Summer 2020 Virtual Educators Workshop: K-14 Education during COVID-19 in the U.S. and Abroad

By Stephanie Porter (Outreach and Programming Coordinator, REEEC)

On July 28-29, 2020, the area studies centers of the Illinois Global Institute (Center for African Studies; Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies; Center for Global Studies; Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies; Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; European Union Center; Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies; Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center) hosted a summer virtual educators workshop, “K-14 Education during COVID-19 in the U.S. and Abroad”. The workshop was designed for primary and secondary school educators, community college faculty, and librarians. Illinois educators could earn up to 6 professional development hours for attending.

With almost 120 participants from all over the world, the workshop incorporated interdisciplinary lectures, roundtables, and vibrant discussions about online educational resources, tips on teaching with technology, assessment, and perspectives from educators (both in the U.S. and abroad) about teaching during the pandemic. Presenters ranged from University of Illinois and Parkland College faculty, K-14 educators in other states, to educators from countries like Brazil, Poland, and Peru. Participants were especially impressed by the ingenuity of teachers working in areas where most of their students do not have access to widespread, stable internet connections. Many recounted how difficult the sudden shift to online learning was on themselves and their students, especially on those students with less resources and support at home. 

Throughout the 2-day workshop, participants and presenters touched on questions of social justice, student engagement, teacher support, and the digital divide – all topics that were relevant to educators from different countries. They noted the many similarities and differences in their experiences, and actively used the chat feature on Zoom to communicate with each other – frequently providing feedback and suggestions.

Despite the uncertainty and challenges for the academic year ahead, the workshop participants appreciated the professional development opportunity of connecting with their counterparts from many different countries, reflecting on the past year, and learning about tools and approaches for effective distance learning from other educators’ experiences.

Stephanie Chung Porter is the Outreach and Programming Coordinator at REEEC.

Youth Literature Festival

On 17 October, 2014 graduate students Bethany Wages, Ryan Eavenson, and undergraduate student Medina Spiodic from the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center participated in the annual Youth Literature Festival at the I-Hotel in Champaign, IL. “The Youth Literature Festival celebrates the value of literature in the lives of youth by bringing together local and national authors, illustrators, poets, and storytellers to share their stories, their craft, and their enthusiasm with children, teens and adults”(

Along with many speakers, and children’s authors, there were many tables of fun activities for children to do literature themed crafts at and for parents to gain invaluable knowledge about the programs available in their city both on and off campus. This year there was a myriad of tables including coloring stations, caricature cartoonists, face painting and our ever popular firebird mask station.

Ryan Eavenson and Bethany Wages working at the REEEC Firebird Mask table.

Ryan Eavenson and Bethany Wages working at the REEEC Firebird Mask table.

In a flurry of red, yellow, and orange feathers, glue, beaked masks, and children, a mess worth making was made at our table. Kids raging from sixth grade all the way down to pre-school joined us in making fearsome firebird masks as we told them the legend of the Russian Firebird, which was conveniently printed on bookmarks for parents and kids to take home:

“Ivan Tsarevitch came to the garden to stand watch, and he sat beneath an apple tree. He sat for one hour, two hours, and on the third, the entire garden suddenly lit up, as if illuminated by many lights. The Firebird glided in, landed on the apple tree, and began to peck at the apples. Ivan Tsarevitch crept up to the Firebird so quietly that he was able to grab its tail. But he couldn’t hold on! The Firebird tore away and flew off, leaving Ivan Tsarevitch with only a single tail feather clutched firmly in his hand… This feather was so marvelously bright that if you were to take it into a dark room, it would seem that a great many candles were burning.”  ~The tale of Ivan Tsarevitch, the Firebird, and the Grey Wolf

Youth Literature Festival Firebird Mask participants.

Youth Literature Festival Firebird Mask participants.

Working with the children, making masks, and exposing them to REEE literature was a lot of fun, and the Youth Literature Festival was, as always, an amazing opportunity to tell their our community about REEEC programs.

YLF fb masks 4 YLF fb masks 3

All the masks were different very creative!

All the masks were different very creative!

Balkanalia also played in the music room at the Youth Literature Festival. “Balkanalia, the University of Illinois Balkan Music Ensemble, performs traditional village, urban, and popular music styles of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey on indigenous, orchestral, and electronic instruments. Participants include musically gifted graduate and undergraduate students majoring in a variety of disciplines” ( This year they played a selection of beautiful Bulgarian music and instructor Donna Buchanan gave the lively tales of each song before they played.


Balkanalia musicians


Balkanalia singers









Additionally, as part of the Youth Literature Festival, REEEC sponsored an appearance by the young adult author Trent Reedy. He visited four middle schools in Central Illinois, where he spoke at assemblies, met with students, and signed copies of his books.

Bethany Wages is a graduate student in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her focus of study is History and she is currently researching student movements, political violence, and the intelligentsia of late 19th century Russia. She received her B.A. in Honors/History and English Literature in 2014 at Wright State University.

Douglas Heintz Donates his Soviet and Russian film collection to the REEEC Multimedia Library

The Multimedia Library has recently received a generous donation of twenty-seven Russian and Soviet films from Douglas Heintz. Currently a Stewardship and Donor Relations Specialist in the College of Engineering, Douglas was a former REEEC MA student with a Russian major (2007) and a FLAS recipient (2007-2008). Remember to stay tuned for additional posts on our new acquisitions in May.


