REEEC faculty affiliate Cynthia Buckley (Professor of Sociology) gave the keynote address entitled “Resilience, Vigilance, and Commitment: Global and Local Issues in the Pandemic” at the Greater Community AIDS Project (GCAP) in Champaign on December 5, 2016. In her lecture, she drew on developments in Eurasia, highlighting the inclusion of Central Asia in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to provide a comparison and contrast with state and local issues in education, prevention, and treatment. Her lecture stemmed from discussions held during the 2016 Fisher Forum and relied on the extensive library resources of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS).
The 2016 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum was held during the 17th and 18th of June, and was organized by Cynthia Buckley, a Professor of Sociology, and Paul McNamara, an Associate Professor of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. The main sponsor of the event was the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), while the co-sponsors for this year’s Fisher Forum include the Fisher Forum Endowment, Illinois International Programming, Center for Global Studies, Global Health Initiative, and Russian and East European Institute (REEI) at Indiana University.
Population, Health and Social Change in Eurasia were the central themes of this year’s Fisher Forum. In delving deep into the research regarding the health profiles of countries within Eurasia, the presenters came together to answer these three core questions:
1. What are the positive and negative health legacies of structural change and institutional resilience in Eurasia?
2. What are the processes and interpretations employed by individual actors as they navigate uncertainty and make health related decisions in the Eurasian context?
3. How do the cumulative results of health behaviors in Eurasia confirm, expand or challenge existing theories related to the relationship between economic inequality and health outcomes?
Participants who took on the challenge of addressing these questions, included: Dr. Yuri Frantsuz, a Professor of Social Work at St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences, who presented research on The Impact of Income Inequality on Health in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Countries; Dr. William Alex Pridemore, the Dean and Professor of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany – State University of New York, presented on Crime, Justice, and Death in Post-Soviet Russia; Dr. Cynthia Buckley, a Professor of Sociology, REEEC, and LAS Global Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke about Ethnic Differentials in Reported Disability: Insights from Russia and Estonia; Dr. Nicole Butkovich Kraus, an Assistant Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, examined her research on Xenophobia and Homophobia in the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe; Dr. Jill Owczarzak, an Assistant Professor of Health, Behavior and Society at Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Sarah Phillips, a Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, presented together their joint research endeavor on Harm Reduction and the Transformation of Public Health and Governance in Ukraine; Dr. Tricia Starks, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, who replaced Dr. Hannah Reiss as a presenter, spoke about Kosmonavty ne kuriat! The Campaign against Smoking in the Late Soviet Period; Dr. Victor Agadjanian, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Kansas, presented on International Migration and Sexual Reproductive Health in Post-Soviet Eurasia; and finally Dr. Theodore Gerber, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, presented data and research regarding Housing and Fertility in Russia, 1992-2013.
This is a re-posting of an article published on April 30, 2014, in Inside Higher Ed by REEEC affiliate Mark Schrad, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. From 2007 to 2010, he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Illinois. To view the original article, please see http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2014/04/30/essay-difficulty-finding-job-expert-russia#sthash.m71Hft1J.MfRHEzJ2.dpbs.
With Russia’s annexation of Crimea, U.S.-Russian relations are at their lowest point in decades. Consequently, after two decades on the sidelines, America’s senior experts on Russia — many of whom came of age during the Cold War — are suddenly in demand again. They are sounding alarms not only about Kremlin aggression, but also the lack of young Russia experts who’ll take their places once they retire.
“It is certainly harder for the White House, State Department and intelligence community to find up-and-coming regional experts,” admitted Strobe Talbott, President Clinton’s top Russia adviser and head of the Brookings Institution. “It’s a shorter bench,” said Stanford University Professor Michael McFaul — who recently returned from serving as America’s ambassador to Russia. “The expertise with the government is not as robust as it was 20 or 30 years ago, and the same in the academy.”
In explaining “Why America Doesn’t Understand Putin,” a Georgetown University professor, Angela Stent, faults foundations’ declining funding of area-studies research and academe itself. “Instead of embracing a deep understanding of the culture and history of Russia and its neighbors, political science has been taken over by number-crunching and abstract models that bear little relationship to real-world politics and foreign policy. Only a very brave or dedicated doctoral student would today become a Russia expert if she or he wants to find academic employment.”
