REEEC-Affiliated Graduate Student Awarded ASEEES Summer Dissertation Writing Grant

LeiAnna Hamel, a Ph.D. candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures and FLAS alumna, has been awarded an ASEEES Summer Dissertation Writing Grant for work on her dissertation, “Undisciplined Bodies: Deviant Female Sexuality in Russian and Yiddish Literatures, 1870s-1930,” this summer.

LeiAnna’s dissertation analyzes the depiction of female bodies and eroticism in Russian and Yiddish literatures alongside medical, anthropological, and journalistic examinations of female sexuality. Her project poses the question: How did the sexualized (Jewish) female body become the locus for anxieties about modernization in Russian and Yiddish texts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?

REEEC-Affiliated Undergrad Receives Boren Award


REEEC-affiliated undergrad Haley Nelson (Political Science) has received the Boren Award’s Turkish Language initiative program scholarship. The program will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan, where Haley will continue to advance her Turkish as well as learn Azerbaijani.

Boren scholarships fund study abroad by U.S. undergraduate students in world regions critical to U.S. interests. More information about the program can be found here, while a list of past Illinois Boren recipients can be found here.

Congratulations to our 2020 REEES Graduates & Student Award Winners!

We at the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center are pleased to announce this year’s REEES and affiliated graduates:

REEES Undergraduate Degrees:

  • Joseph Dillier, B.A. in REEES & Political Science
  • Jacob Smith, B.A. in REEES with a concentration in Arms Control & Domestic and International Security
  • Leslie Bueno, B.A. in History with a REEES minor
  • Buyandelger Tsetsengarid, B.A. in Global Studies with a REEES minor

REEES Graduate Degrees:

  • Megan Carpenter, REEES M.A.
    • Final Research Paper: “Zombie Politics? The Continuation of Soviet Foreign Policy and Tactics in Russia Towards the Former Satellite States of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.”
  • Thornton Miller, Ph.D. in Musicology and REEES graduate minor
    • Dissertation: “Reaching Through the Iron Curtain: Practicalities in the Anglo-Soviet Cultural Exchange of Music and Musicians, 1955-1975”


  • Maria Dorofeeva, Ph.D. in Art History
    • Dissertation: “Making Men: Spanish Art and the Politics of Masculinity, 1898-1936”

We are also pleased to announce three awards for REEEC-affiliated students:

Ben Krupp (Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology) won the Department of Anthropology’s Shimkin Prize for best graduate student paper. The paper, “Fitness vs. Fitzkultera: Nike and the Unfit Body in Moscow,” will appear as an article in a special issue of  Laboratorium. The article was invited as part of a special issue on Russia and corporations organized by Doug Rogers and supported by the Carnegie Foundation.

Diana Sacilowski (Ph.D. Candidate, Slavic Languages and Literatures) won a SLCL Dissertation Completion Award. Her dissertation title is “Strategies of Silence: Representations of Jewish Poles in Polish Literature since the 1980s.”




REEEC-Affiliated Graduate Students Receive ASEEES Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Fellowships

Elizabeth Abosch (Ph.D. candidate, History) and Matthew Klopfenstein (Ph.D. candidate, History) have received Stephen F. Cohen- Robert C. Tucker Dissertation Fellowships for 2020-2021. The fellowships are awarded by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), and support doctoral research in Russia. Elizabeth received a dissertation research fellowship, and Matthew received a dissertation completion fellowship.

thumbnail_ImageElizabeth’s dissertation is titled “The ‘Outcry from the Criminal Soul:’ The Social Imaginary of Song, Popular Culture, and State Power in the Soviet Union, 1920-1980.” Her dissertation explores the history of the genre of criminal song, or “blatnaia pesnia” as it evolved in the Soviet Union. This history reveals conflicts between ideology and the popular; high and low culture; and between the new soviet man and his “shadow,” the figure of the singing criminal that is made of representations of criminal culture and the Soviet cultural and social underworld.

48384639_583342608778066_7933175032346312704_nMatthew’s dissertation, “Performing Death, Embodying Modernity: Media Spectacle, Public Emotion, and Modern Selves in the Celebrity Funerals of Russian Female Performers, 1859-1919,” examines the public funerals of famous women opera stars, actors of the stage and screen, and popular singers as a social phenomenon in late imperial Russia. He analyzes the empire-wide press coverage of the deaths and funerals of five celebrity performers to argue that emotion, gender, and mass media were interrelated elements central to the history of the Russian public sphere in the tumultuous period before the 1917 Revolution.

The complete list of this year’s Cohen-Tucker Fellows can be found here. 


Summer 2020 FLAS Fellows

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


Graduate Students:

Justin Balcor (Musicology) – Georgian

Alex Karsavin (Slavic Languages and Literature) – Russian

Murad Jalilov (Slavic Languages and Literature) – Turkish

Quinn O’Dowd (Sociology) – Czech

Cassidy Ward (REEES/LIS) – Russian


Undergraduate Students:

Kameron Gausling (Astronomy) – Russian


REEEC Staff Profile: Danielle Sekel

Picture1Danielle Sekel is a third-year M.M. student in Ethnomusicology and a REEEC FLAS fellow for 2020-2021. Before coming to the University of Illinois, she received her bachelor’s degree in music and literary studies at Roanoke College and subsequently taught middle and high school music and English for two years in South Carolina. She aims to find a career in academia upon earning her degrees. Her M.M. paper focuses on the musical contributions of the Bosnian band Dubioza Kolektiv, and the ways in which they reference cultural artifacts, criticize the current state of the Balkans, and address individuals now living in diaspora.

