REEEC Ruckus: ASEEES 2017, Chicago (Pictures)

On Friday, November 10th, friends and alumni of the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center gathered for the inaugural REEEC Ruckus Happy Hour at the ASEEES Conference in Chicago. A toast was given to Diane Koenker (History), who was named new Director of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London. Browse through pictures of the event below.

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Theater of the Revolution: From Prince Igor to the Black Square

December 13th marked the capstone event of the REEEC symposium 10 days that shook the world, the production of From Prince Igor to Black Square. The first part of the production featured scenes from classic Russian operas, including Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin, War and Peace by Sergei Prokofiev, and The Golden Cockerel by Nicolas Rimsky Korsakov.

The second part of the evening was dedicated to an abbreviated first act of Black Square, a new futuristic/dystopian opera in two acts. The libretto of the opera was written by Olga MaslovaRussian-American librettist and Assistant Professor (Theatre) at UIUC and Igor Konyukhov, founder and artistic director of New Opera NYC, who conceived the original idea. Music composed by Russian composer Ilya Demutsky.


The opera tells a tragicomic love story of a couple swept up by the political coup and its ramifications. Inspired by the 1913 Russian opera Victory over the Sun and science-fiction literature of the Lenin era, Black Square explores the universal themes of personal freedom and the price of conformity within both linear and nonlinear language, including the turn-of-the-century absurdist poetry of Alexei Kruchenykh.

The opera invokes themes of voluntary public submission, much like the 1921 Russian novel We by Evgeny Zamiatin or George Orwell’s 1984. In the opera, the protagonists undergo a procedure that removes their ability to reject the government’s philosophy, reflecting on the “anesthetization” and conformity that can occur under the banner of grass-roots nationalism.


For the creators of the opera, the stakes in its key questions are personal. Maslova was born in Brezhnev’s USSR, while Demutsky and Konyukhov were born in the era of perestroika. They represent different states of citizenship — naturalized US citizen, green card applicant, work visa holder — and, thus, possess a unique insider/outsider perspective of current political landscapes. According to their artistic statement, the opera was revised in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and the 2016 US election, in order to reflect how disintegration and anesthetization can occur not only under the guise of oppressive totalitarianism.

The event was followed by a panel with Demutsky, Konyukhov, Maslova, Lilya Kaganovsky (Professor, Slavic Languages & Literatures and Comparative and World Literature, UIUC), and moderator Katherine Syer (associate professor, Department of Theater, UIUC).

Read more about the opera and its creators in The Theatre Times.

Nadia Hoppe is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Her research interests include 20th and 21st century literature, gender studies, and critical theory. Her dissertation traces the use of toilets in Soviet literature, art, and film.

#librarynerd: Reflections on working at the Slavic Reference Service

Over the summer I had the privilege of working as an academic hourly student for the Slavic Reference Service in the International and Area Studies Library. It was an incredible opportunity, both to gain experience in an area studies library and also to work with Joe Lenkart, Jan Adamczyk, Kit Condill, and three other academic hourly students for the Summer Research Lab. During this two-month-long Lab, scholars from U of I and from universities worldwide came to use the Slavic collection and to work with us on individual research projects.

As someone who had never worked in a specialized library, I learned an amazing amount about library operations and completed a variety of projects surrounding the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution events happening around campus. But what really made the experience great was working with the Slavic Reference Service staff. It was truly a privilege to see Joe, Jan and Kit interact with the Lab patrons. They each have that rare ability to connect with a patron and to see the value in each person’s research, and it makes them invaluable resources to anyone interested in Slavic area research. Their knowledge of the collection is far-reaching, and I will strive toward their enthusiasm in future positions.

While I was there, my primary role was an instructor, teaching the scholars how to use the library. I got to meet people with broad research interests, and enjoyed speaking with everyone and sharing their excitement in the research process. This was a deep dive into Slavic culture for me, and during the course of the summer I learned to read cyrillic and am in the process of learning to speak Russian, which will be very helpful when I travel to Latvia for a library conference! The International and Area Studies library was also undergoing a reclassification of the collection, and I assisted with print and microfilm relabeling (#librarynerd moment). While I admit it was sometimes a lot of new knowledge and skills thrown at me at once, the challenging environment led to great experiences I will remember forever. I loved creating a poster for the library’s “100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution” exhibit, and diving into propaganda posters and image collections from that time was spectacular.

Overall, I absolutely loved the experience working with the Slavic Reference Service, and I encourage anyone (whether you have a subject interest or not!) to stop in and meet the staff. There’s something for everyone to learn at the Slavic Reference Service.


