2016 Summer Research Laboratory Reception and Slavic Reference Service 40th Anniversary Celebration

Faculty, staff, students, and Summer Research Lab (SRL) participants celebrated the beginning of SRL and the 40th anniversary of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) with a reception at the University YMCA on June 21, 2016. Attendees enjoyed food from the Russian, East European, and Eurasian region prepared by Piato Cafe. Speakers from the University Library and REEEC reminisced on the origins of SRL and SRS, including Larry Miller’s and Ralph Fisher’s tireless efforts to build the programs, and praised the good work both organizations continue to do to promote research and studies on the region. Everyone had a wonderful time with friends and colleagues!

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What is Political Reconciliation? Reflections on Reconciliation after the Karadzic Trial

Colleen Murphy is Professor of Law, Philosophy and Political Science as well as Director of the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program. Re-posted from RECOM, found here in English and here in Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian.


By Colleen Murphy

In March 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic guilty on 10 of 11 charges, including genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. He was acquitted on one count of genocide. This verdict spawned significant controversy and commentary. In particular, journalist and scholar Nidzara Ahmetasevic concluded, “In Bosnia now, we are as far away from reconciliation as we were before the Karadzic trial.”[2] Below, I unpack Ahmetasevic’s claim. I focus specifically on the divergent reactions to the Karadzic trial and conviction. Such reactions, I argue, signal an absence of the conditions that would make trust reasonable, and trust is a core component of political reconciliation.

By political reconciliation, I mean the process of rebuilding damaged political relationships.[3] Such repair has a complex set of requirements and entails both institutional and interpersonal changes.[4] Establishing the conditions that make trust reasonable is a key part of the process of political reconciliation, because of what trusting expresses. To trust an individual is to view that person in a particular way, a way that shapes how we interpret their actions and words, and on what words and actions of theirs we concentrate our attention[5] This particular way implies taking a hopeful view of the competence and will of the other. What competence we attribute to someone we trust will vary depending on the relationship in question; competence as a mother is not the same as competence as a citizen or government official. For citizens, basic competence includes the ability to follow the rules and norms that structure interaction among citizens and between citizens and officials. For officials, competence entails knowledge of their role-related responsibilities and rights, as well as recognition of the fact that they act in a public capacity, with the corresponding responsibility to take into account the good of a community when making official decisions. Competence also includes an ability to act on this knowledge. As with competence, the will we attribute to those we trust varies. The robust positive good will towards their children we attribute to trusted parents is different from the more neutral lack of ill will we attribute to trusted citizens and officials. Lack of ill will signals the absence of the desire or intention to harm fellow citizens or officials and a commitment to fair play – a willingness to obey the rules.

Trust also entails a basic expectation of ‘trust responsiveness.’ That is, to trust is to expect the trusted person to be moved to prove reliable, to act in accordance with our expectations, and not to exploit our trust. This expectation is also a moral demand, which is why violations of trust are experienced not simply as disappointments but as betrayals.

Why do we think relationships are damaged when trust is absent? Taking a trusting view and acting on a trustful expectation can express respect and a commitment to reciprocity. It expresses respect, because it implies the presumption of fellow citizens and officials as being competent, basically decent and committed to fair play. And it reflects a commitment to reciprocity, insofar as we take the presumptive view of others we would like to have them take of ourselves. To be trust-responsive is respectful because it implies the right of others to make moral demands of us. In being trust-responsive we are also acting in a manner in which we hope others will act reciprocally.

Political trust is absent following war and repression. Deep distrust is the most typical and, indeed, reasonable attitude to adopt. In the midst of war, a presumptive lack of ill will can make one vulnerable to being killed. This is especially so when conflict is characterized by ethnic cleansing and genocide, as was the case in the Bosnian War. One of the central aims of processes of political reconciliation is to establish conditions where it becomes reasonable to presume the at least basic decency and competence of officials and citizens, and to expect that officials and citizens will prove trust-responsive.

