Noontime Scholars Lecture: Karol Kujawa, “Migration Crisis: Implications for Turkish-EU Relations”

On February 14th, REEEC Visiting Scholar Karol Kujawa gave a Noontime Scholars Lecture entitled “Migration Crisis: Implications for Turkish-EU Relations.”  Kujawa is a Kosciuszko Foundation Fellow and Assistant Professor at Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. His lecture was co-sponsored by the European Union Center.


Karol Kujawa

For the past several years, the EU has been facing a refugee crisis. Turkey, traditionally a “gateway to Europe,” plays a key role in this migration process.  As a result of the Syrian Civil War, Turkey has become the site of political asylum for over 2.8 million Syrians.  Turkey currently hosts more refugees than any other country on Earth.

According to Kujawa, Turkey decided to host these refugees for several reasons.  First, Turkish authorities initially believed that Bashar al-Assad’s regime would fall—and their “guests” (as the Turkish prime minister called Syrian refugees) would return home—within a year.  Second, the Turkish people were in favor of helping refugees, due to a cultural tradition of “welcoming people from the Ottoman Empire, the Caucasus, Crimea… all of them are refugees, and the society is very cosmopolitan.”  Additionally, “Turkish people really love children,” and over 50% of Syrian refugees in Turkey are minors.

Since the migration crisis began, however, the number of terrorist attacks within Turkey has risen dramatically.  The crisis has led to an increase in “anti-European feelings” among the Turkish people, which is “one of the main purposes of this terrorism” (most of which is perpetrated by ISIS).  Since 2015-2016, popular support for Turkey’s potential accession to the EU has waned, and nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise within the country: “even the seculars are nationalists… there is currently no moderate movement in Turkey.”  On the European side, “we have seen almost the same process”—after an earlier more welcoming attitude toward migrants, “Europeans gradually started changing their minds about the refugees.” This has also coincided with a rise in nationalism throughout Europe.

An “EU-Turkey Statement” was released on March 18, 2016, outlining a new agreement between Turkey and the EU with regard to the migration crisis.  According to this statement, “All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands… will be returned to Turkey,” but “For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU.” The EU also agreed to accept more refugees, liberalize the visa process, help improve conditions for refugees on Turkish soil, and to speed up the disbursement of 3 billion euros allocated under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.  As a result of this agreement, the number of refugees coming to Greece decreased, although according to Kujawa, “that was mainly the result of stopping [migrant] smugglers on Turkish soil.”  Stronger borders have also been established in the Balkans.  However, Kujawa stressed that this is just a temporary solution: Syrian refugees will continue to migrate to Europe, and “there are still too many refugees in Syria, and too many coming to Turkey. To be honest, the only way to stop this problem is to stop the war in Syria.”

Kujawa noted that the EU and Turkey need each other, so they must try to cooperate. The EU needs Turkey’s help to stop the flow of refugees into Europe, and the Turkish economy relies on trade with the EU: over 50% of Turkish exports go to Europe.  However, many member states would oppose Turkey’s accession to the EU, due to human rights issues (“states like Austria and Luxembourg are very sensitive about the question of freedom and human rights, and will oppose integration with Turkey”), increasing levels of xenophobia (“anti-Islamic demonstrations… in Hungary especially”), and the rise of nationalist movements that threaten the integrity of the EU itself (“we don’t even know if the European Union will survive”).

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2016-2017 academic year for the study of Russian. 

REEEC Welcomes New Associate Director Dr. Maureen Marshall

MEMarshallK22014webDr. Maureen Marshall joined the REEEC staff as Associate Director of REEEC in mid-October. Before joining REEEC, she served as the Outreach and Campus Programs Coordinator at the Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies at the University of Chicago. At Illinois, Maureen looks forward to working with REEEC students, faculty, and community to support internationalizing education, fostering global citizenship, and engagement with the languages and cultures of Eurasia.  “REEEC has an excellent program — from a the rich diversity of course offerings to the well-regarded Summer Research Lab — and I was immediately impressed by the students’ love for the program and the collegiality on campus. It is a challenging time for area studies, but it is also an opportunity for creativity and innovation. I look forward to being a part of that at REEEC.”

