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Polly Corrigan is a PhD Candidate in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Her research focuses on the systems and structures of the Soviet political police in the 1930s, and the way that they prosecuted political crimes. She is a teaching assistant in the department, leading seminars in Intelligence and War Studies.

She holds an MA in Politics, Security and Integration from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at UCL, and she attended The University of Liverpool for her undergraduate studies.

She also has over a decade of experience as a journalist working for British national newspapers, including The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.

Doctoral Research

The Soviet political police and their relationship with Soviet writers during the 1930s.

In the 1930s, the Soviet political police were responsible for the so-called Great Terror, a campaign against Soviet citizens from all walks of life during which thousands were arrested and executed for crimes that they did not commit. The events of this decade are probably the most controversial in Soviet history – and still the least understood.

This thesis uses recently released documents from the security archives of former Soviet republics to shed new light on the Soviet political police during this period. While we already know that their activities were extremely effective, these documents demonstrate that the political police were also beset by bureaucratic upheaval, reorganisation and confusion. These insights allow a timely reconsideration of the idea of the Great Terror as a carefully masterminded plan, demonstrate the great differences in the way that the terror unfolded across different Soviet republics, and open new questions on the nature of the prosecution of political crimes against one particular group: writers.  

During the 1930s the relationship between the political police and writers was hugely significant because such a large part of the ideological burden of this era fell on writers, in terms of educating a newly literate population so that they could participate and contribute their share in the new Soviet society. However, here too there were great regional variations, with writers in Moscow treated very differently from their counterparts in Kyiv. A deeper understanding of these differences is an important addition to our comprehension of the Soviet political police in this tumultuous decade.



  • Corrigan, Polly, ‘Walking the Razor’s Edge: the Origins of Soviet Censorship’ Book chapter in ‘Illiberal Liberation 1917-1941: The Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution’. Edited by Lara Douds, James Harris & Peter Whitewood, Bloomsbury, expected 2019.
  • Corrigan, Polly, ‘Political Police Archives in Ukraine and Georgia: A Research Note’, Journal article accepted by Europe-Asia Studies, expected 2020.
  • Corrigan, Polly, ‘Using the Security Archives in Ukraine and Georgia’, blog post for the Open Archives project: 

‘The 'Garroted Renaissance': language and nationalism in the 1930s’, blog post for The Language of 'Authoritarian' Regimes

Research Interests

History and culture of Soviet intelligence, particularly under Stalin; Culture of intelligence organisations; History of the Soviet Union and the Soviet regions.


Professor Michael Goodman; Professor Stephen Lovell