Reactions to the Karadzic trial demonstrate that reconciliation among Bosnians is distant, in part because they point to the absence of conditions that would make such trust as a default response reasonable. One necessary condition for the presumption of the absence of ill will to be reasonable is acknowledgement of past wrongdoing. Acknowledgement entails recognizing past actions and recognizing them as morally wrong. Acknowledgement communicates where the lines for permissible and impermissible conduct should be drawn, and the recognition of such lines on the part of those who are doing the acknowledging. It can provide some evidence of the absence of a desire or intention to harm those previously harmed, and a basic knowledge of how members of a political community should interact.

A commonly shared view of the reactions to the Karadzic trial and verdict is that they reflect “the same ideas pervading local politics.”[6] Among prominent Bosnian Serbs, reactions to the conviction cast doubt on the justice of the verdict, by calling into question the impartiality and competence of the ICTY, characterizing Karadzic as a hero unjustly targeted and victimized by such proceedings, and focusing on crimes against the Serbs that have so far gone unpunished.[7] In the words of President of the War Veterans Association of Republika Srpska, Milomir Savicic, “’I am disappointed with the justification of the verdict. That draconian punishment is based on very weak evidence.’”[8] Mladen Bosić, head of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), stated “The Hague tribunal has once again shown that it is a political court, the politically based verdicts were handed down to all Serb leaders from Serbia, [Bosnia’s autonomous] Republika Srpska and Croatia.”[9]

What is telling is what such reactions omit. Setting aside the question of Karadzic’s particular role, missing from such statements is any recognition that Serbian forces committed any wrongdoing whatsoever during the Bosnian War. Instead, there is scepticism expressed about the evidence of killing, torture, mass rapes and genocide – scepticism which can be interpreted as denial that such wrongs took place. By providing no evidence of acknowledgement of wrongdoing, such reactions also provide no evidence that it is reasonable to believe similar wrongdoing will not happen again in the future.

Such reactions also compound the already deep scepticism among victims and members of their families about the possibility of ever witnessing proper acknowledgement of the wrongs committed. For many Bosnian Muslims, reactions have reflected consternation about the genocide count on which Karadzic was acquitted and the message which that acquittal sent, objection to the limited duration of the sentence, and worries about the trial ultimately being interpreted as vindicating or justifying the actions of Serbs. A mother and widow from Srebrenica, Hatidza Mehmedovic, complained, “This judgment is a reward for Karadžić.”[10] Saja Coric from Mostar reacted, “The whole of Republika Srpska is like a mass grave… we are still searching for our kids… and they claim this is not genocide.”[11] Prior to the verdict, Mirsad Duratovic, who survived the Omarska concentration camp, stated, “’If the judges fail to convict Karadžić for genocide in 1992 in Prijedor, it will be a slap in the face of the victims. Everything else will be a reward for Karadzic and Republika Srpska.’”[12] Underlying such reactions is the anticipation of disappointment and the expectation of continuing denial with respect to the wrongs done and the causes of such wrongdoing.

Such divided reactions also point to important limits to the contributions criminal trials on their own can make to political reconciliation. Trials of individual perpetrators cannot by themselves establish the conditions under which trust of fellow citizens and officials become reasonable. Establishing such post-war conditions requires examining the ideologies, institutions and norms that made possible normalized collective and political wrongdoing, as well as the consequences of past wrongdoing, such as ethnic cleansing, that impede political interaction predicated on respect and reciprocity.[13]

The author is a Professor of Law, Philosophy and Political Science as well as Director of the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is author of the books ‘The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice’ (Cambridge University Press, 2016, forthcoming), and ‘A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation’ (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[1] I thank John Tasioulas and Riada Ašimović Akyol for their comments on an earlier draft.

[2] Nidzara Ahmetasevic, “The Radovan Karadzic verdict will change nothing,” Al Jazeera March 26, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/radovan-karadzic-verdict-change-bosnia-serbia-160327093504907.html

[3] For an overview of different senses of reconciliation see Linda Radzik and Murphy, Colleen, “Reconciliation”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/reconciliation/

[4] See Colleen Murphy, A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

[5] Karen Jones, “Trust as an Affective Attitude,” Ethics 107 (1996), 4-25.

[6] Ahmetasevic, “The Radovan Karadzic verdict.”