Nochnoy Dozor/Night Watch. A film by Timur Bekmambetov, based on Russian fantasy author Sergei Lukyanenko’s trilogy of the same title (2004, PAL, 115 min., col., Russian with English subtitles). See trailer.

Nochnoj Dozor Course relevance: post-Soviet culture, Russian cinema, nation, anti-Semitism.

Synopsis: In the world that is modern Moscow, there exists a parallel realm known as the Gloom (kind of like the Astral Plane). Certain humans with special powers can pass in and out of the Gloom. They are known as the Others and have co-existed with humans for as long as humanity has existed. The Others are soldiers in the Eternal War, the struggle between dark and light. Light Others protect mankind from Dark Others, most of whom are vampires. Light Others and Dark Others currently live within a Truce. Read more…

Awards: Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film (2005), Golden Eagle Awards, Russia 2004.

Reviews: Stephen M. Norris, “In the Gloom: The Political Lives of Undead Bodies in Timur Bekmambetov’s Night Watch”.

Interviews: BBC-Movies


Shinel/The Overcoat. A film by  Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg, based on the Nikolai Gogol stories “Nevsky Prospekt” and “The Overcoat.” (1926, PAL, 66 min., b/w, Russian).

ShinelCourse relevance: early Soviet cinema, fantastic realism, FEKS group.

Summary and Review: Set in Tsarist St. Petersburg, the film mocks bureaucratic power-tripping and the small-mindedness of the bourgeoisie. What the writer had expressed in words, actors now communicate in off-kilter postures, exaggerated gestures, and striking facial expressions. Men dwarfed by architecture emerge into the foreground from deep, diagonal shots along the bridges and canals of the frozen city. Cameraman Andrei Moskvin preferred to shoot after dark to emphasize the sharp contrast between the snow and the night sky, and much has been made of the influence of German expressionism on The Overcoat. Read more…


Svadba v Malinovke/Wedding in Malinovka. A film by Andrei Tutyshkin, based on an operetta by Boris Aleksandrov (1967, PAL, 88 min., col., Russian with English and Russian subtitles).

220px-Wedding_in_MalinovkaCourse relevance: Soviet representations of the Civil War in Ukraine, Russian stereotypes, cinema.

Summary: In the village of Malinovka, everyone is tired of Civil War shootings, and is waiting for a wedding of a local couple – Andrejka and Yarinka. But the gang of ataman Gritsian attacks the village. The scared bride escapes to the woods, where the Reds (Bolsheviks) are preparing to strike on the Whites (Gritsian’s gang). Yarinka asks for help, and the Red commander develops a plan to liberate the village. As part of the plan, Yarinka must pretend and wed the ataman. While guests at the wedding are getting drunk, red troops are carrying out the plan… Lots of laughing, singing and dancing. This film is one of the Soviet classics.


Dzhentlmeny udachi/Gentlemen of Fortune. A film by Aleksandr Seryj (1971, NTSC, 88 min., col., Russian, English and French with subtitles).Gentlemen of Fortune

Summary: The movie follows the story of an amiable kindergarten director named Troshkin, who looks exactly like a cruel criminal nicknamed Docent (Доцент, literally “associate professor) that has stolen Alexander the Great’s helmet at an archaeological excavation. Docent and his gang are caught by police, but Docent is imprisoned in a different jail than his mates. Since Troshkin looks identical to Docent, the police send him undercover to prison with the real criminals to get information about the stolen helmet. He must pretend to be the real felon Docent so, in order to be convincing, Troshkin, a well-educated and good-natured man, has to learn slang and the manners of criminals.


Progulka/The Stroll. A film by Alexey Uchitel (2003, PAL, 90 min., col., Russian with English and Russian subtitles). See trailer.Stroll

Summary: Directed by Alexey Uchitel, Progulka (The Stroll) follows two male best friends and the girl who has managed to entrance both of them. When the buxom Olya (Irina Pegova) sets off on her regular stroll through the crowded city streets, the shaggy-haired Alyosha (Pavel Barshak) immediately professes his love for her and pesters his cynical best friend Petya (Yevgeny Tsyganov). The plan backfires, however, as Petya falls for Olya himself. Read more…

Reviews: Kino Kultura

Awards: Cottbus Film Festival of Young East European Cinema 2003, Moscow International Film Festival 2003.

These new titles, along with other holdings of the REEEC Multimedia Resource Library, are intended to assist university faculty and K-12 teachers who are interested in incorporating cinematic and other multimedia materials into their courses and studies. The Center’s policy is to provide access to its collection free of charge to the following: University of Illinois faculty, graduate students, registered student organizations; K-12 instructors and university/college faculty across the United States. In general, first priority is given to University of Illinois faculty teaching Russian, East European, and Eurasian area studies courses. The collection is for educational purposes only. The Center does not lend films to individuals for private viewing.The Center does not lend materials outside the U.S.

REEEC Multimedia Library: New Acquisitions for Instructional Use

These new titles, along with other holdings of the REEEC Multimedia Resource Library, are intended to assist university faculty and K-12 teachers who are interested in incorporating cinematic and other multimedia materials into their courses and studies. The Center’s policy is to provide access to its collection free of charge to the following: University of Illinois faculty, graduate students, registered student organizations, K-12 instructors and university/college faculty across the United States. In general, first priority is given to University of Illinois faculty teaching Russian, East European, and Eurasian area studies courses. The collection is for educational purposes only. The Center does not lend films to individuals for private viewing.The Center does not lend materials outside the US.

These acquisitions were made possible with the generous support of Title VI National Resource Center Grants from the United States Department of Education.

