Noontime Scholars Lecture: Laura Dean, “Incongruent Implementation of Human Rights-Based Policy in the Post-Soviet Region”

Laura Dean giving her Noontime Scholars Lecture on March 14, 2017

Every year, approximately one million people are trafficked throughout the post-Soviet world. Although human trafficking is a global issue, Laura Dean (Assistant Professor of History and Political Science at Millikin University) argues that the problem is particularly acute in the post-Soviet region. In her lecture, entitled “Incongruent Implementation of Human Rights-Based Policy in the Post-Soviet Region,” she explored why the region has had such a problem controlling human trafficking. Do the difficulties stem from internal or external forces? And what factors help or hinder the implementation of more comprehensive human trafficking policies?

In order to answer these questions, Dean’s research focuses on state structures and institutions, to see how responses to the problem of human trafficking have varied from country to country. In this presentation, Dean focused on three countries: Ukraine, Latvia, and Russia. Although every country in the post-Soviet region has adopted at least a criminal code against human trafficking, their responses beyond that have varied widely. In tracing out the particularities of these three states—each of which have different resources, institutional networks, and overall approaches—Dean aimed to explore what was working, and what could be improved.

Ukraine, the first state Dean discussed, was the first post-Soviet state to address the question of human trafficking with a criminal code in 1998. Despite this promising policy step, Ukraine has had problems with implementation: agencies and institutions have problems communicating with each other, local officials have little instructions on how to implement top-down policies, there is a lack of resources due to the overwhelming problem of internally displaced people from eastern Ukraine. Dean’s second example, Latvia, addressed many of these problems of implementation. It has fewer policies than Ukraine, but it has done a much better job of implementing them: agencies and institutions have clearly defined relationships, and they work closely with international organizations and governing bodies. Finally, Dean focused on Russia. While Russia has implemented a criminal code, it has no other state policy connected to anti-trafficking measures. There is also no centralized rehabilitative service; as a result, people who have been trafficked often have to rely on local institutions or Orthodox churches. Although there are people trying to tackle the issue of human trafficking in Russia, Dean noted, they are severely limited by the lack of state support.

Although Dean’s lecture focused on the state-level process, she also devoted some attention to broader, regional issues. Perhaps the most pressing of those issues is changing the perception of what human trafficking looks like. Due to the “Natasha Effect,” the popular imagining of a human trafficking victim is a young woman, usually trafficked as part of the sex trade. Though the sex trade plays a role in human trafficking, that a narrative ignores other forms, such as forced labor or organ trafficking. As the name “Natasha” indicates, it also emphasizes that most victims of this process are of Slavic descent, whereas in reality, Central Asians are increasingly becoming the target of trafficking operations.

Furthermore, Dean observed that it is important to use quantitative data carefully. One commonly used metric to discusses the success (or failure) of anti-human trafficking policy is to trace the number of initiated criminal investigations and the number of rehabilitated victims. The assumption is that higher numbers mean more effective enforcement, but lower numbers may mean a country’s approach is so effective that traffickers are more hesitant to use it. Pure quantitative data also gives researchers no information on how policies are implemented, another critical factor to consider.

Since only relying on quantitative data to study human trafficking policy gives a very limited view of the issue, Dean’s lecture underscored that researchers, policy advisers, activists, and others need to use a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches to study the issue. States that have good legal structures, like Ukraine, may face challenges with implementation. Only using quantitative data would mask Ukraine’s trouble implementing human trafficking policies, and makes less apparent Latvia’s success in fostering inter-agency communication and creating policies that are easy to implement. In other cases, such as Russia, wider political narratives make tackling the issue of trafficking difficult. Given the vastly different approaches that states in the post-Soviet region have used, more research needs to focus on the long-term consequences and effectiveness of each state’s trafficking policies, using both quantitative and qualitative data.

Deirdre Ruscitti Harshman is a doctoral candidate in the History Department at the University of Illinois. Her dissertation, “A Space Called Home: Housing and the Construction of the Everyday in Russia, 1890-1935,” explores how multiple, often conflicting, understandings of the home emerged across the revolutionary divide of 1917, and what these conceptions tell us about belonging. Her article “Cooking Up a New Everyday: Communal Kitchens in the Revolutionary Era, 1890-1935” was published in the December 2016 issue of Revolutionary Russia. When she is not doing academic work, she is working on perfecting her plov recipe. 