[7] Julian Borger, “Radovan Karadžić’s sentence for Bosnia genocide exposes continuing divisions,” March 24, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/24/radovan-karadzics-sentence-for-bosnia-genocide-exposes-continuing-divisions

[8] Denis Dzidic, “Karadzic Verdict: Mixed Reactions Reflect Divided Bosnia,” Balkan Insight, March 24, 2016, http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/karadzic-verdict-mixed-reactions-reflect-divided-society-03-24-2016

[9] Julian Borger and Owen Bowcott, “’Is the tribunal not ashamed?’ Karadžić sentence angers victims,” The Guardian, March 24, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/24/radovan-karadzic-hague-tribunal-sentence-survivors-victims-reaction

[10] Borger, “Radovan Karadžić’s sentence.”

[11] Dzidic, “Karadzic Verdict.”

[12] Borger and Bowcott, “’Is the tribunal not ashamed?’ https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/24/radovan-karadzic-hague-tribunal-sentence-survivors-victims-reaction

[13] On this see Colleen Murphy, The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

Bethany Wages on Cataloging Pre-Revolutionary Manuscripts at the Library of Congress

This summer, REEES M.A. graduate Bethany Wages has been interning at the Library of Congress European Division. Check out her blog posts on her experience, including “How to Identify Yudin Materials 101”:

“So far, my favorite way to identify a Yudin item is by Klochkov tickets. Klochkov was a dealer in rare and antique books and helped Yudin acquire much of his library. Klochkov would put his personalized book seller tickets in the front or back of books he acquired for Yudin. They are often brightly colored (I have seen bright green, pink, blue, purple) and some are quite large and often depict Klochkov himself, spiderwebs and books, or even young people reading.”

Read more at: https://bibliotekarblog.wordpress.com/

Noontime Scholar Lecture: Elaine MacKinnon, “‘Found in Translation’: Exploring Soviet History, Memory, and Identity Through Lyudmila Miklashevskaya’s Memoir, Povtorenie proidennego”

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Dr. Elaine MacKinnon recounts her experiences translating the memoir of Lyudmila Miklashevskaya

On Tuesday, June 21, Elaine MacKinnon, a Professor of Russian and Soviet History at the University of West Georgia gave a presentation titled: “Found in Translation”: Exploring Soviet History, Memory and Identity Through Lyudmila Miklashevskaya’s Memoir, Povtorenie proidennogo. Currently, her research interests encompass Stalinism, Soviet historians and reinterpretation of Stalin, and the study of forced labor in the former Soviet Union.

Lyudmila Miklashevskaya, was, as MacKinnon described her, “an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life.” Miklashevskaya played the role of an ordinary woman in the midst of extraordinary people and events, and as MacKinnon suggested, this role is what makes Miklashevskaya so enticing as a research subject. MacKinnon’s analysis of Miklashevskaya’s memoir takes two tracks: translation and historical research. In translation, the textual detail brings MacKinnon closer to the subject, as she spends significant time and focus on every little detail of the material that is being translated. Thus, she begins to slowly understand the subject more intimately through this greatly detailed account of her life, creating, as MacKinnon described, an environment where she felt connected to Miklashevskaya through the act of translation. And then as a historian, the translation project allowed her to understand and analyze Miklashevskaya’s life in relation to the world and time period in which she lived, as a separate subjective viewpoint into an objective history of the times.

Lyudmila Miklashevskaya was a Jewish woman and for a time the wife of Konstantin Miklashevskii, a man from an aristocratic background, who was a playwright, theatrical historian, and an actor. He wished to be part of the avant-garde movement, yet was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union. MacKinnon suggested that a major theme of memoir was her relationship with her own daughter, of whom she spoke frequently. Having been separated from her daughter through her stint in the Gulag, she lost that which she had held as her most important identifier, her motherhood. When she was released from the Gulag, her daughter rejected Miklashevskaya’s embraces and efforts to become a family again in favor of her aunt, who to that point had raised her in her mother’s absence.