As one of only a small number of junior (i.e., “assistant”) professors in political science departments across the country who specialize in Russia, I am in a unique position to give an insider’s assessment of just how dire the situation has become.
By the time I began to study Russian politics, language, and culture in college, it was 1993 and the Soviet Union had already collapsed peacefully. I enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Northern Iowa, partly for its robust and well-funded Russian program, which regularly sent students to the intensive, summerlong Russian Language Institute at Bryn Mawr College — twice, in my case. Thanks to these programs, I already had five years worth of college-level Russian language instruction under my belt before I even stepped on to Russian soil. Between 1996 and 1998, I’d spent more than a year living, exploring, and studying Russia at Moscow State University. Unforgettable experiences from meeting Mikhail Gorbachev and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, to getting a public dressing-down from Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov on the eve of the roisterous 1996 presidential elections only furthered my passion for Russian politics.
As a student, I never asked where money for these programs came from, but as it turns out they were federally funded Title VIII programs for foreign language training. I later learned that — desperate to justify their existence amid flagging interest after the Cold War — these programs needed our numbers to show continued student demand just as much as we needed the funding they provided.
After graduating from Northern Iowa, I enrolled in the master’s program in Russian and East-European Studies at Georgetown University, one of the 17 Title VI Comprehensive National Resource Centers for Russia and East Central Europe dedicated to intensive scholarship and language study of the former Soviet Union. The depth of scholarship was incredible: entire courses dedicated to understanding webs of post-Soviet barter transactions, or the domestic politics of Central Asian autocracies or the ecological devastation left by state socialism — all taught by the top experts in the field. While I decided to continue my education with a Ph.D. program in political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (home to another Title VI center), much of my research interest on the political challenges of Russia’s health and demographic maladies — the cornerstone to my recent Vodka Politics book — began with the experts at Georgetown over a decade ago.
Armed with similar Russian expertise, most of my Georgetown colleagues went to work for the government or the private sector. But by choosing to get a Ph.D. instead, my career path lay in academe, where professional success is defined by whether — after six years of nonstop studying, researching and teaching — you land a tenure-track professorship that pays $60,000 a year — if that.
As grad students, we knew that there were fewer jobs for Russia specialists than for those studying “hotter” regions such as China or the Middle East, but we warmed ourselves with the plausible, yet ultimately unfounded, belief that the entire generation of Sovietologists hired in the ‘70s would be reaching retirement age just as we’d be hitting the market. Still, no self-respecting political science program trains students as just an expert on a particular country or region: your regional focus always takes a back seat to your concentration, often within the subfields of international relations or comparative politics. So, no one on the job market says “I’m an expert on Russian politics.” More likely they’ll say “I’m an expert on nationalism, social movements and revolutions in the context of the former Soviet Union.”
In that regard, I thought my dissertation — examining how the ideas of international activists are filtered through national policy-making institutions by comparing how temperance activism influenced alcohol prohibition in Russia, Sweden, and the United States — was perfect. Not only did I maintain my passion for Russian politics and history, but also developed marketable expertise in a broad range of subfields of international relations and comparative politics. Add to that a few minor publications, a raft of teaching experience and a dash of naive overconfidence, I hit the market.
For those not familiar with it, the academic job market — especially in political science — is a byzantine system. In the summertime, colleges and universities post listings for positions for the following academic year that will round out their departments’ particular teaching needs and research profile. In the fall, search committees winnow through hundreds of applicants to narrow their search down to three, who then get the pleasure of a campus visit. By “pleasure,” I mean an exhausting three days of nonstop interviews, teaching, and research presentations, with no guarantee that the committee won’t fail to be impressed with any of the candidates and just decide not to hire anyone at all. In the spring, a few one-year “visiting” or “adjunct” positions appear, as departments desperately scramble to fill the teaching holes in their schedules, and out-of-luck applicants desperately scramble to fill the holes in their tattered career dreams. Those who don’t land a postdoc or one of these temporary teaching positions have to figure out something else to do until the process starts all over again the following year. Many exemplary — though unlucky — scholars simply drop out.
