#librarynerd: Reflections on working at the Slavic Reference Service

Over the summer I had the privilege of working as an academic hourly student for the Slavic Reference Service in the International and Area Studies Library. It was an incredible opportunity, both to gain experience in an area studies library and also to work with Joe Lenkart, Jan Adamczyk, Kit Condill, and three other academic hourly students for the Summer Research Lab. During this two-month-long Lab, scholars from U of I and from universities worldwide came to use the Slavic collection and to work with us on individual research projects.

As someone who had never worked in a specialized library, I learned an amazing amount about library operations and completed a variety of projects surrounding the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution events happening around campus. But what really made the experience great was working with the Slavic Reference Service staff. It was truly a privilege to see Joe, Jan and Kit interact with the Lab patrons. They each have that rare ability to connect with a patron and to see the value in each person’s research, and it makes them invaluable resources to anyone interested in Slavic area research. Their knowledge of the collection is far-reaching, and I will strive toward their enthusiasm in future positions.

While I was there, my primary role was an instructor, teaching the scholars how to use the library. I got to meet people with broad research interests, and enjoyed speaking with everyone and sharing their excitement in the research process. This was a deep dive into Slavic culture for me, and during the course of the summer I learned to read cyrillic and am in the process of learning to speak Russian, which will be very helpful when I travel to Latvia for a library conference! The International and Area Studies library was also undergoing a reclassification of the collection, and I assisted with print and microfilm relabeling (#librarynerd moment). While I admit it was sometimes a lot of new knowledge and skills thrown at me at once, the challenging environment led to great experiences I will remember forever. I loved creating a poster for the library’s “100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution” exhibit, and diving into propaganda posters and image collections from that time was spectacular.

Overall, I absolutely loved the experience working with the Slavic Reference Service, and I encourage anyone (whether you have a subject interest or not!) to stop in and meet the staff. There’s something for everyone to learn at the Slavic Reference Service.


Delaney Bullinger is a current MLIS student in the School of Information Sciences at UIUC. She is originally from the Pacific Northwest, and she received her B.A. in Music and English from Linfield College. She can be contacted at db4@illinois.edu.

REPOST: John Randolph (REEEC Director) and Team Win Mellon Grant

This article “Humanists Win Major Grant to Explore the Future of the Historical Record” was originally published on 1/10/2018 at http://illinois.edu/lb/article/1878/101940.

The Humanities Without Walls Consortium, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, fosters interdisciplinary, collaborative research, teaching, and scholarship in the humanities, sponsoring new areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation.   On Thursday, December 14, the Consortium announced the results of its latest research challenge initiative, “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.”  It awarded one of these grants—a multi-year investment of $138,360—to a team of humanists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  The award will support their multi-year research project, titled “The Classroom and the Future of the Historical Record.”

This project will investigate recent, profound shifts in how the sources of our knowledge about the past are made.  Mobile digital technologies have allowed documentation to become an ubiquitous practice that extends far beyond traditional memory institutions such as libraries and scholarly presses.  The Internet is not an archive in a professional sense, but it is filled with a vast panoply of artifacts—images, sounds, films, texts, and data—digitized by people around the world, from originals of their own choosing.  Many of these sources can be difficult to interpret or cite, however.  Digitization often results in radical de-contextualization, with provenance and proof of authenticity being lost along the way.  Much of this new historical record is being built on proprietary platforms provided by IT corporations (Facebook, Twitter).  Their primary aim is to commercialize private data, rather than to preserve and sustain knowledge of the past as a common good.

Over the course of the three years of the study, students, faculty, and staff from the three participating universities will explore how higher education should respond to this shifting environment for the production of history.  They will develop education-based practices for documentary and data literacy work in the 21st century, and partner with students to create better models for producing, preserving, and publishing the past.

At Michigan State University, Sharon Leon and Brandon Locke from the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR) will develop a curriculum to teach students how to produce and analyze historical data.  At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Patrick Jones, William G. Thomas, and Aaron Johnson will work with K-12 teachers to bring their innovative digitization project “History Harvest” to Nebraska public schools.  Scholars at the University of Illinois, meanwhile, will build a curriculum that works across the entire life cycle of sources, from their initial identification, to their preservation and publication, to their use within education, research, and public history.  (Kathryn J. Oberdeck, Daniel Gilbert, Bonnie Mak, and John Randolph (Primary Investigator) will lead the group in Urbana-Champaign.)

