BA (Cambridge University), MA (The Courtauld Institute of Art), PhD (The Courtauld Institute of Art)


Contact details

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House




Maria Mileeva has recently completed her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she currently teaches courses on Russian twentieth century art at both graduate and undergraduate level. Her doctoral thesis examined exhibitions of Western art in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s with a particular focus on the history of the State Museum of New Western Art (GMNZI), Moscow. Previously, she read Art History at Jesus College, Cambridge. Maria has also worked as an Assistant Curator of ‘Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970’, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in autumn 2008. Her research interests include cultural exchange between Russia and the West over the course of the 20th century, with particular focus on the politics of international exhibition design and the construction of art historical narratives as a means of defining national identity and cultural policy. Her latest research project explores the discourse of centre and periphery in Soviet cultural and institutional history by looking at a network of regional art museums in the peripheral outposts of Tbilisi, Yerevan, Baku, Kiev, Kharkov, Saratov and Kazan. She is the co-director of the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC). 




The course investigates Russian twentieth century artists crossing cultural and geographical boundaries, making contact with developments across Europe and America, either through the trauma of emigration, or deliberate cultural export, through exhibitions, publications, and collaborations. Case studies might include Russian artists in Rome in 1917, Matisse in Moscow, Russian artists in cubist Paris, connections with the Bauhaus, Lissitzky among Dadaists, Alfred H. Barr in Russia, Gabo in emigration, Le Corbusier’s work in Moscow, Malevich in Poland, the 1927 exhibition of French art in Moscow, Chagall’s return to Russia, Soviet and non-soviet Russian artists at the 1925 Paris exhibition, American connections with Russian art, and so on, as well as changing ideologies that constantly re-assessed artists’ recognition or survival.

Primary sources will be investigated on visits to curators in archives, exhibitions, museums and sites in Russia. These visits include presentations and discussions of diverse research aims and methodologies.  Within the study of Russian art, the course will introduce you to research at higher levels investigating the commissioning, making, meaning, and purpose of works in a radically shifting cultural and political environment. The dissertation will provide you with disciplined, useful experience in defining and investigating your subject and then structuring, writing and editing a thesis. 

The course will interest students of twentieth-century art history, politics, cultural studies, and Russian Studies. Russian language is not essential. German or French may be equally useful. There are intensive language classes are available at the LSE.


This course will seek to examine the history, theory and practice of Russian Constructivism. Chronologically positioned in the interwar period, the development of Russian Constructivism will be discussed in relation to examples of art, architecture, and design. The start of the course will locate the origins of Constructivism in the social and political context of the October Revolution. Outlining key themes and interrelationships - such as utopia and revolution, artistic experiment and mass culture – this course will relate artistic production of the Russian avant-garde to the demands of politics and cultural experiment in the turbulent period of 1920s Russia. The second half of the course will examine the influence and role of Russian Constructivism on artistic and theoretical developments in Germany, France, Poland and Hungary.  We will examine the art and writings of Aleksandr Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitzky, Naum Gabo, László Maholy-Nagy, and Walter Gropius, among others. As well as dealing with the historical context of Russian Constructivism, the course will critically discuss and examine the discourses of the terms Modernism, Avant-Garde and Non-Objectivity in their application to the theory and practice of Constructivism both in Russia and abroad.


Christina Lodder, Maria Kokkori & Maria Mileeva (eds.), Utopian Reality: Reconstructing Culture in Revolutionary Russia and Beyond (Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2013)


Session co-chair with Dr Maria Kokkor, Russian Avant-Garde and the First World War: Culture, Contacts, and Contexts, College Art Association Conference 2014, Chicago, February 2014

Session chair, Constructing Marxist Narratives: Soviet Art and its Institutions in the 1920s and 1930s, ASEEES 45th Annual Convention in Boston, Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, November 2013

Co-organiser with Dr Maria Kokkori of Utopia I: Russian Art and Culture in 1900-1930 and Utopia II: Russian Art and Culture, 1930-1989, two conferences organised at the Research Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art in collaboration of the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC), May and November 2011


'Soviet Art History: Historical Narratives in the Making', Annual Convention in Boston, Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), November 2013

‘Objects for Sale?: Showcasing Western Goods in Soviet Exhibitions’, paper for a conference on 'Selling the Samovar': Consumerism, Industry and Commerce in Russian Art and Culture, British Library, London in collaboration with the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC), July 2013

'The Politics of Exhibiting Western Revolutionary Art in the Soviet Union during the 1930s', Annual Convention in New Orleans, Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), November 2012

'Socialist Realist Art and the Influence of the West', paper for a conference on Socialist Realist Art: Production, Consumption, Aesthetics, The Södertörn University, Stockholm, in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, October 2012

'Utopia in Retreat: The Closure of the State Museum of New 
Western Art (GMNZI), 1948', paper for a conference on Utopia II: Russian Art and Culture, 1930-1989, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, November 2011

'Soviet Culture for Export: The case of the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (VOKS)', paper for a conference on Covert Cultures: Art and the Secret State, 1911 - 1989, The Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, February 2011


Russian and International Constructivism, art and politics, international exhibition design, centre and periphery, exile and emigration, national identity