Russian/Soviet Titles

Stilyagi/Hipsters. A film by Valeriy Todorovskiy (2008, NTSC, 125 min., col., Russian with English subtitles). See trailer.

Hipsters_70x100-low-res-poster-240x342Course relevance: de-stalinization, thaw, youth, Komsomol, American music, Soviet Union.

Synopsis: Moscow 1955. Stalin has been dead for two years, but not even Khruschchev’s thaw can prevent Komsomol shock troops from hounding hopsters (stilyagi), fans of American jazz, culture, and fashion. The student Mels, a Komsomol member, meets Polya, a hipster, while conducting a raid on a hipster hangout. Mels falls in love with Polya while his Communist comrade harbors romantic feelings for him.

With delightful retro-musical scenes and cinematography parodying the style of Soviet realism, Hipsters is a lush rebel-with-a-cause romance full of intricately choreographed toe-tapping numbers, and plenty of satirical social commentary.

Awards: Anchorage International Film Festival 2009 (Audience Choice), Chicago International Film Festival 2009(Best Art Direction), Golden Eagle Awards – Russia 2009.

Reviews: NY Times, Metacritic.


Siberiade. A Film by Andrei Konchalovsky. (1979, NTSC, 260 min., col., Russian with English subtitles). See trailer.

PhotoELF Edits:2009:12:07 --- Batch ResizedCourse relevance: Siberia, 20th century, globalization, Soviet cinema.

Summary: Spanning more than six decades of Russian history encompassing the Bolshevik Revolution, two World Wars and the era of modernization, Siberiade is Andrei Konchalovsky’s passionate and ambitious examination of the Soviet spirit, as represented in two families of opposing ideologies: the proletariat Ustyuzhanins and the wealthy Solomins. Through their multigenerational conflicts and alliances, Konchalovsky dramatizes the evolution of the Russian people, bound together by the common struggle for survival and faithfulness to the motherland.

Awards: Cannes Film Festival 1979 (Grand Prize of the Jury), Chicago International Film Festival 1979 (Nominated for Best Feature), National Board of Review, USA 1982 (Top Foreign Films).

Reviews: New York Times, Images Journal.


Commissar. A Film by Aleksandar Aksoldov (1967, NTSC, 105 min., b&w, Russian with English subtitles). See trailer.

MV5BNTUyMzY1ODQ2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzQwNzE0MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_Course relevance: Russian Civil War, women, Bolshevik revolutionaries, family, gender, anti-Semitism, Brezhnev era, anti-Israel propaganda, banned films.

Summary: Based on one of Vasily Grossman‘s first short stories, “In the Town of Berdichev” (В городе Бердичеве), this film is an extraordinary drama set against the Russian Civil War, that tells the story of Klavdia Vavilova, a fierce Red Army woman warrior who accidentally puts herself ahead of the needs of the Revolution – by becoming pregnant. Vavilova’s superiors commandeer a room for her with Yefim, a Ukrainian Jewish tinsmith, his wife and six children. Yefim is outraged that yet another burden has been placed upon his family by the fledgling Soviet government. But Bolshevik doctrinaire and persecuted Russian Jew soon discover they have more in common than they knew. When her baby arrives and her old unit returns, Vavilova faces the hardest choice of her life: either cast aside motherhood for revolutionary martyrdom, or remain with her new-born son and run the same risk of White Army pogroms and Red Army exploitation that Yefim’s family have courageously endured.

Awards: Berlin International Film Festival 1988, Ghent International Film Festival 1988, Nika Awards 1989.

Reviews: New York Times, Dennis Grunes’ Blog.


Rada Liubvi/Slave of Love. A Film by Nikita Mikhalkov (1976, NTSC, 95 min., color, Russian with English subtitles).

A Slave of LoveCourse relevance: Bolshevik Revolution.

Summary: Nikita Mikhalkov examines the plight of the filmmaker operating in an uncertain political climate in his irony-laden seriocomedy Slave of Love. The time is 1918, at the height of the Bolshevik revolution. A small group of filmmakers are hurriedly trying to complete a silent melodrama while the world changes all around them. As production progresses, leading lady Elena Solovei metamorphoses from self-centered movie star to committed revolutionary. Normally described as “Chekhovian,” director Mikhalkov borrows a few pages from Pirandello. With Slave of Love he gained his first serious international attention. ~ Rovi Hal Erickson, New York Times.

Awards: National Board of Review 1978, New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1978.

Reviews: Phoenix Cinema.

Ukrainian Titles

Ukraine’s Forgotten Children. A documentary by Kate Blewett (2012, NTSC, 89 min., English). See trailer.

zabytye_deti_ukrainy_bbc.forgotten_childrenCourse relevance: post-socialism, disability, children, social welfare.

Summary: Around £9 billion has been spent in Ukraine in preparation for hosting Euro 2012 this June, but while vast sums have been found for infrastructure in the major cities, the budgets for the weakest members of society have been under strain.  This film takes us into a disturbing world that the Ukrainian government would rather outsiders did not witness.  It is a powerful and emotionally gripping indictment of a system that hides orphan children away in remote and inaccessible institutions, before labeling many of them as beyond rehabilitation.

Reviews: The Yorker, The Daily Mail.

Hungarian Titles

Budapest Retro: Scenes of Everyday Life from the ’60s and ’70s, 1-2. Documentary by Zsigmond Gábor Papp (1998 and 2003, PAL, 170 min., b&w/col., Hungarian with English subtitles).

bu coverCourse relevance: Hungary, Kádár-era socialism, everyday life, socialist city.