The spreadsheet on my computer where I’ve chronicled my job market experience is labeled simply “failure.” According to it, in my first foray onto the market in the fall of 2006, I applied to 59 listings for tenure-track jobs in the various topics of international relations and comparative politics that I could reasonably justify some degree of expertise. Of those 59 positions, only two were explicitly looking for experts in the politics of Russia or the former Soviet states: the University of Kansas (another Title VI National Resource Center for Russia), and the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Of these two — two — Russia jobs across the entire country (and Canada), both wanted experts on security or terrorism in the region. Neither gave me a call.
The only place that did call was the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which in the spring offered me a one-year “visiting” assistant professorship, which I eagerly accepted as an opportunity to expand my teaching portfolio, turn my dissertation into a book manuscript, and prepare to give the market another go.
The following year (2007-8), I embarked on the market once again, this time armed with undergraduate teaching awards from the popular courses I’d developed on the politics of the former Soviet states and Russian foreign policy. I’d also landed a contract from Oxford University Press to publish my revised dissertation as The Political Power of Bad Ideas — a golden ticket to a job, or so I thought. I applied for 67 assistant professor positions, 11 visiting positions, 5 postdocs and 3 non-academic positions — an untold number of which were withdrawn as the global financial crisis smashed state budgets and university endowments invested in the stock market. Still, of those 81 listings, only one was explicitly looking for an expert on Russia: the University of Washington — yet another Title VI center. Like every other place I applied, they didn’t call me (though it is worth noting that the scholar that they did hire, Scott Radnitz, has been quite busy publicly contributing insights into the current crisis). Thankfully, even as hiring freezes and furloughs loomed, somehow the Illinois political science department found a way to keep me on for another year.
The great recession saw far fewer academic jobs advertised in year three (2008-9): I applied to 51 assistant professor positions, as well as 8 visiting gigs. The number of departments searching for an expert in Russian politics was one: Villanova University. I obsessed over the ad: a broadly trained expert able to offer a wide variety of courses while maintaining a specialty in Russian politics and foreign policy, at a university that puts a premium on both teaching and scholarship? It seemed too good to be true.
As it turns out, it was: like so many job listings at the time, the search was canceled amid the persistent financial uncertainty. Still, I was encouraged that finally, after three full years, my phone actually rang with a campus interview. But that department wasn’t interested in Russia. It was far more interested in my (now extensive) teaching portfolio in international relations, and my research into transnational activism and comparative public policy. In the ensuing battery of interviews, we barely ever talked about Russia. That department passed. Thankfully — largely thanks to another raft of positive student evaluations and teaching awards, Illinois extended me for another year.
No less difficult than years of professional uncertainty are the accompanying personal struggles: nagging doubts about your career choice, your self-worth, and moments of deep depression, which are only amplified as the sole breadwinner for a family that had grown to five. My wife and I decided that if year four didn’t land me a tenure-track position, we’d close up shop on the academic career — no regrets. Still, I lamented abandoning the academy without ever writing the book about the politics of alcohol and demography in Russia that had motivated my research from the beginning. So, armed with a prospectus and a draft chapter, I shopped the Vodka Politics project around the Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago, and left with interest from a half-dozen academic and commercial publishers. With a second book contract in hand, I had a C.V. that would merit tenure at many colleges, yet given the near-complete lack of openings for Russian scholars, I still couldn’t find a job.
In year four (2009-10), I applied for 91 assistant professor positions, 6 postdocs, and 8 non-academic jobs. Of them, there was again only one specifically looking for a Russian-politics expert: my dream job at Villanova had been re-listed. Finally, in year four — having developed seven unique course offerings, and having taught them 25 times — did I start getting interest from search committees, including interviews at Johns Hopkins, Wyoming, and — yes — Villanova. The only offer — thankfully — was the Villanova position that I still consider my “dream job,” which I took without hesitation.
From 2006 through 2010, I spent four years on the academic job market, mailed 309 job applications, landed four campus interviews and one job offer. They say about hitting in baseball, that if you fail 7 out of 10 times (.300), you’re a success. That’s little consolation when you’re batting .013 in job interviews on the market, and .003 in actual job offers. Even within political science, many recognize that employment prospects for regional experts are bad — though I doubt any realize just how bad they are.
