Student Experiences Abroad: “A Month at the London School in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan” by Sydney Lazarus (MA student in REEES)

“A Month at the London School in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan”
by Sydney Lazarus


Over winter break I studied Russian at the London School in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The program was recommended to me by various students for its flexibility and one-on-one instruction. Like theirs, my experience at the London School was also excellent.


The London School building


I arrived in Bishkek right after the ASEEES conference last December and started classes the next day. The typical schedule goes something like this. Students start their day at 8:30 with an 80-minute grammar class, then a 10-minute break, then an 80-minute reading class, then a 10-minute break, then a 60-minute conversation class, then a 40-minute break, and lastly an 80-minute writing class. This schedule provides 20 hours of instruction a week (students have Wednesdays off). There is also a less intensive schedule providing 4 hours of instruction a day for a total of 16 hours per week.


A typical classroom


All of the instruction is done using online textbooks provided by London School. Students have the option of taking a placement test before starting their program, or they can — as I did — simply estimate their level and move up or down depending on how hard the material is. Each lesson corresponds to a chapter of the textbook, and there is a set of vocabulary that serves as the basis for the grammar, reading, conversation, and writing classes. I found the vocabulary to be very useful. Many times I learned some new word or phrase in class and then heard it spoken on the street a few days later or saw it used in a magazine article.


Downtown Bishkek, where Chuy Ave. intersects Yusul Abdrakhmanov St.


London School offers homestays and dormitory living. Because I was in Bishkek for such a short period of time, I stayed in the one of the dorm rooms on the second floor of the school and shared a kitchen and bathroom with a young couple who was working at the London School as English teachers. During the academic year, the London School is primarily for local students who are studying English. Summer is when foreign students tend to come to learn Russian or Kyrgyz. Over winter break, I was the only foreign student at the London School. The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) blog has a lot of entries on studying at the London School during the summer, and I would recommend anyone who’s considering London School to check out that blog. Things are livelier in the summer, there are more excursions, and it’s a great time to go hiking in Ala-Archa National Park or go to Issyk-Kul. Bishkek itself also has a lot of parks.


Burana Tower


I went on a London School-organized excursion to Burana Tower. The rest of my free time was largely spent exploring Bishkek. I went to the National Opera and Ballet Theater to see “The Nutcracker,” watched a Kyrgyz-Uzbek film, “Delbirim,” at the Ala-Too Cinema, and had a misadventure involving the kontrol’nyi listok at the National Library. But the place I probably went to more than anywhere else was Faiza, a restaurant that serves Central Asian and Russian dishes and that was filled every night with people dining in and getting takeout.


Ala-Too Cinema


Bishkek was extremely charming in the winter, and I expect it to be even more so in the summer. My only advice is to arrange a long enough stay so that you have the chance to explore other parts of Kyrgyzstan.


Sydney Lazarus is a second-year M.A. student at REEEC. Her research interests include language and education policy in contemporary Macedonia. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and Slavic languages and literature from Northwestern University.

Fall 2019 – Select Courses in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Fall 2019: Select Courses in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Note: The courses listed below are not an exhaustive list of courses being offered on the REEE region.
Please see course explorer for additional classes.

ANTH 488: Anthropology of Modern Europe
Jessica Greenberg
Time TBD, location TBD

In recent years the Anthropology of Europe has produced exciting and innovative contributions to some of the most central debates in the discipline. At the same time, changing geopolitical relations in the post-Cold-War and postcolonial world have challenged Europe’s once privileged status as the arbiter of political and social modernity. Using ethnographic case studies, film, and primary source material, we will interrogate modern Europe as an ideological, cultural, political, and economic project. We will ask how the ethnography of this contemporary Europe-in-crisis sheds light on key themes in Anthropology, including: Labor, value, and neoliberalism; consumption and material culture; immigration and citizenship; the politics of race and gender; secularism; state and governance; and democracy and counter/publics.

