2016 Summer Research Laboratory Reception and Slavic Reference Service 40th Anniversary Celebration

Faculty, staff, students, and Summer Research Lab (SRL) participants celebrated the beginning of SRL and the 40th anniversary of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) with a reception at the University YMCA on June 21, 2016. Attendees enjoyed food from the Russian, East European, and Eurasian region prepared by Piato Cafe. Speakers from the University Library and REEEC reminisced on the origins of SRL and SRS, including Larry Miller’s and Ralph Fisher’s tireless efforts to build the programs, and praised the good work both organizations continue to do to promote research and studies on the region. Everyone had a wonderful time with friends and colleagues!

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Noontime Scholar Lecture: Elaine MacKinnon, “‘Found in Translation’: Exploring Soviet History, Memory, and Identity Through Lyudmila Miklashevskaya’s Memoir, Povtorenie proidennego”

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Dr. Elaine MacKinnon recounts her experiences translating the memoir of Lyudmila Miklashevskaya

On Tuesday, June 21, Elaine MacKinnon, a Professor of Russian and Soviet History at the University of West Georgia gave a presentation titled: “Found in Translation”: Exploring Soviet History, Memory and Identity Through Lyudmila Miklashevskaya’s Memoir, Povtorenie proidennogo. Currently, her research interests encompass Stalinism, Soviet historians and reinterpretation of Stalin, and the study of forced labor in the former Soviet Union.

Lyudmila Miklashevskaya, was, as MacKinnon described her, “an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life.” Miklashevskaya played the role of an ordinary woman in the midst of extraordinary people and events, and as MacKinnon suggested, this role is what makes Miklashevskaya so enticing as a research subject. MacKinnon’s analysis of Miklashevskaya’s memoir takes two tracks: translation and historical research. In translation, the textual detail brings MacKinnon closer to the subject, as she spends significant time and focus on every little detail of the material that is being translated. Thus, she begins to slowly understand the subject more intimately through this greatly detailed account of her life, creating, as MacKinnon described, an environment where she felt connected to Miklashevskaya through the act of translation. And then as a historian, the translation project allowed her to understand and analyze Miklashevskaya’s life in relation to the world and time period in which she lived, as a separate subjective viewpoint into an objective history of the times.

Lyudmila Miklashevskaya was a Jewish woman and for a time the wife of Konstantin Miklashevskii, a man from an aristocratic background, who was a playwright, theatrical historian, and an actor. He wished to be part of the avant-garde movement, yet was eventually exiled from the Soviet Union. MacKinnon suggested that a major theme of memoir was her relationship with her own daughter, of whom she spoke frequently. Having been separated from her daughter through her stint in the Gulag, she lost that which she had held as her most important identifier, her motherhood. When she was released from the Gulag, her daughter rejected Miklashevskaya’s embraces and efforts to become a family again in favor of her aunt, who to that point had raised her in her mother’s absence.

The translation project derived from a request from K. Miklashevskii’s descendants to have the portions of her memoir translated that pertained to him. MacKinnon developed an interest in the process in the life of Miklashevskaya herself and began to translate the entire 400-page memoir. This everyday woman, someone who was an ordinary citizen, was exiled as the wife of the enemy to the Soviet Union. She was caught up in an assassination conspiracy, and she spent substantial time in the Gulag. Although she had no formal training or education, Miklashevskaya began to write and publish newspaper articles, children’s books and brochures thanks to connections she had made through her first husband, Konstantin Miklashevskii.

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Dr. Elaine MacKinnon presenting the Memoir of Lyudmila Miklashevskaya, Povtorenie proidennogo

MacKinnon also discussed the challenges the translation of the project created. The first challenge was the cataloging of the numerous people and the references within the memoir. This was important to keep track of these people and references to create a mental map of the contents of the memoir.

The second challenge was with the translation of words and terms not of Russian origin. Miklashevskii came from a wealthy aristocratic family that struggled, in exile, to inventory family possessions in an attempt to recover them and smuggle them out of the Soviet Union. Miklashevskaya records this in her memoir. The issue here is that many of these words were of French origin, and then translated into Russian. According to Dr. MacKinnon, it was difficult to determine whether or not the word was originally in Russian or if the word was French translated into Russian, particularly as these terms dealt with a specific inventory of aristocratic goods.