Current Events Roundtable: “State Capacity at the Border: Relinquishing or Reinforcing Contentious Border Regions”

For the February 2nd roundtable discussion, “State Capacity at the Border: Relinquishing or Reinforcing Contentious Border Regions,” we were joined by Dr. Ralph Clem (Professor Emeritus of Geography at Florida International University), Dr. Erik Herron (Professor of Political Science at West Virginia University), and our very own Dr. Cynthia Buckley (Professor of Sociology and REEEC affiliate), who presented their current research on the topic. Using Ukraine, Georgia, Estonia, and Kazakhstan as case studies, Buckley, Clem, and Herron took an interdisciplinary approach to tackling the issues of elections, health care, and state capacity within the Eurasia region.

State capacity, as noted by Dr. Buckley, is a very obtuse conceptualization—so how do we operationalize state capacity? There are a few key things to think about when defining state capacity: for example, the ways in which states, as actors, strive to maintain internal control and stability, particularly when their territorial integrity is under threat. In other words, can a state protect its territory? State capacity isn’t simply the ability to protect; it is also defined by the extent to which a state can implement its goals (to enact and realize legislation, social programs, etc.) and to overcome obstacles and opposition. State capacity is also marked by two key features—governance (the ability of the state to govern and realize its goals) and legitimacy (the acceptance of state authority). When thinking about state capacity, many scholars tend to focus on extractive and coercive capacity (e.g., the ability of a state to collect taxes and extract resources from its populace). Buckley, Clem, and Herron take it a step further—beyond extractive and coercive capacity, they consider the question of a state’s regenerative and distributional power, especially when governing (or attempting to govern) a heterogeneous population that may or may not view the state as legitimate. With that in mind, Buckley, Clem, and Herron focus on the ability of a state to hold legitimate elections and the ability of the state to provide healthcare and wellbeing.

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Dr. Erik Herron, whose research focuses on comparative electoral systems, led the discussion on state capacity and election administration in Ukraine. In terms of state capacity, elections serve as a test of a democratic system’s ability to demonstrate what a democracy can accomplish. Dr. Herron challenged us to think about several things—how does a state mobilize tens of thousands of people and train them to successfully manage elections? What are the impediments to conducting and managing elections? How does a state hold elections in crisis conditions? As most of us know, large swathes of Eastern Ukraine (namely the Donbass) are currently embroiled in an armed conflict between the Ukrainian state and pro-Russian separatists. Unsurprisingly, this poses many problems for conducting legitimate elections and making them accessible to people affected by the conflict. In Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, many polling stations weren’t operational during the 2014 parliamentary elections—essentially disenfranchising countless Ukrainians. The conflict in the Donbass has clearly threatened Ukrainian state capacity; however, the Ukrainian state has also demonstrated an ability to contain the conflict to the Donbass, and was able to conduct elections successfully and legitimately in regions unaffected by the conflict.

Providing another vantage onto state capacity, Dr. Cynthia Buckley focused her discussion on state capacity and health. More specifically, health is meant as the extent to which a basic level of healthcare is available to the population. The issue of health is particularly interesting and complicated in border regions. As noted by Dr. Buckley, borders don’t mean anything to contagion and disease—epidemics can spread easily and rapidly across borders, and into neighboring states. More importantly, border populations tend to be unique. People living in border regions may have transnational identities (and may travel back and forth between neighboring states), or they may have different ethnic, gender, and age compositions than people living in non-border regions. In terms of healthcare, people living in border regions may travel outside of their state of residence to seek medical treatment. For example, people living along the Russian border in Kazakhstan are more likely to travel to Russia and see Russian doctors and go to Russian polyclinics, whereas people living in Astana or Almaty would seek healthcare within Kazakhstan. Dr. Buckley frames the issue of health in terms of metrics, specifically input (provision of clinics, doctors, etc.) and outcome (life expectancy, infant mortality, etc.) These metrics can help shed light on a very important question: are regions at the border disadvantaged in terms of healthcare? In the same vein, how do people in border region experience health provision, how do they perceive the quality of these provisions, and do these factors influence their views on state legitimacy?