HIST 354: Twentieth-Century Europe: Cultural History of Eastern Europe: The Best Novels and Films
Maria Todorova
TR 2:00 – 3:20 pm, 321 Gregory Hall

This interdisciplinary course is devoted to the examination of the cultures, politics and societies of the nations of Eastern Europe during the 20th century. Eastern Europe in the context of this course is understood as East-Central Europe and Southeastern Europe (the Balkans). Russia, given that it has a hefty presence in the department’s curriculum, is not included, although it is considered to be a part of Eastern Europe. Located at the intersection of the three traditional contiguous empires – the Habsburg, the Ottoman, and the Romanov – Eastern Europe emerged as a zone of nation states after the collapse of these empires at the end of the First World War. Beginning with a historical overview of the region, this course will offer an introduction to the major topics that have characterized its development in the course of a century, as well as particularly evocative case-studies. This will be achieved through a close analysis of some of the most important “cultural texts” coming out of this region (including novels, films, plays, and poetry). Major topics include: empire and imperial legacy; modernizing ideologies and projects; war and revolution; ethnic diversity; memory and identity, especially the Holocaust in Eastern Europe; the 1989 revolutions; the Yugoslav crisis and wars of secession; economic, political and cultural relations with the West and Russia, and European Union accession; everyday life during communism and post-communism; and post-communist nostalgia.

HIST 439: The Ottoman Empire
Maria Todorova
TR 11:00 – 12:20 pm, 307 Gregory Hall

This course introduces the history of one of the great imperial formations of the early modern and modern period, which had long-standing repercussions on the development of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa.  It covers the whole span of Ottoman history, and will pay special attention to some of the following problems: the political rise of the Ottoman state since the thirteenth century and how it became an empire, its social and administrative structure, the classical Ottoman economic system, Ottoman impact on the societies, politics, economies and cultures of Byzantium and the medieval Balkan states, the spread of Islam in Europe, the transformations of the Ottoman polity and society, aspects of what has been conventionally named as Ottoman decline, the Eastern question in international relations, the modernizing reforms of the nineteenth century, and the spread of nationalism as a prelude to the final demise of the supranational empire in the twentieth century.

HIST 467: Eastern Europe
K. Hitchins
TR 9:30 – 10:50 am, 327 Gregory Hall

The political, economic, and cultural history of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Albania; particular emphasis upon the post-World War II era.

HIST 560: Problems in Imperial Russian History
John Randolph
F 1:00 – 2:50 pm, location TBD

By 1649, the Romanov dynasty claimed most of the territory of today’s Russian Federation. Yet the place that would be occupied by Russia in modern politics, culture, and society had yet to be determined, not least because the modern world was itself rapidly evolving. Tracing this history forward over two hundred years, this reading course will examine major problems in Imperial Russian cultural history, 1650-1850. Drawing on theories of empire, communication, and performance, we will analyze historical scholarship as well as classical Russian literature and art to understand how the space claimed by Russian empire became the place called modern Russia. Coursework will include seminar presentations, short reaction papers, and a longer research project, based on either secondary or primary sources.

MUS 252: Ethnomusicology Performance Ensembles: Balkanalia
Donna Buchanan
T 6:30 – 9:50 pm, 25 Smith Memorial Hall

Balkan performance ensemble.

POL 245/CWL 245: Survey of Polish Literature
G. Gasyna
MW 11:00 am – 12:20 pm, 219 David Kinley Hall

Critical survey, in translation, of Polish literature from the Middle Ages to the end of the nineteenth century; special attention given to the works in their cultural context.

PS 300: The Comparative Politics of EU Enlargement    
Carol Leff
Time TBD, location TBD
Description TBD

PS 398: Strategic International Relations
Instructor TBA
TR 3:30 – 4:50 pm, 120 Architecture Building

Examination of basic concepts and tools for analyzing foreign policy and understanding international politics and economy. Simple game-theoretic models will be used to explore the logic and the mechanisms behind key policy issues in international economy, cooperation, security, and institutions.