Summary: Based on newsreels, ads, and other archival footage from the Kádár-era, this documentary deals not with the main historical events shaping Budapest but how people lived in the capital during late socialism. Episodes present spaces, objects and activities of everyday life: the Pest street, the flat, the bistro, the car, the store, celebrations, and fashion.


Balaton Retro: Scenes of Everyday Life from the ’60s and ’70s, 1-2. Documentary by Zsigmond Gábor Papp (2007, PAL, 82 min., b&w/col., Hungarian with English subtitles).

indexCourse Relevance: Hungary, Kádár-era socialism, leisure, tourism, sports.

Summary: In the focus of this documentary drama by noted Hungarian director Gábor Zsigmond Papp stands the Lake Balaton, Hungary’s main tourist attraction. In the 1950s, the Balaton changed from a resort reserved to the few select into a popular vacation destination for the masses, and was frequently featured in the ads and news reports throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The film presents the high points of Balaton vacations in five parts. Giving us a glimpse of how socialist citizens partied during late socialism.

REEEC Multimedia Library: New Acquisitions for Instructional Use

These new titles along with other holdings of the REEEC Multimedia Resource Library are intended to assist university faculty and K-12 teachers who are interested in incorporating cinematic and other multimedia materials into their courses and studies. The Center’s policy is to provide access to its collection free of charge to the following: University of Illinois faculty, graduate students, registered student organizations, K-12 instructors and university/college faculty across the United States. In general, first priority is given to University of Illinois faculty teaching Russian, East European, and Eurasian area studies courses. The collection is for educational purposes only. The Center does not lend films to individuals for private viewing.The Center does not lend materials outside the US.

These acquisitions were made possible with the generous support of Title VI National Resource Center Grants from the United States Department of Education.

Turkish Titles

ArafAraf/Somewhere in Between. A film by Yeşim Ustaoğlu (2012, PAL, 124 min, color). See trailer on Youtube.

Course Relevance: rural economy, modernization, youth, gender, sexuality, social conditions, Turkey.

Official Synopsis: Araf – ‘Somewhere in Between’, relays the tale of two youngsters, Zehra and Olgun, who are stuck in kind of limbo in their lives. This life passes by in a service station where everything seems transient and vacuous, the only thing that keeps them going in their banal monotonous 24 hr work shifts is their naive youthful expectation of excitement and change on the horizon.  When they are off  they escape by watching the trashy daytime TV shows which tantalizingly promise an easy quick passage to a glamorous life. Read more…

Awards: Best Actress Award (Tokyo Film Festival), Black Pearl Award for Best Narrative Film (Abu Dhabi Film Festival).

Reviews: NYFF Review, Hollywoodreporter, The Match Factory.

Interviews with Yeşim Ustaoğlu: NYFF Press Conference – Richard Peña discusses with her the latest film as part of New York Film Festival’s Main Slate; discussing “Araf – Somewhere in Between” with Mike Fishman on Independent Film Now after it’s screening at the New York Film Festival, 2012.


MutlulukBliss/Mutluluk. A film by Abdullah Oguz adapted after Zülfü Livaneli’s 2002 novel by the same title (2007, PAL, 105 min., color). See trailer on Youtube.

Course relevance: gender, the body, patriarchy, religion, Turkey.

Synopsis by World Cinema: When a young woman named Meryem (Özgü Namal) is raped, her village custom requires that she be killed in order for the dishonour to be expunged from her family. A young man named Cemal (Murat Han), the son of the village leader, is given the task but at the last moment he has doubts. The pair go on the run, followed close behind by local thugs intent on killing the girl. Luckily enough, Cemal and Meryem meet up with a charismatic man named Irfan, an ex-university professor who is embarking on a sailing trip, and needs a crew. Seems Irfan is running away too–in his case from a dead marriage and an empty life. Together this unlikely trio set forth on a voyage that will change all of their lives. Read more…

Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Music, Jury’s Award (Ankara International Film Festival, 2008) Audience Award, Prize of the Young Film Makers (Nüremberg Film Festival, 2008), Audience Award (Miami Film Festival, 2008), Audience Award (Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival, 2007), , Golden Orange (Anatalya Golden Orange Film Festival, 2007).

Reviews: New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle.


FetihFetih 1453/Conquest 1453. A film by Farouk Aksoy, 2012 (162 min., color). See trailer on Youtube.

Course relevance: Ottoman empire, nation, memory, popular culture, neo-Ottomanism, Turkey.

Synopsis: The film is opened in Medina during the time of the prophet Muhammad (627). Abu Ayyub al-Ansari tells other sahabas that Constantinople will be conquered by a blessed commander and army. Read the full synopsis on Wikipedia.

Reviews: New York Times, Washington Post, Filmadeus, Film Journal, The National, The Guardian, Daily Star, Today’s Zaman.

Article of interest: Sultan Erdogan: Turkey’s Rebranding into the New-Old Ottoman Empire


valiVali/The Governor. A film by Çagatay Tosun (2009, PAL, 93 min., color). Trailer on IMDB.

Course relevance: politics, economy, corruption, government, Turkey.

