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.

 

 

 

Academic Year FLAS Fellows for 2017-18

REEEC congratulates the Academic Year 2017-18 FLAS fellows, who will be studying the languages below in order to enhance the knowledge of their respective disciplines, which range from literature to advertising. Their language study will also help them engage in a vast array of area studies courses in disciplines ranging from history to international law.

Graduate Students:
Madeline Artibee (REEEC) – Croatian
Benjamin Bamberger (History) – Georgian
Tyler Dolan (Slavic) – Ukrainian
Kathleen Gergely (REEEC) – Russian
Jacob Goldsmith (Slavic) – Russian
Sydney Lazarus (REEEC) – Russian
Lucy Pakhnyuk (REEEC) – Ukrainian
Morgan Shafter (Slavic) – Polish
Victoria Sobolev (Advertising) – Ukrainian

Undergraduate Students:
Jamie Hendrickson (REEES) – Russian
Monika Pendurkova (Psychology) – Bulgarian
Justin Tomczyk (Political Science) – Russian

Student News

REEEC congratulates the following student award winners and the Summer 2017 FLAS fellows:

2017 Yaro Skalnik Prize for the Best Graduate Essay in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies:

  • Felix Cowan (PhD Student in History) for his essay, “Beyond Urban Boundaries: The Penny Press and Lower-Class Integration in the Russian Empire”
  • Daria Semenova (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for her essay, “A Robinson for an awakening nation: a case study on a translation which is not one”

Summer 2017 FLAS Fellows:

  • Tyler Dolan (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Russian
  • Jacob Goldsmith (PhD Student in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Russian
  • LeiAnna Hamel (PhD Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures) for Yiddish
  • Douglas Heintz (MS Candidate in Library and Information Science) for Russian
  • Marco Jaimes (PhD Candidate in History) for Czech
  • Jennifer Jenson (PhD Student in German Studies) for Russian
  • Benjamin Krupp (PhD Student in Anthropology) for Russian
  • Thornton Miller (PhD Candidate in Musicology) for Russian
  • Hannah Werner (PhD Student in History) for Yiddish

FLAS Fellow Benjamin Wheeler Starts a Radio Show in Tbilisi, Georgia

Benjamin Wheeler

REEEC FLAS Fellow Benjamin Wheeler (PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology) has spent the 2016-2017 academic year in Tbilisi, Georgia, studying Georgian and Anthropology at Tbilisi State University. While attending classes at a local university, he has started an English-language radio show on the university’s radio channel (GIPA FM 94.3) called “Caucasus All Frequency,” which plays music from the Caucasus region and explores “the many meanings and unique stories behind the music.”

Check out Ben’s show at: https://soundcloud.com/radiogipa/caucasus-all-frequency

Study Abroad in Odessa, Ukraine (Summer 2016)

Thanks to a generous REEEC grant, I spent last June and July studying Russian in Odessa, Ukraine.  I shared an apartment with my friends Nadia and Tyler, UIUC Slavic Ph.D. students.  We all took intensive Russian classes at the Odessa Language Study Centre.  Nadia and Tyler took individual courses, while I decided to take a group class, which I would describe as a mixed bag.  On one hand, my language instructor Olga was incredible – like the other teachers at OLSC, she had many years of experience teaching Russian to international students in Odessa.  She also had a great sense of humor (sample Olga-ism: “My conscience is clean, I never use it”) and a keen interest in delineating cultural differences and similarities, sharing her perception of the local worldview (e.g. “U nas net feminizma,” “We don’t have feminism [here]”) and opinions on pressing social issues like political corruption (including a memorable anecdote about the “musornaia [garbage] mafia” chasing one of her students out of town for proposing the establishment of a municipal recycling system).  On the other hand, a group class entails accommodating students of varying levels – as a result, the first few weeks of class were a bit too rudimentary for me.  Private instruction is more expensive, but in retrospect, I should have opted for one-on-one lessons.  That being said, I still got a lot out of my classes with Olga, and I highly recommend OLSC to anyone who wants to study Russian in Odessa.

Odessa is a predominantly Russian-speaking city; culturally, it’s also quite “Russian,” a testament to its history as part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. Around 2500 years ago, current-day Odessa was a Greek colony; later, it was part of the Crimean Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire.  Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792, the city of Odessa was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great’s decree.  Although originally valued for its strategic significance as a warm-water port on the Black Sea, Odessa quickly became one of the largest cities in the Russian Empire.  Due in part to its port-city status, it also become an exceptionally diverse cultural center, fostering a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere that persists to this day.

As places to spend the summer go, Odessa is hard to beat.  Our apartment was a five-minute walk from Lanzheron Beach, apparently one of the nicer beaches in the area – “apparently” because once we found “our” beach, we went back to the same spot at least once or twice a week without much further exploration.  Lanzheron Beach has a cute boardwalk with several restaurants and beachside cafes (we were regulars at Prichal No. 1).  In general, downtown Odessa is filled with great bars and restaurants – some of my favorites were Dacha (a restaurant in a gorgeous 19th-century country estate), Kompot (traditional Ukrainian cuisine, kitschy Soviet décor), and Dzhondzholi (delicious Georgian food).  Odessites are also very proud of their stunning opera house (where we saw a nice production of Carmen), and the lovely Palais-Royal Garden is right around the corner.  For night owls and party animals, Odessa’s “Arkadia” region is also worth checking out – it has several huge clubs with pool complexes and regular concerts and DJs.

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The Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet

Among Slavists, Odessa is known for its role in literary and film history.  In 1823, Pushkin wrote several chapters of his verse novel Eugene Onegin when he lived in the city during his “southern exile.”  Gogol wrote the second volume of Dead Souls in Odessa from 1850-1851 (he famously burned the manuscript).  Several notable Russian-language writers were native Odessites, including Ilf and Petrov, Yury Olesha, and Isaac Babel, whose “Odessa Tales” are set in the city.  Odessa’s place in literary history is memorialized by statues all over town, as well as by the Odessa Pushkin Museum and the Soviet-era Literature Museum.  Odessa was immortalized in a famous film sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925).  The city was an important filmmaking center before and during the Soviet era, and it hosts the wonderful Odessa International Film Festival every summer.

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Memorial Plaque on N.V. Gogol’s Odessa Residence

 

Although downtown Odessa is beautiful and quite safe, there is a lot of poverty in surrounding areas.  In addition to the general economic decline in Ukraine, Odessa formerly benefitted from an influx of Russian tourists every summer, which (for obvious reasons) has dried up since the annexation of Crimea and War in Donbass.  However, there are ongoing efforts to revitalize Odessa as a tourist center, including (usually free) cultural events that take place all summer long.  It’s also an extremely affordable place to live, even on a graduate student budget (the silver lining of the region’s economic woes, from a foreigner’s perspective).  Most locals aren’t fluent in English, making life in Odessa a truly immersive language-learning experience – if you want to order food at a restaurant, you’ll have to work on your Russian.

Overall, I found Odessa to be a fascinating and beautiful city.  I’d particularly recommend it as a study abroad destination for language students, especially since there’s no need to get a student visa (by all accounts one of the more frustrating parts of studying in Russia).  I’m certainly planning to go back as soon as possible.

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year for the study of Russian.