Beth Holmgren

Beth Holmgren

Professor of Polish and Russian Studies

External address: 
316 Languages Building, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90259, Durham, NC 27708-0259
(919) 660-3140

Beth Holmgren, a full professor of Polish Studies and Russian Studies, has published widely on Polish literature, theater, popular culture, and film; Russian literature, film, and women's studies; and Russian and Polish artists and performers in the North American diaspora.  Her recent scholarship focuses on Polish Jewish cultural history of the interwar period.  Her most recent book, Warsaw is My Country (2018), is a cultural biography of Krystyna Bierzynska, an acculturated Jewish Varsovian who survived the Holocaust and served as a 16-year-old orderly in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Holmgren was elected President of the Association of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2008 (this is the largest organization in the Slavic field outside the region) and elected President of the Association for Women in Slavic Studies for the 2003-2005 term.  She is currently finishing her second stint as chair of Duke's Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies (2010-2015, 2016-2019).  Holmgren holds secondary appointments in Theater Studies and Gender/Sexuality/Feminist Studies. She is listed as a core faculty member for Jewish Studies.  For her updated curriculum vitae. see her site at


  • Ph.D., Harvard University 1987
  • B.A., Grinnell College 1975

Holmgren, Beth. Starring Madame Modjeska: On Tour in Poland and America. Indiana University Press, 2011.

Goscilo, H., and B. Holmgren. Poles apart: Women in modern Polish culture, 2006.

Holmgren, Beth, Beth, ed. The Russian Memoir. Northwestern University Press, 2003.

Вербицкая, А. н. а. с. т. а. с. і. я., and Beth Holmgren. Keys to Happiness A Novel. Indiana University Press, 1999.

Holmgren, Beth. Rewriting Capitalism. University of Pittsburgh Pre, 1998.

Goscilo, Helena, and Beth Holmgren. Russia--women--culture. Indiana University Press, 1996.

Holmgren, Beth. Women's Works in Stalin's Time. Indiana University Press, 1993.

Holmgren, Beth. “A Whole World of Mythology.” Edited by Jennifer Baumgartner. Women’S Review of Books. Old City Publishing, February 2019.

Holmgren, Beth. “Their Own Wars: A Review of Svetlana Alexievich's THE UNWOMANLY FACE OF WAR: AN ORAL HISTORY OF WOMEN IN WORLD WAR II.” Women’S Review of Booksbbbbbb. Old City Publishing, December 2017.

Holmgren, B. “The Cult of Forbidden Thoughts: The Big Green Tent by Liudmila Ulitskaya, translated by Polly Gannon.” Women’S Review of Books. Philadelphia, PA: Old City Publishing, July 1, 2016.

Holmgren, Beth. “Cabaret Nation: The Jewish Foundations of Kabaret Literacki, 1920-1929.” In Poland and Hungary Jewish Realities Compared, edited by Francois Guesnet, Howard Lupovitch, and Antony Polonsky, 273–88. Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 2019.

Holmgren, Beth. “The Cabaret Song: Its Multi-Ethnic Pedigree and Transnational Adventures, 1919-1968.” In Being Poland A New History of Polish Literature and Culture since 1918, edited by Tamara Trojanowska, Joanna Nizynska, and Przemyslaw Czaplinski. University of Toronto Press, 2018.

Holmgren, Beth. “Tending Andersland: The Calling of Feliks Konarski and Nina Olenska.” In Diaspora Polska w Ameryce Polnocnej, edited by Rafal Raczynski and Katarzyna Morawska, 513–28. Gdynia, Poland: Muzeum Emigracji w Gdyni, 2018.

