REEEC Outreach Event with Parkland Migration Education Program

by Serenity Stanton Orengo

Thanks to the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center’s outreach efforts, I had the opportunity to spend a day at La Casa Cultural Latina on campus, working with children of migrant farm workers as part of the Parkland Migration Education Program. I worked with two different groups of about 24 children total, ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. 

In both age groups we did a crash-course on the Russian alphabet, learned how to say “hello” and “my name is…” in Russian, and viewed a slideshow of pictures from Vladimir, Moscow, and St. Petersburg to give the kids an idea of what life is like in Russia. The students then selected an activity to complete: practice the alphabet by deciphering place names in the United States written in Cyrillic, color a picture of matryoshka dolls or St. Basil’s Cathedral, or, as the majority of students chose: create a Russian cityscape featuring onion domes out of construction paper. For many of the students, this was their first exposure to anything Russian outside of an occasional Russian character on tv, and they were all thoroughly excited to learn more.



Serenity Stanton Orengo is a PhD student in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on medicine, women’s reproductive health, and the rejection of motherhood in nineteenth-century Russian literature. 

Emily Theobald, Noontime Scholars Lecture: “‘Must They Wait Fifty Years?’: Penderecki’s Pittsburgh Overture (1967) and the Polish Avant-garde in Pittsburgh”

by Marija Fedjanina

On June 25, 2019, Emily Theobald (PhD Candidate in Musicology, University of Florida) delivered a lecture on one of the pieces created by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The work in question – Pittsburgh Overture – was written specifically for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra.

The lecture was divided into 4 parts, each of which provided essential context for the production and performance of the work. Theobald began with some history of the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO), a musical collective performing on Point Counterpoint II, a floating stage and art center. The choice of such an unusual place for performing music was motivated by the widening of the audience. Robert Boudreau, musical director of the Orchestra, attempted to strip avant-garde music of its elitism, bringing music to the people. The placement of the Point-Counterpoint plays an important role in its history. When the AWSO found its permanent home, it was in Pittsburgh’s Point State Park, in the meeting place of the three rivers of Pittsburgh: The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio. The AWSO website describes its performance as a unique experience: “The orchestra’s audiences bring folding chairs and blankets to the riverside and watch in fascination as the shell of the orchestra’s floating arts center, ‘Point Counterpoint II’, opens and the music begins. From that point on, there is a shared experience between audience and performers that is remembered for many years to come. The music is unique and exciting, the floating stage is a one-of-a-kind wonder, and the setting is a harmonious blending of river sounds, the lowering sun, and camaraderie with one’s neighbors.” The sounds that are brought by the rivers and other surroundings play a crucial role in the performance, as is investigated in soundscape studies.

The second part of the lecture was devoted to Krzysztof Penderecki and his path from Sonorism to Neo-Romanticism. Penderecki was born in 1933 in Poland. His childhood was wretched because of World War II, and the experiences he had are not only reflected in his memoirs, but also found its representation in his musical works. Penderecki started as an avant-garde composer, who then moved to a more traditional type of music, calling himself “the Trojan horse of the avant-garde.” He explains his shift as an attempt to overcome the dissonance between artist and audience, which proved to be not that open to his experiments.

The work discussed in the lecture, Pittsburgh Overture, was in the center of the third part. It is an experimental work in Sonorism. The specific feature of this work, as of the style in general, is the usage of unorthodox sounds and techniques on classical instruments. The birth of Sonorism is associated with Polish experimental music, equivalent to that in Europe and USA, brought about by the recovery after World War II and the necessity to bring a considerable change in musical language. The challenge Polish composers faced was twofold; compared to their Western counterparts, they needed to escape both the bounds of classical music and socialist realism. Thus Sonorism came about, as a collaborative effort of the composers who met during the Warsaw Autumn Festivals. The initial purpose of the festivals was to share the music from around the world, but it ended up being a platform for sharing new Polish music.

The avant-garde features of the work were exactly what Boudreau was looking for when he commissioned it, as he wanted to represent Polish experimental music for his Polish Day. The program he created contributed to poor reception of the piece, since it was among classical works, setting certain expectations for the audience. However, it was consistent with the usual practice for introducing new works among already known ones.

