Tag Archive for Russian Department

Peter Rutland Writes About Putin, Future of Russia

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, is the author of an article, “Imagining Russia post-Putin” published by The Conversation. The article appeared in Raw Story, Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.

Rutland writes that Vladamir Putin is almost sure to win re-election as president of Russia in the March 2018 election. The Russian Constitution requires him to step down after two consecutive terms, a problem Putin solved in 2008 when he moved sideways to prime minister as his protege took over as president. Putin returned to the presidency in 2012.

Rudensky Finalist for Photography Award

© Sasha Rudensky, from Tinsel and Blue

© Sasha Rudensky, from Tinsel and Blue

Sasha Rudensky ’01, assistant professor of art, assistant professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is a finalist for the New East Photo Prize. Her photos, Tinsel and Blue, explore the relationship between illusion and truth and the young people of the post-Soviet generation. Rudensky shot the photo series between 2009 and 2015 in Russia and Ukraine.

An alumna of Wesleyan, Rudensky graduated with a degree in studio arts. Rudensky, who was born in Russia and moved to the United States when she was 10, feels this competition keeps her in touch with her heritage. “I am happy to be included on a list of Eastern European artists in general because I strongly identify as one,” she said. “A majority of my artistic work has been done on the former Soviet Union and it continues to pull me back to my roots.”

The inaugural New East Photo Prize is sponsored by the Calvert 22 Foundation supported by The Calvert Journal. According to the Calvert 22 Foundation, “the Prize champions contemporary perspectives on the people and countries of the New East (Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia).” The initiative received a total of 1,030 entries form 25 countries.

Rudensky’s photo will be included in an exhibition at Calvert 22 Foundation in London from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18. The winner of the prize, which will be announced on Dec. 1, will have his or her work published as a photo book.

Rutland Speaks on BYUradio about the Olympics, Nationalism

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on BYUradio about the Olympics and nationalism.

“The Olympics are practically built for indulging in what you might call ‘good nationalism,’ as opposed to the xenophobic kind,” said host Julie Rose in the introduction. Yet this year’s Olympic Games come at a time of fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad.

They begin by discussing the difference between patriotism—which has more positive connotations—and nationalism, which implies dislike of foreigners. The key distinction, says Rutland, is about having respect for people from all countries.

“In practice, the Olympics is a competition, it’s about winners and losers,” he said. “The Olympics is very contradictory. On the one hand, it claims to be transcending nationalism in a kind of fellowship of international athletes. But at the same time, in practice, it reinforces nationalism by encouraging people to cheer for their team and take pride in their team’s victories, and correspondingly, the defeat of other nations’ teams.”

Rutland also commented on the mass appeal of such competitions.

“It does tap into a desire to express our belonging to a bigger community—not just our family and neighborhood, but our country. And, at least when it’s going through the media—when it’s watching the Olympics or watching the World Cup for soccer, it seems to be pretty benign. It’s not like going to war. Sport, as George Orwell said, is a kind of substitute for war. Nobody is getting killed, nobody is getting hurt, and we’re all kind of on the same side, in that everybody is enjoying the competition, and you win some, you lose some.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Owoyemi ’18 to Study in Russia as Critical Language Scholar

Praise Owoyemi '18

Praise Owoyemi ’18

Praise Owoyemi ’18 has been chosen for the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Russian in Vladimir, Russia this summer.

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program under the U.S. Department of State, which American undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to apply for. CLS is dedicated to broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages, as well as building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries. CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning.

Owoyemi started studying Russian when she arrived at Wesleyan. Despite many comments she received from peers on the difficulty of the language, she challenged herself and found it was an incredibly exciting language to study. She decided to apply for the CLS program because she felt that “being immersed in a Russin speaking environment would improve her Russian speaking and comprehension skills.” She hopes to expand upon all she already knows, through both formal, classroom instruction and informal, day-to-day experiences.

“I was really surprised when I found out I had been selected as a recipient for the program, but I am incredibly excited to experience Russian culture. I’m also really excited to stay with a host family because that will help me to interact with others in the language and not just revert back to English,” she said.

Owoyemi is double majoring in psychology and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. She enjoys studying Russian literature.

Panel Moderated by Smolkin-Rothrock Discusses the Refugee Experience

On Feb. 17, the Allbritton Center hosted a panel discussion on “The Refugee Experience,” the second in a three-part series titled, “The Refugee Crisis: The Development of the Crisis and the Response in Europe.” Moderated by Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, it featured discussion between Steve Poellot, legal director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); Mohammed Kadalah of the University of Connecticut Department of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who was recently granted asylum after fleeing Syria in 2011; and Baselieus Zeno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Syrian refugee. Read more about the full series here. (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

eve_syria_2016-0216192133

From left, Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, Mohammed Kadalah, Baselieus Zeno, Steve Poellot.

eve_syria_2016-0216192214

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock.

eve_syria_2016-0216192250

Steve Poellot.

