Faculty, staff, students, and Summer Research Lab (SRL) participants celebrated the start of this year’s SRL with a reception at the University YMCA on June 21. Food from the Russian, East European, and Eurasian region was served. Joe Lenkart, Manager of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS), gave his remarks. Everyone had a great time catching up with colleagues, meeting visiting researchers, and enjoying the refreshments.
On June 20th, 2017, Ingrid Nordgaard (PhD Candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University) gave a REEEC Noontime Scholars Lecture entitled: “On the Frozen Sea: Exploring, Writing and Painting the Northern Frontier.”
The project, slated as the first chapter of her dissertation, “Aesthetics of the North: Russian Modernist Culture and Scandinavia 1891-1910,” examines the North and its aesthetic representations in Russian Modernist culture. In her dissertation, Nordgaard seeks to understand how and for what reasons Russia became invested in the North and Scandinavia. She hopes to show that the North—in different contexts understood either as an imagined geography or as a composite for real geographical locations—functioned as a creative repository for Russian cultural producers of the late imperial era.
For the writers and visual artists that Nordgaard studies, the North came to be understood as a mythical place that promised purity and rejuvenation, an escape from the pessimism of the end of the century. However, the North was also a geographical frontier, that is, a space of physical riches to be explored and conquered. She seeks to understand how these two approaches, one based on artistic considerations and the other on material interests, contributed to Modernist aesthetics between 1891 and 1910. By taking both approaches into account, Nordgaard will tie her discussion about aesthetic representations of the North to larger narratives that characterize the period – such as capitalism, nationalism, and questions of socioeconomic development – as well as comment on how modernism moves between cultures.
In her talk, Nordgaard focused on an 1894 journey in the northernmost part of Russia, Arkhangelsk and the Murmansk coast. The trip, led by Sergei Witte, finance minister of Russia at the time, aimed to search for a new naval base and to survey the area for the construction of a railroad that would connect Moscow to Arkhangelsk. This trip, which lasted three weeks in the summer of 1894, was recorded in the travel log of Evgeny Kochetov, entitled On the Frozen Sea: A Journey to the North, published in 1895. She argues that Kochetov’s book consciously creates something that Nordgaard coins as “aesthetics of the North.” In other words, she seeks to explore the making and components of the set of principles that together constitute the “aesthetic of the north” that Kochetov’s book represents. By investigating these question, Nordgaard asserts that we can see how Kochetov’s account connects to a bigger discussion about politics, nationalism, and about the function of literature and art in Russian Modernity.
Nordgaard called Kochetov’s travel logs a “hybrid literary product” because of its many registers and styles. However, she asserts that its agenda shines through – it is a narrative aimed at informing, inspiring, and educating the reader about North of Russia and its apparent economic and material potential. However, while Kochetov points the reader to the future, he also reminds the reader that the North has a special position in the Russian past. Kochetov continuously refers to Ivan III and all that he did for the development of Northern Russia, as well as mentioning that Peter the Great created a shipyard in Arkhangelsk. Kochetov’s writings treat the North as a region where the past and the future coexist. Although Kochetov’s writings were probably influenced by the voyage’s leading man, Witte, Nordgaard stressed that the travel logs should not be simply regarded as political propaganda. As Nordgaard argued, it is too conscious about encouraging, informing, and enticing the reader to explore for themselves. As Nordgaard stated, the travel log differs from other travel logs of the nineteenth century in that it is not just about brave men exploring the frontier, but it is an account that repeatedly reminds us that we might be able to do the same.
Nordgaard then turned to artistic depictions of the North, particularly those created by Konstantin Korovin. Korovin and Valentin Serov, were the artists responsible for the thirty illustrations and sketches that are included in Kochetov’s travel logs. However, Nordgaard focused on Korovin’s contribution to the 1896 All-Russia Exhibition in Nizhny Novgorod. Korovin was appointed as the designed and architect of one of the exhibition’s pavilions, which was dedicated to the Russian North. Within the pavilion he exhibited ten of his side-by-side large-scale paintings, which were adapted from sketches that Korovin created during trips to the North, funded by Savva Mamontov, another leader in the construction of a railway to Arkhangelsk.