Holmgren, B. “From the legs up: The rise and retreat of the chorus girl in interwar Poland.” In Transgressive Women in Modern Russian and East European Cultures: From the Bad to the Blasphemous, 13–29, 2016. Full Text

Holmgren, B. “Russia on their mind: How hollywood pictured the Soviet front.” In Americans Experience Russia: Encountering the Enigma, 1917 to the Present, 105–23, 2013. Full Text

Holmgren, B. “The Polish Actress Unbound: Tales of Modrzejewska/Modjeska.” In The Other in Polish Theater and Drama, edited by Bill Johnston and Kathleen Cioffi, 57–77. Slavica Publishers, 2010.

Holmgren, B. “Ne-natural’naia shkola:Semeistvo Tal'nikovykh Panaevoi.” In Trava: Punkty, edited by Sergei Ushakin and Elena Trofimova, 45–72. Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2009.

Holmgren, B. “Jean de Reszke.” In POLISH-AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA, edited by James Pula, 2009.

Holmgren, B. “Edouard de Reszke.” In POLISH-AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA, edited by James Pula, 2009.

Holmgren, B. “Aristocrats and Working Girls: Towards a History of Russian Emigre Women in the United States".” In MAPPING THE FEMININE: RUSSIAN WOMEN AND CULTURAL DIFFERENCE, edited by Hilde Hoogenboom, Catharine Nepomnyashchy, and Irina Reyfman, 231-47., 2008.


Holmgren, B. “"Cabaret Identity: How Best to Play a Jew or Pass as a Gentile in Wartime Poland".” Journal of Jewish Identities July 2014, no. Issue 7, number 2 (July 2014): 15–33. Open Access Copy

Holmgren, B. “The Lives of Secret Others.” East European Film Bulletin, August 2013.

Blobaum, R., B. Holmgren, and E. Wampuszyc. “Warsaw 2013.” East European Politics and Societies 27, no. 2 (May 1, 2013): 185–86. Full Text Open Access Copy

Holmgren, B. “Acting Out: Qui pro Quo in the Context of Interwar Warsaw.” East European Politics and Societies 27, no. 2 (May 1, 2013): 205–23. Full Text Open Access Copy

Holmgren, Beth. “Toward an Understanding of Gendered Agency in Contemporary Russia.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 38, no. 3 (March 2013): 535–42. Full Text Open Access Copy

Holmgren, B. “The art of playing patriot: The polish stardom of Helena Modjeska.” Theatre Journal 62, no. 3 (October 1, 2010): 349–71. Open Access Copy

Holmgren, B. “War, Women, and Song: The Case of Hanka Ordonowna.” Aspasia: The International Yearbook of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern European Women’S and Gender History 2 (2010): 139–54.


Holmgren, Beth. “Jerzy Jurandot.” Edited by Cristina Sandru and Roman Koropeckyj. Literary Encyclopedia, 2017.

Selected Grants

"Twenty Years Forward: The Contents and Discontents of Modern Russian Feminism," A Documentary awarded by Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2008 to 2009


Cabaret Warsaw: Yiddish and Polish Hits of the 1920s and 1930s. Curator.… (2012)


Cabaret Warsaw: Yiddish- and Polish-Language Hits of the 1920s and 1930s. In collaboration with Jane Peppler, a professional musician and literary translator from Yiddish, researched, performed, and produced a collection of 20 representative songs from the literary cabarets and kleynkunst revi-teatrs of interwar Warsaw, the capital of both Polish and Yiddish-language culture between the two world wars. CD produced with funding from Duke University’s Collaborative Arts Development Grant. June 2012. Concert given in Bryan Center, June 2, 2012. Second concert given at Southern Conference for Slavic Studies, Greensboro, NC, March 22, 2013.

Twenty Years Forward: Modern Russian Feminism. Producer, Writer.… (2009)


35-minute documentary written and produced by Beth Holmgren and filmed and edited by Igor Sopronenko, Signature Media Productions LLC. This film focuses on the collaboration between Russian and American scholars and activists and its genesis of Russian women's studies on both sides of the ocean. TWENTY YEARS FORWARD pieces together the history of this collaboration and assesses its consequences through interviews with 18 different subjects.