International Night

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

REEEC was honored to be a part of International Night, an event celebrating the world’s cultures, at Booker T. Washington Elementary School on November 17. There were many students and parents dressed in traditional costumes, display boards about various countries, crafts, performances, and food. REEEC graduate assistant Stephanie Chung read the Russian fairy tale The Firebird  to students and passed out Firebird bookmarks. What a terrific way for REEEC to reach out to the Champaign-Urbana community, and show appreciation for its cultural diversity!

It’s a Small World After All

During the Welcome Week on August 27, the Illini Union Student Programs and Activities Office hosted a small international fair called It’s A Small World After All. A “cultural version of the Quad Day,” this event was an opportunity for cultural registered organizations, departments and resource centers on campus to promote cultural awareness and understanding of their organization and to welcome freshmen, international, and returning students to their diverse home here at Illinois. With performances in Korean drumming, Hawaiian and Tahitian hula dancing and Argentine tango, among others, the fair became a joyful celebration of Illinois’ cultural diversity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Russian, East European and Eurasian Center encouraged student interest in the region by advertising campus opportunities for language acquisition, undergraduate and graduate degrees offered by our center and affiliated departments, the FLAS fellowship program, the Slavic Reference Service and the center’s conference and lecture series. The approximately 30 students who passed by our booth also had the opportunity to taste authentic Russian candy. Some even got their favorite REEE flags tattooed on the arm.

REEEC on HuffPost Live: Alisha Kirchoff discussing Putin’s Homophobic Law and Russia’s Future

 On July 15, 2013 Associate Director Alisha Kirchoff joined Russian-American journalist Sergey Gordeev, Harvard Visiting Fellow Stephen Frost and Timothy Patrick McCarthy (Director of the Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights Program at Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy) in a live HuffPost broadcast hosted by anchor Josh Zepp to discuss  the federal law banning gay ‘propaganda’ among children. Recently signed by Russian President Putin after it passed unanimously in the Duma, this law is the latest example in a series of legislative measures against LGBT rights adopted amid a more general crackdown on human rights communities and independent civil action in the country. Among others,  the on-air guests explored what the sources behind this post-Soviet trend in the criminalization of homosexuality and the restriction of homosexuality are and discussed its future implications for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, LGBT tourists and citizens and Putin’s plans for Russia. To watch the live broadcast, click on the video.

REEEC at the 2nd Travel Around the World Event

Undeterred by biting wind chill, REEEC joined a number of university institutions and student clubs at the 2nd Travel Around the World on April 12th. This showcase of multifarious countries, cultures, food and dance from different regions and continents around the globe was organized as part of the annual International Week and was hosted by the International Student and Scholar Services and the Intensive English Institute. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. students and university staff gathered at the tent space between Everitt and Engineering Hall to get their passports stamped for visiting the exhibit stands and to win prizes. This year’s highlights also included international performances by the Capoeira Club, Desafinado, and TASC Special Ops (Chinese Yo-Yo).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

REEEC welcomed the approximately hundred visitors at our booth with trivia games. We carried players and interested bystanders on imaginary cruises along the Blue Danube, cycle tours across the scenic Baltics and luxury train rides on the Trans-Siberian Express across the Russian heartland. Prizes included coffee mugs and country tattoos from Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia but often our trivia champions preferred some good Russian candy. Besides raising awareness about the geography, cultural and historical richness of our region, REEEC also showcased the breadth of its educational programs, activities and resources. Thus, it buttressed interest among undergraduate students about its courses, MA program and its various opportunities for grants, travel abroad and language instruction.

Ultimately, the cold got to everybody’s bones. Participants and organizers scurried away at warp speed towards the warmth and comfort of their hearths and offices. Notwithstanding, Travel Around the World was the most captivating,  fun and fitting conclusion to our International Week this year. Hopefully, next time our visitors will be reminded of the winter cold solely by the intoxicating images of turquoise ice on Lake Baikal as they stop there on their imaginary travel across Siberia.

Student Dispatch: A Note from Kiev

My Backup Plan: the Best Summer of my Life

My love for Eastern Europe started in 2009 when I met some Polish friends in Vienna.  They were my incentive to go back to Vienna in the summer of 2010.  During that summer, I met a lot of friends from Kiev, Ukraine, and had to take a trip.  I spent the next summer (2011) in Krakow, Poland, and when it came time to plan my summer for 2012, I had no idea where to start.