Whether my tale is one of tenacity or stupidity is certainly up for debate. Still, it suggests that the present lack of junior Russia scholars in academia is attributable more to the near-complete absence of academic employment opportunities than a lack of qualified scholars. If anything, the situation is even worse outside of political science, with few jobs for historians and scholars leaving the field. These are losses not only to academia, but potentially to our collective understanding of future political developments in Eurasia, at a time when such expertise is needed more than ever.
As in the past, when U.S.-Russian relations run cold, employment opportunities for experts on Russia should expand. Unfortunately however, thanks to government austerity measures and cutbacks in higher education, there will be far fewer qualified experts to meet demand.
For instance, the program in Russian/East European Studies that was one of my majors at Northern Iowa does not exist anymore. Moreover — reflecting a national trend in higher education—the Russian language program was liquidated, along with German, French and other programs, leaving a modern languages department that teaches only English and Spanish. What’s more, the long-running study abroad program that ferried me to Russia three times in the 1990s is in dire straits as well. Amid deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Russia just this month, Russia’s Ministry of Justice ordered American Councils — the nonprofit organization that administers numerous professional, research, and study abroad programs throughout the former Soviet Union — to cease its operations in Russia indefinitely.
While the Kremlin has dealt this devastating blow to the promotion of East-West scholarship and understanding just recently, Capitol Hill has been undercutting international programs for far longer, with even more damaging results. Russian studies have been particularly victimized by politicians on Capitol Hill. Funding for Title VI National Research Centers — like those where I was trained and where the very few academic jobs on Russia arose — has been under assault by “fiscal conservatives” for the past few years. The prestigious Fulbright-Hays award for dissertation research abroad was canceled in 2011, before a limited reinstatement. In 2013, House Republicans defunded research in political science supported by the National Science Foundation, unless researchers can show that their research will promote American security or economic interests. Finally, in 2013 the federal government cut its Title VIII programs, which had funded my study abroad opportunities, as well as those of America’s top Russia researchers and diplomats.
The lesson is tragic but clear: just when America finds itself in need of new experts and new expertise on Russia and Eurasia, Capitol Hill has effectively castrated most every nonmilitary program that promotes language acquisition, cultural proficiency, and research into the region. This bleak situation is only made worse by the new barriers to international education erected by the Russian side as bilateral relations deteriorate.
If present trends continue, the ability to develop in-depth expertise on the languages, cultures, and politics of the former Soviet Union may soon be limited to heritage speakers with roots in the region, those with a specialized area-studies training in the military, or the narrow stratum of individuals wealthy enough to fund their own language training. For the development of robust expertise into regions that are of strategic national concern — now and for the foreseeable future — none of these are palatable outcomes.
Mark Schrad is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University and the author of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State (Oxford University Press, 2014).
This is a re-posting of an article published in the Illinois International Review. International Programs and Studies (IPS) commissioned the article in honor of Ralph Fisher’s recognition in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) Centennial Gallery of Excellence for establishing the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), and creating a wonderful legacy for international studies and area studies centers at the University of Illinois. To view the original article, please see http://international.illinois.edu/iir/Spring2014/reflections.html.
When Ralph Fisher, the founder of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC), first came to the University of Illinois in 1958, Illinois was not a major center for Russian and East European Studies. In his memoir, Swimming with the Current (1992), Fisher remarks that in a 1956 U.S. State Department publication identifying the country’s academic centers on the region, “Illinois had not even been listed among the also-rans.” In fact, other Midwestern institutions like the University of Chicago, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin were “far ahead.” According to Fisher, “there was no obvious, altruistic-sounding sales pitch for adding a Russian center in east-central Illinois.” From these humble beginnings, Fisher built Illinois into one of the most important academic and research centers for Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia, not only in the U.S., but around the world.
