Tag Archive for Russian Department

Rutland in The Conversation: One Likely Winner of the World Cup? Putin.

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes about the FIFA World Cup being hosted by Russia. Though Russia’s team is not expected to perform very well, he writes, leader Vladimir Putin understands the power of sports to “foment feelings of national pride” and boost his own popularity among the Russian people. Rutland is also professor of government; professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies; tutor in the College of Social Studies; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

One likely winner of the World Cup? Putin

Half a million soccer fans will head to Russia to watch their national teams compete in the FIFA World Cup. Billions more around the world will watch on television. Brazil and Germany are favorites to win the trophy.

But we already know one person who will emerge as a winner: Vladimir Putin.

No one is expecting the Russian team to do very well in the tournament. FIFA’s official rankings place Russia 70th in the world – the team’s worst ever rating, and a precipitous fall from the 24th place it enjoyed as recently as 2015. Soccer is nevertheless a popular spectator sport in Russia, where sport and nationalism are closely intertwined.

As editor of Nationalities Papers, the journal of the Association for Study of Nationalities, I find that our most-read articles are often those involving soccer, a sport that can serve as a focal point for nationalist mobilization.

Putin seems to understand the ability of sport to foment feelings of national pride – and, in turn, has repeatedly used sporting events to enhance his popular standing at home.

Putin’s pet project

In 2010 Moscow won its bid to host the 2018 Cup, a successful pitch that was very much Putin’s personal project. He even traveled to Zurich and gave an emotional speech thanking FIFA for the honor. A few years later, corruption scandals brought down most of the FIFA board that had made this decision.

But by then, the decision had been finalized: Putin was set to be the first autocrat to host the World Cup since Argentina’s military junta in 1978.

Of course, this was before Putin’s controversial return to the presidency in 2012, and before the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Now, as the World Cup begins, Russia’s standing in the world is at an all-time low.

Rutland Speaks at Gaidar Forum in Moscow

Panelist Peter Rutland is the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought Peter Rutland was invited to speak at a forum held in Moscow this past week.

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, recently spoke on a panel of political economy experts at The Gaidar Forum 2018, held at the Presidential Academy of Economics and Public Administration in Moscow. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave the keynote address at the forum.

“How can Russia get onto a more knowledge-intensive, non–resource-based economic sustainable growth path? How can it escape from the middle income trap?” asks Rutland in his talk.

“You could look across the continent to China,” which has been amazingly successful in recent years, he says.

Russian companies do not invest at the same level as their rivals in other countries, Rutland argues, citing weak property rights, excessive role of the state and weak competition as critical reasons.

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.