Brief Synopsis: Faruk Yazici is the idealist governor of the Aegean city of Denizli, where a team of engineers from the Turkish Mining Exploration Institute (MTA) have recently discovered reserves of uranium. The governor joins forces with childhood friend and head of MTA engineers Omer Ucar, in a fight against the beautiful and scheming bureaucrat Ceyda Aydin, who actually works to get mines in Turkey under the control of foreign companies. Interestingly, a number of unexplained murders are uncovered only a short while after the governor and the MTA engineers focus on the reserves in Denizli.


gunesi_gordum Günesi Gördüm/I Saw the Sun. A film by Mahsun Kırmızıgül (2009, PAL, 120 min., color). See trailer.

Course relevance: forced migration, emigration, nation, minority, gender, sexuality, civil war, 1980s, Kurds, Turkey.

Official Synopsis: A film dedicated to peace and children… A mountain village perched on the border between two worlds… The home, for generations, of the Altun family… But with the introduction of forced migration policies, the family finds itself wrenched from the village. This is the story of their relocation from east to west. Haydar and Isa Altun arrive with their respective families in Istanbul, where they decide to stay. But Davut Altun, his wife and children set their sights further afield and travel on to Norway… Spanning a period of 25 years, the film recounts the experiences of the three families as they struggle to find their feet in alien surroundings. It is a film that condemns all of discrimination or otherization and argues that war,fighting and contempt for anyone unlike oneself are the very problem itself… The story that unfolds in the film is a story that belongs to us all, to this country, to Turkey…

Awards: Asian Film Award – Special Mention (2009, Tokyo Film Festival), Best Supporting Actor – Cemal Toktaş (3rd Yeşilçam Awards).


yol_1shYol/The Road. A film by Yılmaz Güney (1982, PAL, 114 min., color).

Course relevance: everyday life, 1980 military coup.

Synopsis: Yol tells the story of several Kurdish prisoners on furlough in Turkey. Seyit Ali (Tarık Akan) travels to his house and finds that his wife (Şerif Sezer) has betrayed him and works as a prostitute. She was caught by her family and held captive for Seyit Ali to end her life in an honor killing. Though apparently determined at first, he changes his mind when his wife starts to freeze while travelling in the snow. Despite his efforts to keep her alive, he eventually fails. His wife’s death relieves Seyit Ali from family pressure and he is saved from justice since she freezes but he has an internal struggle and must return to jail. Read more…

Awards: Palm D’Or (1982 Cannes Film Festival), NBR Award (1982, National Board of Review, USA), Critics’ Award (1983, French Syndicate of Cinema Critics), ALFS Award (1984, London Critics Circle).

Reviews: New York Times, Today’s Zaman.


220px-Beş_VakitBeş Vakit/Times and Winds. A film by Reha Erdem (2006, PAL, 112 min., color). See trailer.

Course relevance: youth, social conditions, Turkey.

Official Synopsis: A small, poor village leaning over high rocky mountains, facing the immense sea, flanked by olive yards. Villagers are simple and diligent people who struggle to cope with a harsh nature. They earn their living, on a daily survival basis, out of the earth and of a few animals they feed. Just like the animals and trees around them, they have the knowledge of their temporary existence, hence a sober resignation prevails. Read more…

Awards: Best Turkish Film (2006 Istanbul International Film Festival), Best Turkish Film, Best Supporting Actor, Best Promising Actor, Best Promising Actress (2006 Adana Golden Boll Film Festival), Golden Antigone Mention
Nova Award, Young People’s Award (2006 nt. Mediterranean Film Festival Montpellier), Special Mention for Photography (2007 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival), Emile Guimet Award (2007 Vesoul International Asian Film Festival), Special Mention for Directing Young Jury’s Award (2007 Nurnberg Turkey / Germany Film Festival), CineBlackSea Best Director (2007 Bucharest Film Festival).

Reviews: The Guardian, ICS.


Issiz Adam

Issiz Adam

Issiz Adam/Alone. A Film by Çagan Irmak (2008, PAL, 113 min., color). See trailer.

Course relevance: gender, consumerism, post-modernity.

Synopsis: Alper is in his mid 30s and a good chef at his own restaurant. He loves luxury and spends his life with one-night stands and paid love. One day, his life changes utterly as he walks into a second-hand shop where he first encounters Ada who is in her late 20s and has a shop where she designs costumes for kids. She leads a modest life and one day while looking for a book, her and Alper’s paths cross. Alper is fascinated by Ada’s beauty and starts following her with the book she has been looking for. Read more…

Awards: Best Feature (2009) – Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Reviews: Wild Thyme.


Romanian Titles

220px-ChildrenundergroundlrgChildren Underground. A documentary by Edet Belzberg. (2001, 104 min., color). Trailer on Youtube.

Synopsis: In an effort to increase the Romania’s work force, former communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu outlawed contraception and abortion in 1966. Thousands of unwanted children were placed in state orphanages where they faced terrible conditions. With the fall of Communism, many children moved onto the streets. Some were from the orphanages. Others were runways from impoverished families. Today there are 20,000 children living on the streets while the resources for sheltering these homeless youths are severely limited. Children Underground follows the story of five street children. Read more…

Course relevance: post-socialism, social conditions, Ceaușescu, pro-natalist policies, youth.

Awards: Special Jury Prize – 2000 Sundance Film Festival, Documentary Achievement Award – Gotham Awards, IDA Awards – International Documentary Association, Vaclav Havel Special Mention – Prague One World Film Festival, nominated for the Academy Award for Best documentary feature.

Reviews: New York Times, New York Magazine, Variety, Village Voice.

Interview with Edet Belzberg: Indiewire – Edet Belzberg’s Children Underground brings the lives of Romanian street children to light by Nick Poppy.


the-autobiography-of-nicolae-ceausescuThe Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu. A documentary by Andrei Ujică (180 min., color, Romanian with English subtitles, 2010). See trailer.