As a REEEC FLAS fellow, Danielle has been able to study introductory Bosnian at the University of Pittsburgh during the summer of 2018 and advanced Bosnian in Sarajevo the following summer. She says that these language study opportunities have given her the ability to interact more comfortably with the musical texts and existing literature about this musical group and have also opened the door to many new research interests and new contacts in the field.

Currently a FLAS fellow with the European Union Center studying Bulgarian, Danielle will continue to study advanced Bulgarian as a REEEC FLAS fellow in the fall. Looking towards her doctoral research, Danielle hopes to work towards a multi-sited project focusing on LGBTQ vocal artists in Bosnia and Bulgaria. She says she is incredibly thankful for the plethora of language-learning opportunities and courses available through REEEC, as they have been instrumental in shaping and tuning her own research interests.

As a graduate assistant for REEEC, Danielle is also in charge of the outreach initiatives with the Champaign County Head Start, where she visits a group of 150 children ranging in ages from three to five years old monthly to teach them about countries in the REEE region. This academic year, children have been introduced to countries such as Turkey, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Romania. Danielle says that “this is easily one of things I have enjoyed doing most during my time at UIUC thus far!”

FLAS Fellow Profile: Melissa Bialecki

Sunflower fieldMelissa Bialecki is a third-year Ph.D. student in Musicology with a minor in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, and a REEEC 2019-2020 FLAS fellow. Melissa received her Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance and Bachelor of Music Education from Central Michigan University in 2015. She received her Master of Music degree in Ethnomusicology in 2017 from Bowling Green State University. Melissa decided to combine musicology with Russian, East, European, and Eurasian studies after learning about a group of blind minstrels in Ukraine called kobzari during a seminar in music and disability studies. She began thinking about the role of folk music in Ukraine today, as the region becomes increasingly volatile. Her forthcoming dissertation will focus on the role of sound in shaping political thought on the Ukrainian conflict, musicians who engage in dialogues about Ukrainian sovereignty, and artists who shape narratives of Ukrainian-Russian relations in the current post-Soviet moment.

Melissa is studying advanced Ukrainian with her FLAS fellowship from REEEC. This summer, she will also study Russian through the University of Pittsburgh with a FLAS from the Center for Global Studies. She studies Ukrainian and Russian in order to facilitate her dissertation fieldwork, which includes accessing sources in both languages, and conducting field interviews. One such interview occurred last summer in Kyiv when she saw two women playing bandura on the street—an instrument which even today is still typically only played by men—and she was able to interview them thanks to her knowledge of Ukrainian and Russian.

At UIUC, Melissa was most excited to be able to study both Ukrainian and Russian, neither of which were offered in her master’s program, as well as to have access to our library’s extensive resources. Upon earning her degree, Melissa plans to continue on in academia by finding a teaching position.

FLAS Fellow Profile: Jacob Bell

thumbnail_ImageJacob Bell is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and a 2019-2020 REEEC FLAS fellow. He received his B.A. in History and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 and his M.A. from the University of Illinois in 2019. He considers himself to be a historian of the global Middle Ages, Christian church history, mobility, and material culture, with a focus on the place of the Kievan Rus’ in the medieval Baltic world. Specifically, he studies the idea of “religious mobility” in what is now Russia from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, especially pilgrimage culture and the veneration of non-Orthodox saints.

With support from FLAS, Jacob is currently taking advanced Russian in order to improve his reading and conversation abilities to assist with his research and enable collaboration with other scholars. He also feels that a high level of Russian proficiency can open doors across the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe. Jacob hopes to use this knowledge after earning his doctorate by teaching—hopefully at the university level—and to share with others his love for this language and its culture.

REEES M.A. Student Profile: Megan Carpenter

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 3.10.41 PM (1)Megan Carpenter is a second-year M.A. student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. She is currently studying 4th year Russian as a 2019-2020 FLAS fellow. Before coming to the University of Illinois, she received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Russian from the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include Soviet and post-Soviet politics, Soviet propaganda, and Russian women’s history. She is currently working on her MA project, in which she is writing about the connections between Soviet behaviors and policies towards the satellite states, and present-day Russia’s behaviors towards Eastern and Central European countries, such as election interference and aggressive actions.  Megan says what she has liked the most about the REEES program at the University of Illinois is the diverse array of classes she has had the opportunity to take here. Megan is currently looking for a job as a political analyst and plans on using her Russian language skills in her future career.

FLAS Fellow Profile: Elizabeth Abosch

Abosch_FLAS profile (1)Elizabeth Abosch is a third-year PhD student in History, and a REEEC FLAS fellow for 2019-2020. Before coming to the University of Illinois, she received her bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Maryland College Park, and her master’s degree in global, international, and comparative history at Georgetown University. Her doctoral research concerns the history of a genre of Soviet song known as blatnaia pesnia (criminal or underground song), from 1920 to 1970. The genre is still popular today in Russia, and has its origins in pre-revolutionary street song, urban lower-class Jewish culture, and folklore of the city of Odessa. As she prepares to embark on a research year in Russia and Ukraine, she will be investigating the genre’s staying power that reflects on such themes as the construction of the Soviet self; exchanges between high and low cultures; and the enshrinement of the criminal subculture through ethnography.

As part of her FLAS fellowship, Elizabeth is studying advanced Russian which is aiding her in understanding the jargon and comical turns of phrase in her sources that reference films, obscure historical figures, and Soviet modernist literature. In addition to Russian, she also studies Yiddish and Ukrainian, both of which play a role in her research. Elizabeth aims to find a career in academia after receiving her doctorate.