Delaney Bullinger is a current MLIS student in the School of Information Sciences at UIUC. She is originally from the Pacific Northwest, and she received her B.A. in Music and English from Linfield College. She can be contacted at

REPOST: John Randolph (REEEC Director) and Team Win Mellon Grant

This article “Humanists Win Major Grant to Explore the Future of the Historical Record” was originally published on 1/10/2018 at

The Humanities Without Walls Consortium, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, fosters interdisciplinary, collaborative research, teaching, and scholarship in the humanities, sponsoring new areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation.   On Thursday, December 14, the Consortium announced the results of its latest research challenge initiative, “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.”  It awarded one of these grants—a multi-year investment of $138,360—to a team of humanists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The award will support their multi-year research project, titled “The Classroom and the Future of the Historical Record.”

This project will investigate recent, profound shifts in how the sources of our knowledge about the past are made.  Mobile digital technologies have allowed documentation to become an ubiquitous practice that extends far beyond traditional memory institutions such as libraries and scholarly presses.  The Internet is not an archive in a professional sense, but it is filled with a vast panoply of artifacts—images, sounds, films, texts, and data—digitized by people around the world, from originals of their own choosing.  Many of these sources can be difficult to interpret or cite, however.  Digitization often results in radical de-contextualization, with provenance and proof of authenticity being lost along the way.  Much of this new historical record is being built on proprietary platforms provided by IT corporations (Facebook, Twitter).  Their primary aim is to commercialize private data, rather than to preserve and sustain knowledge of the past as a common good.

Over the course of the three years of the study, students, faculty, and staff from the three participating universities will explore how higher education should respond to this shifting environment for the production of history.  They will develop education-based practices for documentary and data literacy work in the 21st century, and partner with students to create better models for producing, preserving, and publishing the past.

At Michigan State University, Sharon Leon and Brandon Locke from the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR) will develop a curriculum to teach students how to produce and analyze historical data.  At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Patrick Jones, William G. Thomas, and Aaron Johnson will work with K-12 teachers to bring their innovative digitization project “History Harvest” to Nebraska public schools.  Scholars at the University of Illinois, meanwhile, will build a curriculum that works across the entire life cycle of sources, from their initial identification, to their preservation and publication, to their use within education, research, and public history.  (Kathryn J. Oberdeck, Daniel Gilbert, Bonnie Mak, and John Randolph (Primary Investigator) will lead the group in Urbana-Champaign.)

Humanities Without Walls funds will be used to support the work of graduate and undergraduate students on the project.  In particular, graduate students will be made lead researchers on the project, as part of a special Graduate Laboratory Practicum.   Working as a cohort, they will collaborate across institutions to develop documentary applications, skills, and practices that they can carry over into their post-graduate careers, in a range of fields.   Over the course of the project, HWW funds will also allow the team to convene for workshops where they can discuss the results of their local experiments and prepare for joint presentations of their ideas.  The group intends, as well, to share its applications and model curricula through journal publications and open educational resources.

New Directions Lecture: Emilia Zankina, “Theorizing Populism East and West”

On November 16, 2017, Dr. Emilia Zankina presented a New Directions Lecture entitled “Theorizing Populism East and West.”  Dr. Zankina is the Provost and an Associate Professor of Political Science at American University in Bulgaria.  Her lecture focused on defining populism and differentiating the populist waves that have swept across Western and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Zankina presented a series of characteristics that populist parties share.  The first, and perhaps most important, is charismatic leadership.  She posited a test, asking ‘If the leader were hit by a truck tomorrow, would the character of the party change?’  If the character of the party would indeed change, then the party could be populist because its character would not be the product of institutionalization, but rather of the individual leader.  Examples of charismatic leaders include Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump.

However, charismatic leadership is not the only characteristic that distinguishes populist parties.  The portrayal of populist parties as ‘movements’ is a second characteristic.  Populist parties are anti-establishment and advocate popular sovereignty, so leaders tend to label them ‘movements,’ in order to dissociate them from the political establishment and highlight their link to the people.  Third, populist parties share informal organizational structures because they are generally built from the personal network of the charismatic leader.  Fourth, populist parties espouse vague policy platforms that focus on hot-button issues, such as immigration.  Finally, populist parties thrive under crisis conditions, such as the refugee crisis in Hungary or the UK, or the 2008 financial crisis in the United States.  Regardless of whether the crisis is real or imagined, it enables the charismatic party leader to emerge as a messianic figure.