Course relevance: national stalinism, personality cult, Romania, dictatorship, Cold War, Eastern Europe.

Official synopsis: During the summary trial that he and his wife were submitted to, Nicolae Ceausescu is reviewing his long reign in power: 1965-1989. It is an historical tableau that in its scope resembles American film frescos such as those dedicated to the Vietnam War. The three-hour long documentary covers 25 years in the life of Nicolae Ceaușescu and was made using 1,000 hours of original footage from the National Archives of Romania.

Awards: Best East European Documentary Award – International Documentary Film Festival (Czech Republic), Best Documentary, Best Editing, and Best Feature Film – Gopos Awards (Romania).

Reviews: The Washington Post, New York Review of Books, Vladimir Tismăneanu.

Interviews in The Filmmaker Magazine by Brandon Harris, Film Quarterly by Rob White, Cinespect by Ryan Wells.


Hungarian Titles

MV5BMTA3MTg1MDk4NTleQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDQ1NTg1MzE@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_Fateless. A film by Lajos Koltai adapted after the semi-autobiographical novel Fatelessness (1975) by the Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertész. (140 min., color, Hungarian with English subtitles, 2005). See trailer. Official site in Hungarian.

Course relevance: Jews, Holocaust, World War II, Hungary, memory.

Synopsis: One young man’s devastating voyage through the Holocaust sets the stage for this powerful drama. Gyorgy “Gyurka” Koves (Marcell Nagy) is a 14-year-old Jewish boy living in Hungary when the Nazi pogroms begin sweeping through the country. Gyura’s father (Janos Ban) has his business taken away from him not long before he’s taken away to a concentration camp, and as he’s led away, Gyura agrees to his father’s request to look after his stepmother while he’s gone. Read more…

Awards: Ashland Independent Film Award, Gerald Hirschfeld A.S.C. Cinematography Award – Ashland Independent Film Festival, Golden Berlin Bear – Berlin Film Festival, Golden Frog – Camerimage, Gold Hugo – Chicago International Film Festival, Golden Swan – Coppenhagen International Film Festival,

Reviews: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian.


English Titles

akAnna Karenina. A film by Joe Wright (2012, 129 min., color).

Course relevance: social change, 19th c. Russia, gender, family, class, Russian literature, Tolstoy adaptations.

Awards: Breakthrough Performer – Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander (2012 Hamptons International Film Festival)

Reviews: The New Yorker, The Observer, The Daily Mirror, Huffington Post.


New Socialist Game from Poland

imagesKolejka/Queue: The Board Game. Created by Karol Madaj (Warsaw: Institute of National Remembrance, 2011).

Course relevance: everyday socialism, shortage, economy, corruption, 1980s, Poland, Eastern Europe, post-communism, memory, K-16.

Description: The Queue is a board game that tells a story of everyday life in Poland at the tail-end of the communist era. At first glance, the task of the 2 to 5 players appears quite simple: they have to send out their family, which consists of 5 pawns, to various stores on the game board to buy all the items on their randomly drawn shopping list. The problem is, however, that the shelves in the five neighborhood shops are empty…

Kolejka in News and Reviews: Spiegel Online, Associated Press, BBC News.

Gameplay Runthrough (1 and 2) and Final Thoughts on Youtube. 3 copies available in the REEEC Multimedia Library.

Successful Pilot Course Sponsored by Global Informatics Initiative

What do Occupy Wall Street, Free Burma, the Zapatista Movement, and Uzbek dissidents have in common? All have mobilized social media for their causes, and all were topics in the new course Social Media and Global Change in the Spring 2013 semester at the University of Illinois. The course was developed and sponsored by the Global Informatics Initiative as the first phase in its efforts to further internationalize informatics curricula at the university.

The Global Informatics Initiative is a collaborative venture involving the Illinois Informatics Institute (I3),  the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) and five federally funded Title VI National Resource Centers: the Russian, East European & Eurasian Center (REEEC), Center for East Asia and Pacific Studies (CEAPS), the European Union Center (EUC), Center for Global Studies (CGS), and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS). It is aimed at bringing together Illinois’ strength in informatics and computer science with its rich area studies resources.

The “Social Media and Global Change” course was developed and taught by Dr. Bertram “Chip” Bruce, Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science. An expert on community informatics and technology-enhanced learning, Professor Bruce shared his ideas on the course topic with other colleagues at the Midwest Scholars Conference on March 14, 2013 (Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5). The course itself was offered through the GSLIS online LEEP format, which involves synchronous and asynchronous online instruction as well as a day of in-person classroom instruction on campus.

Professor Bruce observed that “Most of what we read about social media tends to focus on the situation in the US. That’s also true of much of the research. As a result, many in the US have little opportunity to understand the role that social media plays in other countries.” One of the goals of the course, then, was to bring together experts from the Illinois campus and overseas who are researching the use and impact of social media in other places, to widen the horizon of the discussion of social media. Guest speakers in the course from among local University of Illinois faculty included Ann Abbot (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese) on “Social Media Marketing for Social Enterprises” in the Spanish-speaking world; Markus S. Schulz (Sociology) on “Transnational Mobilization and the Internet” and the Zapatista Movement in particular;  and Jon Gant (Library and Information Science) on Geographic Information Systems and e-government. Students also interacted with faculty from overseas, including Yan Li (Zhejiang University) on the topic of the digital divide in China; and Olena Zhylinkova (Kharkiv National University, Ukraine) on social media legal regulation in different countries. Class discussion moved very quickly from simple questions of whether or not social media facilitate social change to more complex questions of the many factors that inhibit or facilitate effectiveness, with critical issues including censorship, identity, privacy, and access, according to Professor Bruce. In the course, students relied on their diverse fields of specialty (geography, informatics, cultural and area studies and library sciences) and produced excellent final projects, including webtoons and maps. Thus, they learned through and about social media and became trained in how to more effectively use this medium.