Wrapping up the discussion, Dr. Ralph Clem presented us with a geographer’s perspective, asking the question of what it means to be in a particular place and how that affects your life. In the context of Ukraine, it makes a difference whether you’re living in Kyiv or whether you’re living in the Donbass. Geographers tend to talk about two things: scale and location, both of which influence what kind of data can be extracted. Scale can drastically change the overall picture of a place. For example, on a global scale, the United States has an infant mortality rate of 6.0 (which is good). But if you go down to the state level, Alabama has an infant mortality rate of 8.7 (which is not so good). Going even further down, Macon County, Alabama has a worse infant mortality rate than Sri Lanka. In other words, scale matters. But location is equally important, especially when thinking about border regions. Living in a border region can affect all aspects of a person’s life—it can affect whether or not you have access to elections, whether or not you have access to healthcare, and whether or not the state is capable of providing these services.

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

Study Abroad in Odessa, Ukraine (Summer 2016)

Thanks to a generous REEEC grant, I spent last June and July studying Russian in Odessa, Ukraine.  I shared an apartment with my friends Nadia and Tyler, UIUC Slavic Ph.D. students.  We all took intensive Russian classes at the Odessa Language Study Centre.  Nadia and Tyler took individual courses, while I decided to take a group class, which I would describe as a mixed bag.  On one hand, my language instructor Olga was incredible – like the other teachers at OLSC, she had many years of experience teaching Russian to international students in Odessa.  She also had a great sense of humor (sample Olga-ism: “My conscience is clean, I never use it”) and a keen interest in delineating cultural differences and similarities, sharing her perception of the local worldview (e.g. “U nas net feminizma,” “We don’t have feminism [here]”) and opinions on pressing social issues like political corruption (including a memorable anecdote about the “musornaia [garbage] mafia” chasing one of her students out of town for proposing the establishment of a municipal recycling system).  On the other hand, a group class entails accommodating students of varying levels – as a result, the first few weeks of class were a bit too rudimentary for me.  Private instruction is more expensive, but in retrospect, I should have opted for one-on-one lessons.  That being said, I still got a lot out of my classes with Olga, and I highly recommend OLSC to anyone who wants to study Russian in Odessa.

Odessa is a predominantly Russian-speaking city; culturally, it’s also quite “Russian,” a testament to its history as part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union. Around 2500 years ago, current-day Odessa was a Greek colony; later, it was part of the Crimean Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire.  Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792, the city of Odessa was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great’s decree.  Although originally valued for its strategic significance as a warm-water port on the Black Sea, Odessa quickly became one of the largest cities in the Russian Empire.  Due in part to its port-city status, it also become an exceptionally diverse cultural center, fostering a vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere that persists to this day.

As places to spend the summer go, Odessa is hard to beat.  Our apartment was a five-minute walk from Lanzheron Beach, apparently one of the nicer beaches in the area – “apparently” because once we found “our” beach, we went back to the same spot at least once or twice a week without much further exploration.  Lanzheron Beach has a cute boardwalk with several restaurants and beachside cafes (we were regulars at Prichal No. 1).  In general, downtown Odessa is filled with great bars and restaurants – some of my favorites were Dacha (a restaurant in a gorgeous 19th-century country estate), Kompot (traditional Ukrainian cuisine, kitschy Soviet décor), and Dzhondzholi (delicious Georgian food).  Odessites are also very proud of their stunning opera house (where we saw a nice production of Carmen), and the lovely Palais-Royal Garden is right around the corner.  For night owls and party animals, Odessa’s “Arkadia” region is also worth checking out – it has several huge clubs with pool complexes and regular concerts and DJs.

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The Odessa National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet

Among Slavists, Odessa is known for its role in literary and film history.  In 1823, Pushkin wrote several chapters of his verse novel Eugene Onegin when he lived in the city during his “southern exile.”  Gogol wrote the second volume of Dead Souls in Odessa from 1850-1851 (he famously burned the manuscript).  Several notable Russian-language writers were native Odessites, including Ilf and Petrov, Yury Olesha, and Isaac Babel, whose “Odessa Tales” are set in the city.  Odessa’s place in literary history is memorialized by statues all over town, as well as by the Odessa Pushkin Museum and the Soviet-era Literature Museum.  Odessa was immortalized in a famous film sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925).  The city was an important filmmaking center before and during the Soviet era, and it hosts the wonderful Odessa International Film Festival every summer.