I had been spending some time in Germany teaching English, but my visa expired on June 30, 2012.  Luckily, I had the great idea to book my flight home for July 30, a month too late.  I knew it would lead me to something good, but just wasn’t sure what exactly it would be.  I tried to organize a summer trip to Poland, but had to think of something new.

Then I suddenly knew where I was going to spend the best summer of my life. I ended up taking an English teaching course in Kiev, Ukraine.  As it is not in the Schengen zone, it was a perfect setup to buy me some time in order to fly back home on July 30.  This was my third time in Kiev, and definitely the best.  I had been looking for an apartment for a few months, and finally found one the day before I left. When I arrived, I got my keys, threw my stuff into my room, and left to go meet some friends.  I arrived during the last few days of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, and I didn’t want to miss any of the action.

I met my group of friends, and we went directly to the fan zone; what a crowd!  I made it an early night because I had been traveling for a long time and needed some rest.  Plus, the next day there was a free Elton John and Queen concert that we couldn’t miss.  After going to the concert, my friends and I ended up walking to the river and staying there until the sunrise.  This long session of talking, laughing, and making jokes was a perfect start to the long week of classes.

The classes were every day from 8 AM to 5 PM, in which we then had homework and preparation to do in the evening, but that didn’t stop me from meeting up with friends and classmates almost every day after class. We went swimming in the Dnipro River, ate sushi (a very popular dish in Kiev), took a stroll through the zoo and the various parks in the city, and checked out a skyscraper called Panorama, which had a great view of Kiev from the top balcony.  Getting to know the workers at Pizza Celentano, where my classmates and I ate lunch every day, was a great way to practice and improve my Russian.

Zach standing next to a statue in Khreschatyk Park in Kiev

What made this trip great, was that I got to stay for a whole month.  My first visit was three days, and my second was five days. This time I got a taste of what life is really like in Kiev.  From not being able to find an apartment, to having no hot water for most of my time there, to seeing how different my Ukrainian teacher’s teaching style was from the standard US teaching style, to buying delicious fruits from women on the streets, I found I loved every minute of it.  Now that I am back in the US, I really miss all of my friends, the great dairy products, beautiful sights, and liveliness of the city. Even though I don’t know when it will be, I am already looking forward to my next trip to Kiev; with my track record, it looks like it might last longer than a month.

Zachary Grotovsky is a 2011 summer graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a 2011 undergraduate FLAS fellow.  Grotovsky studied to be a German teacher, earning a BA in German Studies.  Growing up Grotovsky had some exposure to polish when his grandma, who was originally from Poland always spoke Polish to her dogs. Grotovsky never really paid too much attention to this until he studied abroad in Austria, where he made some Polish friends.  Now he is very glad to have one more reason to be closer to his grandma.  Grotovsky is spent the 2011-2012 academic year  in Regensburg, Germany as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.  Since completing his year in Germany, Grotovsky has returned to the University of Illinois to complete a MA in Germanic studies, and hopes to achieve a graduate minor in Eastern European studies.  He is currently taking classes in both Russian and Polish to further his connections with Eastern Europe.

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.

Steven Witt named Head of the International and Area Studies Library

On December 16, Steven W. Witt was named Head of the International and Area Studies Library and Associate Professor of Library Administration.

Steve, who came to Illinois from the Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan in 2003, is a leader in international librarianship, having served in IFLA as Chair of the Social Science Libraries Standing Committee, Chair of the Special Libraries Division, and Chair of the Library Types Division. In these latter roles, Steve served as a member of the IFLA Governing Board, and also as the co-editor of IFLA publications, including Social Science Libraries: Interdisciplinary Collections, Services, Networks (201) and Digital Library Futures: User Perspectives and Institutional Strategies. In addition to these positions, Steve has served as on the faculty of Senzoku Gakuen University in Kawasaki, Japan, and as Library Director at the Southern Illinois University campus at Niigata, Japan. Steve received his B.A. and his M.S. in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Library and Information Science at GSLIS.

Steve’s office will be in the International and Area Studies Library, and he may be reached by e-mail.