Dr. Zankina also stated that populism belongs exclusively to neither the right nor the left of the political spectrum.  It inhabits a grey zone between democracy and authoritarianism.  On the far right of the political spectrum, populist parties are also characterized by nativism and authoritarianism.  On the far left, they are characterized by anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, and redistributive economics, which is evident from Latin American politics.  Scholars have posited the populist wave across Europe is the result of globalization, which has upended traditional social cleavages, such as the right-left cleavage.  However, Dr. Zankina stated that this argument is not relevant in Eastern Europe because the only viable cleavage is the pro-/anti-Russian cleavage.  Rather, she pointed out that the populist wave in Eastern Europe may be the result of transition fatigue and low governmental trust.

Dr. Zankina concluded that populism ultimately will not be a fleeting phenomenon.  Populist parties shift political rhetoric toward immediate action grounded in informal institutions and the charismatic leader.  They therefore undermine procedural democracy.  Populist parties attract voters across the political and economic spectrum.  The shift in rhetoric toward immediate action, the prioritization of informal institutions, and the elevation of charismatic leaders to the height of messianic figures entail that voters will become more politically immature over time.  Though establishment politicians have attempted to address the issues that currently animate populist parties across Europe, populist parties are not wedded to these issues.  When these issues lose relevance, they will simply transfer their energy to new issues that instigate popular anxiety.  Populism should therefore be interpreted as a lasting phenomenon in Western politics.

Kathleen Gergely is a second year student in the Master of Arts in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.  Her research interests include political Islam in the North Caucasus, Russian counterterrorism policy, and regional administration in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation.


REPOST: A career devoted to Ukraine, Endowment in honor of Dmytro Shtohryn established at Illinois

This article was originally posted by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on February 5th, 2018 and written by Samantha Jones Toal. Read the article here.

The article details the Dmytro Shtohryn’s commitment to Ukrainian studies at Illinois. Shtohryn’s daughter, Liuda Shtohryn’s recent gift to the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures made possible the establishment of the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies.

Dmytro Shtohryn may have retired as a professor at Illinois in 1995, but his commitment to the university and the field of Ukrainian studies remains as vibrant and meaningful as the Ukrainian paintings hanging on the walls of his home.

Shtohryn, 94, and his wife, Eustachia, still live in Champaign, where they’ve lived since 1960, when Shtohryn turned down a professional librarianship position at Harvard to join Laurence Miller, professor of library administration and the first head of the Slavic and East European Library (SEEL), and the late Ralph Fisher, professor of history and the first director of the Russian and East European Center (later renamed the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC)), in their quest to teach and expand the Russian and Slavic collections at Illinois. The native of Ukraine is credited with establishing Ukrainian studies as a discipline at Illinois.

The Shtohryn’s home is highlighted with Ukrainian décor on the walls and resting in glass cases, and their two children bear traditional Ukrainian names. On their living room table rests a handsome statue of Taras Shevchenko, the most famous poet of Ukraine, from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America honoring Dmytro and Eustachia for their community service.

“You can recognize from our accent that we speak Ukrainian in our home,” Shtohryn said. “We usually correspond with our daughter through the computer—we write to her in Ukrainian but use the Latin alphabet.”

Now, Shtohryn’s daughter, Liuda, is honoring her father’s career by establishing the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures at Illinois. The endowment for the department will be used for conferences, symposia, individual lectures, and other learning opportunities on the topic of Ukrainian studies.

“There will be a number of symposiums and lectures not only covering the literature and language, but also Ukrainian culture, history and so forth,” Shtohryn said. “The endowment will also be giving money to the Program of Ukrainian Studies in the REEEC and its unique institution, the Summer Research Lab on Russia and East European Countries, and so maybe even next year we will have some papers on Ukrainian topics through the endowment.”

Born in Ukraine, Shtohryn’s life was upended by World War II, and after the conflict he lived in a displaced persons camp in Augsburg, Germany, near Munich. While there, he attended the Ukrainian Free University.

In 1950, Shtohryn immigrated to Minneapolis, where he worked as a physical laborer while spending evenings going to school and volunteering as a young leader of the local unit of Ukrainian Boy Scouts (similar to American Boy Scouts).

He married Eustachia (née Barwinska) in 1955, and the pair moved to Ottawa, Canada, where Shtohryn attended the University of Ottawa and received a bachelor’s degree in library science and a master’s and doctoral degrees in Slavic studies. His PhD dissertation was about Pavlo Fylypovych, a Ukrainian renowned literary scholar and poet, who was arrested by the Soviet KGB in 1934 and shot in the Karelian forest in northwest Russia with hundreds of other Ukrainian political prisoners in 1935.