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Memorial Plaque on N.V. Gogol’s Odessa Residence

 

Although downtown Odessa is beautiful and quite safe, there is a lot of poverty in surrounding areas.  In addition to the general economic decline in Ukraine, Odessa formerly benefitted from an influx of Russian tourists every summer, which (for obvious reasons) has dried up since the annexation of Crimea and War in Donbass.  However, there are ongoing efforts to revitalize Odessa as a tourist center, including (usually free) cultural events that take place all summer long.  It’s also an extremely affordable place to live, even on a graduate student budget (the silver lining of the region’s economic woes, from a foreigner’s perspective).  Most locals aren’t fluent in English, making life in Odessa a truly immersive language-learning experience – if you want to order food at a restaurant, you’ll have to work on your Russian.

Overall, I found Odessa to be a fascinating and beautiful city.  I’d particularly recommend it as a study abroad destination for language students, especially since there’s no need to get a student visa (by all accounts one of the more frustrating parts of studying in Russia).  I’m certainly planning to go back as soon as possible.

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

New Directions Lecture: Yuliya Zabyelina, “The Urge to Purge: Lustration in Ukraine during Ongoing Conflict”

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Dr. Yuliya Zabyelina

On November 10th, Dr. Yuliya Zabyelina presented her research in a New Directions Lecture, “The Urge to Purge: Lustration in Ukraine during Ongoing Conflict.” Yuliya Zabyelina is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice with the John Jay College of Criminal Science at the City University of New York (CUNY). She examined the development of the lustration program enacted by the Ukrainian government in 2014,  analyzing the different aspects of the lustration program and the impact or lack thereof on those who would be targeted by the lustration program’s policies. The implementation of lustration followed from the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, Euromaidan, as the activists attempted to work with the new government to remove those from the state that were active members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Yanukovych regime. Zabyelina aimed to address the following questions with her research into lustration: What to focus? What is lustration and what functions does it serve? How can late lustration programs be explained? How can lustration systems be categorized and what is the expected effect of each of them? What is the expected impact of lustration in heterogeneous and divided societies? Should lustration embrace the fight against corruption?

Lustration comes from the Latin word “lustrum,” which denotes a ceremony of ritual purification. Essentially, lustration was an act of cleansing of the state apparatus of those who were a part of the state apparatus during times of oppression (under Communism) and during the Yanukovych regime. The lustration package in Ukraine post-Euromaidan had mainly one tangible, general function, as do most lustration policies, and that is to cleanse the state apparatus of those old policies and people who are no longer part of the status quo, who represent that which must be changed. Lustration in Ukraine also carries a long with it, as Zabyelina stated, a number of intangible functions, functions that are by-products of the lustration policies, intangibles that would hopefully come from a forward-looking, cleansing of the state of the old, making way for the new. Some of these intangible functions include: Drawing the line between the past and new regime, ritual purification of the old regime, the transformation of mentalities within the state towards policy and the nation, and responses to extraordinary politics.

According to Zabyelina, the type of lustration that Ukraine is undergoing can be called “hard lustration” with policies are meant to exclude and make public those who are being cleansed. In contrast, a mild or informal lustration policy might involve reconciliation or be conducted internally rather than publicly. Zabyelina argued that  Ukraine’s hard lustration policy lacks aspects of reconciliation, transparency, and consistency that might make it more efficient and safe. Thus, this half-baked hard lustration coupled with the fact that 81% of Ukrainians believe lustration is necessary to fight corruption, has led to vigilante lustration, where mobs of people would attempt to expose corrupt officials. For example in “Dumpster lustration” a lustrated individual is put in a dumpster while a crowd cheers “shame”. These events are often recorded and posted online.

Zabyelina suggested that there is no clear answer to whether lustration is working or not in Ukraine at the moment, as lustration is not only still ongoing, but also lustration is happening alongside ongoing conflict. She argued that as long as the conflict in Ukraine goes unresolved, lustration will never be able to fully work efficiently and to achieve the purposes for which it was enacted by the Ukrainian government.