REES 200: Introduction to Russia and Eurasia
Instructor TBA
TR 9:30 – 10:50 am, G46 Foreign Languages Building

Survey of the societies and states formerly constituted as the Soviet Union. Interdisciplinary and team-taught. Combines lectures, discussions, and films covering the history, political science, economics, sociology, and culture of the area.

REES 495: Senior Seminar
W 3:00 – 4:50 pm, 1051 Lincoln Hall

Interdisciplinary seminar normally taken in the senior year. Involving faculty in a number of disciplines, this course approaches understanding Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia and the methodologies of its study through questions of identities, cultural values, and change.

REES 496: Topics in REEE Studies – The South Caucasus
Maureen Marshall
M 3:00 – 5:50 pm, G20 Foreign Languages Building

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, the countries of the South Caucasus, are perhaps best known historically as a geographical (and geological) fault zone “between East and West” that is set against stunning mountain backdrops, imposing stone architecture, and strong traditions of hospitality. Today, the region is attracting refugees, adventure tourists, and international energy corporations, even as each country continues to deal with periods of stagnation, conflict, and rapid change following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. This course will take an anthropological perspective on the South Caucasus, drawing on archaeological and ethnographic studies as well as interdisciplinary texts (geography, history, political science, sociology)  and media (dance, film, artwork, song) to explore the foundational myths, historical landscapes, and cultures of the South Caucasus from the Paleolithic to the Roman period and the Medieval to the Post-Soviet present. Importantly, we will read and discuss authors and artists from the region and diaspora to critically engage with Western and Russian conceptions of the South Caucasus. Together as a class we will explore the intersection of history, politics, religion, and the arts with identity, ethnicity, and subjectivity.

REES 550: Seminar in REEE Studies
W 3:00 – 4:50 pm, 1051 Lincoln Hall

Interdisciplinary seminar involving faculty in a number of disciplines. The course examines Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia and the methodologies of its study through questions of identities, cultural values, and change.

RUSS 220/CWL 227: The Golden Age of Russian Literature
David Cooper
Time TBD, location TBD

Survey of Russian literature in the long 19th century; romanticism, realism, nationalism, orientalism, empire; writers may include Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Pavlova, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and others; reading and discussion in English.

RUSS 320/RUSS 520/CWL 321: Russian Writers: Nikolai Gogol
David Cooper
Time TBD, location TBD

This course will explore the literary art of Nikolai Gogol. Gogol’s texts are remarkable in their demonstration of the power of language to create a reality, and equally remarkable in their resistance to comprehension, finality, closure. Gogol’s is a highly self-conscious art that constantly challenges the reader as a self-conscious co-creator. The texts continually offer up models of bad and good readers and endlessly challenge the reader’s assumptions (that narratives have plots, have characters, have a definable perspective, etc.). In order to read Gogol well, one has to be open to learning new reading strategies suggested by the text, but also self-aware enough to understand how one is being shaped and to question that shaping. In learning to read Gogol, then, we are learning to do the hard and complicated work of good reading.

RUSS 461/CWL 466: Russia and the Other: The Caucasus in the Russian Cultural Imagination
Valeria Sobol
W 2:00 – 4:20 pm, location TBD

From the nineteenth-century Romantic fascination with this beautiful, dangerous, and exotic region to current racial profiling and fears of terrorism, the Caucasus has kept its hold on the Russian cultural imagination as Russia’s ultimate “Other.” The course will explore the representations of the Caucasus in Russian literature and film and their historical and theoretical contexts. No knowledge of Russian is required.

RUSS 512: Russian Literature 1855-1905
R. Tempest
M 2:30 – 5:15 pm, 1032 Foreign Languages Building

Graduate-level survey of Russian literature of the second half of the nineteenth century, tracing the emergence, blossom, and decline of the great Russian realist novel, as well as the social and ideological debates of the 1850s and 1860s that were that form’s most significant context. Explores the emergence and varied meanings of the term “realism” in Russian literature and criticism of the nineteenth century and will cover the rise of the short form in the 1880s and then, of Russian Decadence/Symbolism in the 1890s. Key developments in Russian drama will also be covered: Ostrovskii, Sukhovo-Kobylin, Chekhov and the Moscow Art Theater.