The third challenge was encountered in the translation of literary aspects such as mood and emotion. Here MacKinnon also noted the difference that would have occurred had this project been a strict historical project rather than a translation project. If it had been purely historical, she believes that she would have missed the situational indicators denoting mood and emotional shifts. Translation thus enabled her to understand the memoir in a more nuanced way. Ultimately, through this combined process of translation and historical analysis, MacKinnon found Miklashevskii’s memoir to have no overriding agenda; it was not political in any way, nor was it purely historical. Rather, the memoir was an exercise in memory – of “an ordinary woman with an extraordinary life.”

Nicholas Higgins is a Masters student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include the development of identity separate from the Soviet identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, the current relations between Russia and its neighbors, especially Russia’s relations with Ukraine. He received his B.A in Philosophy and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from Miami University of Ohio in 2015. He is currently working on his Masters thesis, which is attempting to translate Søren Kierkegaard‘s model of faith into a political and social model that could represent the political and social nature of the late Soviet era.

2016 Fisher Fellow: Anastasiya Boika

2016 Fisher Fellow Anastasiya Boika

2016 Fisher Fellow Anastasiya Boika

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center awarded the competitive Fisher Fellowship, now in its fourth year, to a 2016 Summer Research Lab (SRL) participant. The fellowship, named after Dr. Ralph Fisher, the founder of SRL and REEEC, and a champion for building the Slavic collection at the University of Illinois Library, provides full domestic travel support, a housing grant, and an honorarium to a scholar with a particularly promising research project. This year’s Fisher Fellow was Anastasiya Boika, Ph.D. Candidate in History at Queen’s University in Canada. While at SRL, she worked on her research project “Greening St. Petersburg: Curing the ailments of city living in late Imperial Russia” and gave a Noontime Scholars lecture entitled “Curing the Ailments of City Living: The Garden City in Late Imperial Russia.”

Boika initially learned about SRL as a first-year PhD student and applied for SRL just as she was leaving for a six-week research trip to Minsk and St. Petersburg. Upon return from the archives in Russia and Belarus, she came to SRL in order to investigate any resources she had missed while in Russia and Belarus as well as to work with the Slavic Reference Service librarians to access additional source material.

Boika’s research at SRL was primarily geared toward obtaining further primary sources for her dissertation. Some of the works she found might also appear in an article, but the main goal was to gain access to some of the periodicals that were not available at her home institution. During her time at SRL, she was able to access a large portion of the publication Zodchii and a few books, including V. Dadonov’s Sotsializm bez politiki and Fedotov’s Illustriovanni’ putevoditel’ po dachnim, vodolechebnim i zhivopisnim mestnostiam Finlandii. She was very grateful for the opportunity to access an array of primary source materials as well as for the chance to give a lecture, meet other researchers, and “work with the amazing staff that make the Summer Research Lab possible.”

Stephanie Chung is a Ph.D. Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She received her B.A. in Plan II Honors/Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently writing a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs as literary and media texts.

Noontime Scholar Lecture: Anastasiya Boika, “Curing the Ailments of City Living: The Garden City in Late Imperial Russia”

The Garden City, the subject of Anastasiya Boika’s research for her Noontime Scholar presentation on “Curing the Ailments of City Living: The Garden City in Late Imperial Russia,” is the eventual product of the Garden City movement which began at the tail-end of the 19th century under the tutelage of Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. The Garden City movement attempted to introduce a new way of urban planning to create a sort of utopian living situation within the city in order to address land and housing questions that had come to play during industrialization. These Garden Cities, developed from socialist ideals of utopia, would bring together aspects of the town (or city) and countryside to create a union of the two. This union would then bring about a society where there were no vices, only virtues. This town-country would come about through a number of steps. First the land would be bought at a low price, and then a company would start work on the land. Eventually, the workers would then buy the company from its owners, thus owning the means of production, the work, and the land all at once. These Garden Cities contained not only farmland and urban places, but also all aspects that could maximize the happiness within a city. The ultimate goal of these Garden Cities was to stop the current development of massive urban centers and metropolises, as they would create an imbalance between the town and the country, thus adversely impacting the people. The importance and significance of town-country is exemplified in Howard’s Three Magnets, which shows how the town-country system solves the issues of both the town itself and the country itself.

PhD Candidate Anastasiy Boika discusses the history of the Garden City movement

PhD Candidate Anastasiy Boika discusses the history of the Garden City movement

Anastasiya Boika, a PhD candidate in History at Queen’s University, focused on the impact of Howard’s ideals and the Garden City on Russian thinkers and ideals from the early 20th century to the early Soviet period. Due to the nature of the Garden City, the sentiments and ideals that the Garden City movement portrayed struck a chord with Russian revolutionaries and those Russians who wanted change. Anastasiya Boika noted that the first contact between Russians and Howard’s work in 1902, when they obtained documents of his work, especially the Three Magnets.