The translation project derived from a request from K. Miklashevskii’s descendants to have the portions of her memoir translated that pertained to him. MacKinnon developed an interest in the process in the life of Miklashevskaya herself and began to translate the entire 400-page memoir. This everyday woman, someone who was an ordinary citizen, was exiled as the wife of the enemy to the Soviet Union. She was caught up in an assassination conspiracy, and she spent substantial time in the Gulag. Although she had no formal training or education, Miklashevskaya began to write and publish newspaper articles, children’s books and brochures thanks to connections she had made through her first husband, Konstantin Miklashevskii.

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Dr. Elaine MacKinnon presenting the Memoir of Lyudmila Miklashevskaya, Povtorenie proidennogo

MacKinnon also discussed the challenges the translation of the project created. The first challenge was the cataloging of the numerous people and the references within the memoir. This was important to keep track of these people and references to create a mental map of the contents of the memoir.

The second challenge was with the translation of words and terms not of Russian origin. Miklashevskii came from a wealthy aristocratic family that struggled, in exile, to inventory family possessions in an attempt to recover them and smuggle them out of the Soviet Union. Miklashevskaya records this in her memoir. The issue here is that many of these words were of French origin, and then translated into Russian. According to Dr. MacKinnon, it was difficult to determine whether or not the word was originally in Russian or if the word was French translated into Russian, particularly as these terms dealt with a specific inventory of aristocratic goods.

The third challenge was encountered in the translation of literary aspects such as mood and emotion. Here MacKinnon also noted the difference that would have occurred had this project been a strict historical project rather than a translation project. If it had been purely historical, she believes that she would have missed the situational indicators denoting mood and emotional shifts. Translation thus enabled her to understand the memoir in a more nuanced way. Ultimately, through this combined process of translation and historical analysis, MacKinnon found Miklashevskii’s memoir to have no overriding agenda; it was not political in any way, nor was it purely historical. Rather, the memoir was an exercise in memory – of “an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life.”

Nicholas Higgins is a Masters student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include the development of identity separate from the Soviet identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, the current relations between Russia and its neighbors, especially Russia’s relations with Ukraine. He received his B.A in Philosophy and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from Miami University of Ohio in 2015. He is currently working on his Masters thesis, which is attempting to translate Søren Kierkegaard‘s model of faith into a political and social model that could represent the political and social nature of the late Soviet era.

2016 Fisher Fellow: Anastasiya Boika

2016 Fisher Fellow Anastasiya Boika

2016 Fisher Fellow Anastasiya Boika

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center awarded the competitive Fisher Fellowship, now in its fourth year, to a 2016 Summer Research Lab (SRL) participant. The fellowship, named after Dr. Ralph Fisher, the founder of SRL and REEEC, and a champion for building the Slavic collection at the University of Illinois Library, provides full domestic travel support, a housing grant, and an honorarium to a scholar with a particularly promising research project. This year’s Fisher Fellow was Anastasiya Boika, Ph.D. Candidate in History at Queen’s University in Canada. While at SRL, she worked on her research project “Greening St. Petersburg: Curing the ailments of city living in late Imperial Russia” and gave a Noontime Scholars lecture entitled “Curing the Ailments of City Living: The Garden City in Late Imperial Russia.”

Boika initially learned about SRL as a first-year PhD student and applied for SRL just as she was leaving for a six-week research trip to Minsk and St. Petersburg. Upon return from the archives in Russia and Belarus, she came to SRL in order to investigate any resources she had missed while in Russia and Belarus as well as to work with the Slavic Reference Service librarians to access additional source material.

Boika’s research at SRL was primarily geared toward obtaining further primary sources for her dissertation. Some of the works she found might also appear in an article, but the main goal was to gain access to some of the periodicals that were not available at her home institution. During her time at SRL, she was able to access a large portion of the publication Zodchii and a few books, including V. Dadonov’s Sotsializm bez politiki and Fedotov’s Illustriovanni’ putevoditel’ po dachnim, vodolechebnim i zhivopisnim mestnostiam Finlandii. She was very grateful for the opportunity to access an array of primary source materials as well as for the chance to give a lecture, meet other researchers, and “work with the amazing staff that make the Summer Research Lab possible.”

Stephanie Chung is a Ph.D. Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She received her B.A. in Plan II Honors/Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently writing a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs as literary and media texts.