Theobald concluded the lecture with the future prospects of her work, which is an investigation of the interaction between sonoristic works and the urban environment. Pittsburgh Overture is a case study for that, being written specifically for the urban environment, but also having a clear sonoristic affiliation. Is the urban environment more fitting for sonorism, and how does the soundscape contribute to the musical avant-garde, are the questions for Theobald’s future research.



Marija Fedjanina is a PhD student in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on contemporary Russian literature and its interactions with Western critical theory.

Noontime Scholars Lecture with Colleen Lucey, “Tales of Violence and Murder: The Prostitute in Fin-de-Siècle Russian Literature”

by Serenity Stanton Orengo

On June 13th, 2019, Colleen Lucey (Assistant Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at the University of Arizona) gave a REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture, entitled: “Tales of Violence and Murder: The Prostitute in Fin-de-Siècle Russian Literature.” Professor Lucey is the 2019 Fisher Fellow at the Summer Research Lab.

Lucey began her talk with the premise that writers in the nineteenth century used their platform to debate current issues, including the state regulation of prostitution. Authors often took up the theme of the prostitute/ “fallen woman,” and the possibilities for her rehabilitation: marriage, or reintegration into society through honest work (by “needle and thread”). The topic was so prevalent in the literature of the nineteenth century that every major writer, and even second-tier authors such as Vsevolod Garshin, explored the theme. For Lucey, this prompted the question: why do writers at the end of the century continue to take up the theme of the “fallen woman,” and what can they say that has not already been said by their predecessors?

In order to answer this question, Lucey turned to two works: Leo Tolstoy’s late novel Resurrection (1899) and Leonid Andreev’s controversial story “In the Fog” (1902). Lucey argued both Resurrection and “In the Fog” represent a shift in the Russian cultural imagination in two ways. First, both authors use their works to argue against criminal anthropology, specifically, the belief that prostitutes were genetically predisposed to deviant behavior. Second, both narratives collapse in on themselves: through the disappearance of Maslova’s physical body in Resurrection, and the prostitute’s stabbed and deflated chest at the end of “In the Fog.” Lucey argued both Tolstoy and Andreev viewed the prostitute’s body as simultaneously attractive and repulsive, a threat to the health of the Russian nation, and a representation of the fears of unbridled sexuality that destabilized the gender hierarchy in the late nineteenth century.

To begin her discussion of Resurrection, Lucey argued that Tolstoy set out to debunk positivist criminology in the novel by having the hypocritical prosecutor be the voice of the theories of Italian criminologist Lombroso, who argued prostitutes were inherently drawn to transgressive sexual behavior as evidenced by their skull size. Lucey further contended that for the main character Nekhlyudov, there is a clear aversion to female sexuality which is linked to disease and death, as well as a fear of woman as seducer. Lucey concluded that Tolstoy solves the problem of sexual desire by negating the female body entirely. While at the beginning of the novel Maslova sticks out her chest with pride, by the novel’s conclusion, she is meek, submissive, and dressed in baggy prison clothes which effectively hide her body. Tolstoy’s novel then offers salvation for the prostitute through chastity.

In turning to Andreev’s story “In the Fog,” Lucey discussed how the main character Pavel, a man who contracted syphilis from a prostitute, is obsessed with watching women, while simultaneously being horrified by the female body. She astutely noted that the yellow fog clinging to Petersburg throughout the story—reminiscent of the yellow pallor of the faces of syphilitic men—serves as a reminder to the reader that the city of St. Petersburg is as sickly as its inhabitants. The story’s conclusion, according to Lucey, suggests as much about venereal disease haunting Petersburg, and by extension all of Russia, as it does the violent response to women’s shifting role in society. Pavel’s murder/suicide ‘‘encapsulates the broader social violence that responded to the demands of women for sexual, financial, and political autonomy.’’