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Visual representation of Ebenezer Howard’s Three Magnets

However, when Russians encountered Howard’s work, it was in a translated form. Indeed, The Three Magnets was translated from English into German, and then from German into Russian. The Three Magnets were thus translated from English into German, and then from German into Russian. This game of translation telephone, on top of different translations of the Three Magnets and Howard’s other ideas, like Dikanski’s Three Magnets from 1908 and Semenov’s Prozorovka, meant that the potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding of Howard’s central concepts and eventual goal of the Garden City was highly probable, lost in translation. Semenov actually met with Howard, who saw merit in his work, which included introducing an elastic plan. This elastic plan meant that the town would become much like an organism, something that is flexible and changes with its environments, as the towns reflect the populace.

Due to these differences in translations and the historical timing (World War I was just around the corner, then followed by the Russian Revolution in 1917), the Garden City was never actualized in Russia, and the Russian movement was deemed a failure. However, Boika noted that one could not deny the impact the Garden City movement had on the Revolution and early modern urban planning. While the Garden City movement never came to fruition within Russia, ideals and aspects of the Garden City, such as communal living, did find its way into the Soviet standards of urban living and urban development. Thus, the Garden City, while never actually existing in Russia, can still claim to have played a part in the development of Soviet living.

Nicholas Higgins is a Masters student in the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include the development of identity separate from the Soviet identity during Glasnost’ and Perestroika, the current relations between Russia and its neighbors, especially Russia’s relations with Ukraine. He received his B.A in Philosophy and Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies from Miami University of Ohio in 2015. He is currently working on his Masters thesis, which is attempting to translate Søren Kierkegaard‘s model of faith into a political and social model that could represent the political and social nature of the late Soviet era.

Noontime Scholars Lecture: Tricia Starks, “Tobacco as Product, Producer and Saboteur of Empire”

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Prof. Starks giving her Noontime Scholars Lecture

On June 16, Tricia Starks (Associate Professor of History, University of Arkansas) gave the first Noontime Scholars Lecture of the 2016 Summer Research Laboratory. Entitled “Tobacco as Product, Producer and Saboteur of Empire,” her lecture traced the history of tobacco advertising in the Russian Empire. She specifically focused on the images of smoking in posters for tobacco products, especially the links between smoking, militarism, and masculinity. She began her lecture with the myth of the zoave (a North African soldier fighting for the French Army) as the origin of the cigarette. The zoave invented the first cigarette when he needed another way to smoke tobacco after his pipe broke. He filled a paper cartridge, which usually held his gunpowder, with tobacco in order to smoke. Although this was not actually the first appearance of the cigarette, the zoave was widely used for tobacco advertising.

In Russian advertising, the zoave was transformed into a Russian military figure whose only weapon was a cigarette. Reflected in the context of Russian imperial quests in the Black Sea and Ottoman regions, this Russian military smoker was enmeshed in Russian myth and embodied the Russian hero. The language of Russian tobacco was embedded in Russian militarism. Even the Russian word for cigarette (papiros) was derived from the word for cartridge. The advertisements reconstructed the military and imperial imagery of cigarettes (papirosy).

According to Starks, cigarettes represented the products, producers and saboteurs of empire. In her lecture, she outlined how tobacco played those roles. Tobacco was a product of empire because it was a New World product. It was introduced to Russia in the 17th century, and cultivated in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and Ukraine. Russian tobacco was unique in its sourcing, taste, and strength. While the original tobacco brought to Russia was a variety grown in Virginia, Turkish tobacco eventually became more popular. It was acidic, aromatic, and less addictive than Virginian tobacco. To ease any harsh effects, it was sauced with vanilla, lavender, and other ingredients imported from international trade. Additionally, Russia’s access to some of its best tobacco was uneven because of wars, specifically with the Ottoman Empire, which influenced the portrayal of tobacco in advertising.