Larry Miller, the Senior Slavic Bibliographer and Collection Development Officer at the University of Illinois Libraries, affirms the significance of Ralph Fisher’s legacy. He was the first Slavic librarian at Illinois, who came to Champaign-Urbana in 1959, fresh out of the Indiana University library school, where he received a degree that combined library science and Slavic Studies. One of the main reasons why Miller came was that Fisher needed a Slavic librarian to catalog all the Russian books he had purchased, a build-up of the Russian collections that was completely his initiative and enthusiastically supported by the University Library. At his job interview, Miller was impressed with the people and the staff, which resulted in him accepting the position. He began his Illinois career as the Slavic cataloger in the cataloging department. During his two years as a cataloger, Miller cataloged books from Russian libraries. In his third year, he became the acting head of Slavic acquisitions, which meant that he was also a member of the Center’s executive committee. At that time, the head of acquisitions was also a part of the executive committee.1960-1961 was the first academic year for the Russian and East European Center. From its inception, it emphasized an interdisciplinary curriculum. It offered an undergraduate major and a graduate certificate. The Russian Department, which worked closely with the Center, was able to offer a master’s degree. Additionally, the Center ensured that the Library became a world-class institution. The Library budget and staff of Slavic specialists continued to grow. Dmytro Shtohryn, a specialist in Ukrainian Studies who continues to contribute to the field today, was hired in January 1960. The allowance for Russian acquisitions increased to $34,000, which resulted in the ability to purchase more texts and add to the Library’s collection.
From 1959 to 1987, Fisher was director of the Russian and East European Center. In Swimming with the Current, he humbly states that he “might more precisely have been called ‘facilitator’ or ‘promoter.’” He describes his role as “that of helping others to do what they wanted to do and responding to their encouragement and appreciation.” Nevertheless, his leadership was crucial to the Center’s growth. “Our Center had smooth sailing with our university administration,” he mentions in his memoir. He points out the helpfulness of administrators like President David Henry, Provost Lyle Lanier, and Deans Jack Peltason and Bob Rogers. “From my standpoint, they were near-perfect bosses: They understood what our Center needed; they encouraged and supported us within their means, and at the same time they gave us a long leash.”
Throughout his career, Fisher knew the importance of an outstanding library for research and scholarship. He was a huge supporter for the Library and knew how important a wealth of academic resources was for the Center. He persuaded the Center’s executive committee to champion the Library. Miller remembers that Fisher could be very convincing and firm in his passion for the Library. Robert Downs, the dean of the University Library at that time, was amazed at the level of support among the faculty. He was very happy to support Fisher’s efforts to grow the reputations of both the Center and the Library. In his interactions with Dean Downs, Fisher had a solid commitment from the University Library to build major collections in order to attract students and faculty, collections that would rival Columbia, Berkeley, and Harvard. He wrote hundreds of proposals and reports to seek funds for both the Center and the Library. He would discuss with Miller, who was responsible for writing the Library portion, what should go into the proposals in terms of the Library’s needs. He constantly urged Miller to take advantage of special opportunities that would come up to buy books and add to the Library’s already impressive collection. According to Miller, having Fisher’s enthusiastic support was a “dream come true.” Fisher’s good professional relationship with Dean Downs and his active fund-raising led to the University of Illinois hosting the Midwest Slavic Library Conference in 1964. By that year, Illinois already had the largest Slavic collection in the Midwest, a feat accomplished in less than 6 years.
In Larry Miller’s words, the relationship between the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center and the Library is an “ideal relationship, for sure.” In 1966-1967, the Center’s executive committee asked Miller to organize a course in Slavic bibliography because students were unsure of how to use the Library’s amazing collection. The first course took place in 1967 in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) and was a success. The course indicated how much the Center appreciated the Library’s collection and the importance of students knowing how to use such a remarkable resource.
However, the Center did not only have strong connections to the Library, but also to other departments around campus. Starting in 1963, it sponsored undergraduate majors in Russian language and area studies, and East European and Russian Studies, along with a graduate certificate in Russian language and area studies with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. From 1961 to 1971, the Center and its affiliated departments graduated 586 undergraduate students, 206 master’s students, and 49 doctoral students. The Center’s wealth of scholarly resources helped its different departmental affiliates to attract and retain top faculty. By 1971, the Center had around 38 faculty members whose teaching concentrated on or incorporated Russia and Eastern Europe. Some of them are still teaching at Illinois today, including Keith Hitchins (history) and Peter Maggs (law).
