Faculty Profile: Judith Pintar

downloadProfessor Judith Pintar sees her new role of Teaching Associate Professor and Acting Director of the undergraduate Major at the iSchool as the completion of a circle that began for her as a Sociology graduate student on this campus in the late 1990s. At that time, there was a collaborative research initiative between the Sociology Department, the History Department and GSLIS, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, also known as the iSchool. The iSchool now offers a double major with REEEC, and its Global Informatics Certificate allows students to pair a REEES or Slavic Major with an Informatics Minor. Professor Pintar is currently teaching a Global Informatics seminar entitled “Seminar in Global Informatics: Narrative AI, Media Manipulation & Election Interference,” which explores “the global interrelationships between information technologies and historical, social psychological, and cultural processes, investigating the historical background of AI-driven election interference across national borders.” Students taking the course will do real-time media research, tracking attempted social and election interference and media representation of these events, collaborate on game design; and learn how to code a basic chatbot.

Professor Pintar is also an active member of Playful by Design, described on their website as a community network “who study and design games…research and develop AR/VR/AI technologies, and who use playful pedagogies in their classrooms.” The third annual Playful by Design Interdisciplinary Game Studies Symposium featuring faculty, students, and members of the CU community will take place on April 2-4th. This year, the Symposium is coordinating with the Migration and Game Design Project, a collaboration of Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program (WGGP) and Playful by Design sponsored by the Illinois Global Institute. The Migration and Game Design Project will be hosting Sudanese game designer Lual Mayen, who was watched by more than 26 million people when he was named a Global Gaming Citizen in 2018. Pintar speaks passionately about her own work on games, describing it as one of her favorite things to do and the  thing that makes her jump out of bed in the morning. Her chosen genre is interactive fiction, and she writes in the programming language Inform 7.

Professor Pintar is currently juggling several projects. She recently received an Investment for Growth grant for Games@Illinois: Playful Design for Transformative Education, an initiative which is seeking to create a suite of interdisciplinary game studies and design programs on this campus. She is also working on a creating an interactive narrative version of the novel she wrote based on her dissertation. She additionally hopes to someday write a book about the significance of potica, a kind of Slovenian bread, for diasporic Slovenes. Along these lines, she is interested in a digital humanities project of archiving intangible culture, including for example, recipes. “I have an interest in collaborative knowledge production, from many angles — from online genetic genealogy, to collaborative game design, to the way that the real estate industry for nearly a century now has collaborated on the racist disenfranchisement of African Americans. What links these seemingly disparate interests is the way that people think and act together. I also have a prevailing interest in propaganda, persuasion, and suggestion. The book I wrote following my dissertation was not an ethnography, but a history of Hypnosis.”

Pintar is also one of the leads for the Critical Methods Series (CMS), which is a new programming initiative for REEEC, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program. The primary aim of CMS is to increase public and student interest in REEES languages and disciplines by creating frameworks and credentials for their professional use in government, education, the private and non-profit sectors, and other areas of national need. Professor Pintar is the faculty coordinator for the initiative on Area Studies Informatics. This concentration is supporting “new partnerships between REEEC and the Illinois Informatics Institute.” Course development and public programming is focused on how REEES+Informatics training can illuminate pressing international issues such as cybersecurity and digital surveillance.

Prior to her position with the I-School, Pintar taught Slavic and REEES courses, including BCS 115: South Slavic Cultures and REES 201: Introduction to Eastern Europe. She says that she greatly enjoyed teaching all the classes she developed for South Slavic studies: “I love teaching the complicated histories of the region, partly because many of the students that I teach have no familiarity and are amazed at the depth of cultures, arts, and histories of the region. It is an endlessly fascinating part of the world.” She also stresses the importance in the current climate of “fake news,” for students to have knowledge on actual historical and political relationships within the REEEC area, as well as between the region and other parts of the world. For this reason, as she says,”I tend to think that REEEC is for all.”

REEES MA Student Profile: Jamie Hendrickson

20190909_133410 (1)Jamie Hendrickson is a first-year M.A. student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and a REEEC FLAS fellow for 2019-2020. Jamie joined the REEES M.A. program after earning her bachelor’s degree in REEES and Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2019, also from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has researched and presented on topics relevant to the current Russian political regime; the Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot’s music and subsequent incarceration; Sergei Nechaev’s political activities in relation to the writing of Dostoevsky’s Demons; and Putin’s Sistema (a system of governance within Russia which is composed of varying complex and informal networks of power and influence). She hopes to focus on both past and present media portrayals of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in her upcoming M.A. thesis. Among the many things she loves about studying at Illinois, passionately sharing and discussing her interests with her instructors has always been her favorite part.