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The Global Informatics Initiative would like to build on the connections created among faculty and students in the course to develop additional courses and foster further collaborative research in this interdisciplinary field. While federal funding through the Title VI area studies centers was instrumental in fielding the pilot course and in creating the Global Studies Initiative, major financial commitments from GSLIS and the Illinois Informatics Institute will allow the Initiative to continue into the next academic year and pursue additional courses, including a possible MOOC course, and collaborative research efforts.

REEEC Undergraduate Student Makes a Mark

A graduating Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies student; Mat Jasieniecki  is interviewed about his presidency of a RSO (Registered Student Organization) at the University of Illinois. The Illini Veterans student group is heavily committed to philanthropy and service to veterans in the Champaign – Urbana community.

This is a re-posting of an article by Christine Des Garennes on the News Gazette.  To see the original follow this link: REEEC Undergraduate Student Makes a Mark

Mat Jasieniecki readily admits that after he graduated from high school, he partied a bit too much, and after a while his grandparents told him to shape up.

Jasieniecki, who was born in Poland and raised primarily by his grandparents in the south suburbs of Chicago, was always a curious student — interested in history, chemistry, economics, astronomy and more — but with little financial resources, he didn’t consider college as an option. At least not right away.

Instead he moved to Florida, and there his uncle, a Marine, presented him with several brochures for the various branches of the armed services. Jasieniecki chose the Army, and soon he was off to basic training.

Nine years later, following tours in Iraq with the highly decorated 172nd Stryker Brigade and an academic career that included a fellowship in Prague, the 27-year-old graduated Sunday with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois.

Jasieniecki is among a growing number of veterans enrolled on the Urbana-Champaign campus. There are 404 student veterans, most of them undergraduates, and about 75 percent served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Nicholas Osborne, a veteran and assistant dean who advises the Illini Veterans student group. In the last 2 years, membership in the Illini Veterans has more than tripled. Jasieniecki, the outgoing president, has developed it into something much more than the social group it was originally established as.

“I wanted to solidify the (registered student organization’s) presence in the student community and the Champaign-Urbana community,” he said.

Over the winter, the group dedicated a veterans lounge in the basement of the Illini Union where veterans can take a break from studying and connect with other vets. They conducted a drive to collect furniture and household items for formerly homeless veterans who were moving into permanent housing. And earlier this spring, they organized the inaugural Illini Veterans Memorial 5K run/walk to raise money for the $12 million Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education. The building, under construction on Nevada Street in Urbana, will feature residential units for injured veterans who need personal assistance, a fitness center, lounge, tutorial and advising spaces, and more. It’s being paid for with state and private money.

“He has a strong commitment to our veterans. Mat’s leadership was striking with this RSO (registered student organization) in that he really changed it from being a social club to a philanthropic one heavily based on service,” Osborne said.

Jasieniecki was born in a village northeast of Krakow called Proszowice. Three months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, he and his mom, a single mother, moved to Chicago where her parents were living. He grew up in Burbank and attended Reavis High School, graduating in 2004.

In the Army, he trained as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic and qualified to work on Stryker vehicles. In high school, he had tooled around on his friends’ cars, and his grandfather worked in heating and air-conditioning. Jasieniecki took to the mechanic’s job and worked his way up to becoming a team leader for mechanics with a combat engineering unit. Because of the timing of his deployment and the stop-loss policy, by the time he returned to the U.S., he had missed any chance at applying to schools for the coming fall. He had to wait several months, living in the suburbs before eventually enrolling at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He leaned toward concentrating on pre-medicine and psychology, but continued studying Russian and Polish and maintaining his interest in political science and history.

On a return visit to Poland, he was fascinated with what he saw — a former Communist country transitioning to capitalism. In his sophomore year, he transferred to the Urbana campus and started taking classes in Slavic languages.

“It was weird,” he said of the reaction of his classmates when they learned he was an undergraduate. “College seemed like an extension of high school,” because so many students go directly to college after graduating high school, he said.

Eventually he met a few fellow veterans and made his way to the Illini Veterans.

“We spot each other out. A lot of times it’s the haircut,” he said, of veterans’ preference for short hairstyles. Veterans usually can identify each other by their defined muscles, wearing of old combat boots, or T-shirts with a unit’s insignia, he said.

“I wish veterans would get more involved. Some don’t want to be acknowledged,” he said. Perhaps it’s because, he believes, some students mistakenly think all veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders or are prone to angry outbursts. Some fellow students are intimidated by them, he said. Others walk right up to them and thank them for their service.

In his time as president of the Illini Veterans, Jasieniecki said he is most proud of how they pulled together the 5K, which ended up raising almost $10,000 for the Center for Wounded Veterans in Higher Education.

“Creating an event like that will help make us seem like a vital part of the community,” he said.

No one in their group had ever managed a race before, let alone started a new one. But they were amazed by how people and businesses in the community donated money and time for their event, he said. Last week they presented a check to the College of Applied Health Sciences.