Nordgaard noted their simultaneous attention to the beauty of the region and potential commercial value. The paintings in the series feature fishermen on the Murman Sea, the market at the Arkhangelsk Dock, the construction of the railway, and polar bears among nature. Thus, as Nordgaard asserts, the paintings combine different narratives about the North. The North is imagined as a land of potential riches and as concealing nature’s greatest bounties, while also a place where man’s struggles and is challenged by nature. Furthermore, since the railroad was already under construction at the time of the exhibition, the canvases also sell a product, that is, the Moscow-Arkhangelsk railroad and the North as a concept.
Thus, as Nordgaard explained, Kochetov’s travel log is a literary work that is extremely aware of the political and socioeconomic agenda of which it is a part. She asserted that his writings make it especially clear how government officials, political actors, artists, and writers come together to further the development of Russian culture from a political, cultural and aesthetic point of view. Also, Kochetov’s travel log and Korovin’s illustrations prove that commercial development does not have to take away from the mystique of the North. To Kochetov and Korovin, it is just as important to convey the beauty of the North, as it is to present it as an area with great commercial and industrial potential. Furthermore, the conscious construction of the aesthetics of the North paint a new picture of the construction of Russian image and identity. As Nordgaard stressed, by looking North, we are looking away from the centers of Berlin and Paris and turning our gaze toward the periphery, challenging traditional accounts about how, why, and where modernist aesthetics come into being.
Nadia Hoppe is a PhD candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include Soviet and Post-Soviet film, art, and literature, as well as gender and critical theory.
Ingrid Nordgaard, PhD Candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University, was awarded the 2017 Fisher Fellowship for her research at the Summer Research Lab on aesthetics in Russia’s north. The fellowship, named after Dr. Ralph Fisher, the founder of SRL and REEEC, and a champion for building the Slavic collection at the University of Illinois Library, provides funding to a scholar with a particularly promising research project.
While at SRL, Nordgaard worked on the first chapter of her dissertation project, “Aesthetics of the North: Russian Modernist Culture and Scandinavia, 1891-1910.” She also gave a Noontime Scholars Lecture entitled “On the Frozen Sea: Exploring, Writing and Painting the Northern Frontier.”
According to Nordgaard, SRL has been on her radar for a while. After reading about it on SEELANGS, she was encouraged by professors to apply and heard excellent reports from fellow graduate students, who had attended SRL in the past. After defending her prospectus last spring, she decided to kick-start her dissertation, or, as she calls it “the big forest that is The Dissertation” by attending SRL, knowing that she would be able to work with the staff at Slavic Reference Service, who would be able to give tips on how to tackle such a big project.
At the early stages of her research, Nordgaard has found SRL most helpful for getting advice on how to collect materials most efficiently, that is, locate archives, track down obscure sources and access them in the US. In general, she is searching for resources that shed light on how cultural producers in Russia approached the North within the period she is studying. Since she has been at SRL, she has been able to locate articles on the topic from several Russian journals published in the 1890s, and she has also made a list of what archives and folders to look into when she goes to Russia. Additionally, she remarked that the Slavic Reference Service librarians have been an excellent resource on their own. “You might find several copies of a book, but there’s only one Joe Lenkart!” said Norgaard.
Her favorite thing about the SRL experience has been allowing herself to completely indulge in her work without thinking of anything else. “Waking up in the morning,” she said, “I’m excited to start another day of research — every day brings something new, since you can never really be completely certain about what you might find!”
