2017 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum: Central and Eastern Europe in the Global Middle Ages

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On June 22nd, the Russian, East European, Eurasian Center hosted the annual Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum. This year, the forum was organized by REEEC Director David Cooper (Associate Professor of Slavic Languages & Literatures), and was co-sponsored by the Ralph and Ruth Fisher Endowment, the Program in Medieval Studies, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics, and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

The theme of this year’s Fisher Forum was Central and Eastern Europe in the Global Middle Ages. The presentations were broken up into three different panels, each focusing on a different region of Central and Eastern Europe. The first panel was dedicated to Kievan Rus’ and its environs, the second to Central Europe, and the third panel focused on Southeastern Europe.

The first panel included Ines Garcia de la Puente (Boston University), who discussed “The Translated Worlds of Kievan Rus’”; Olenka Pevny (Cambridge University), whose work focused on “‘Living’ Orthodoxy and Petro Mohyla’s Restoration of the Kyivan Rus’ Patrimony”; Matthew Romaniello (University of Hawaii), who presented his lecture “Commodities without Context? Rethinking the History of Medicine in Medieval Russia”; and Michael Bechtel (University of Chicago), who talked about “The End of the Nomadic Military Elite: Technology and Institutional Change in Late Medieval Central Eurasia.” 

The scholars who discussed Central Europe included Julia Verkholantsev (University of Pennsylvania), who presented her lecture “Medieval Historian at Work: Historical Method and Linguistic Thought”; Paul Milliman (University of Arizona), who presented his research on “The First Invention of Eastern Europe: Sclavia, Scythia, and the East in the Medieval Map of Civilization”; and Eva Doležalová (Center for Medieval Studies, Prague), who discussed the “Image of the Jews in the High and Late Medieval Bohemian Society in Comparison to the Holy Roman Empire.”

The third and final panel included Gabriela Currie (University of Minnesota), who gave a lecture entitled “Eurasian Sonic Borderlands: Cultural Encounters in the Danubian Plains”; Donna Buchanan (University of Illinois), whose research focused on “Sonic Politics of the Sacred: Bells and Belfries in the Bulgarian Middle Ages and Contemporary Medieval Imaginary”; and lastly, Robert Romanchuk (Florida State University), who discussed “The ‘Formulaic Style’ and Its Role in the Translation of Digenis Akritis into Old Slavic.”

Although the participating scholars all discussed different topics and focused on different areas, the lectures were all united by a common goal: to deconstruct outdated divisions of an “Eastern” and “Western” Medieval Europe that imagine the continent as a collage of separate, isolated parts. Medieval Europe was not split into two, but was instead composed of a plurality of networks, communities, and other social formations that brought distant peoples and cultures into contact. By looking to the past and showing the interconnectivity of Europe in the Middle Ages, the Fisher Forum scholars ultimately sought to offer a new perspective on processes and problems of globalization in the modern era.

Lucy Pakhnyuk is a second-year MA student in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her research interests are in comparative politics, including issues of democratization, mass mobilization/political protest, and human rights in post-Soviet Ukraine and Russia.

Prof. Cynthia Buckley Gives Keynote Address at the Greater Community AIDS Project

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).

Prof. Cynthia Buckley giving the keynote address at the Greater Community AIDS Project

Prof. Cynthia Buckley giving the keynote address at the Greater Community AIDS Project

2016 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum: Population, Health and Social Change in Eurasia

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.


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2012 Fisher Forum

Political Spaces in Eurasia: Global Contexts, Local Outcomes

Writing in the aftermath of World War I, Winston Churchill declared that the Balkans had produced more history than they could consume. Today this observation still holds true, and may be extended to most of the post-communist countries of Eurasia, a region of which the Balkans have for so long been the geopolitical fulcrum. Our conference conceptualizes the continuities, fault lines, and interruptions in the region’s political, social, and cultural spaces. It will examine the state of the region from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including those of the social sciences, law, and the humanities, but always taking into account the behaviors and discursive practices of governments, parties, oppositions, and their leaders.