The center will contain about 12 to 14 residential units for UI student veterans who have been severely wounded, according to Jean Driscoll, the assistant dean for advancement in the College of Applied Health Sciences who has been helping raise money for the building. A variety of services will be available there to all UI student veterans, including family counseling, health and life skills, therapy services, academic and career counseling, and more.

“I was so impressed. They’ve been so respectful and excited about the opportunity to support the veterans’ center,” Driscoll said. “I’m looking forward to being in touch with them for many years to come.”

A groundbreaking ceremony has been scheduled for November, and construction may start in December. It’s likely to be done by February 2015.

As for Jasieniecki, next week he will pack up and head southwest to Dallas — “I love the desert” — where he will begin a new position as a financial adviser at Edward Jones. He hopes to continue to use his language skills to assist Polish and Russian clients.

New Online Database at the Slavic Reference Service on The Russian Empire and Soviet Union

The Slavic Reference Service (SRS), in collaboration a team of Research Associates of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies led Dr. John H. Brown and Dr. Steven A. Grant, is now host to a searchable database version of The Russian Empire and Soviet Union: A Guide to Manuscripts and Archival Materials in the United States. This database enables researchers to view UIUC print holdings, digitized text of the guide (via the Library of Congress),and the searchable database in one place.

This database will be updated and maintained by the Slavic Reference Service. Researchers can explore archival depositories and collection highlights in the continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska. According to the compilers, the scope of this database includes: “… public and private institutions, including university libraries and archives, public libraries, museums, ethnic organizations, church and business archives, federal and state governmental archives, and both public and private historical societies. Some collections owned by private individuals are also noted.” Moreover, the materials listed in the database include: “… correspondence, reports, organizational records, account books, essays, literary manuscripts, diaries, journals, memoirs, autobiographies, photographs, films, tape recordings, and graphic material. With the exception of certain mimeographed materials and rare clippings, nearly all printed matter has been excluded. Those seeking published books, periodicals, theses, and the like should refer to appropriate catalogs of library collections. However, unpublished facsimiles, photo reproductions, and microfilms of originals (even of originals subsequently published) have been taken to be archival materials in this guide. “ In terms of geographic coverage, the compilers have tried to include “all nationalities and regions” within the former Soviet Union. In the addition to the link above, researchers can directly access this database here.

SRS is funded in part by the Department of State Title VIII Grant Program. To find out more bout SRS and its offerings, please visit the SRS Website and Blog.

10 Tips for Writing a Successful International Research Fellowship Proposal

This article by Joyce Warner was re-posted from the IREX website

I’ve had the pleasure of chairing research fellowship panels for over a decade. In these years I’ve heard debate surrounding nearly 3,000 applicants, both junior and senior scholars, all trying to secure very limited research funding.  A while back some colleagues in the academic community encouraged me to pull some tips together from my experience in these meetings and also having worked with so many different peer reviewers over the years, from a variety of disciplines. Here it goes:

1. What’s your research question? This may seem simple enough, but we still see proposals occasionally that either don’t have or are unclear about the hypothesis. Ask a colleague to read your proposal before you turn it in, preferably someone not intimately familiar with your topic and see if they can pick it out and describe it clearly back to you.

2. Make sure the title speaks to a wide audience. First point of tough love. It’s not a contest for the most obscure title. Make it clear, easily understandable to a wide audience of both academics  and non-academics. Think about policy makers, journalists, non-native English speakers, etc.

3. Bibliographies are still important. You don’t have to agree with every source you cite, but you need to demonstrate that you are well-read and have a thorough understanding of your field/question and how what you are doing is new and builds upon respected and established work.

4. Show the panel you really need to get on a plane. With advances in technology and broader access to information, when applying for an international fellowship you really need to show that you can only get the project done on the ground, in country. If you could answer your question with some Internet research and a more thorough reading list, you probably won’t get funded.

5. Show the panel you are ready to get on a plane. If you are asking for research funds to go overseas keep in mind that peer reviewers have a number of additional questions. Do you have the language skills? Do you show the proper depth in cultural understanding? Do you understand political and other potential limits to your access and have you thought them through? Have you thought through your operational costs (survey collection, back translations, etc.)? Do you understand any potential security risks and challenges to yourself or those who may be subjects of your research?

6. Who cares? Second point of tough love. Given the economy you need to make sure you can make a really strong case for why you should be invested in as a researcher and why your selected research is going to have broader implications to the academic and policy communities. I can’t tell you how many times peer reviewers had a better answer to this question than the applicant. This needs to be clear from the beginning and carry through the proposal.

7. Does the timeline make sense? Can you really get done what you plan to in the amount of time you have proposed and have a quality product? On the flip side, does the plan have you sufficiently busy as a full-time researcher for your entire fellowship?

8. Show your preparation.  If you’ve been on the ground before let us know. Be sure to spell out what you are going to do differently this time. How does this project build on your previous work and take it to the next level.

9. And a word to our established senior academics, your peers on the selection panel want to feel like you respect them and their time enough that you put your best effort into your proposal. They get persnickety if they feel you are trying ride on prior accomplishments and just “threw it together.”

10. Read those selection criteria carefully. IREX always lists the selection criteria for our research fellowships in the application materials. I highly recommend putting your own personal panel together before you submit your proposal and ask them to grade your application against each criterion, letting you know which are strong and which need some work. We do this when we write our own proposals for funding at IREX and have great names for them like “red teams” and “murder boards”. Word to the wise—stack it with critics and not cheerleaders—you’ll get a strong product in the end.