“I would highly recommend SRL! Even though I attend a large research institution like Yale University and have access to a wide array of resources, it still does not compare to attending a lab in which you get to work so closely with a librarian and receive personal advice on how to approach various research questions,” said Nordgaard. Plus, she remarked, the people in Urbana-Champaign are very friendly, the squirrels and the rabbits are amazingly bold, and the campus area has a lovely atmosphere.
The Summer Research Laboratory (SRL) on Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia is open to all scholars with research interests in the Russian, East European and Eurasian region for eight weeks during the summer months from June 12 until August 4. The SRL provides scholars access to the resources of the world renowned Slavic, East European, and Eurasian collection within a flexible time frame where scholars have the opportunity to receive one-on-one research assistance from the librarians of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS).
The deadline for grant funding is March 15 and is fast approaching! REEEC will continue to receive applications for the Summer Research Lab after the grant deadline, but housing and travel funds will not be guaranteed.
For further information and to apply, please use this link:
For graduate students, the SRL provides an opportunity to conduct research prior to going abroad and extra experience to refine research skills and strategies. Students will also have the opportunity of seeking guidance from specialized librarians in navigating resources pertaining to and originating from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia.
The SRS is an extensive service that provides access to a wide range of materials that center on and come from: Russia, the Former Soviet Union, Czech and Slovak Republics, Former Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The International & Area Studies Library, where the Slavic, East European, and Eurasian reference collection is housed, contains work stations for readers, research technologies, a collection of authoritative reference works, and provides unlimited access to one of the largest collections for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in North America.
The 2016 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum was held during the 17th and 18th of June, and was organized by Cynthia Buckley, a Professor of Sociology, and Paul McNamara, an Associate Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. The main sponsor of the event was the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), while the co-sponsors for this year’s Fisher Forum include the Fisher Forum Endowment, Illinois International Programming, Center for Global Studies, Global Health Initiative, and Russian and East European Institute (REEI) at Indiana University.
Population, Health and Social Change in Eurasia were the central themes of this year’s Fisher Forum. In delving deep into the research regarding the health profiles of countries within Eurasia, the presenters came together to answer these three core questions:
1. What are the positive and negative health legacies of structural change and institutional resilience in Eurasia?
2. What are the processes and interpretations employed by individual actors as they navigate uncertainty and make health related decisions in the Eurasian context?
3. How do the cumulative results of health behaviors in Eurasia confirm, expand or challenge existing theories related to the relationship between economic inequality and health outcomes?
Participants who took on the challenge of addressing these questions, included: Dr. Yuri Frantsuz, a Professor of Social Work at St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences, who presented research on The Impact of Income Inequality on Health in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Countries; Dr. William Alex Pridemore, the Dean and Professor of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany – State University of New York, presented on Crime, Justice, and Death in Post-Soviet Russia; Dr. Cynthia Buckley, a Professor of Sociology, REEEC, and LAS Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke about Ethnic Differentials in Reported Disability: Insights from Russia and Estonia; Dr. Nicole Butkovich Kraus, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, examined her research on Xenophobia and Homophobia in the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe; Dr. Jill Owczarzak, an Assistant Professor of Health, Behavior and Society at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Sarah Phillips, a Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, presented together their joint research endeavor on Harm Reduction and the Transformation of Public Health and Governance in Ukraine; Dr. Tricia Starks, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, who replaced Dr. Hannah Reiss as a presenter, spoke about Kosmonavty ne kuriat! The Campaign against Smoking in the Late Soviet Period; Dr. Victor Agadjanian, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Kansas, presented on International Migration and Sexual Reproductive Health in Post-Soviet Eurasia; and finally Dr. Theodore Gerber, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, presented data and research regarding Housing and Fertility in Russia, 1992-2013.
Faculty, staff, students, and Summer Research Lab (SRL) participants celebrated the beginning of SRL and the 40th anniversary of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) with a reception at the University YMCA on June 21, 2016. Attendees enjoyed food from the Russian, East European, and Eurasian region prepared by Piato Cafe. Speakers from the University Library and REEEC reminisced on the origins of SRL and SRS, including Larry Miller’s and Ralph Fisher’s tireless efforts to build the programs, and praised the good work both organizations continue to do to promote research and studies on the region. Everyone had a wonderful time with friends and colleagues!