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 adapt 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.

 

 

 

Anna Shternshis, “Machine Guns, Mothers’ Graves and Hitler the Haman: Soviet Yiddish Songs of World War II”

Professor Anna Shternshis

Professor Anna Shternshis

On February 15th, 2016, Professor Anna Shternshis (University of Toronto) delivered her lecture “Machine Guns, Mother’s Graves, Hitler the Haman: Soviet Yiddish Songs of World War II.” Shternshis is the author of Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (2006) and the forthcoming When Sonia Met Boris: Daily Life in Soviet Russia (2016).

Shternshis spoke about her latest project, which she described as “something between history, literature, and art.” This project is based on a recently discovered archive of World War II-era Soviet Yiddish folk songs, collected by a team of Ukrainian (Soviet) scholars led by the Jewish ethnomusicologist Moisei Beregovsky (1892-1961). During the war, Beregovsky and his colleagues at the ethnomusicology department of the Kiev-based Institute for Jewish Proletarian Culture (including the famous linguist Elye Spivak) were evacuated to Central Asia, where they continued to collect songs, stories, and testimonies.  In 1947, they recorded hundreds of songs in Yiddish from Soviet Jews who had served in the Red Army, returned from Central Asia, or survived the war in Europe. Beregovsky and his colleagues prepared this material for publication under the title Jewish Creativity in the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War, but the volume was never released, likely due to its aberrance from Soviet ideology: Shternshis remarked that most of the songs emphasize specifically Jewish (rather than Soviet) suffering and/or heroism.

According to Shternshis, songs about service in the Red Army tend to emphasize violence and revenge. In the songs about life in occupied territories, a common motif is that of losing one’s parents: unlike Jews who joined the Red Army (of whom roughly two-thirds survived the war), the survival rate of Jews in Nazi-occupied Soviet territories was about 1%.  In many songs, Hitler is compared to Haman, the villain of the Book of Esther, over whom Jews celebrate victory during Purim. Shternshis mentioned that Hitler was cursed as a specifically Jewish enemy, in myriad ways: “there are not enough curse words in the Yiddish language to describe every way they cursed Hitler.”

In the context of Soviet culture during World War II, Shternshis said that music “played a role in ideology, entertainment, and social commentary.” Many songs were specifically commissioned to motivate people to build and fight for a communist state. Other songs functioned as an outlet for escape—humorous music was an important wartime genre. Finally, folk songs were a means of interpreting events, and served as a medium for the preservation of historical memory.

After the war, Stalin changed his policies toward Jews, and all institutions of Jewish culture were closed down. Beregovsky and his group were arrested and their work was seized by the authorities. Elye Spivak died during interrogation in 1950, and others were sent to gulag labor camps for years: Beregovsky was released after his “rehabilitation” in 1956. In the Soviet Union of the 1950s, it became dangerous to speak about Yiddish culture in public. The material collected by Beregovsky’s group was transferred to a “department of restricted access” at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, where it remained for decades.

When Shternshis discovered this material, which “changes our understanding of the history of the Holocaust and how Jews in the Soviet Union made sense of their wartime experiences,” she felt that it was important to share it with a broader audience. She wanted to tell “the story of the people who sang these songs, but also that of the scholars who risked their careers to collect this material.” As such, a central part of her project was recreating these songs, a process which Shternshis described as “a sort of archaeological dig”—while many of the texts did not come with music, “the majority of wartime Yiddish songs in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in Europe were sung to already-existing tunes.” Once the preliminary work was completed, Shternshis brought together an “eclectic” group of classically trained musicians, the “Yiddish Glory” band. Yiddish Glory recently finished recording an album, and a Toronto-area promoter is now “booking shows [for them] all over the country.”

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2015-16 academic year for the study of Russian.

Faculty Highlight — Roman Ivashkiv

Dr. Roman Ivashkiv

Dr. Roman Ivashkiv

REEEC is glad to welcome Roman Ivashkiv, Lecturer and Language Program Coordinator in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.  He received a B.A. and M.A. in English Linguistics and Translation Studies from the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, an M.A. in Russian and Comparative Literature from Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Alberta.