In particular, conference participants will look at the nation-specific electoral and cultural content of the spaces that are its subject while situating them in relation to key international developments such as globalization, the world financial crisis, and the rise of the Internet. In Eurasia, as elsewhere, politicians and their parties are in the business of selling hope to people, i.e., filling public and private spaces with promises that are a structured or ad hoc response to popular expectations. Aspirant or actual political actors aim to convince their constituents that they can provide national security, social stability, and economic growth, as well as protect and promote cultural/ethnic identity. To that end, they employ a variety of electoral and PR methodologies, many of them pioneered in the highly developed political marketplaces of Western Europe and North America, but adapted (sometimes mis-adapted) for local needs. The conference will address important public events, such as the growing protest movement in Russia and the March 2012 presidential election in that country. The self-presentation of political figures will be a topic of special interest, as will be the use and abuse of online media in the countries in question.


Levis Faculty Center

919 West Illinois Street, Urbana, IL 61801

Thursday, June 14

9.00-10.30 am     Panel #1. Chair: Andrzej Falkowski – Stronger Than We Hope, Weaker Than We Fear: Russia and Its Peripheries since March 2012

Richard Tempest (University of Illinois): “Putin’s Body Politic”

Greg Simons (Uppsala University, Sweden): “Stability and Change in Putin’s Political Image During the 2000 and 2012 Presidential Elections: Putin 1.0 and Putin 2.0?”

Sergey Markedonov (Center for Strategic and International Studies): “Democratization Processes in Eurasia’s De Facto States: Problems and Peculiarities”

10.30-10.45 am     Break

10.45 am-12.15 pm     Panel # 2. Chair: Joseph Ben-Ur  – Electoral Mechanics…

Cristian Andrei (Romanian Political Marketing Association): “Romania’s Total War, or How Political Marketing Strategies Work in a Democratic Process”

Lilia Raycheva (Sofia University, Bulgaria): “The Impact of Television in Bulgaria on the Electoral Process and Voting Behavior”

Ülle Toode (International University Audentes, Estonia): “The Use of Web 2.0 Applications by Estonian Political Candidates”

12.30-2.00 pm     Lunch (on own)

2.00-3.30 pm      Panel # 3. Chair: Cristian Andrei   …and Electoral Dynamics

Tiffany Winchester et al. (Deakin University, Australia), “Conceptualizing Usage In Voting Behavior for Political Marketing: An Application of Consumer Behavior”

Jólan Róka (Budapest College of Communication, Business & Arts), “Party Campaign Strategies in European and National Elections in Hungary”

Ieva Dmitricenko (University of Applied Sciences, Latvia), “Political Campaign Environments in Latvia”

3.30-3.45 pm     Break

4.00 pm     Keynote Address

Bruce Newman (DePaul University): “A Paradigm Shift in Global Politics: The Role of Political Marketing”

5.30 pm       Reception

Friday, June 15

8.30-10.00 am     Panel #4. Chair: Jólan Róka – Political Prospects and Perspectives in Eurasia

Wojciech Cwalina & Andrzej Falkowski (Warsaw School of Social Sciences & Humanities, Poland): “The Macro and Micro View of Political Marketing: The Evolving Democracies Perspective”

Volodymyr Chumachenko (University of Illinois): “Ukraine under Yanukovich: Implications for the Region”

Oana Dan (Harvard University): “Creating an EU-ropean Public: The Meaning of EU Citizenship in the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Europe”

10.00-10.15 am     Break

10.15-11.45 am     Panel #5. Chair: Richard Tempest – Continental Drift or Continental Convergence?