From left, Mohammed Kadalah, Baselieus Zeno, and Steve Poellot

From left, Mohammed Kadalah, Baselieus Zeno, and Steve Poellot.

Baselieus Zeno

Baselieus Zeno.

Mohammed Kadalah

Mohammed Kadalah.

eve_syria_2016-0216201040 eve_syria_2016-0216201053 eve_syria_2016-0216201938

Quijada Co-edits New Book on ‘Atheist Secularism and its Discontents’

Quijada bookJustine Quijada, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies. recently co-edited a book titled, Atheist Secularism and its Discontents: A Comparative Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasia (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). Based on a workshop Quijada and her co-editor organized when they were at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethic Diversity, the book examines a “comparative approach to understanding religion under communism, arguing that communism was integral to the global experience of secularism. It shows that appropriating religion was central to Communist political practices.”

Quijada and her co-editor were interviewed about their work on the book for the New Books Network. Praised for offering insight into the relationship between secularism and the communist world, the editors in this interview “discuss officials in contemporary communist and post-communist states, and how, unlike Western models of state secularism, where there is separation between church and state and religious and secular spheres, communist officials continue to intervene regularly in religious affairs.”

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock on the History of the Russian New Year’s Tree

Victoria-Smolkin-Rothrock

Victoria-Smolkin-Rothrock

A hundred years ago, Christmas in Russia looked a lot like Christmas in America, with trees, presents and twinkling lights. All that changed with the Russian revolution, Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock told NPR in an interview about the history of the Yolka, or New Year’s tree.

“The tree comes to be seen as a symbol of both the bourgeois order, which is one kind of class enemy, and of religion in particular, which is another kind of class enemy,” explains Smolkin-Rothrock. “There are very explicit statements that essentially unmask the Christmas tree for the class symbol that it is. It becomes clear that one does not have Christmas trees without political sympathies and allegiances falling into question,” a dangerous thing in the Soviet era.

In 1935, though, there was a letter in Pravda, the official paper, saying things had changed.

Smolkin-Rothrock sums up the argument of one high-ranking Bolshevik: “Here we are, and Socialism has been built, and why would we deprive those children who had never had a Christmas tree of their own of the pleasure of the tree?”

So, the tree was redeemed. And it moved up the Orthodox calendar, becoming completely secular. Today, New Year’s trees can be found in the homes of many Russian Jews.

Smolkin-Rothrock is also assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies.

Quijada Co-Edits New Volume, Co-Authors Article with Stephen ’13, MA ’14

Justine Quijada, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, has co-authored a new article, together with Eric Stephen ’13, MA ’14 and a colleague at Indiana University, in the journal Problems of Post-Communism. Published July 30, it is titled, “Finding ‘Their Own’: Revitalizing Buryat Culture Through Shamanic Practices in Ulan-Ude.”

Research was conducted by Quijada and Kathryn E. Graber of Indiana University on a grant funded by the National Council of Eurasian and East European Research – Indigenous Peoples of Russia Grant, and included collecting survey data at a variety of shamanic ceremonies. Stephen conducted extensive statistical analysis at Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center on the survey data during a faculty/student internship in 2014. He wrote his MA thesis in psychology using the data. He is currently working toward an MA in religious studies at Harvard Divinity School.

According to the paper’s abstract:

The shamans working at the Tengeri Shamans’ Organization in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia, claim that their work is devoted to reviving “traditional” Buryat culture, despite local criticism of the “nontraditional” institutional nature of their practices. Ethnographic and survey data collected in 2012 confirm that this is in fact the case for the urban Buryats who are drawn to the organization. Shamanic healing at Tengeri requires patients to learn family genealogies and revive clan rituals, and it offers both practical opportunities and encourage- ment for the use of the Buryat language, thereby providing a locus for cultural revitalization.

Quijada also recently co-edited a book, Atheist Secularism and its Discontents: A Comparative Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasiapublished in July by Palgrave MacMillan as part of its Global Diversities series. The volume grew out of a workshop that Quijada organized with co-editor Tam T. T. Ngo at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany during her post-doctoral fellowship there prior to joining Wesleyan’s faculty.

