Letter from the Director, Fall 2017

Can it really have been 100 years already? The centenary of the Russian Revolution is upon us, and its memory is on the march across campuses and across the world. Nor is it a sepia-toned sort of memory: the questions raised by the Revolution as to whether and how another world is possible seem acutely relevant in our own time of revolutionary political, social, and environmental challenges.  Thanks to the hard work of students, faculty and staff across campus—led by Professors Harriet Murav and David Cooper of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures—we at Illinois have a wonderful new program of events that explore and illustrate 1917’s continuing impact across the modern world.

Starting August 24th, the Krannert Art Museum is hosting a new exhibition, “Propositions on Revolution (Slogans for a Future),” curated by Professor Kristin Romberg  (Art History).  It features exciting new works by contemporary artists that have a “potential to start a conversation about what revolution means in our contemporary moment.”   This exhibition is just the first of ten such events–”Ten Days that Shook the World / Shake the Campus”-that will keep us thinking about and moving through 1917 all term.  There will be revolutionary films and poetry slams, musical performances and scholarly colloquiums, a production of Travesties by Tom Stoppard and an opera workshop based on Konstantin Malevich’s iconic act of iconoclasm, Black Square.  Make plans to join us by checking out all the Ten Days on our special website, http://19172017.weebly.com/

This term is an eventful one for me, personally, as I’m thrilled to be joining REEEC as its new Director, as of August .  I feel quite lucky: not only do we have an extraordinarily rich semester of programming ahead, the Center itself continues to grow and prosper in a challenging environment.  In April, Professors Joseph Lenkart and Christopher ‘Kit’ Condill became the inaugural Ralph Fisher Library Scholars, supported by a generous endowment gift from  Professor Emeritus Larry Miller.  These funds will help sustain our historic strengths in REEES collections and librarianship in the future.  Shortly thereafter, we learned the news that REEEC won one of the very few Title VIII awards given by the Department of State in this grant cycle.  This will allow us to continue to develop our unique Slavic Reference Service and Summer Research Laboratory—alongside other initiatives—in the coming year.  Make plans to join us in Urbana if you can next Summer!

Since getting started, I’ve come to understand that all these big successes are but a small external expression of all the amazing work that goes on every day at REEEC, thanks to Dr. Maureen Marshall (our Associate Director), Linda McCabe, Stephanie Chung, and a great team of graduate and undergraduate student workers.  I have the great fortune as well of following Professor David Cooper, whose five year term as Director lifted the Center to its recent string of successes.  I can only hope to keep the momentum going:  though our calendar for the Fall is largely planned, we’re gearing up to submit a new application for Title VI funding from the Department of Education.  It will be a great chance to think about where REEEC has been and where it will be going in the next few years, as we enter the second post-1917 century.  If you’re reading this newsletter we’d love to hear from you, with your thoughts and ideas!  (And as always, your generous contributions help us take advantage of opportunities throughout the year to maintain Illinois’s place as a major institution in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.)

Finally, it remains for me to close out this letter with one final, wonderful (if for us bittersweet) piece of news.  Professor Diane P. Koenker, for over 30 years a member of our History faculty and a leader in research, teaching, and service across the field, will be leaving us.  Starting in January, Diane will be the new Director of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London.   It’s a rightful recognition of  Diane’s amazing gifts as a scholar, and we want to wish her every success in her new position!  We trust that she and Roger will find a wonderful new home in London, even as they will of course always have a place of honor here among us at Illinois.

With best wishes for the coming year,

John Randolph

John Randolph is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and also the Director of REEEC as of Fall 2017. 

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