Humanities Without Walls funds will be used to support the work of graduate and undergraduate students on the project.  In particular, graduate students will be made lead researchers on the project, as part of a special Graduate Laboratory Practicum.   Working as a cohort, they will collaborate across institutions to develop documentary applications, skills, and practices that they can carry over into their post-graduate careers, in a range of fields.   Over the course of the project, HWW funds will also allow the team to convene for workshops where they can discuss the results of their local experiments and prepare for joint presentations of their ideas.  The group intends, as well, to share its applications and model curricula through journal publications and open educational resources.

New Directions Lecture: Emilia Zankina, “Theorizing Populism East and West”

On November 16, 2017, Dr. Emilia Zankina presented a New Directions Lecture entitled “Theorizing Populism East and West.”  Dr. Zankina is the Provost and an Associate Professor of Political Science at American University in Bulgaria.  Her lecture focused on defining populism and differentiating the populist waves that have swept across Western and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Zankina presented a series of characteristics that populist parties share.  The first, and perhaps most important, is charismatic leadership.  She posited a test, asking ‘If the leader were hit by a truck tomorrow, would the character of the party change?’  If the character of the party would indeed change, then the party could be populist because its character would not be the product of institutionalization, but rather of the individual leader.  Examples of charismatic leaders include Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump.

However, charismatic leadership is not the only characteristic that distinguishes populist parties.  The portrayal of populist parties as ‘movements’ is a second characteristic.  Populist parties are anti-establishment and advocate popular sovereignty, so leaders tend to label them ‘movements,’ in order to dissociate them from the political establishment and highlight their link to the people.  Third, populist parties share informal organizational structures because they are generally built from the personal network of the charismatic leader.  Fourth, populist parties espouse vague policy platforms that focus on hot-button issues, such as immigration.  Finally, populist parties thrive under crisis conditions, such as the refugee crisis in Hungary or the UK, or the 2008 financial crisis in the United States.  Regardless of whether the crisis is real or imagined, it enables the charismatic party leader to emerge as a messianic figure.

Dr. Zankina also stated that populism belongs exclusively to neither the right nor the left of the political spectrum.  It inhabits a grey zone between democracy and authoritarianism.  On the far right of the political spectrum, populist parties are also characterized by nativism and authoritarianism.  On the far left, they are characterized by anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, and redistributive economics, which is evident from Latin American politics.  Scholars have posited the populist wave across Europe is the result of globalization, which has upended traditional social cleavages, such as the right-left cleavage.  However, Dr. Zankina stated that this argument is not relevant in Eastern Europe because the only viable cleavage is the pro-/anti-Russian cleavage.  Rather, she pointed out that the populist wave in Eastern Europe may be the result of transition fatigue and low governmental trust.

Dr. Zankina concluded that populism ultimately will not be a fleeting phenomenon.  Populist parties shift political rhetoric toward immediate action grounded in informal institutions and the charismatic leader.  They therefore undermine procedural democracy.  Populist parties attract voters across the political and economic spectrum.  The shift in rhetoric toward immediate action, the prioritization of informal institutions, and the elevation of charismatic leaders to the height of messianic figures entail that voters will become more politically immature over time.  Though establishment politicians have attempted to address the issues that currently animate populist parties across Europe, populist parties are not wedded to these issues.  When these issues lose relevance, they will simply transfer their energy to new issues that instigate popular anxiety.  Populism should therefore be interpreted as a lasting phenomenon in Western politics.

Kathleen Gergely is a second year student in the Master of Arts in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies.  Her research interests include political Islam in the North Caucasus, Russian counterterrorism policy, and regional administration in the Soviet Union and Russian Federation.


REPOST: A career devoted to Ukraine, Endowment in honor of Dmytro Shtohryn established at Illinois

This article was originally posted by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on February 5th, 2018 and written by Samantha Jones Toal. Read the article here.

The article details the Dmytro Shtohryn’s commitment to Ukrainian studies at Illinois. Shtohryn’s daughter, Liuda Shtohryn’s recent gift to the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures made possible the establishment of the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies.

Dmytro Shtohryn may have retired as a professor at Illinois in 1995, but his commitment to the university and the field of Ukrainian studies remains as vibrant and meaningful as the Ukrainian paintings hanging on the walls of his home.

