• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0110

Christesen, Nina Mikhailovna

(1911 – 2001)
  • Born 23 December, 1911, Blagoveshchensk Manchuria Russia
  • Died 8 August, 2001, Melbourne Victoria Australia
  • Occupation Lecturer


Nina Mikhailovna Christesen AM (née Maximoff) pioneered the study of Russian in Australia and founded the Department of Russian Language and Literature at the University of Melbourne in 1946. She remained at the head of the department until her retirement in 1977.

In the 1987 Australia Day Honours Christesen was made a Member of the Order of Australia “in recognition of service to education, particularly to the study of Slavic language and culture”.


Christesen arrived in Brisbane with her parents as a migrant in 1924. She had lived in St Petersburg until 1917 and then the Russian-Manchurian city of Harbin.

She graduated from the University of Queensland, became senior mistress at St Aidan’s Girl’s School in Brisbane, and worked as a tutor at Women’s College. She met her husband to be, Clem Christesen, founder of the magazine Meanjin, after being recommended to him as a language teacher.

In 1945, the Christensen’s moved to Melbourne, when the University of Melbourne offered to support Meanjin and its editor. In 1946, encouraged by members of the University of Melbourne Arts Faculty, Christesen established the Department of Russian Language and Literature, the first such course in Australia.

In 1967 Christesen founded the journal, Melbourne Slavonic Studies (later Australasian Slavonic and East European Studies) and in the same year the Australian Slavists’ Association (which later incorporated the New Zealand contingent).


Published resources

  • Newspaper Article
    • Obituaries - Nina Mikhailovna Christesen, Armstrong, Judith, 2001
  • Book
    • The Christesen Romance, Armstrong, Judith, 1996
    • 150 years, 150 stories: brief biographies of one hundred and fifty remarkable people associated with the University of Melbourne, Flesch, Juliet and McPhee, Peter, 2003
  • Edited Book
    • The Half-open door : sixteen modern Australian women look at professional life and achievement, Grimshaw, Patricia and Strahan, Lynne, c1982
  • Resource

Archival resources

  • The University of Melbourne Archives
    • Meanjin Editorial Records of C B Christesen
    • Christesen, Nina Mikhailovna (1911-2001)
    • Christesen, Nina Mikhailovna (1911-2001)
    • The Half Open Door
  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Dorothy Green, 1943-1990 [manuscript]