Noontime Scholar Lecture: Anastasiya Boika, “Curing the Ailments of City Living: The Garden City in Late Imperial Russia”

The Garden City, the subject of Anastasiya Boika’s research for her Noontime Scholar presentation on “Curing the Ailments of City Living: The Garden City in Late Imperial Russia,” is the eventual product of the Garden City movement which began at the tail-end of the 19th century under the tutelage of Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. The Garden City movement attempted to introduce a new way of urban planning to create a sort of utopian living situation within the city in order to address land and housing questions that had come to play during industrialization. These Garden Cities, developed from socialist ideals of utopia, would bring together aspects of the town (or city) and countryside to create a union of the two. This union would then bring about a society where there were no vices, only virtues. This town-country would come about through a number of steps. First the land would be bought at a low price, and then a company would start work on the land. Eventually, the workers would then buy the company from its owners, thus owning the means of production, the work, and the land all at once. These Garden Cities contained not only farmland and urban places, but also all aspects that could maximize the happiness within a city. The ultimate goal of these Garden Cities was to stop the current development of massive urban centers and metropolises, as they would create an imbalance between the town and the country, thus adversely impacting the people. The importance and significance of town-country is exemplified in Howard’s Three Magnets, which shows how the town-country system solves the issues of both the town itself and the country itself.

PhD Candidate Anastasiy Boika discusses the history of the Garden City movement

PhD Candidate Anastasiy Boika discusses the history of the Garden City movement

Anastasiya Boika, a PhD candidate in History at Queen’s University, focused on the impact of Howard’s ideals and the Garden City on Russian thinkers and ideals from the early 20th century to the early Soviet period. Due to the nature of the Garden City, the sentiments and ideals that the Garden City movement portrayed struck a chord with Russian revolutionaries and those Russians who wanted change. Anastasiya Boika noted that the first contact between Russians and Howard’s work in 1902, when they obtained documents of his work, especially the Three Magnets.

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Visual representation of Ebenezer Howard’s Three Magnets

However, when Russians encountered Howard’s work, it was in a translated form. Indeed, The Three Magnets was translated from English into German, and then from German into Russian. The Three Magnets were thus translated from English into German, and then from German into Russian. This game of translation telephone, on top of different translations of the Three Magnets and Howard’s other ideas, like Dikanski’s Three Magnets from 1908 and Semenov’s Prozorovka, meant that the potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding of Howard’s central concepts and eventual goal of the Garden City was highly probable, lost in translation. Semenov actually met with Howard, who saw merit in his work, which included introducing an elastic plan. This elastic plan meant that the town would become much like an organism, something that is flexible and changes with its environments, as the towns reflect the populace.

Due to these differences in translations and the historical timing (World War I was just around the corner, then followed by the Russian Revolution in 1917), the Garden City was never actualized in Russia, and the Russian movement was deemed a failure. However, Boika noted that one could not deny the impact the Garden City movement had on the Revolution and early modern urban planning. While the Garden City movement never came to fruition within Russia, ideals and aspects of the Garden City, such as communal living, did find its way into the Soviet standards of urban living and urban development. Thus, the Garden City, while never actually existing in Russia, can still claim to have played a part in the development of Soviet living.

Nicholas Higgins is a Masters student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include the development of identity separate from the Soviet identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, the current relations between Russia and its neighbors, especially Russia’s relations with Ukraine. He received his B.A in Philosophy and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from Miami University of Ohio in 2015. He is currently working on his Masters thesis, which is attempting to translate Søren Kierkegaard‘s model of faith into a political and social model that could represent the political and social nature of the late Soviet era.

Noontime Scholars Lecture: Tricia Starks, “Tobacco as Product, Producer and Saboteur of Empire”

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Prof. Starks giving her Noontime Scholars Lecture

On June 16, Tricia Starks (Associate Professor of History, University of Arkansas) gave the first Noontime Scholars Lecture of the 2016 Summer Research Laboratory. Entitled “Tobacco as Product, Producer and Saboteur of Empire,” her lecture traced the history of tobacco advertising in the Russian Empire. She specifically focused on the images of smoking in posters for tobacco products, especially the links between smoking, militarism, and masculinity. She began her lecture with the myth of the zoave (a North African soldier fighting for the French Army) as the origin of the cigarette. The zoave invented the first cigarette when he needed another way to smoke tobacco after his pipe broke. He filled a paper cartridge, which usually held his gunpowder, with tobacco in order to smoke. Although this was not actually the first appearance of the cigarette, the zoave was widely used for tobacco advertising.