Real cooperation between the Library and the Center began in 1970. The Slavic Division was formerly part of the Special Languages Department of the University Library. In 1970, the Slavic collections moved into room 225 of the Main Library, which became the Slavic and East European Library. In his memoir, Fisher calls it the “most momentous single event of the early stage of our Center.” For the first time, all the staff working on the region was combined in one room. There was a circulating collection and a display of current periodicals. The Library became a gathering place, leading to a closer relationship between the librarians and the faculty. 1970 was also the year that the Library conducted its first major outreach activity: a government-funded 6-week course to train Slavic librarians. There were 15 librarians in that inaugural class. Furthermore, 1970 was the first year that the Library gave full service to scholars studying the region. It developed a reputation for being very helpful. The University of Illinois had a better, more accessible setting for visiting scholars than other research libraries, an essential component being the friendly and knowledgeable library staff. The renowned Slavic Reference Service (SRS), founded by Marianna Tax Choldin in 1975, developed from this close relationship between the librarians and scholars worldwide.
One of the most fruitful and long-lasting partnerships between the REEEC and the Library was the Summer Research Laboratory (SRL), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013. Miller calls it a “highly successful program” that has expanded rapidly. From its beginning in 1973, it was open to what Fisher describes as “any qualified professional with a reasonable-looking research project, up to the limit of the funds we could find for housing.” In particular, Fisher sought out “those many people who, although well trained, were teaching in small institutions or had heavy teaching loads or had been out of academic life for a while.” One of SRL’s goals was to create a “relaxed, non-exclusive atmosphere where dissertation-stage students and young scholars could mingle easily with experienced scholars.” During the lab’s first year, 44 scholars attended. Last year, more than a hundred attended. Scholars receive intensive individualized help from the librarians, who are in contact with them not only for the duration of the lab, but throughout the year. Research undertaken at SRL has appeared in many prestigious scholarly journals. Many authors have and continue to acknowledge SRL in their publications. To provide even more resources for scholars from all over the world, the SRS developed as a broad reference service for anyone who needed help in finding books or citations. “It became the centerpiece of everything,” Miller said. The SRS was able to attain materials that were missing from North American libraries. It could obtain microfilms of books for free from major Russian libraries. Visiting scholars would form discussion groups, where librarians would give them background information. The focus on the individual scholar, who could be a graduate student or a senior faculty member, was truly what distinguished SRL and SRS from other programs and services, not only in the United States, but worldwide. Even 40 years later, Larry remarked that the program remains “very unique.” It has only added to the Center’s stellar reputation.
In conclusion, Larry Miller noted the strengths of the very close relationship between the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center, and the Library, which began under Ralph Fisher. Together, they collaborate for the Title VI application to the U.S. Department of Education to continue funding the excellent services and programs the two organizations offer. The expanding SRL, the outstanding SRS, and the expansion of the International Reference Service to other areas are a testament to the strong ties between the Center and the Library. The recently formed International and Area Studies Library works with all the area studies centers to arrange special programs, outreach, and cultural events. However, Miller praised the immense degree of cooperation between REEEC and the Library. REEEC has “by far the most productive Library-Center partnership,” fueled by “much more intense connections.” A highlight of the 2013-2014 academic year was the visit of Zeljko Komsic, the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The International and Area Studies Library served as the reception location, where members of the Illinois community had the opportunity to meet with President Komsic. According to Larry Miller, the connection between REEEC and the Library is a “model for other centers to follow.”
In fall 2013, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences honored Ralph Fisher for establishing and developing REEEC, an exemplary area studies center praised both on campus and around the country. His legacy lives on in the Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum, a colloquium bringing world-renowned scholars to the Illinois campus during the summer, as well as all the programming that REEEC supports. In the conclusion of Swimming with the Current, Ralph Fisher notes his amazement at the success of REEEC. “I see most of all the role of good people and luck. We had no grand design. We depended heavily on the good will of others.” That good will has continued to this day.