Starks next demonstrated how the Russian military influenced the cigarette’s use and image by describing the advertisements from various brands that were popular during that time period. She discussed the Balkan Star brand with a military Cossack on its seal. The Cossack was a figure of national importance who directly connected tobacco with Russia’s imperial intentions in the Ottoman region, such as eliminating Muslim threats and defending the Black Sea. Starks then presented on the Ottoman brand. Its symbols represented Cossack bravery, success, freedom, and defense of Christianity. The smoking depicted in its advertisements was made into a political act that connected the defense of empire with the defense of faith. Not only did tobacco advertisers use Cossacks, but they hearkened to an even earlier period, the Middle Ages, with its portrayal of bogatyrs (Russian knights) as military men smoking cigarettes. That image further connected smoking to empire, juxtaposing the modern with the past. Like the Cossacks, the bogatyrs secured the frontier and defended the empire against all threats. Even prominent Russian generals were used in cigarette advertising. Alexander Suvorov, the hero of the 1878 Russo-Turkish War and the Polish insurrection, and Mikhail Skobelev, the “White General” who was famous for conquering Central Asia and also for heroism in the Russo-Turkish War, were two important military officers whose images were used in posters. Although they were not physically smoking, their image allowed the consumer (the smoker) to steal their value by smoking the brand. By smoking, the consumer could become admirable like the generals. The generals’ images were used as recruitment not only for tobacco products, but also for imperial military quests.

The last point Starks made was on tobacco as saboteur – how it was sometimes portrayed as a harmful substance that would destroy the Russian population’s health. Already in the 19th century, some medical authorities were aware of cigarettes’ harmful effects. However, they also linked those medical dangers with moral dangers. Some people asserted that tobacco would be the empire’s undoing. Nicotine was thought to be a poison, a form of suicide that poisoned the blood, destroyed the nervous system, caused sexual dysfunction, led to miscarriages and infant death, and resulted in madness and fatigue. In the late 1800s, tobacco was also connected to neurasthenia, which was considered the leading cause of degeneracy (a fear rooted in racial insecurity and the belief in Russians’ declining numbers in the empire).

Finally, Starks concluded that Russian tobacco played a vital cultural role in defending and promoting empire. It was a product filled with political meaning. Tobacco was the empire. Even much later, during the Soviet era, tobacco was still associated with and even extended the idea of frontier.

Stephanie Chung is a Ph.D. Candidate in Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She received her B.A. in Plan II Honors/Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently writing a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs as literary and media texts.

2015 Fisher Fellow Sean McDaniel

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center awarded the competitive Fisher Fellowship, now in its third year, to a participant of the Summer Research Lab (SRL). The fellowship, named after Dr. Ralph Fisher, the founder of SRL and REEEC, and a champion for building the Slavic collection at the University of Illinois Library, provides full domestic travel support, a housing grant, and an honorarium to a scholar with a particularly promising research project.  This year’s Fisher Fellow was Sean McDaniel, a PhD candidate in History at Michigan State University.

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Sean McDaniel thanks Ralph Fisher. #ThanksRalph

McDaniel’s broader topics of research include migration within the Russian political space, the formation of ground-level power dynamics resulting from those movements, and the extent to which imperial policies and practices informed those of the Soviet state. This summer, McDaniel is focusing specifically on the role of horses at the intersection of state, settler, and indigenous power in the Kazakh Steppe during the late imperial and early Soviet periods. At SRL, he is interested in finding material on late imperial horse breeding, mostly from government data and directives.

McDaniel learned about SRL through his advisors at Michigan State, who encouraged him to apply and take advantage of the Slavic Reference Service and collection at the University of Illinois. He has been pleasantly surprised and somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of resources he has found available to him here. He is most impressed with the Slavic Reference librarians who have been helping him collect materials on his topic. McDaniel says he has never taken advantage of the resources offered by librarians before his trip to SRL and will now go back to the library at his home institution to see what they have to offer.

The application for the 2016 Fisher Fellowship will open in January 2016. Doctoral candidates at the dissertation stage of their research and post-doctoral scholars in any discipline with a focus on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia are encouraged to apply.

Samantha Celmer is a graduate student in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on incidents of genocide, crimes against humanity, and sexual violence in Russia and Eastern Europe. She received her B.A. from Oberlin College in History and Russian and Eastern European Studies in December 2013. After graduation, she hopes to work with organizations that focus on international human rights.

2015 Summer Research Laboratory Reception

Faculty, graduate student, and staff affiliates of REEEC gathered at the University YMCA on June 19, 2015, to welcome the 2015 Summer Research Laboratory (SRL) participants, and honor the legacy of REEEC and SRL founder Ralph Fisher. Organized by the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) and REEEC, the event highlighted the beginning of SRL. John Wilkin, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, was in attendance and gave his remarks. Everyone enjoyed eating the delicious food from the Russian, East European, and Eurasian region and socializing with colleagues.

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