SLAV 117/CWL 117: Russian and East European Science Fiction
R. Tempest
MWF 11:00 am – 12:50 pm, 236 Wohlers Hall

Survey of the science fiction writing of Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe since 1750, with particular emphasis on the post-World War II period. The role of the Science Fiction tradition in the respective national cultures. The influence on Russian and East European Science Fiction of Anglo-American Science Fiction. All readings are in English.

SOC 366: Postsocialism in Eastern Europe
Zsuzsa Gille

Time TBD, location TBD

The purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the sociological realities of state socialism and postsocialism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

What was state socialism and what is coming after it? Can we even evaluate the recent radical transformations in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union from just one perspective? How do people belonging to different social groups experience and make sense of these changes?

What is it like to be a former party member in Germany? Why are Western feminists received with suspicion in the Czech Republic? What happens to your working conditions when your old company in Poland is bought up by an American firm? Why don’t Russians who don’t get paid for six months go on strike or demonstrate in the streets? How do you keep the value of your money if you cannot trust new financial institutions in Romania? What do American businessmen see as the greatest problems of their East European counterparts? What is the appeal of nationalism during and after state socialism? What does it feel like not to be able to buy your favorite old brands now replaced with western ones? What can you do when a French company wants to build an incinerator in your village? What does it mean to be a Jew in Hungary? What does it feel like to be a Bosnian woman refugee? What effect does Western aid have on postsocialist society? Are you better off in capitalism if you are a Roma?

In this course we will find the answers to these and many other questions and analyze what their relevance is for joining the global economy and for building a new society and in former socialist countries.

UKR 113: Ukrainian Culture
Roman Ivashkiv
TR 2:00 – 3:20 pm, G24 Foreign Languages Building

This course situates Ukrainian culture in the broad context of Slavic nations. Acquaints students with Ukrainian culture from the origins of Kievan Rus’ in the Middle Ages to the present. Includes highlights of historical-cultural events, an overview of literature and of the arts, as well as an outline of Ukrainian folklore. No knowledge of Ukrainian required.


Note: An asterisk indicates courses that may count towards a degree or FLAS requirement, but must be approved by the REEES advisor or FLAS coordinator.

REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture: Thornton Miller, “Agency and Access: The Soviet Performance of British Contemporary Music during the Early Cold War”


On February 12th, 2019, Thornton Miller gave a lecture entitled “Agency and Access: The Soviet Performance of British Contemporary Music during the Early Cold War.” Miller is a PhD Candidate in Musicology here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His dissertation research hones in on the professional agency of British and Soviet composers, concert agents, performers, and publishers in the Anglo-Soviet cultural exchange, and his noontime lecture dealt with one aspect of this research.

Miller’s talk centered around the societal position of Soviet music professionals during the Cold War era, focusing on the agency granted to them through their unique societal position. These music professionals were afforded better housing and access to international travel, which then allowed them to evade many of the obstacles to cultural exchange during this era. With this agency also came access to British contemporary music, and with this access came their championing for performances of this music in the Soviet Union.

Among these music professionals are Dzhemal Dalgat of the Kirov Theater in Leningrad and Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Mikhail Chulaki of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow; these musicians stood at the center of Miller’s talk. These orchestral conductors lobbied specifically for the performances of Benjamin Britten’s orchestral compositions. Interestingly, Chulaki and Dalgat also pushed for the performances of Britten’s music in their theaters, desiring multiple performances throughout the concert season. These performances included Britten’s Peter Grimes and The Prince of the Pagodas at the Kirov Theater and A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Bolshoi Theater. These performances are crucial, because, as Miller points out, Britten was the first living composer of a capitalist country to have their works performed in the Kirov and Bolshoi Theaters’ general repertoires.