Shtohryn, 94, and his wife, Eustachia, still live in Champaign, where they’ve lived since 1960, when Shtohryn turned down a professional librarianship position at Harvard to join Laurence Miller, professor of library administration and the first head of the Slavic and East European Library (SEEL), and the late Ralph Fisher, professor of history and the first director of the Russian and East European Center (later renamed the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC)), in their quest to teach and expand the Russian and Slavic collections at Illinois. The native of Ukraine is credited with establishing Ukrainian studies as a discipline at Illinois.

The Shtohryn’s home is highlighted with Ukrainian décor on the walls and resting in glass cases, and their two children bear traditional Ukrainian names. On their living room table rests a handsome statue of Taras Shevchenko, the most famous poet of Ukraine, from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America honoring Dmytro and Eustachia for their community service.

“You can recognize from our accent that we speak Ukrainian in our home,” Shtohryn said. “We usually correspond with our daughter through the computer—we write to her in Ukrainian but use the Latin alphabet.”

Now, Shtohryn’s daughter, Liuda, is honoring her father’s career by establishing the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies in the Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures at Illinois. The endowment for the department will be used for conferences, symposia, individual lectures, and other learning opportunities on the topic of Ukrainian studies.

“There will be a number of symposiums and lectures not only covering the literature and language, but also Ukrainian culture, history and so forth,” Shtohryn said. “The endowment will also be giving money to the Program of Ukrainian Studies in the REEEC and its unique institution, the Summer Research Lab on Russia and East European Countries, and so maybe even next year we will have some papers on Ukrainian topics through the endowment.”

Born in Ukraine, Shtohryn’s life was upended by World War II, and after the conflict he lived in a displaced persons camp in Augsburg, Germany, near Munich. While there, he attended the Ukrainian Free University.

In 1950, Shtohryn immigrated to Minneapolis, where he worked as a physical laborer while spending evenings going to school and volunteering as a young leader of the local unit of Ukrainian Boy Scouts (similar to American Boy Scouts).

He married Eustachia (née Barwinska) in 1955, and the pair moved to Ottawa, Canada, where Shtohryn attended the University of Ottawa and received a bachelor’s degree in library science and a master’s and doctoral degrees in Slavic studies. His PhD dissertation was about Pavlo Fylypovych, a Ukrainian renowned literary scholar and poet, who was arrested by the Soviet KGB in 1934 and shot in the Karelian forest in northwest Russia with hundreds of other Ukrainian political prisoners in 1935.

The opening of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center at Illinois in 1959 caught Shtohryn’s eye. He joined the faculty at Illinois in 1960 as the Cold War was heating up.

During his 35 years at the university, Shtohryn, who served in the SEEL, was one of its key members who built the Ukrainian program from the ground up, obtaining a collection that includes hard copies, microfilm, and other forms of published materials.

When he began his work at the university, there were about 7,000 books devoted to Russian and other Slavic studies at Illinois.  Today the university boasts over half a million holdings, and is one of the largest collections of Slavic and East European resources in the country.  Its Ukrainian collection might be recognized as the largest one west of the Library of Congress.  In fact, it is rivaled only by Harvard, Columbia, New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.  Scholars come to Illinois from across the world each summer to conduct research at the REEEC’s Summer Research Laboratory.  In 1995, Dmytro and Eustachia Shtohryn established an endowment at the University of Illinois Foundation to further enrich the collection he’d been so pivotal in creating.

During his work as cataloging librarian at the SEEL, Shtohryn taught a course of Ukrainian language, and, with Ralph Fisher, a course of history of Ukraine.  In the 1970s he established courses of Ukrainian literature in translation and later a course of Ukrainian culture, and thus taught a multitude of classes until 2000.

In the 1980s he organized, with REEEC sponsorship, the Ukrainian Research Program which organized and conducted (within the framework of the Summer Research Lab) 27 (including 25 annual) international conferences on Ukrainian subjects.  From 1982 to 2009 those scholarly meetings were attended by approximately 2,500 participants, including 276 speakers and discussants from 24 countries in five continents.

Besides his library work and teaching Ukrainian courses in the 1970s, Shtohryn was elected to the University Senate. For several years he was visiting professor of Ukrainian literature at the University of Ottawa, the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, Germany, and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome, Italy.