Francis Boyle (University of Illinois): “The Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina”

Wojciech Cwalina & Andrezj Fakowski: “A Political Message Ambiguity Management: An Implication for Candidate Positioning”

Joseph Ben-Ur (University of Houston-Victoria): “Social Political Networks: A Cross-Continental Comparison”


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Hewlett International Conference Grant

Center for Advanced Study

European Union Center

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Department of Communication

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Center for Global Studies

Department of Sociology

Department of History

Department of Political Science

This conference is funded in part by the Department of Education Title VI grant for international area centers.

Finding a Place in the Soviet Empire: Cultural Production and the Friendship of Nations

By Dr. Harriet Murav

The 2011 Fisher Forum, “Finding a Place in the Soviet Empire: Cultural Production and the Friendship of Nations,” was held in late June. The symposium brought together leading scholars from Russia, Canada, the UK, and the US, with expertise in a variety of disciplines, to explore the problem of empire, subjectivity, and cultural production in the Soviet Union. The conference was co-organized by Harriet Murav (Illinois) and Gennady Estraikh (NYU).

In his keynote address, Evgenii Dobrenko (Sheffield) set forth the basic methodology, paradigms, and criteria by means of which the Soviet Union created the minority cultures of its multicultural empire. A folk literature, typically in the form of an epic, was the necessary first stage in the development of a national literature. The translation of the national literature into Russian was a requirement for its recognition as a valid form of national self-expression. Marina Mogilner (Kazan) explored the theoretical tensions in definitions of the nation on the part of Jewish ethnographers in the early days of Soviet power. As Marina Balina (Illinois Wesleyan) showed, Russian language children’s literature ended up “othering” foreign and ethnic minority nationalities. Anika Walke (Washington U., St. Louis) revealed the degree to which the principles of internationalism and the friendship of nations did in fact “take root” at least among Jewish youth growing up in the 1930s. The Soviet project created out of the layered cultural legacy of the imperial borderlands an essentially provincial cultural ideal. However, cultural exchange, and not cultural provincialism, argued both Mayhill Fowler Princeton and Amelia Glaser (UC San Diego) were key to artistic production at the borderlands. Several papers examined the paradoxes of Soviet translation policies. Vitaly Chernetsky (Miami of Ohio) focused on the “boom” of publication of Ukrainian translations of Pushkin from the 1920s to the 1950s, a time when Ukrainian culture was suppressed. Gennady Estraikh’s, showed that translation could allow for greater literary openness. Russian translations of Yiddish works had more leeway in terms of specifically Jewish topics than original Russian language works. The themes of loss, mourning, and haunting emerged from Alexander Etkind’s and Mikhail Krutikov’s work. Etkind (King’s College, Cambridge) argued that Grigorii Kozinstev’s Hamlet and Lear allowed for a cosmopolitan—and hence distinctly unSoviet—vehicle of mourning the otherwise unacknowledged victims of the Soviet regime. Krutikov (Michigan) stressed the “poetics of the void,” the absences and silences in postwar Yiddish travelogues. Sasha Senderovich (Tufts) discussed the representation of the Holocaust in late Soviet film. Oleksandra Shchur’s (Illinois) paper about the Ukrainian writer Nina Bichuia revealed another kind of haunting, not by the victims of Soviet terror or the Second World War, but by the key perpetrator, Stalin. There is a kind of haunting as well in the three stories Thomas Lahusen (Toronto) told about the end of the Soviet Union in what became Kyrgyzstan. Finally, Helen Sullivan, of the Slavic Reference Service, unveiled a new “Library Guide” on how to research Soviet cultural production under the banner of “the friendship of nations.” Please visit the guide  for this event as it is open to the public: http://uiuc.libguides.com/FisherForum2011

REEEC would like to acknowledge the generous support of our co-sponsors:  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Hewlett International Conference Grant; School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics; Program in Jewish Culture and Society; Center for Advanced Study; Center for Translation Studies, and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures

Dr. Harriet Murav is a Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois. Her research interests include Russian culture, film, women’s studies, theater, and 19th century literature; also Comparative Literature and Jewish Studies.