Dr. Ivashkiv’s doctoral dissertation explored the concept of transmesis (a portmanteau of “translation” and “mimesis”) which, in his words, “stands for the representation in fiction of translation, both as a process and a product, as well as for the portrayal of the figure of the translator in a fictional text.” In his dissertation, Dr. Ivashkiv looked at three contemporary postmodern novels – all of which feature the theme of translation – in their original Ukrainian and Russian and in English translation: Yuri Andrukhovych’s Perverziia (translated by Michael Naydan), Serhiy Zhadan’s Depesh Mod (translated by Myroslav Shkandrij), and Viktor Pelevin’s Generation “П(translated by Andrew Bromfield).

According to Dr. Ivashkiv, looking at these works in translation raises questions of untranslatability: “How do translators render transmetic episodes in novels into English while operating from the position of ‘retranslating,’ or translating what allegedly already is a translation?”  To explain the problem, he uses the example of Pelevin’s GenerationП.  From a translation perspective, even the title is challenging: “Generation” is already in English in the Russian title, and translating “П” as “‘P’” doesn’t quite do it justice, particularly in light of the fact that the novel is about translation.  GenerationПis written primarily in Russian, but it contains many instances of English usage – how can such instances be translated into English?  For the translator, conveying a multilingual mode is a problem.

In addition to translation studies, Dr. Ivashkiv’s research interests include postmodern and comparative literature, literary theory, and second language acquisition.  He has more than 10 years of language teaching experience, in various countries and contexts.  At the University of Alberta, he taught Ukrainian, Ukrainian Culture, and English as a Second Language.  In addition to coordinating the Slavic Language Program, he is currently teaching first- and second-year Ukrainian (UKR 101 and 201), an advanced Russian language course for graduate students (RUSS 501), and a Slavic languages pedagogy seminar (SLAV 591).

Matthew McWilliams is a REEES M.A. student and a FLAS Fellow for the 2015-16 academic year for the study of Russian.

Chai Wai Series: Russian-Ukrainian Conflict

On February 13, the International and Area Studies Library hosted a Chai Wai panel incorporating several professionals and scholars discussing the current Russian- Ukrainian conflict. Ukraine faced large-scale protests in late 2013, followed by revolution and continued protests in 2014. President Yanukovych was removed from office in February 2014, prompting informal Russian involvement. President Putin of the Russian Federation has denied extensive military action but annexed the region of Crimea and admitted to military support of separatists later in the month of April. Sanctions against Russia from the EU, USA, and Canada have exacerbated tenuous relationships.

The Chai Wai panel, comprising of Illinois faculty and staff, touched on facets of the current conflict from varying perspectives and disciplines.  Panelists Buckleywere introduced by Joseph James Lenkart, manager of the Slavic Reference Service. Cynthia Buckley (Sociology) is currently researching displacement in the Ukrainian region. She opened with figures from UNHCR, stating that there are six million people currently displaced in Eastern Ukraine. 980,000 of these are internally displaced and 600,000 are in refugee status. Dr. Buckley noted those within the significant percentages of those facing displacement. Pensioners and children are more likely to be counted within displacement statistics due to benefits attributed to registration (pensions, school). The number of men recorded as being displaced are astronomically lower because of forced conscription and lack of social support motivation. Attitudes of those within communities that take on the displaced are prone to hostility as these groups are seen as gaining preferential treatment during an already difficult period.  Dr. Buckley concluded that those that are displaced can be utilized as a weapon, justifying outside intervention. She outlined displacement as a phenomena, propaganda, and a matter of growing inequality. 

Diane Koenker (History) created a historical setting for the current conflict. Going back to the time of the Russian empire, Koenker detailed the nine regions of Ukraine under Russian sovereignty. In 1917, the Russian empire collapsed and made way for two parties, the liberals and Bolsheviks. The liberals believed that Ukraine should be autonomous but that Russia should remain undivided. The Bolsheviks lacked the same idealism and nationalism and believed that Ukraine had two options; join the Socialist agenda or become a separate entity. Koenker then posed the question, what defines a state, as borders or is it ethnically defined? This complicated Ukraine which bolstered a diverse population, including Greeks, Russians, Jews, Tatars, and Macedonians. In December of 1919, Lenin’s stance changed, having realized the impact a capitalist Ukraine would have on the newly emerging socialist Russia. The Treaty of Riga in 1921 recognized an autonomous Soviet Ukraine (except the Polish occupied region). At the end of her presentation Dr. Koenker brought a final and poignant point, the territories currently being discussed and under conflict have never not been part of Ukraine.

