34 search results for "Victoria smolkin"

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.

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock to Teach Soviet History, Secularism and Modernity Courses

Victoria-Smolkin-Rothrock is a new faculty member in the History Department, College of Social Studies and Russian and Eastern European Studies.

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, comes to Wesleyan this spring as an assistant professor of history, an assistant professor of Russian and Eastern European Studies. She’ll also be a core member of the College of Social Studies.

Her research investigates state efforts to manage spiritual life, as well as the significance and functions of private rituals in modern society.

“There were many things that attracted me to Wesleyan, but the students, and the intellectual community more broadly, are at the top of the list,” she says. “When I visited Wesleyan, the students made a profound impression: they struck me as deeply engaged in and curious about their own work, and, equally important, interested in the work of their peers.

Smolkin Speaks about the History of Soviet Atheism on Moscow Radio Station

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

On March 28, Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history and chair, Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, was featured on the radio station Echo of Moscow.

Smolkin spoke on Soviet atheism on Irina Prokhorova’s program “Culture of Everyday Life.” The podcast is available in Russian online here.

Smolkin is the author of A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, which was recently translated into Russian.

Atheism prevailed in Soviet ideology, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. However, religion never fully disappeared from the life of Russia and the Soviet republics. In the broadcast, Smolkin and fellow panelists discussed why the Soviet government fought so hard against the church and religion, how Soviet atheism differs from the atheism of Western intellectuals, and how the history of Soviet atheism influenced the craving for mysticism and esotericism in Russia in the 1990s, among other topics.

Books by Meyer, Smolkin Translated and Distributed in Russia

meyer book

Two books written by Wesleyan faculty have recently been translated to Russian, where they are now being distributed.

Nabokov and Indeterminacy: The Case of the Real Life of Sebastian Knight was originally written by Priscilla Meyer, professor emerita of Russian language and literature, and published by Northwestern University Press in 2018. Renowned translator and Nabokov expert Vera Polishchuk translated Meyer’s book, which is now available in Russian by Academic Studies Press.

Nabokov and Indeterminacy shows how Vladimir Nabokov’s early novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight illuminates his later work. Meyer explores how Nabokov associates his characters in Sebastian Knight with systems of subtextual references to Russian, British, and American literary and philosophical works. She then turns to Lolita and Pale Fire, applying these insights to show that these later novels clearly differentiate the characters through subtextual references. Meyer argues that the dialogue Nabokov constructs among subtexts explores his central concern: the continued existence of the spirit beyond bodily death. She suggests that because Nabokov’s art was a quest for an unattainable knowledge of the otherworldly, knowledge which can never be conclusive, Nabokov’s novels are never closed in plot, theme, or resolution.

sacred space

A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism was written by Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, and published by Princeton University Press in 2018. Olga Leontieva translated the book, which is now available by New Literary Observer.

A Sacred Space Is Never Empty presents the first history of Soviet atheism from the 1917 revolution to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Smolkin argues that to understand the Soviet experiment, we must make sense of Soviet atheism. She shows how atheism was reimagined as an alternative cosmology with its own set of positive beliefs, practices, and spiritual commitments. Through its engagements with religion, the Soviet leadership realized that removing religion from the “sacred spaces” of Soviet life was not enough. Then, in the final years of the Soviet experiment, Mikhail Gorbachev—in a stunning and unexpected reversal—abandoned atheism and reintroduced religion into Soviet public life.

The translation was already featured in the Russian newspaper Kommersant, in the media project STOL, in The Journal Republic, and the media platform polit.ru.

Smolkin Receives Honorable Mention for Prestigious Book Prize

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press), was awarded an honorable mention for the 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize.

Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize is sponsored by the Association for Slavic Studies, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies. It is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year. The prize carries a cash award and is presented at the association’s annual convention.

Smolkin is a scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union. A Sacred Space Is Never Empty explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, Communist ideology, and Soviet politics. Read more about the book and see photos from her book talk here.

Smolkin Speaks at “Culture of Unbelief” Conference in Rome

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

From May 28 to May 30, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin attended a conference in Rome, Italy, on the “Cultures of Unbelief,” organized by the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and the Vatican’s Council on Culture.

She spoke on “The Culture of Unbelief 50 Years On,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original “Culture of Unbelief” conference, organized in 1969 by the Vatican’s Secretariat on Non-Believers and the University of California, Berkeley. Her copanelists included Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Stephen Bullivant moderated the panel.

The “Cultures of Unbelief” conference brought together leading academics, leaders of religious and nonreligious groups, journalists, educators, and others to understand the meaning of being a religious “unbeliever.” Topics explored how “unbelievers” engage with religion; their diverse existential, metaphysical, and moral beliefs; and prospects for dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers.

Smolkin also presented a conference paper titled, “Atheism as a vocation: What can socialists teach us about modern belief and unbelief?”

