This semester, Alexa von Winning will be researching at the University of Illinois as a Visiting Graduate Student. She is from Frankfurt, Germany and a current graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. at Tuebingen University at the Institute for Eastern European History and Area Studies. Previously, she spent a year at Kazan State University in Russia in order to study both Russian language and history. Following her studies in Kazan, she and a group of friends led an interesting research project. They studied the religious experiences of both Muslims and Orthodox Christians living in the Soviet Union during the 1960s through a series of interviews. They also wrote and published a guidebook in English, German, Russian, and Tatar showing where old religious buildings in Kazan were closed during the Soviet period.
Her current research interest is the history of Russian noble families from the nineteenth century to the 1917 Revolution. She is investigating how the “highly mobile” noble families developed networks and connections which contributed to the “integration of Europe with certain parts of the world.” She is specifically studying a Russian family who had members living in Latvia, Jerusalem, and Constantinople and how they had “diverse religious experiences abroad” which influenced them upon their return to Russia. She is examining how they “import different understandings of spirituality.” Through her research, she is discovering that they applied their new spiritual ideas to politics and the problems of Russia at the time. Alexa will be on campus for the entire fall semester before returning to Germany to continue working on her degree. Following the completion of her doctorate, she plans to remain in academia. She says that she is researching at the University of Illinois because of the library’s excellent collection of nineteenth-century documents and for the “wonderful faculty.” Alexa also likes living in Urbana-Champaign. She notes “how family friendly” the area is and that the “people are very friendly.”