Catherine Merridale photographed by Mary Bernard

Photo credit: Mary Bernard

Catherine Merridale

Catherine Merridale read History at King’s College Cambridge.  She went on to specialise in Russia, and held a series of posts at British universities, including Cambridge, Bristol and London.  She became a full-time writer in 2014.

The inspiration for her work has been the process of momentous change in Russia.  When she made her first visit to Moscow in the early 1980s, the place was still the centre of the Soviet world.  Returning to the city almost every year since then, she witnessed Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika at first hand, sharing the excitement and new hope, and she went on to endure the crime and chaos of the 1990s (when her borrowed Moscow flat came ready-stocked with two neurotic chickens and a geiger counter).  More recently, she has watched as people’s lives have changed again under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin.

Catherine was a pioneer of oral history in Russia, trudging round the wreckage of the old empire from Ukraine and Georgia in the south to the sites of mass graves near the Arctic Circle.  She has traced Lenin’s footsteps in St Petersburg and explored the Kremlin’s labyrinth of power.  Her writing continues to incorporate the voices of real people.  Having watched at least one ideological universe implode, she is also particularly sensitive to changing perspectives on the past.  Her work includes radio broadcasts, essays, journalism and award-winning books. Some of her writing for Engelsberg Ideas can be read here.

Catherine lives in Oxfordshire with her husband, Frank Payne.