Of course, these performances didn’t come without a slew of issues to be faced. As Miller mentions, there were some topics considered to be taboo at this juncture in time; therefore, some minor details needed to be changed in order to avoid certain scandal. For this very reason, a Moscow radio studio referred to Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem simply as Symphony in D. Likewise, Dalgat was tasked with proving the viability of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, which came under both aesthetic and ideological scrutiny. Most interesting, perhaps, is the challenge Chulaki faced concerning criticisms of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which surfaced during the dress rehearsals. These criticisms included calling the music ‘pederasticheskaia,’ or pederastic. Miller postulates that it could potentially be read as a metaphor for western modernism, or even a reference to Britten’s homosexuality; however, it is likely meant to be a metaphor referring to musical style. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note the performances of all of these pieces ensued despite any hesitancies and criticisms, due in large part to the agency of musical professionals.

Miller concluded by reinforcing the notion that the relationship between the Soviet Ministry of Culture and the music professionals must not be viewed as that of a state repressing the artists. Their relationship was, rather, that of a compromise—a compromise that granted these music professionals the agency necessary to bring these pieces to performing groups in the Soviet Union.

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.

2019 Open Research Laboratory Fellows

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at Illinois is pleased to welcome this year’s Open Research Laboratory fellows: Dr. Emily Channell-Justice, Gabrielle Cornish, Dr. Susan Morrissey, and Dr. Maria Taylor, whose research proposals are listed below.

The Open Research Laboratory fellowships provide funding for policy-relevant research on Russian, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. ORL Fellows have access to the extensive holdings in the Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Collection at the International and Area Studies Library ORL Associates are also welcome to attend all campus programming and public talks at the Center during their stay. We are happy to introduce associates to local students and scholars, as well as to make arrangements for them to present their work in progress for discussion.

2019 Open Research Laboratory Fellows:

Emily Channell-Justice (Post-doctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor at Havighurst Center and Department of International Studies, Miami University in Ohio), “Without the State: Self-Organization and Political Activism in Ukraine.”

Gabrielle Cornish (PhD Candidate in Musicology, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester), “Sounding Socialist, Sounding Modern: Music, Sound, and Everyday Life in the Soviet Union, 1956-1975.”

Susan Morrissey (Professor of History, University of California at Irvine), “Subjects of Terror: Political Violence in Late Imperial Russia.”

Maria Taylor (PhD in Architechture, University of Michigan), “Designing the Stalinist Garden-Factory.”

The ORL is supported by the U.S. State Department Title VIII Program for the Study of Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, which exists to support policy-relevant research on the region.

Call for Submissions: Yaro Skalnik 2019 Best Essay Prize, Deadline 15 March 2019


REEEC invites submissions for the Yaro Skalnik Prize for the best undergraduate and graduate essays in Russian, East European, or Eurasian studies at Illinois. The essay can be in any discipline as long as it deals with a relevant region. Each winner will receive a certificate and a cash prize (graduate student award $250; undergraduate award $150).

Submission Guidelines
• Written during the spring, summer, or fall semesters of 2018.
• Length: minimum of 10 pages for undergraduates; 15 pages for
• Cover page with: name, UIN, degree program and major, course, and
• Papers can be nominated by a faculty member or submitted directly by
a student.
• Dissertation and thesis chapters are not eligible.

Submit by email to

Submission Deadline: 15 March 2019

Student Research Spotlight: Second-Year REEES MA Sydney Lazarus, “The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization”

The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization

For a while now I’ve been interested in the history of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO), a revolutionary society that was founded in Ottoman Macedonia towards the end of the 19th century, and I’ve been researching this history during my time at REEEC. There’s a line in the Macedonian national anthem that consists of four men’s names (“Goce Delchev, Pitu Guli, Dame Gruev, Sandanski”), and it repeats twice. A few years ago I lived in Macedonia and learned the anthem. Now I’ve forgotten most of the lines, but I do remember the names. After all, many streets in Macedonia were named after these figures, statues and busts were erected in their honor, schools were named after them, villages were named after them. When asked who Goce Delchev is, one of my former students, a second grader at the time, blurted out, “He’s a statue!”