Maureen earned her PhD at the University of Chicago in Anthropology in 2014 with a thesis on “Subject(ed) Bodies: A Bioarchaeological Investigation of Lived Experiences and Mobile Practices in Late Bronze-Early Iron Age (1500-800 B.C.) Armenia.”  Her research focuses on the bioarchaeology of early complex polities and empires in the South Caucasus and Eurasia. She is Associate Director of Project ArAGATS, the joint American-Armenian project for the Archaeology and Geography for Ancient Transcaucasian Societies, which has been excavating in Armenia since 2005, and collaborates with physical anthropologists in Armenia.  She serves on the advisory board for the Aragats Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Armenia’s cultural heritage through heritage preservation, development, and education. Dr. Marshall’s work has been published in edited volumes on global perspectives in human remains analysis, including Archaeological Human Remains: A Global Perspective in 2014 and The Routledge Handbook of Archaeological Human Remains and Legislation in 2011. Her research interests include political subjectivity, the body, violence in ancient societies, disease and health in ancient populations, the archaeology of Eurasia and the Near East, and the history of physical anthropology. Maureen hopes to use this background to enhance REEEC’s expertise in the Caucasus and Central Asia and to contribute to interdisciplinary conversations.

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.

Title VIII Funding at Illinois — A Letter From REEEC Director and Associate Director

Dear Colleagues, Community, and Friends,


It is now widely known that the Department of State Title VIII program has been suspended due to lack of funding for the 2013 cycle of applications. While it remains uncertain whether the program will be revived, the REEEC community of faculty and staff at Illinois intend to host the Summer Research Lab (SRL) in 2014 for its 41st session.  Unfortunately, this session will have fewer funding opportunities for participants. This is to say that while the loss of Title VIII support this year is detrimental, it is not devastating in the short term. Thanks to the foresight of past faculty and REEEC Directors, we have the means available to continue SRL while we search for new, perhaps more sustainable, funding streams. It should be noted that this news from the Title VIII program in no way impacts our status as a Department of Education National Resource Center, FLAS funding, our degree programs, or other academic year activities that REEEC offers as a center. 


Cutbacks can often lead to innovation and make way for new ideas to spring forth.  The REEEC community has already gotten to work on expanding, re-thinking, and developing ideas for what the Summer Research Lab can become in a world where future Title VIII funding may be completely unavailable. Because of the creativity and insight of the REEEC Executive Committee, plans are currently in place to expand SRL offerings in 2014 in partnership with our colleagues at the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Further reconfiguration and expansion is also in the planning stages, so please stay tuned to our website and blog for announcements.


Patrons of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) should be aware that SRS will continue to provide support for reference requests as usual. Thanks to the leadership in the International and Area Studies Library (IASL), arrangements have been made to maintain staffing at the Slavic Reference Service. In addition, the IASL has been working towards developing an enhanced reference service modeled on the SRS to include expanded expertise and a broader range of materials and service to more scholars and specialists the world over.


In addition to new partnerships and programmatic developments, REEEC has embarked on a fundraising campaign to help replace funds no longer available from Title VIII. Part of this campaign includes an appeal for community support. If you have benefited from Title VIII in the past and want to help the next generation of scholars, please consider making a donation to the Friends of REEEC fund, indicating your intention to support SRL ( With these monies, we hope to provide housing and travel grants to graduate students and early career scholars to visit Illinois during SRL. The programmatic sharing of our remarkable library collection, which makes it a more vital resource for scholars than the few collections that outsize it, will thus definitely continue.


Again, it is with a heavy heart that we consider the ways in which the loss of Title VIII funding will impact the field of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. The program is responsible for funding countless hours of research, language training, and field visits, which has led to thousands of publications, hundreds of specialists in the field, and dozens of new and enhanced courses at American universities. It is our mission at Illinois to continue to serve as resource for those with limited opportunities for field visits and access to vernacular materials. While it is our hope that Title VIII funding will be renewed in the near future, we will also seek other sustainable means to continue to offer services and support for scholars and research professionals to the best of our ability. 

Please feel free to contact REEEC for any comments or questions regarding the contents of this message. We look forward to seeing many of you again for SRL 2014.  

With all best wishes,

Dr. David L. Cooper, REEEC Director  & Ms. Alisha Kirchoff, REEEC Associate Director 


For further information, analysis and media coverage on the status of Title VIII, please visit the following links:  

RIA Novosti “US Defunds Venerable Russian Studies Program:”

RIA Novosti “US Ambassador Alumnus of Defunded Russia Studies Program:”

Inside Higher Ed:

ASEEES Title VIII Alert:

Russia Direct, “Why America Needs to Fund the Next Generation of Russia Scholars:”

Russia History Blog:

Sean’s Russia Blog, “Defunding Title VIII:”

Sean’s Russia Blog, “Title VIII and Ambassador McFaul:”