literature in the overlapping contexts of cultural, intellectual, and political history. She has published numerous essays, articles, and reviews on a wide variety of subjects in scholarly journals and anthologies, and is a contributor to the The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement among other periodicals.

Rachel read English at Jesus College and migrated to Russian Studies as a graduate student, first at Princeton University and later (after a spell working as a journalist in Paris) at Oxford. Her doctoral thesis examined the reception of English Literature in Russia at the turn of the nineteenth century. She returned to Cambridge as a Research Fellow at Emmanuel College in 1994, where her thesis became a book: English literature and the Russian aesthetic renaissance (Cambridge University Press, 1998). In 1998 Rachel moved with her husband and young daughters to Moscow, where they lived for the next ten years. She worked there as an independent scholar and freelance journalist, writing for a wide range of scholarly and periodical publications.

Rachel’s award-winning publication Molotov’s Magic Lantern: Uncovering Russia’s Secret History (Faber and Faber, 2010) is a homage to Russian history and culture which has been translated to several languages.

Rachel is a Fellow and Vice President of Murray Edwards College.

Dr Rachel Polonsky joined the Patrons’ Circle of The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society in August 2020.


Prof Anthony Cross

Prof. Anthony Cross

Anthony Cross was a Professor of Slavonic Studies at the University of Cambridge for 19 years and retired in 2004. He was previously Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Russian at the University of East Anglia 1964-1981 and subsequently Roberts Professor of Russian at the University of Leeds 1981-1985.

He was elected to the British Academy in 1989 and to the Russian Academy of Humanities in 1996. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Institute of Russian Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Pushkin House) in 2010. Internationally known for his work on eighteenth-century Russia and Anglo-Russian cultural relations, he founded the Study Group on Eighteenth-Century Russia in 1968 and edited the Group’s annual Newsletter from 1973 to 2009. Professor Cross has written and edited some twenty-five books and has published over four hundred articles, notes and reviews. Among his principal publications are: N.M. Karamzin: A Study of His Literary Career 1783-1801 (1971); By the Banks of the Thames: Russians in Eighteenth-Century Britain (1980) (Russian translation 2006); The Russian Theme in English Literature from the Sixteenth Century to 1980 (1985); Anglo-Russica: Aspects of Anglo-Russian Relations in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries (1993); By the Banks of the Neva: Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the British in Eighteenth-Century Russia (1996) (Russian translation 2005); Peter the Great through British Eyes (2000) (Russian translation 2013). By the Banks of the Neva was awarded the 1998 Antsiferov Prize for the best work on St Petersburg published by a foreign author in 1996-1997.

His most recent books are: A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture (2013) and In the Lands of the Romanovs: An Annotated Bibliography of English-language First-hand Accounts of Russia, 1613-1917 (2014), both published by Open Book Publishers of Cambridge.

Prof Anthony Cross joined the Patrons’ Circle of The Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society in August 2020.


Professor Emma Widdis

Prof. Emma Widdis

Emma holds the Chair of Slavonic Studies in the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics (MMLL) at the University of Cambridge, and is a Fellow of Trinity College. In Cambridge she teaches 20th century Russian and Soviet literature and culture. Her scholarly interests focus on Russian and Soviet cinema before 1953, and she also works extensively on visual culture, architecture and design, and popular science.

Emma studied Russian and French in the University of Cambridge, and came to film studies as a graduate student. She began her PhD in Cambridge, but spent a large part of it as a Visiting Fellow in Harvard University, and then in Moscow.

Emma has published extensively on Russian and Soviet culture. Her first book, Visions of a New Land: Soviet Film from the Revolution to the Second World War, emerged out of this research, and sought to examine Soviet cinema as cultural geography. Her more recent work, Socialist Senses: Film, Feeling and the Soviet Subject, 1917-1939, traces film’s part in the Soviet project for the “re-education of the senses”. In these books, and in all her work, she is interested in how culture was used to try to create models of Soviet identity.

Emma became a Patron of the Cambridge Russian-Speaking Society in October 2021.

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