He has authored and edited five books in English and Ukrainian and was editor and member of editorial boards for five English and Ukrainian scholarly periodicals.  He is author of nearly 100 articles on American librarianship and Ukrainian culture, especially Ukrainian literature.In the introduction to prominent Ukrainian scholar Jaroslav Rozumnyj’s “Twentieth Century Ukrainian Literature: Essays in Honor of Dmytro Shtohryn,” the author declares, “For over forty years, the Ukrainian presence at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been synonymous with Dmytro Shtohryn.”

And with the newest endowment from his daughter, Shtohryn’s impact will be even deeper for years to come.

If you’d like to help us create a vibrant culture of learning for students through the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies please make your gift today or contact us at slavic@illinois.edu.

Benjamin J Lough (REEEC affiliated faculty) receives Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement

The following is an excerpt from newsletter sent by Illinois International Programs on February 1st, 2018. The full article can be read here.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois International Programs are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017/18 International Achievement Awards. The International Achievement Awards recognize outstanding alumni, faculty, and students whose exceptional work, service, and/or scholarship has made a significant, global impact.

The recipients will be celebrated for their work at the annual International Achievement Awards Banquet on April 4, 2018 at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center in Urbana. The recipients will also participate in a panel discussion titled “Connecting Health & Service in a Global Context” on April 4, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. Breakfast will be provided. The panel is free and open to the public but a reservation is requested.

The Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement is presented to an Illinois faculty member with profound international accomplishments in teaching, research and public service. Dr. Benjamin Lough is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Faculty Director of International Service at the Center for Social Development, Washington University in St. Louis. He also works as Senior Research Associate for the Center for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg, and Senior Researcher for the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program. He is Quantitative Research Director of Campus Compacts’ Global SL, Associate Editor of Voluntaristics Review, serves on the Board of the Building Bridges Coalition, and co-leads the tripartite Global Research Agenda on Volunteering for Peace and Development in partnership with the UNV programme. He is also lead author of the 2018 United Nations State of the Worlds Volunteerism Report. Dr. Lough’s research interests include: volunteering, civic engagement, community development, and non-profit management. Prior to beginning his work at the University of Illinois, Dr. Lough was an independent consultant with the Department of Human and Social Services of American Samoa and the Foundation for International and Community Assistance in Armenia and the Republic of Georgia. In addition to considerable research and teaching experience, Dr. Lough worked for two years as a clinical social worker. He earned his BS in Sociology in 2000 and his MSW in 2003 from Brigham Young University, and his PhD in 2010 from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

To read about the other recipients, please click here.

REPOST: Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment Announced

This article was originally published on 12/18/17 at https://slavic.illinois.edu/news/2017-12-18/dmytro-shtohryn-endowment-announced

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures is delighted to announce the establishment of the Dmytro Shtohryn Endowment in Ukrainian Studies at the University of Illinois. The fund is intended to benefit the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and will be used to support lectures, symposia, conferences, or presentations in Ukrainian studies. This exciting development is made possible by a gift from Liuda Shtohryn, the daughter of our Professor Emeritus Dmytro Shtohryn, and is intended to honor her father’s legacy and accomplishments in the field of Ukrainian studies.

We are extremely grateful to Ms. Liuda Shtohryn for her generosity and are looking forward to organizing Ukraine-related events on this campus.

For more information about the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, click here.

Revolutionary Film Series: “I Am Cuba”

Watching Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba in a theater 2017 is a strange experience. I first watched the film by myself for a class assignment, later writing up a paper about the history of this film being one of failed and misdirected narrative, a theme which found ironic reflection in the Art Theatre’s screening of the film earlier this month. Produced by a supergroup of the USSR’s best storytellers–the film’s director and cinematographer, Kalatozov and Sergey Urusevsky, were the architects of the Soviet triumph at the 1958 Cannes Film festival with their film The Cranes are Flying, and the screenwriter Evgenii Evtushenko was a leading poet in his home country–I am Cuba was intended as both a gift and a love letter to Cuba. A gift in the sense that the production, tremendous both in length and budget, served to train a while generation of socialist Cuban filmmakers, and as a love letter from the Soviet intelligentsia to the Cuban Revolution. The film goes to great lengths to romanticize the “island of freedom” and sympathize with the plight of its residents.