It is relatively rare for individuals’ names to appear in national anthems. I have not looked at the texts of all current national anthems, but some time ago I did look through a few dozen. The only other anthem I came across that mentioned an individual name was Andorra’s, and the individual was Charlemagne. Goce Delchev (1872-1903), Pitu Guli (1865-1903), Dame Gruev (1871-1906), and Jane Sandanski (1872-1915) were all members of — and served in various capacities as leaders in — IMRO. The organization split into factions soon after its 1903 Ilinden Uprising, and by the middle of the 20th century, IMRO activities had come to an end. The focus of my research this semester is on the legacy of IMRO in Macedonia during the Yugoslav era and afterwards. (IMRO members are also national heroes in Bulgaria, but my paper will focus on Macedonia.) There were many historical figures who were active in IMRO, with clashing visions for Macedonia. How were these different IMRO figures presented by different political leaders, and how were their narratives told? How did Goce Delchev go from schoolteacher to statue?

The above is my plan for my MA paper as of early February 2019. As for longer-term plans, I am not applying to PhD programs. However, I do intend to continue studying Russian, which other than IMRO, is my main academic interest right now, at Middlebury College.


Sydney Lazarus is a second-year M.A. student at REEEC. Her research interests include language and education policy in contemporary Macedonia. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and Slavic languages and literature from Northwestern University.

REEES Alumnus Zach Claybaugh Discusses His New Book, “A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources” and His REEEC Experience

A little bit about myself

I am currently the OER (Open Educational Resources) & Digital Learning Librarian at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. I live in Stratford, CT with my lovely wife Megan Osfar, our dog Charlie, and our cat Daphne. I am originally from Minnesota, but I grew up in Amarillo, TX. I attended undergrad at West Texas A&M University, a small campus in the A&M system in Canyon, TX. After a little wandering from an undeclared major to an English major, I eventually settled in as a History major. In my first semester as a History major, I took a class on the long nineteenth century with Dr. Elizabeth Morrow Clark, a specialist in the history of the Free City of Danzig, which sparked my interest in Russian and East European History in general and Southeastern Europe specifically.

After graduation from WT, I moved to Minnesota and got my Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certification from Hamline University in St. Paul. I taught adult ESL in a variety of spots in the Twin Cities. After getting some experience as a teacher in an ESL setting, I got a job teaching middle school at an international school in Tirana, Albania. I spent a year teaching in Tirana, traveling around Albania, visiting Italy, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, and Kosovo, and further developing my knowledge of and interest in Southeastern Europe. After returning to the United States, I taught middle school social studies in Florida for a few years and ultimately decided to head back to school.

I got into the REEES MA program, attended Indiana University’s Summer Language Workshop (SWSEEL) prior to arriving in Urbana-Champaign for a summer of intensive Albanian language study, and got to U of I for the fall 2008 semester.

How has the REEES degree helped me professionally

The REEES MA helped me professionally and personally. I established long-term friendships with two REEES grads, Urszula Lechtenberg (née Biegaj), who I currently work with at Sacred Heart University Library, and Devon Lechtenberg, who created the maps and cover image for my upcoming book. Through REEEC I was finally able to be a part of a scholarly community that was interested in the same things I was. I was able to take classes with some of the most prominent scholars in their respective fields. For a guy from Amarillo, TX that followed the work of people like Maria Todorova and Keith Hitchins, it was a pretty awesome experience to be a student in their academic world.

REEEC connected me with what was at the time the Slavic and East European Library and the staff at the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library, which helped to further my interest in librarianship. I also can’t stress how important my language training while at REEEC was and still is. There is no way I would have been able to tackle a project like this if it hadn’t been for studying Albanian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian while I was a REEES MA student and being exposed to so many other languages of the region.

What have you been doing since your time at REEEC?

