Dr Rowan Williams (chair of judges) became Master of Magdalene College Cambridge in 2013 after retiring as Archbishop of Canterbury. He took his doctorate at Christ Church and Wadham College Oxford, working on the Russian Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky. After ordination, he held a series of academic posts, and was arrested and fined for singing psalms as part of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament protest at Lakenheath air-base. He was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, then Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales. He holds honorary doctorates from more than a dozen universities and is a Fellow of the British Academy. Dr Williams is a noted poet and translator of poetry, and, apart from Welsh, speaks or reads nine other languages. He learnt Russian to read the works of Dostoevsky in the original. This led to a book; he has also published studies of Arius, Teresa of Avila, and Sergei Bulgakov, together with writings on a wide range of theological, historical and political themes.


Boris Akunin is the pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, an essayist, literary translator and Russia's author of crime fiction. He joined the historical philological branch of the Institute of Asian and African Countries of Moscow State University as an expert on Japan before becoming a full-time writer in 2000 when he was named Russian Writer of the Year and won the Russian "Anti-Booker" prize. He was editor-in-chief of the 20-volume Anthology of Japanese Literature and is the author of The Writer and Suicide (Moscow, The New Literary Review, 1999). Under his pseudonym Boris Akunin, he wrote the Erast Fandorin novels, three of which have been turned into movies. His works have been translated into 35 languages and have sold 25 million copies.


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Viv Groskop is a journalist, BBC Radio 4 broadcaster and author of stand-up comedy memoir I Laughed, Cried. She has a first in Russian from Selwyn College, Cambridge, and a Masters in Russian Studies from  University College London. She was a contributing editor at Russian Vogue for ten years and is now the Artistic Director of Bath Literature Festival.


Catriona Kelly is Professor of Russian at New College, University of Oxford. She has published widely Russian literature and cultural history, including *Children's World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890-1991* (Yale University Press, 2008) and *Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero* (Granta Books, 2005). She also reviews regularly for The Guardian and The Times Literary Supplement. Her study of Leningrad and St Petersburg since 1957 comes out next year with Yale.


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Douglas Smith is an award-winning historian and translator and the author of four books on Russia. He studied German and Russian at the University of Vermont and has a doctorate in history from UCLA. Before becoming a historian he worked for the US State Department in the former Soviet Union and as a Russian affairs analyst at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich, Germany. His book, 'Former People: the Last Days of the Russian Aristocracy', won the inaugural Pushkin House Russian Book Prize in 2013. He lives in Seattle, Washington, where he is currently writing a biography of Grigory Rasputin.