In Russian advertising, the zoave was transformed into a Russian military figure whose only weapon was a cigarette. Reflected in the context of Russian imperial quests in the Black Sea and Ottoman regions, this Russian military smoker was enmeshed in Russian myth and embodied the Russian hero. The language of Russian tobacco was embedded in Russian militarism. Even the Russian word for cigarette (papiros) was derived from the word for cartridge. The advertisements reconstructed the military and imperial imagery of cigarettes (papirosy).

According to Starks, cigarettes represented the products, producers and saboteurs of empire. In her lecture, she outlined how tobacco played those roles. Tobacco was a product of empire because it was a New World product. It was introduced to Russia in the 17th century, and cultivated in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Ukraine. Russian tobacco was unique in its sourcing, taste, and strength. While the original tobacco brought to Russia was a variety grown in Virginia, Turkish tobacco eventually became more popular. It was acidic, aromatic, and less addictive than Virginian tobacco. To ease any harsh effects, it was sauced with vanilla, lavender, and other ingredients imported from international trade. Additionally, Russia’s access to some of its best tobacco was uneven because of wars, specifically with the Ottoman Empire, which influenced the portrayal of tobacco in advertising.

Starks next demonstrated how the Russian military influenced the cigarette’s use and image by describing the advertisements from various brands that were popular during that time period. She discussed the Balkan Star brand with a military Cossack on its seal. The Cossack was a figure of national importance who directly connected tobacco with Russia’s imperial intentions in the Ottoman region, such as eliminating Muslim threats and defending the Black Sea. Starks then presented on the Ottoman brand. Its symbols represented Cossack bravery, success, freedom, and defense of Christianity. The smoking depicted in its advertisements was made into a political act that connected the defense of empire with the defense of faith. Not only did tobacco advertisers use Cossacks, but they hearkened to an even earlier period, the Middle Ages, with its portrayal of bogatyrs (Russian knights) as military men smoking cigarettes. That image further connected smoking to empire, juxtaposing the modern with the past. Like the Cossacks, the bogatyrs secured the frontier and defended the empire against all threats. Even prominent Russian generals were used in cigarette advertising. Alexander Suvorov, the hero of the 1878 Russo-Turkish War and the Polish insurrection, and Mikhail Skobelev, the “White General” who was famous for conquering Central Asia and also for heroism in the Russo-Turkish War, were two important military officers whose images were used in posters. Although they were not physically smoking, their image allowed the consumer (the smoker) to steal their value by smoking the brand. By smoking, the consumer could become admirable like the generals. The generals’ images were used as recruitment not only for tobacco products, but also for imperial military quests.

The last point Starks made was on tobacco as saboteur – how it was sometimes portrayed as a harmful substance that would destroy the Russian population’s health. Already in the 19th century, some medical authorities were aware of cigarettes’ harmful effects. However, they also linked those medical dangers with moral dangers. Some people asserted that tobacco would be the empire’s undoing. Nicotine was thought to be a poison, a form of suicide that poisoned the blood, destroyed the nervous system, caused sexual dysfunction, led to miscarriages and infant death, and resulted in madness and fatigue. In the late 1800s, tobacco was also connected to neurasthenia, which was considered the leading cause of degeneracy (a fear rooted in racial insecurity and the belief in Russians’ declining numbers in the empire).

Finally, Starks concluded that Russian tobacco played a vital cultural role in defending and promoting empire. It was a product filled with political meaning. Tobacco was the empire. Even much later, during the Soviet era, tobacco was still associated with and even extended the idea of frontier.

Stephanie Chung is a Ph.D. Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She received her B.A. in Plan II Honors/Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently writing a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs as literary and media texts.