Carol Leff (Political Science) opened with the imagery of the Russian bear. The cute and cuddly “mishka” is pinned against the Western perspective of Russia’s “medved”. On December 18th, President Putin addressed the nation, his speech contained imagery of the Russian nation as the bear (using both “mishka” and “medved”). During his speech he pointed to the West as trying to “chain the bear” and “declaw” it. Dr. Leff noted that it is clear in his address that Crimea is not the issue, but rather Russia protecting its own sovereignty and right to exist. Dr. Leff compares the US’s 1823 Monroe Doctrine to Russia’s current dominant influence in the former Soviet states. This political identity is the reason for Russia’s systematic objection to NATO expansion. Currently, Ukrainian troops within the East are depicted in Russian media as the “foreign NATO legion” and on the payroll of the United States. The separatist troops (“little green men”) that have been spotted throughout recent media coverage are assumed to be Russian (this is denied by the Russian Federation), however, President Putin identifies them as “volunteers”.  Dr. Leff concludes with surveys and popular opinion polls; her findings are that although most Russians believe in the annexation, they do not want to be part of a military conflict.

Oleksandra Wallo’s (Slavic) presentation was centered on the arts during the current conflict. Her research has found that most painters are moving into representational art (rather than abstract) to convey the Russian-Ukrainian war.  These paintings and pieces of art are sometimes used as auction pieces to raise money for the Ukrainian troops. Poster art has exploded as a medium due to low resource usage and the portability of posters. Literature has also changed, with short stories and poems becoming more common. Literature for children has also been a focus, using story as a tool for children coping with displacement and war. The last focus of Dr. Wallo was the increasing usage of the documentary and photography medium. This media conveys the every-day life experience of the soldier, including troop morale, rations, and the terrible living conditions. In this year alone, there have been twenty documentaries made about different aspects and perspectives of the conflict (separatists, local populations, soldiers, protesters).  Dr. Wallo showed a clip from a popular documentary piece by Babylon 13. Locals, including children, come to terms with their current environment and the ongoing conflict. One woman’s memorable monologue described that she does not care what the country where she lives is called, she just does not want to leave.

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Kit Condill (Slavic Reference Service) presented on evaluating resources during times of conflict.  The media surrounding Ukraine and in Ukraine come from several different perspectives, which makes finding an unbiased source difficult. He cited the FEMANorganization as an example of inflated importance. The best way to evaluate a source’s legitimacy is to evaluate where the media comes from and who the sponsoring sources are.   Due to changing roles in media and the war, some websites and news outlets have moved or been removed from their previous domains and are now only available via VKontakte (the Russian Facebook). To find an authoritative list of sources, Mr. Condill suggested the Russian INION database.  He noted that researching this conflict is especially tricky not only because of bias but because of transliteration.
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Alisha Kirchoff (REEEC) spoke about National Research Centers in response to conflicts. Funding for research and resources usually grows with national security threats or conflicts, however, as recent as 2013, Title 8 was suspended indefinitely.  Recently programs such as Arizona’s Critical Language Institute, University of Pittsburgh’s Summer Language Institute, and Indiana’s Summer Language Workshop have cut some, if not all, of their Ukrainian programing.  Programs like SRAS, that offer abroad programming, have moved their language training locations within Ukraine, but they now face the dilemma of securing interest with Ukraine taking part in such a volatile conflict. In previous years, Ukraine was a great source of Russian scholarly material and language research due to their more relaxed visa system and cheaper programs.  However, the availability of these student programs will undoubtedly fluctuate with student demand, and the violence seen in Ukraine is likely to deter increased interest.  Ms. Kirchoff concluded her presentation by noting that global landscapes and political relationships are an unknown,  and if the United States wants to continue to promote leaders with a global perspective then research and scholarly support dictates a need for funding consistency.

The Chai Wai panel was an interesting and informative mix of varying perspectives across Illinois’ campus.  The function was well attended and cemented the scholarly community’s commitment to current events.