A photo exhibit titled Unbelievers by Aubrey Wade took place during the Cultures of Unbelief Conference. The series offers an insight into the diversity of beliefs and worldviews held by people who don’t believe in God, or gods, in five countries around the world: Brazil, Japan, Norway, the U.K., and USA.

Smolkin in The Conversation: Why a Centuries-Old Religious Dispute over Ukraine’s Orthodox Church Matters Today

Victoria Smolkin

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, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin explains the historical context and significance today of a centuries-old religious dispute over Ukraine’s Orthodox Church. Smolkin is also associate professor, Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies, and a tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Why a centuries-old religious dispute over Ukraine’s Orthodox Church matters today

A new Orthodox Church was recently established in Ukraine.

Shortly after, Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the spiritual head of global Orthodox Christianity, granted independence to the new Orthodox Church of Ukraine and transferred its jurisdiction from the church of Moscow to the church of Constantinople, located in Istanbul.

This competition between the churches of Constantinople and Moscow for dominance in the Orthodox Christian world is not new – it goes back more than 500 years. But the birth of the new Orthodox Church in Ukraine opens a new chapter in this history.

So what is Ukraine’s new church, and how will it change the global political and religious landscape?

Smolkin Discusses Her New Book on the History of Soviet Atheism at Brother’s Accompanying Art Exhibit

Artist Vlad Smolkin; gallery curator Linda Pinn; Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin; book talk organizer Ellen Nodelman, and congregation member George Amarant gather at the Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn., where siblings Vlad and Victoria shared their recent work. (Photo by Deborah Rutty)

On Nov. 11, Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history and Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies, joined forces with her brother, artist Vlad Smolkin, to share their work with the public at a new and revamped Main Street Gallery Art Opening/Books & Bagels Talk at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn.

Smolkin is the author of a new book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, published by Princeton University Press in 2018. A scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union, Smolkin’s expertise also covers religious politics and secularism and the Soviet space program.

In A Sacred Space Is Never Empty, Smolkin explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, for Communist ideology, and for Soviet politics. When the Bolsheviks set out to build a new world in the wake of the Russian Revolution, they expected religion to die off. Soviet power used a variety of tools—from education to propaganda to terror—to turn its vision of a Communist world without religion into reality. Yet even with its monopoly on ideology and power, the Soviet Communist Party never succeeded in creating an atheist society.

The book presents the first history of Soviet atheism from the 1917 revolution to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Drawing on a wealth of archival material and in-depth interviews with those who were on the front lines of Communist ideological campaigns, Smolkin argues that to understand the Soviet experiment, we must make sense of Soviet atheism. Smolkin shows how atheism was reimagined as an alternative cosmology with its own set of positive beliefs, practices, and spiritual commitments. Through its engagements with religion, the Soviet leadership realized that removing religion from the “sacred spaces” of Soviet life was not enough. Then, in the final years of the Soviet experiment, Mikhail Gorbachev—in a stunning and unexpected reversal—abandoned atheism and reintroduced religion into Soviet public life.

Victoria Smolkin discusses her new book at the art exhibition.

Victoria Smolkin discusses her new book at the art exhibition.

During the event, Victoria discussed her new book while Vlad debuted his art exhibition, Light Beams. The Smolkins were born in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States and at a young age; through their experiences, each sibling found a distinct way to explore, highlight, and celebrate their heritage.

Like Victoria’s book, Vlad’s art also showcases the themes of religion and outer space. His exhibition envisions how Judaism might exist on other planets. In his work, he looks at how the Western Wall might be transferred to Mars, and how the cultivation of flowers on Mars might be the last vestige of Jewish humanity.

Light Beams by Vlad Smolkin can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday during December and the first three weeks of January 2019.

Vlad Smolkin, titled "Transfer of the Western Wall," 2018

“Transfer of the Western Wall” (2018) by Vlad Smolkin.

 

Smolkin Discusses Soviet Atheism on BBC

Victoria Smolkin

Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smolkin was recently a guest on BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” to discuss Soviet state atheism.

Smolkin said that Lenin’s conviction that banishing religion was necessary to create a revolutionary society was right ideologically, but wrong politically.

“If they wanted to stay in power, they needed to accommodate religion, and they understood that,” she said. “However, if they wanted to build a Communist society, ultimately religion had to go.”

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)

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

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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.

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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.

Smolkin-Rothrock on Russia’s National Unity Day

Writing in Open Democracy, Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, offers a historical explanation of Russia’s National Unity Day. Observed November 4, this holiday–based in what many consider “ancient history”–remains a point of confusion for the Russian public, writes Smolkin-Rothrock. Yet, “even if the holiday holds little significance for many Russians, it matters a great deal to Vladamir Putin and it should matter to those concerned with understanding his ideology.”