Jamie is currently studying advanced Russian as part of her FLAS fellowship with the aim of applying her language knowledge to her future thesis research. She is also a lead writer for Illinois Physics and its magazine Condensate, where she heads social media projects and writes feature stories concerning current STEM research and researchers both at Illinois and across the world. In the future, she hopes to work in academic journalism full-time and utilize the skills she garnered at Illinois to further strengthen her writing and research.

FLAS Fellow Profile: Justin Balcor

thumbnail_IMG_8521Justin Balcor is a second-year PhD student in Ethnomusicology, and a current 2019-2020 REEEC FLAS fellow studying 3rd year Georgian. Before coming to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Justin received a BA in Music (Percussion) from Berea College, an MME from Eastern Kentucky University, and an MA in Musicology and Ethnomusicology from the University of Kentucky. He previously served as the director of a handful of music ensembles in Kentucky such as the African Drum Ensemble at Centre College, Kentucky Refugee Ministries’ Children’s Choir and SambaLEX, as well as performing with various music groups in the area. At UIUC, he studies the music of the Caucasus, focusing particularly on the crafting and performance of musical instruments primarily located in the Republic of Georgia with a secondary emphasis on those of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly drumming in Ghana and the mbira in Zimbabwe.

Poetry Reading with Liliya Gazizova

By Murad Jalilov

IMG_2493Liliya Gazizova’s performance on January 28th was one of the most memorable, intriguing, and unique readings I have attended. Not only did she read her captivating poetry full of complex cultural and individual themes, but as an individual, Gazizova stands out for her brevity, individuality and multilingualism. The reading was given in Russian and English, with an extensive Q&A section. The Russian portions of the speech were translated into English by Professor Valeria Sobol and graduate student Demetry Ogoltsev, both from the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. It is impossible to encompass Gazizova within a short blog post and do her justice due to the multifaceted nature of her work and individuality.

Gazizova was born in Kazan, Russia, to a Russian family of Tatar origin, and grew up speaking both Russian and Tatar. She started out as a pediatrician after graduating from the Kazan Medical Institute, but after discovering her talent for writing poetry and her passion for literature, she received her second degree at Moscow’s Maxim Gorky Literature Institute. Currently, she teaches Russian Literature at Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey. Her poetry has been translated into multiple languages.

Kazan and her Tatar identity play a crucial role in her poetry. Her hometown of Kazan appears in multiple poems such as “The Mood,” “Don’t Sleep,” and “A Key.” She is often compared to the famous Silver Age poet Anna Akhmatova, who was also of Tatar origin. Gazizova spoke in English about her multilingualism, in which she thanked her father for making her speak only Tatar at home when she was growing up. She continues to translate Tatar poetry into Russian. Her critics noted “oriental” elements  in her poetry, but nevertheless praised her for enriching Russian poetry. Gazizova also commented that due to Tatar belonging to the Turkic language family, it was easier for her to start learning Turkish since she started teaching at Kayseri. Turkey has also played a role in Gazizova’s works. The vivid description of Istanbul, Turkey appears in her poem “Staring at the Turkish Rain,” written before her tenure as a professor in the country. It contains similar “oriental” elements as her poems about Kazan. Gazizova also discussed her experience teaching Russian literature in Turkey, describing the Turkish heart as sentimental and that Turkish students perceive Russian literature differently than Russians.

Another element within her poem that captivated the audience and let Gazizova’s skills as a poet shine is her ability to “paint” with her words. Her poem “A Film-Script Attempt” paints a beautiful, pastoral image of a rainy day, with a sad girl and her grandfather sitting on the porch of an old wooden house. The girl is talking to her doll, while the old man is smoking and trying not to remember the past. The color blue predominates within the film. When questioned about the origins of this poem, she mentioned that she wanted to paint an image that was ingrained within her imagination and that this poem specifically was a favorite among her readers.

Overall, the self-aware, descriptive, and captivating poetry of Liliya Gazizova is influenced by the long Russian poetic tradition and her multilingual and multicultural experience, making her a unique voice within Russian literature.