She concluded by arguing that male authors at the end of the century remained bound to the idea that prostitutes were victims of male exploitation and in need of redemption. Both Andreev and Tolstoy offered a new take on the theme of the “fallen woman” by basing their stories on actual cases of violence against sex workers, as well as incorporating anxieties specific to that period in their texts—the increased medicalization of sex, the reliance of criminal anthropology, and the rise of venereal disease among youth. Both authors additionally silence the prostitute with the erasure of her physical presence: Tolstoy by covering Maslova’s body with baggy clothing, and Andreev with murder. Lucey concluded that at the cusp of the twentieth century, the threat of sexual emancipation promised to destabilize the family unit, and we can then see both Tolstoy and Andreev’s texts as indicating broader cultural shifts in gender relations.



Serenity Stanton Orengo is a PhD student in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on medicine, women’s reproductive health, and the rejection of motherhood in nineteenth-century Russian literature. 


REEEC Outreach Activities at Head Start

by Melissa Bialecki and Danielle Sekel

As a part of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center’s outreach efforts this semester, we had the pleasure of working at Champaign Head Start planning and implementing activities to teach young learners about various REEEC countries. Once per month, we planned a craft activity based on a tradition from a different regional country. We prepared a short lesson on that country, in which we introduced one aspect of its culture, taught short phrases in the local language, and sometimes even listened to traditional music and danced. Then, students would have a hands-on activity, in which they created something based on a tradition associated with that country. In our first month, we talked about wool-working in Estonia and students decorated gloves with fabric paint to match the beautiful designs made by Estonian artisans. The next month, we taught students about Bosnia and Herzegovina and the intricate woodworking practices there. Students colored their own “treasure chests” and decorated them with stick-on jewels. We also colored wooden eggs close to Easter to learn about Ukrainian pesanky, and decorated paper masks with googly eyes and feathers after we learned about Bulgarian kukeri. After each lesson, students got a sticker in their own “passports” and a postcard to bring home summarizing what the students learned about that day. Teachers received a copy of the curriculum for that day’s lesson, and a poster to put in their classroom to remind the students of the country they learned about and the activity they did during our visit.

As scholars working in REEEC regions, we both loved seeing young children get so excited to learn about these new places and their colorful culture and interesting traditions. It was wonderful to go into classes every month and have the students talk about the activities that we did the month before. Students loved asking questions and talking about similarities between their own family traditions and the practices we were learning about that day. Students were also excited to bring crafts home and share them with their families.

Champaign Head Start is a diverse community of young learners, and we loved contributing to that diversity through cultural enrichment. It was also great to work with a different age group than we would as teaching assistants at the university. Thus, the head start outreach program is one of many ways in which REEEC connects with the local community by providing educational resources for young learners.

Melissa Bialecki is a PhD student of ethnomusicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is interested in how affective musical performance shapes political thought on the Ukrainian conflict and Russian-Ukrainian relations. Her research focuses primarily on the Ukrainian folk revival as well as ethno-punk and pop bands in Ukraine and the North American diaspora. She is a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellow through the Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois, and will receive a Title VIII fellowship from Arizona State University to study Ukrainian in Kyiv this summer.

Danielle Sekel is a graduate student in the Department of Musicology. Her research interests include Balkan music festivals in diaspora and the history and continuing relevance of these festivals.

New Directions Lecture with Anna Ohanyan, “Lenin’s Revenge: Regional Fracture and Security (Dis)Order in Post-Communist Eurasia”

by Benjamin Bamberger


In this fascinating talk, Dr. Anna Ohanyan, a Richard B. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Stonehill College, explored the nature of regional conflict and challenges to integration in post-communist Eurasia. In doing so, Ohanyan did not just suggest reasons for the problem of “unregioning” that occurred in the post-Soviet period, but also a promising methodology for thinking about regional conflict and fracture, as well as techniques to encourage better regional integration.

Ohanyan’s talk was largely based on her recently published edited collection, Russia Abroad: Driving Regional Fracture in Post-Communist Eurasia and Beyond, which contains contributions from scholars that focus on the South Caucasus, Ukraine, Russia, the Balkans, Central Asia, and beyond. As Ohanyan clearly argued, regional fracture is itself a political practice that imperial powers use to keep smaller regions under their control. But instead of seeing this practice as an inherently Russian one in post-Soviet Eurasia, Ohanyan illustrated how western powers also participate in such policies, if not in slightly different ways. Here, she contends that there is an American and European impulse to single out and encourage countries to align with western interests  – for instance, countries like Georgia – which also contributes to the fragmentation of regional cohesiveness. These fractures, whether Russian, American, or European, create missing links between countries within the same region, which, as Ohanyan demonstrated, ultimately produces conflict and undermines democracy.