“The goal was to compare the relationship between politics and religion in case studies across the communist and former communist countries, and to get away from the standard presumption that communist regimes repressed religion and that was the end of the story,” Quijada explained. “Instead, our authors look at the ways the governments compromised with powerful religious institutions, co-opted religious practices, and in some cases, unwittingly promoted religions, as was the case with neo-paganism in Russia. We also have authors who look at how secular and atheist presumptions fostered by communist states influence how people practice religion. The chapters cover case studies from Poland, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, China, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea. By crossing a traditional area studies divide, between the study of Russia/Eastern Europe and the study of East Asia, we wanted to enable our readers to see the connections between the two and think about communism as a global phenomenon.”

Rutland to Serve as Visiting Professor at University of Manchester With Grant

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, has won an $85,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust to serve as a visiting professor at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom in 2016. There, he will be working on a research project titled, “Visualizing the Nation” with Manchester professors Vera Tolz and Stephen Hutchings.

The Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Manchester is a leading institution in the study of Russian television and mass media.

Rutland is also professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, tutor in the College of Social Studies. From May to June 2015, he will be a visiting scholars in the Centre for European Studies at Australian National University in Canberra.

Rutland’s Paper Focuses on Oil, Gas and National Identity in Russia

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Professor Peter Rutland is the author of an article titled “Petronation? Oil, gas and national identity in Russia,” published in Post-Soviet Affairs, Volume 31, Issue 1, January 2015. Rutland is professor of government, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

The article was written as part of the research project “Nation-Building and Nationalism in Today’s Russia (NEORUSS),” financed by the Norwegian Research Council.

Based on survey research, elite interviews, and an analysis of media treatment, Rutland’s article explores the place of oil and gas in Russia’s national narrative and self-identity. Objectively, Russia’s economic development, political stability, and ability to project power abroad rest on its oil and gas resources. Subjectively, however, Russians are somewhat reluctant to accept that oil and gas dependency is part of their national identity. One of the unexpected findings to emerge from the survey data is the strong regional differences on the question of whether Russia should be proud of its reliance on energy.

The article concludes with an analysis of the factors constraining the role of energy in Russia’s national narrative: the prominent history of military victories and territorial expansion; a strong commitment to modernization through science and industry; and concerns over corruption, environmental degradation and foreign exploitation.

Smolkin-Rothrock Receives Honorable Mention for Distinguished Article Prize

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

An article by Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock received honorable mention for the Distinguished Article Prize from the Association for the Study of Eastern Christian History and Culture. Smolkin-Rothrock is assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Her article, titled “The Ticket to the Soviet Soul: Science, Religion and the Spiritual Crisis of Late Soviet Atheism,” appeared in Volume 73, Issue 2 of The Russian Review and was selected from among 22 entries. The honor comes with a $200 award.

Smolkin-Rothrock’s article examines the confrontation of Soviet scientific atheism with religion as it played out on the pages and in the editorial rooms of the country’s primary atheist periodical, Nauka i religiia (Science and Religion). It follows a story that begins in the 1960s, when the journal tried to change its title to Mir cheloveka (The World of Man) to reorient itself from the battle against religion towards the battle for Soviet (and therefore atheist) spiritual life. Smolkin-Rothrock argues that while the Khrushchev era is the point of origin for much of late Soviet policy on religion and atheism, it is only with the Brezhnev era that we see understandings of religion move beyond ideological stereotypes. New conceptions of religion, however, forced atheists to consider Communist ideology in unexpected ways, and led to revealing discussions the Soviet state’s role in providing spiritual fullness. The story of Nauka i religiia is a microcosm of Soviet ideology in that it reveals the boundaries and contradictions of the material and the spiritual in the Soviet project.

Meyer Recipient of Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching Award

Priscilla Meyer

Priscilla Meyer

Priscilla Meyer, chair and professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies, is the recipient of a 2014 Excellence in Post-Secondary Teaching award, granted by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL).

AATSEEL exists to advance the study and promote the teaching of Slavic and East European languages, literatures, and cultures on all educational levels.

Meyer received her award during the the 2015 AATSEEL Conference Jan. 9 held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The event featured scholarly panels, supplemented by advanced seminars, roundtables, workshops, informal coffee conversations with leading scholars, and other special events, such as poetry readings and receptions.

Priscilla Meyer received the prize from AATSEEL President Thomas Seifrid of the University of Southern California.

Priscilla Meyer received the prize from AATSEEL President Thomas Seifrid of the University of Southern California.

Wesleyan graduates Lindsay Ceballos ’07 and Emily Wang ’08, both Ph.D. candidates at Princeton University, delivered papers at the conference.

At Wesleyan, Meyer teaches courses on 19th and 20th century Russian literature. Her research interests include intertextuality, French and German sources of the 19th century Russian novel, and works by Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov. Learn more about her research here.