Murad Jalilov is originally from Azerbaijan. He received his undergraduate degree at Emporia State University and his MAS at the University of Oregon. He is currently a PhD Student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Professor David Cooper Awarded AATSEEL Prize for Best Scholarly Translation

dlcoopREEEC Affiliated Faculty member David Cooper (Associate Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures) has won the AATSEEL Prize for Best Scholarly Translation, for his recent book The Queen’s Court and Green Mountain Manuscripts with Other Forgeries of the Czech Revival. Edited and Translated by David L. Cooper (Ann Arbor, MI, Michigan Slavic Publications, 2018).

From the AATSEEL website:

The “Queen’s Court” and “Green Mountain” manuscripts (Rukopis královédvorský and Rukopis zelenohorský, respectively) belong to one of the stranger textual traditions of the nineteenth century, namely, the practice of bolstering the project of Romantic nationalism by producing forgeries that would make the language’s literary heritage appear richer than it was. Though purported to be centuries-old transcriptions of epic and lyric verse bound to the oral tradition, the texts gathered in this generous anthology were produced in the early nineteenth century by scholars connected to the Czech National Revival. And while philologists working within the same movement were the first to cast doubt on the texts’ authenticity, the earliest English translations of these poems, produced in the 1840s and 1850s, only extended their legend as artifacts of an ancient Slavic literature.

In both the quality of these English translations and the judicious arrangement of the scholarly apparatus that accompanies them, David Cooper has provided an exciting, multifaceted work: a sourcebook of materials from a key episode in Czech literary history, an illustrated reflection on the nature of Romantic forgery, and an inviting presentation of poems whose value demands to be read beyond their bizarre origin. Here is a book that, while firmly rooted in Bohemistics, demands the attention of those engaged more broadly in the study of Romantic tradition, medievalism, and literary hoaxes.

For more information and to see the other book prize winners, click here.

New Library Acquisitions from East View

­by Kit Condill (Assistant Professor, University Library)

The UIUC Library recently made two major additions to its substantial collection of digitized newspapers from the REEE region:  East View’s Pravda Ukrainy Digital Archive (1938-2014) and Novoe Russkoe Slovo Digital Archive (1917-2010).  Pravda Ukrainy was arguably the “newspaper of record” of Soviet Ukraine, but after 1991, it adopted a pro-democracy stance.  Well over 70,000 pages from the newspaper’s 77 years of existence have been digitized for this project.  This is the second full-text-searchable archive of Ukrainian newspapers that the Library has purchased in recent years, following the 2017 acquisition of a digital archive of contemporary newspapers from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict zone in eastern Ukraine (East View’s “Donetsk & Luhansk Newspaper Collection”).

Novoe Russkoe Slovo, published in New York City, was the most prestigious and most influential Russian-language newspaper in North America for nearly 100 years.  This new digital archive contains over 40,000 full-text-searchable pages of this émigré mainstay, which featured articles by Ivan Bunin, Don Aminado, Andrey Sedykh, Arkady Averchenko, and many other leading representatives of the Russian diaspora.

Every word of every article in every issue of these newspapers can now be searched individually or in combination with other search terms, saving an enormous amount of time and effort for scholars and librarians alike.  All photographs, illustrations, and advertisements have also been preserved, allowing researchers to view these newspapers exactly as they appeared on the newsstand.  These important additions to the Library’s massive collection of REEE primary source materials will be of great benefit to scholars and students who are interested in Ukrainian Studies, the Russian diaspora community, and varying perspectives on historical events.


Richard Tempest publishes new book “Overwriting Chaos: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Fictive Worlds”

solzhenitsyn book cover tempest

Richard Tempest’s Overwriting Chaos: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Fictive Worlds (Academic Press, 2019) examines the entirety of Solzhenitsyn’s works, from his early autobiographical novel Love the Revolution through his shorter fiction of the 1990s. Tempest explores Solzhenitsyn’s depiction of the Russian Revolution, Lenin and Stalin, erotic themes, and his interactions with Russian and Western modernism, while placing the author in conversation with a wide range of writers and theorists including Leo Tolstoy, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Judith Butler, and Vladimir Sorokin, to name only a few. Also included is new information about Solzhenitsyn’s life, gathered from Tempest’s extensive correspondence with the writer’s wife and family, whom he thanks at length in the book’s acknowledgements. The book’s appendix also features three interviews with Solzhenitsyn, which Tempest conducted from 2003-2007.

For more information on the book, please see the publisher’s website.


Richard Tempest is an Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign and a REEEC faculty affiliate. Dr. Tempest is also the author of the novel Zolotaya kost, published in Moscow in 2004. More recently, he published the article “Twilight of All the Russias: The Red Wheel as Literary Historiography” in Russian Literature, vol. 100-102, 2018.