The opening of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at Illinois in 1959 caught Shtohryn’s eye. He joined the faculty at Illinois in 1960 as the Cold War was heating up.

During his 35 years at the university, Shtohryn, who served in the SEEL, was one of its key members who built the Ukrainian program from the ground up, obtaining a collection that includes hard copies, microfilm, and other forms of published materials.

When he began his work at the university, there were about 7,000 books devoted to Russian and other Slavic studies at Illinois.  Today the university boasts over half a million holdings, and is one of the largest collections of Slavic and East European resources in the country.  Its Ukrainian collection might be recognized as the largest one west of the Library of Congress.  In fact, it is rivaled only by Harvard, Columbia, New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.  Scholars come to Illinois from across the world each summer to conduct research at the REEEC’s Summer Research Laboratory.  In 1995, Dmytro and Eustachia Shtohryn established an endowment at the University of Illinois Foundation to further enrich the collection he’d been so pivotal in creating.

During his work as cataloging librarian at the SEEL, Shtohryn taught a course of Ukrainian language, and, with Ralph Fisher, a course of history of Ukraine.  In the 1970s he established courses of Ukrainian literature in translation and later a course of Ukrainian culture, and thus taught a multitude of classes until 2000.

In the 1980s he organized, with REEEC sponsorship, the Ukrainian Research Program which organized and conducted (within the framework of the Summer Research Lab) 27 (including 25 annual) international conferences on Ukrainian subjects.  From 1982 to 2009 those scholarly meetings were attended by approximately 2,500 participants, including 276 speakers and discussants from 24 countries in five continents.

Besides his library work and teaching Ukrainian courses in the 1970s, Shtohryn was elected to the University Senate. For several years he was visiting professor of Ukrainian literature at the University of Ottawa, the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, Germany, and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome, Italy.

He has authored and edited five books in English and Ukrainian and was editor and member of editorial boards for five English and Ukrainian scholarly periodicals.  He is author of nearly 100 articles on American librarianship and Ukrainian culture, especially Ukrainian literature.In the introduction to prominent Ukrainian scholar Jaroslav Rozumnyj’s “Twentieth Century Ukrainian Literature: Essays in Honor of Dmytro Shtohryn,” the author declares, “For over forty years, the Ukrainian presence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been synonymous with Dmytro Shtohryn.”

And with the newest endowment from his daughter, Shtohryn’s impact will be even deeper for years to come.

If you’d like to help us create a vibrant culture of learning for students through the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies please make your gift today or contact us at

Benjamin J Lough (REEEC affiliated faculty) receives Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement

The following is an excerpt from newsletter sent by Illinois International Programs on February 1st, 2018. The full article can be read here.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois International Programs are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017/18 International Achievement Awards. The International Achievement Awards recognize outstanding alumni, faculty, and students whose exceptional work, service, and/or scholarship has made a significant, global impact.

The recipients will be celebrated for their work at the annual International Achievement Awards Banquet on April 4, 2018 at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center in Urbana. The recipients will also participate in a panel discussion titled “Connecting Health & Service in a Global Context” on April 4, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. Breakfast will be provided. The panel is free and open to the public but a reservation is requested.

The Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement is presented to an Illinois faculty member with profound international accomplishments in teaching, research and public service. Dr. Benjamin Lough is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Faculty Director of International Service at the Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis. He also works as Senior Research Associate for the Center for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, and Senior Researcher for the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program. He is Quantitative Research Director of Campus Compacts’ Global SL, Associate Editor of Voluntaristics Review, serves on the Board of the Building Bridges Coalition, and co-leads the tripartite Global Research Agenda on Volunteering for Peace and Development in partnership with the UNV programme. He is also lead author of the 2018 United Nations State of the Worlds Volunteerism Report. Dr. Lough’s research interests include: volunteering, civic engagement, community development, and non-profit management. Prior to beginning his work at the University of Illinois, Dr. Lough was an independent consultant with the Department of Human and Social Services of American Samoa and the Foundation for International and Community Assistance in Armenia and the Republic of Georgia. In addition to considerable research and teaching experience, Dr. Lough worked for two years as a clinical social worker. He earned his BS in Sociology in 2000 and his MSW in 2003 from Brigham Young University, and his PhD in 2010 from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

To read about the other recipients, please click here.