Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Centre for Democratic Futures
(023) 8059 7536

Dr Claire Le Foll PhD (Paris), PhD

Director of the Parkes Institute, Associate Professor of East European Jewish History and Culture

Dr Claire Le Foll's photo

Dr Claire Le Foll is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Southampton.

I specialise in the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. I joined the Parkes Institute and History department in September 2009.

I received my BA and MA degrees in History from Paris-Sorbonne (Paris I) and my PhD at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales (Paris). I was a post-doctoral research at the university of Portsmouth (2006-2007, funded by a Hanadiv Foundation post-doctoral fellowship) and at the Franco-Russian Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences in Moscow (2007-2008) funded by a grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (bourse Lavoisier).

My interest for East-European Jewish history was born from an initial research on Marc Chagall, his first teacher Yehuda Pen, and the art school that was created in Vitebsk at the turn of the 20th century. My first book about the Vitebsk Art School explores the emergence of a national Jewish art in the context of Late Imperial Russia and of the Russian avant-garde. I continue to be interested in the visual history of Jews in Eastern Europe. I co-organized an international conference in Vitebsk to commemorate the 100th anniversary of ‘The Vitebsk people’s art school and its legacy (1918-1922)’.

My dissertation was an extensive if not ‘total’ exploration of the still under-researched history of Jews in the Belarusian provinces of the Russian empire before the revolution of 1917. My second book La Biélorussie dans l’histoire et l’imaginaire des Juifs de l’Empire russe, 1772-1905 (Honoré Champion, 2017) (Belarus in the history and imaginary of Russian Jews) analyses the specific Jewish experience in Belorussia with regard to political, socio-economic, cultural and religious matters. This work offers an in-depth analysis of the relationships between Jews and Belorussians as well as their mutual representations in literature and art.

I expanded this interest in Belarusian-Jewish relations chronologically by looking at different aspects of their interactions in the 1920s and 1930s. I participated in the project ‘Kinojudaica: The Image of the Jews in the Russian and Soviet cinema' (2008). I translated from Russian into French the Belarusian section of the "Book of the pogroms", a collection of documents on the Russian Civil War pogroms (published in Paris in 2010). I also contributed to an international research project organized by the French Centre d’Études des Mondes Russe, Caucasien, Centre-asiatique et Centre-Européen (EHESS/CNRS) on ‘The Constitution of Human and Social Sciences In Russia: Networks And Circulation Of Models Of Knowledge From The 18th century to the 1920s’ with a research on the Belorussian Institute of Culture and its Jewish section. More recently, I got interested in Soviet children literature in Yiddish and Belarusian languages in the interwar period, looking also at illustrations for children books.

Over the years, I have gained proficiency in Russian, Yiddish and Belorussian, and basic knowledge of Polish, Hebrew and German. I have worked extensively with archives in Eastern Europe, Israel and the US.

Research interests

I am interested in the inter-ethnic relations in the Western borderlands of the tsarist and Soviet empires, and more specifically in Belarus. I research the political and cultural interactions in literature, art, cinema and the circulation of knowledge among various ethnic groups.

I am currently working on a biography of Zmitrok Biadulia, a Belarusian writer of Jewish origin who is a key cultural and political figure in Belarusian history. His multifaceted life and personality will allow me to analyse various aspects of the Jewish-Belarusian interactions between 1905 and 1941 : the emergence of a Belarusian national idea (through Biadulia’s role as editor of the first Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva), the formation of a Belarusian literature (through analysis of Biadulia’s short stories, poems, novels and plays), the rapprochement between Belarusian and Jews (that Biadulia consistently promoted), and the study of popular Belarusian culture (through his interest in folk theatre and ethnography). Biadulia’s rich political and cultural activities, as well as his complex relation to his own Jewishness, offer us an insight into the process of creation of a Belarusian national culture in the context of the multi-ethnic Soviet republic of Belarus where Jews were recognized as the second most important nation, at a period of rapid and wide political changes.

Modules I am teaching this year:

HIST 3072/3073: Society and Culture in the Late Russian Empire, 1881-1917. Part 1 and 2.

HIST 2031: Stalin and Stalinism

HIST 1058: Russia in Revolution 1905-1917

HIST 6093: Jewish Society and Culture in Eastern Europe


Areas where I can offer postgraduate supervision:

I can offer supervision on topics connected with the history and culture of Jews in Eastern Europe or with the history of national minorities in Russia and the Soviet Union.

Dr Claire Le Foll
Building 65, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton SO17 1BF, United Kingdom

Room Number : 65/2071

Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings