Tag Archive for Russian Department

Alumni, Faculty Discuss Russia’s Return to the World Stage at Shasha Seminar

David Abramson ’87, Foreign Affairs Analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question at a panel held by Wesleyan alumni on Saturday afternoon regarding Russia’s economic development, the prospects for foreign investors, and the range of careers available to graduates in Russian studies.

David Abramson ’87, foreign affairs analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question regarding Russia’s economic development during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

shasha bannerRussia has returned to the world stage in dramatic fashion in recent years with military interventions and interference in elections.

What is driving this aggressive behavior? Will the current political system survive the scheduled departure of its architect, Vladimir Putin, in 2024? How should the United States deal with Russia?

On Oct. 11–12, Wesleyan alumni and faculty panelists tackled these questions and more during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. This year’s theme was “Understanding Russia: A Dramatic Return to the World Stage,” with Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, serving as this year’s director. Rutland works on contemporary Russian politics and political economy, with a side interest in nationalism. (For a Q&A with Rutland, previewing the seminar, click here.)

The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

Aleshkovsky Discusses Novels With Translator White, Editor Fusso

On Sept. 27, the award-winning contemporary Russian writer Yuz Aleshkovsky sat down with two collaborators and former colleagues, Duffield White and Susanne Fusso, at the RJ Julia Bookstore to discuss the publication in English of his novels, Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage.

On Sept. 27, the award-winning contemporary Russian writer Yuz Aleshkovsky (third from left) sat down with two collaborators and former colleagues, Duffield White and Susanne Fusso (left), at the RJ Julia Bookstore to discuss the publication in English of his novels, Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage. Pictured at right is Yuz’s wife, Irina Aleshkovsky, adjunct professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies.

Born in 1929 in Krasnoyarsk, Aleshkovsky grew up in Moscow and served in the Soviet Navy. He was imprisoned for three years on a petty criminal charge and released after the death of Stalin led to a general amnesty. He published children's books but became best known for his songs and novels circulated in samizdat (the underground network of censored literature in the USSR). Aleshkovsky left the Soviet Union in 1979, and the following year Wesleyan sponsored his entry into the United States, where he was invited to serve as Visiting Russian Writer in Wesleyan's Russian Department.

Born in 1929 in Krasnoyarsk, Aleshkovsky grew up in Moscow and served in the Soviet Navy. He was imprisoned for three years on a petty criminal charge and released after the death of Stalin led to a general amnesty. He published children’s books, but became best known for his songs and novels circulated in samizdat (the underground network of censored literature in the USSR). Aleshkovsky left the Soviet Union in 1979, and the following year Wesleyan sponsored his entry into the United States, where he was invited by Priscilla Meyer, professor of Russian language and literature, emerita, to serve as visiting Russian writer in Wesleyan’s Russian Department.

6 Faculty Receive Endowed Professorships

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan is one of six Wesleyan faculty to receive an endowed professorship in 2019.

In recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1, 2019:

Frederick Cohan, professor of biology, is receiving the Huffington Foundation Professorship in the College of the Environment, established in 2010.

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is receiving the Marcus L. Taft Professorship of Modern Languages, established in 1880.

William Johnston, professor of history, is receiving a John E. Andrus Professorship of History, established in 1981.

Ethan Kleinberg, professor of history and professor of letters, is receiving the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professorship, established in 2008.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, is receiving the Lauren B. Dachs Professorship of Science and Society, established in 2008.

Daniel Krizanc, professor of computer science, is receiving an Edward Burr Van Vleck Professorship of Computer Science, established in 1982.

Brief biographies appear below:

Frederick Cohan arrived at Wesleyan in 1986 after completing his BS at Stanford University, his PhD at Harvard University, and a postdoctoral appointment at University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the origins of diversity in bacteria. His publications, which have been cited more than 8,000 times, recently include “How We Can All Share the Fight Against Infectious Disease” (Arcadia Political Review, Spring 2019) and “Systematics: The Cohesive Nature of Bacterial Species Taxa” (Current Biology, 2019). Cohan has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and he was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2017.

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.

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR: “Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times Magazine: “Letter of Recommendation: Phyllis Rose’s ‘Parallel Lives'”

Professor of English, Emerita Phyllis Rose’s 1983 book Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, is featured in the New York Times Magazine. The book, which the reviewer notes she has re-read every few months recently, is a “group biography of several notable Victorians and their marriages,” through which the reader can gain deeper insight into intimate relationships and societal change.

  1. Middletown Press: “Middletown Musician Noah Baerman Wins Guilford Performing Arts Fest Artists’ Award”

Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, received the inaugural Guilford Foundation/Guilford Performing Arts Festival Artists’ Award at a ceremony on Sept. 29. The award was created this year to encourage the development of new work by professional Connecticut artists and to provide a vehicle for the debut of original material at the festival.

2. Commentary: “Among the Disbelievers”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times: Defending Conservatism, and Seeking Converts

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Roger Scruton’s new book on Conservatism, which he writes provides an “enlightening” background on a variety of important conservative thinkers, but stoops to scapegoating Muslims to “rally the troops.”

2. Hartford Courant: First Group of Students Graduates from Wesleyan’s Prison Education Program

The first-ever Wesleyan Center for Prison Education Program graduation ceremonies, held in partnership with Middlesex Community College at York and Cheshire correctional institutions on July 24 and Aug. 1, respectively, was also featured in The Washington PostABC News, Fox News, among other publications.

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.