Stephanie Chung, Ph.D. Student, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Call for Paper Proposals
Violence in Twentieth-Century Russia and Eurasia: Experience, Affect, Memory, and Legacies
Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum
Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
June 19-20, 2015
Organized by Harriet Murav and Mark Steinberg
In a poem dedicated to the memory of 19 June 1914, Anna Akhmatova wrote “we aged a hundred years, and this/Happened in a single hour.” The twentieth century brought unprecedented violence to the European world, not least in the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. The years 1914-1921, among the most bloody and destructive in Russia’s history, cannot be understood in isolation from the whole jagged landscape of violence—international wars, violence political force, national and revolutionary violence, ethnic and racial violence, and interpersonal and domestic violence. Boundaries do not easily stand in violent conditions. Emancipatory and repressive violence mix and blur. Purposeful political and social struggles mix with “hooliganism” and commonplace human brutality.
Any violence itself is only part of this story. The twentieth century, especially its first decades, saw a remarkable explosion of creativity in the arts, literature, science, politics, philosophy, and social organization, as well as extraordinary technological innovation and invention. Indeed, violence itself could be understood in radically different ways, including as creativity, even as actions in the name of life.
We are seeking paper proposals from diverse disciplines that will examine the immediacy, effects, and refractions of violence in Russia and Eurasia (defined as the spaces occupied by the Russian empire and the Soviet Union) from 1900 through 1945. Papers might explore violence in culture (from art and literature to popular culture), in society and politics, as recorded in documentary and photographic form, in science, law, and technology, and in subjective, sensory, and emotional life.
No less important, papers should engage the problem of how to interpret and theorize violence, as practice, as experience, as legacy. Indeed, while our focus is on the past, we cannot ignore lasting effects and persistent meanings, including for our own time. Our shared interpretive and theoretical concerns, as well as the richness and diversity of the research, will both make our discussions fruitful, and help us produce a coherent and publishable volume.
If you are interested in participating, please send a 2-page CV (focusing on publications), and a tentative title and abstract (maximum 300 words) to Harriet Murav email@example.com and Mark Steinberg firstname.lastname@example.org by March 1, 2014.
REEEC is pleased to welcome as a faculty affiliate Dr. Jon Welty-Peachey, a new Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism. His research specialization is in sport-for-development and social change, which stemmed from 10 years working as a senior administrator with several international organizations that used sport as a development mechanism. He gained a great appreciation for the power of sport to effect change in various countries and cultures; including Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia. Currently, he is engaged on a longitudinal research project, which has participants from those countries. He will look at the long-term impact of the World-Scholar-Athlete Games on its high school participants, and its ability to stimulate community engagement and activism.
Dr. Welty-Peachey also works with several organizations which use sport to help homeless individuals make positive changes in their lives. There are a number of such organizations in Russia and Eastern Europe that specifically use soccer. Studying and interacting with them would be a natural extension of his work into this area of the world.
In addition, Dr. Welty-Peachey looks forward to continuing to pursue research with Street Soccer USA, an organization which uses soccer to help homeless individuals make positive changes in their lives in 22 U.S. cities. His research is beginning to explore how to most effectively design and structure sport-for-development organizations to have optimal individual, community, and economic impact, and how to leverage these organizations and events for positive social utility. He is also beginning to explore social entrepreneurship in the context of sport-for-development.
Prior to coming to the University of Illinois, Dr. Welty-Peachey was on the sport management faculty at Texas A&M University. It was there that he cultivated his research agenda in sport-for-development and formed the collaborations and partnerships to move that agenda forward. He is very excited to have joined the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism here, as he felt that the vision for the department resonated with his personal vision and research agenda for the social utility of sport. “It is inspiring to be with colleagues who share a similar passion for social change through sport, recreation, and tourism.”
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
Article of interest: Sultan Erdogan: Turkey’s Rebranding into the New-Old Ottoman Empire
Vali/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.
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).
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).
Beş 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).
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.
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.
Interview with Edet Belzberg: Indiewire – Edet Belzberg’s Children Underground brings the lives of Romanian street children to light by Nick Poppy.
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).
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,
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)
New Socialist Game from Poland
Kolejka/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…