Ilona Makhotina studied philology at the Tver State University (Russia). In her Masterʼs thesis she discussed the question of ‘Russian folklore in the repertoire of Romani choirs’. She defended her Ph.D. thesis on ‘Roma and Russian culture: literature and folklore’ at the same university in 2009.
Ilona Makhotina publishes extensively on various topics related to Romani studies in Russia such as traditional culture, folklore, language and history (for instance, ‘Russian Roma verbal repertoire from the Pankov family archive’ [2008, 2009], ‘Phraseology and small folk genres of Russian Roma’ , ‘Record and study of Russian Roma folklore in the 19th–20th centuries’ , ‘The current state of Russian Roma folklore in the Tver region’  etc.). She also illustrated Romani educational books published by the Anti-Discrimination Centre ‘Memorial’ in 2012 and 2013. She serves as a member of the National Selection Board in Russia for the Roma Education Fund Scholarship Program.
Ilona Makhotina is a team member for Russia and the Soviet Union in the literature section of RomArchive.