Following my time as a graduate student at REEEC, I jumped into another graduate program at the University of Illinois, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), now called the iSchool, to pursue a master’s degree in library and information science. My interest in libraries and area studies emerged at the same time as an undergraduate at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX in the early 2000s, so it seemed like a natural movement going from an area studies program to a library science program as a graduate student.  While at GSLIS, I had the good fortune to get an assistantship working in the University Library at the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library. This was a fantastic experience in that I was able to take many of the skills I was learning in the classroom and apply them directly into practice in my work as a graduate assistant. Additionally, I had the great fortune to work with an excellent group of librarians at SSHEL like Nancy O’Brien, Beth Sheehan, Dan Tracy, Cindy Ingold, and Peg Burnette who helped me become the librarian I am today.

The merging of my REEEC experience and my growing skills in librarianship really paid dividends when I was recommended to Kit Condill, currently the Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies Librarian at the International & Area Studies Library, and Collections Management Librarian Jennifer Maddox Abbott to work with the non-Russian language materials in the University Library’s Slavic backlog. I really see this as the training ground for gaining the skills needed to produce my upcoming book, A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources. For about a year I worked to identify, organize, and assist in cataloging thousands of print materials in over a dozen languages and make them finally discoverable and available to researchers after years of lying dormant. I gained in comfort working with materials in languages across Europe and Central Asia. My REEEC experience, particularly language training in Albanian and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and exposure to a variety of languages from across the region, helped prepare me for this kind of project and gave me confidence that I could do the work.

Following graduation from GSLIS, I got a job as the Digital Learning Initiatives Librarian, now the OER (Open Educational Resources) & Digital Learning Librarian, at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. My work really spans the breadth and depth of academic librarianship. I do a lot of instruction, work with colleagues on developing library programming, occasionally help faculty navigate the academic publishing world, work on library assessment, collection development, and I work as an advocate on campus for open educational resources.

While I love the work I do with faculty and students at Sacred Heart, it doesn’t often give me the opportunity to delve into area studies, and I found that that was something I still wanted to be a part of my life. About six months after I started at Sacred Heart, I responded to a call for proposals from Rowman & Littlefield to pitch book ideas that fit into their research guides group of publications. This was the type of book, focused on Southeastern Europe, that I had often thought would be a lot of fun to work on, and I knew there was a definite need for this type of publication. While at REEEC, I had spent enough time around people doing dissertation work in a variety of disciplines, many with topics focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, to know that half the battle is often figuring out where to find materials, so I knew there was a potential audience for this type of work. I put a proposal together and it was accepted. Roughly three years later, the work is being published. My hope is that the book can fill the gap that exists for a multidisciplinary guide to resources of interest to those researching Southeastern Europe.

More about the Book

Here is the back-cover summary of the book:

“A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources” is designed to aid those interested in exploring this dynamic region in locating the best resources available, whether looking for archival collections in Albania or dissertations and theses in Greece. It provides readers with up-to-date information on a variety of research collections from more than twenty countries and in more than a dozen languages. The focus of the volume is on the modern era, primarily the eighteenth century to the present. It covers the subject areas of the humanities and social sciences—though researchers outside of the subject and temporal scope of the work will find information of use—and the countries of Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova (including the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic), Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. This volume is distinctive in that it is the only bibliographic resource that offers such extensive subject, linguistic, and regional treatment. This book is composed of five chapters and three appendixes. The chapters are focused on research materials, providing access points for critical materials on Southeastern Europe in both in print and digital formats from libraries, archives, journals, and databases. The appendixes focus on library classification, educational programming geared to language instruction, and transliteration of non-Latin scripts.”

An endorsement from Dr. Maria Todorova:

“This invaluable guide will help researchers navigate the difficult waters of a notoriously complex region, with geographic and thematic stopovers at libraries, archives, journals, and online research databases. We are all in debt to Claybaugh for this Sisyphean labor.” —Maria Todorova, Gutgsell Professor of History, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Link to the book from the publisher:


Zach Claybaugh is an alumnus of the REEES MA program. His first book, A Research Guide to Southeastern Europe: Print and Electronic Sources, will be published next month by Rowman & Littlefield.