Lyudmila Miklashevskaya, was, as MacKinnon described her, “an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life.” Miklashevskaya played the role of an ordinary woman in the midst of extraordinary people and events, and as MacKinnon suggested, this role is what makes Miklashevskaya so enticing as a research subject. MacKinnon’s analysis of Miklashevskaya’s memoir takes two tracks: translation and historical research. In translation, the textual detail brings MacKinnon closer to the subject, as she spends significant time and focus on every little detail of the material that is being translated. Thus, she begins to slowly understand the subject more intimately through this greatly detailed account of her life, creating, as MacKinnon described, an environment where she felt connected to Miklashevskaya through the act of translation. And then as a historian, the translation project allowed her to understand and analyze Miklashevskaya’s life in relation to the world and time period in which she lived, as a separate subjective viewpoint into an objective history of the times.
Lyudmila Miklashevskaya was a Jewish woman and for a time the wife of Konstantin Miklashevskii, a man from an aristocratic background, who was a playwright, theatrical historian, and an actor. He wished to be part of the avant-garde movement, yet was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union. MacKinnon suggested that a major theme of memoir was her relationship with her own daughter, of whom she spoke frequently. Having been separated from her daughter through her stint in the Gulag, she lost that which she had held as her most important identifier, her motherhood. When she was released from the Gulag, her daughter rejected Miklashevskaya’s embraces and efforts to become a family again in favor of her aunt, who to that point had raised her in her mother’s absence.
The translation project derived from a request from K. Miklashevskii’s descendants to have the portions of her memoir translated that pertained to him. MacKinnon developed an interest in the process in the life of Miklashevskaya herself and began to translate the entire 400-page memoir. This everyday woman, someone who was an ordinary citizen, was exiled as the wife of the enemy to the Soviet Union. She was caught up in an assassination conspiracy, and she spent substantial time in the Gulag. Although she had no formal training or education, Miklashevskaya began to write and publish newspaper articles, children’s books and brochures thanks to connections she had made through her first husband, Konstantin Miklashevskii.MacKinnon also discussed the challenges the translation of the project created. The first challenge was the cataloging of the numerous people and the references within the memoir. This was important to keep track of these people and references to create a mental map of the contents of the memoir.
The second challenge was with the translation of words and terms not of Russian origin. Miklashevskii came from a wealthy aristocratic family that struggled, in exile, to inventory family possessions in an attempt to recover them and smuggle them out of the Soviet Union. Miklashevskaya records this in her memoir. The issue here is that many of these words were of French origin, and then translated into Russian. According to Dr. MacKinnon, it was difficult to determine whether or not the word was originally in Russian or if the word was French translated into Russian, particularly as these terms dealt with a specific inventory of aristocratic goods.
The third challenge was encountered in the translation of literary aspects such as mood and emotion. Here MacKinnon also noted the difference that would have occurred had this project been a strict historical project rather than a translation project. If it had been purely historical, she believes that she would have missed the situational indicators denoting mood and emotional shifts. Translation thus enabled her to understand the memoir in a more nuanced way. Ultimately, through this combined process of translation and historical analysis, MacKinnon found Miklashevskii’s memoir to have no overriding agenda; it was not political in any way, nor was it purely historical. Rather, the memoir was an exercise in memory – of “an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life.”
Nicholas Higgins is a Masters student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include the development of identity separate from the Soviet identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, the current relations between Russia and its neighbors, especially Russia’s relations with Ukraine. He received his B.A in Philosophy and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from Miami University of Ohio in 2015. He is currently working on his Masters thesis, which is attempting to translate Søren Kierkegaard‘s model of faith into a political and social model that could represent the political and social nature of the late Soviet era.