Unfortunately, the love letter was returned to sender. Cuban audiences hated the film so much that in some cities riots broke out after screenings. Ordinary Cubans rejected what they saw as a stereotyped, exoticized version of themselves and their struggles on the big screen. Meanwhile, Soviet critics and audiences panned the film for its self-indulgence and seemingly positive attitude toward certain aspects of bourgeois life in pre-revolutionary Cuba. So a film intended to symbolize the international relevance of the socialist cause and to invoke a revolutionary spirit in its audiences failed because it was too narrow-minded and bourgeois, in the judgment of its intended audiences. For this reason, the film ceased to be in theaters quite quickly, and was only ‘rediscovered’ in the 1990s through Kalatozov retrospectives in the West. It was here, far from the tropical battlefields depicted in the film that I Am Cuba found an eager and celebratory audience. Hailed as a forgotten masterpiece, acclaim from American directors such as Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola provoked the licensing of the film by the Criterion collection, and thus its canonization as a classic within the Western cinema establishment. I Am Cuba was a film with radical socialist politics that failed to appeal to any liberated proletarians in the USSR or Cuba, and instead received acclaim only after communism fell and in the eyes of the Western cultural elite.

With this in mind, I had mixed feelings about seeing the film in a theater for the first time. Earlier that week, a conversation about the film with an older woman exacerbated my trepidation. She was going to see the film because she and her husband had travelled to the island as tourists recently. She then described her trip, and her tour guide who, unbelievably to her, was passionate about communism. To her total surprise, he enthusiastically championed the accomplishments of the regime in healthcare, education, and athletics. In her judgment, he had clearly “drunk the Kool-Aid” of the “dictatorship” and would be blown away by the freedom and prosperity he would see if he ever got to visit the United States. I held my tongue rather than openly question whether a man from a country with higher literacy and life expectancy than our own would really be impressed by the poverty and racial violence that only seems to be getting worse here; whether a country with a criminal who was not popularly elected as its president could claim to be more “free” than any other nation.

My fear that the rest of the audience would echo her sentiments was realized once I arrived at the screening. The theatre was lousy with Americans loudly discussing their recent trips to the island. It was as if they were the advance scouts, seeking to resurvey the location, for the impeding US incorporation of Cuba within the same imperial system of neoliberal economics, aka a booming tourist destination where the locals live in absolute poverty, as the rest of the Caribbean, reducing it to yet another destination for those sections of the Western white middle class looking to prove themselves more “cultured” than their neighbors back home in the suburbs. Cinematic tourism as an imperial project.

The movie itself is quite good, if a tad long, and my misgivings about the screening should not be misconstrued as dismissing a flawed but enjoyable film by one of the great directors of the twentieth century. It depicts the gradual development and eventual victory of the radical movement in Cuba, from initial outbursts of spontaneous resistance to the development of a full-fledged insurgent army; similarities abound to the better-known 1966 film The Battle of Algiers which also tells a revolutionary story in discrete stages. Of particular note are I Am Cuba’s depictions of villainous Americans. Having grown used to ethnic stereotyping of non-Americans, it’s almost refreshing to experience how the rest of the world must look at you and your countrymen: as nasal-voiced, cocksure brutes prone to spouting off platitudes about liberty and our own exceptionalism while terrorizing others. The section of the film depicting the struggle of student rebels and their insurrectionary efforts felt especially familiar and included some wonderful shots as it depicts the development of a riot. One wonders how the audience felt about the overturning and incineration of cop cars in the streets of Havana; are they more or less sympathetic when people fight back against police in the US? Finally, it must be said that the film has no feminist component; while one of its main characters is a woman, unlike the others she never asserts her own agency and rather serves as a hapless victim whose plight sets the tone at the start of the film.

As for what message the audience took away from all this, I cannot say. It was clear from the way that the film was introduced that it was intended to be somewhat polemical, to serve its original purpose as revolutionary propaganda. This is not why this audience came to the screening, however, and when the time came for a Q&A afterward, rather than queries about the political implications of the film or its relevance to contemporary social problems, the comments fell into two categories; one, graduate students trying to prove their intelligence by asking about the most esoteric details of the film and its production, and two, middle-aged filmgoers complaining that the movie was too long and that it bored them (“Were all Soviet movies from this period so awfully slow?”). Cinematic tourism can disappoint, I suppose, and narratives can fail to achieve their goals.

Franziska Yost is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her scholarly interests include Russian national identity, diaspora nationalism, and Cold War geopolitics. She is currently researching Russian immigrant communities in South America.