Ohanyan likewise suggested a useful new methodology for thinking about regions, regionality, and regional integration. As she argued, it is important to theorize from the field, to try to understand regions not from the perspective of imperial powers but from the periphery itself. This local orientation allows Ohanyan to see the ways that regional stakeholders have their own agency to encourage integration or disintegration and have the ability to impact policy making in profound ways. Perhaps put another way, the framework of regional fracture incorporates the agency of the periphery in exciting new ways that decenters Russia as the key player in regional politics. But instead of ignoring the role of large state powers, Ohanyan’s methodology illustrates the mutually constitutive nature of international and domestic policies.

This methodology makes it possible to see the diversity of regional forms that exist beyond the European Union and to think about new ways to promote regional integration. As Ohanyan argues, it is necessary to build local contacts first and to understand the personal networks and social ties of local elites before attempting to solve a regional crisis. Likewise, Ohanyan sees value in engaging formal organizations and institutions that operate on a local or regional level. All of this suggests the importance of local knowledge built from the ground up not just for understanding regional fracture, but also in finding solutions to it.

Ohanyan’s talk was very well attended and involved a lively question and answer session afterward. Based on this talk, it seems certain that Russia Abroad will be a useful resource not just for political scientists or policy makers, but also for those interested in the nature of post-communist regionality.


Benjamin Bamberger recently defended his dissertation, “Mountains of Discontent: Georgian Alpinism and the Limits of Soviet Equality, 1923-1955,” in the Department of History at the University of Illinois.”

REEEC Spring Reception 2019

Members of the REEEC community celebrated the end of the school year on Friday, May 3rd, 2019 with an ice cream social at the International Studies Building. Friends and colleagues enjoyed each other’s company and shared their exciting plans for the summer. A slideshow played in the background, showing that REEEC had a busy year filled with Noontime Scholars lectures, outreach events, and more. The accomplishments of REEEC students and faculty proved there was much to celebrate. One table held several books recently published by REEEC faculty. Dr. Donna Buchanan, REEEC Acting Director, stood up to introduce the 2019 summer Foreign Language and Area Studies fellows and to congratulate Sydney Lazarus and Jesse Mikhail Wesso, who are both graduating from the REEEC MA program this year. Professor Carol Leff then announced the winner of the 2019 Yaro Skalnik Prize for Best Essay. This went to Sydney Lazarus for her work on Macedonian-Albanian relations in Macedonia. After this, Outreach and Programming Coordinator Stephanie Porter thanked the graduate student workers at REEEC for all their hard work

this year. Finally, one more person’s contributions to REEEC deserved applause. Dr. Maureen Marshall, Associate Director of REEEC, stood up to recognize the fantastic work Dr. Donna Buchanan has done this year as REEEC’s Acting Director.

From all of us at REEEC, we would like to congratulate all our students, faculty, and staff on their hard work this year, and we wish them the best of luck wherever their summer plans take them.


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Summer 2019 FLAS Fellows

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center is pleased to announce the awardees for this summer’s Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship, funded by the U. S. Department of Education. This year seven students from four different departments will be studying six different REEES languages and related area studies scholarship. We at REEEC would like to extend our congratulations to the following students for the national recognition of their studies:

Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships
Summer 2019

Graduate Students:
Justin Balcor (Georgian) – Musicology
Melissa Bialecki (Ukrainian) – Musicology
Marissa Natale (Turkish) – History
Danielle Sekel (B/C/S/) – Musicology
Mark Woodcock (Estonian) – Musicology

Undergraduate Students:
Jackson Barnett (Russian) – Political Science, Slavic Studies
Jalie Merritt (Russian) – Slavic Studies

For more information about our FLAS fellows, please visit our Graduate Students and FLAS Fellows page.

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