REPOST: Illinois again a top producer of Fulbright U.S. Student Awards

This article was originally posted on February 26, 2018 by the Illinois News Bureau.

For the seventh time in the past eight years, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is among the top producers of Fulbright U.S. Student Awards, part of the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is among the U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2017-18 Fulbright U.S. Student Awards, as announced recently by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Thirteen students from the Urbana campus [including REEEC-affiliated students Marco Jaimes (History), Matt Klopfenstein (History), and Thornton Miller (Musicology)] received Fulbright awards for academic year 2017-18, placing Illinois among the top 25 universities (and top 10 public institutions) in terms of numbers of student grantees. David Schug, the director of the National and International Scholarships Program at Illinois, said the University of Illinois has been a perennial leader in student Fulbright grantees, making the top-producing list for seven of the past eight years.

The Fulbright competition is administered jointly at the University of Illinois through the National and International Scholarships Program – which assists undergraduates and recent alumni – and the Office of External Fellowships, which focuses on graduate student applications. Both offices have begun working with future candidates, as applications will open April 2 for students and recent alumni interested in pursuing studies, fine arts, research or English teaching assistantships under the Fulbright for the 2019-20 academic year.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – an opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Over 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright grants to study, teach English and conduct research each year in more than 140 countries.

The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. scholars, teachers and faculty to conduct research and teach overseas. In addition, some 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

CfP: Undergraduate Conference on Slavic & East/Central European Studies

University of California

21st Annual
Undergraduate Conference on Slavic & East/Central European Studies

You are invited to participate in the 21st Annual University of California Undergraduate Conference on
Slavic and East/Central European Studies. The conference will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2018 on
the UCLA campus.

One of the great benefits of knowing a foreign language is being able to use source materials in that
language. This conference gives students the opportunity to integrate their language skills with research
on some aspect of Slavic or East/Central European studies and to present their work in a collegially
critical and at the same time friendly and supportive environment. Presenting a conference paper is an
ideal way to strengthen graduate school applications or add an academic component to your résumé.
In addition, those interested have the opportunity to submit their papers for peer-reviewed publication
in the on-line UCLA Journal of Slavic and East/Central European Studies


Your presentation may be an extension of a paper written for a course in Slavic or East/Central European
studies or a project related to your personal interests. You may work alone or jointly with
another student. Instructors from your campus Slavic, Russian or East/Central European Studies
program will serve as project advisors. Any undergraduate enrolled in a Slavic or East/Central
European language, literature, linguistics, history, political science, music, folklore, or other
relevant course may participate. Graduate students are invited to serve as panel moderators.

The paper must incorporate some materials in a Slavic or other East/Central European language. Your
level of proficiency will determine the extent to which foreign language materials should be used. For
example, beginning students might incorporate titles of books or articles or place names in the original
Slavic language; intermediate students might read some passages in the original from relevant
sources; advanced students might base their paper on sources in the given language. Individual presentations
should be 10-15 minutes in length; joint presentations should be 15-20 minutes in length.

To participate, submit a proposal online by Friday, March 23, 2018. If your proposal is accepted,
return to the website to submit your final presentation information by Friday, April 13, 2018.
Submission link:

For more information, please visit

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.