Spring 2019 Newsletter


Dear colleagues and members of the community,
“May you live in interesting times.” This saying, erroneously considered a Chinese curse, has rarely been as relevant as it is today.  For Eurasian studies specialists, recent events in our own “interesting times” include the border-sovereignty issues in Eastern Ukraine; the Russian implications for the announced US troop pull-outs from Syria and Afghanistan; and the ongoing debates about Russian involvement in US elections.  Rarely has there been a time when the need for capacity-building is as evident. It is the remit of such multidisciplinary centers as Pitt REEES, as well as the other ten Title VI National Resource Centers for our region across the US, to respond to these “interesting times” with a range of research opportunities, programming, and scholarly projects. 
It would be a mistake, however, to assume that REEES’s work is restricted to capacity-building in Russian expertise alone.  The professional activities described in these pages reach across Eurasia and beyond this territorial expanse.  Our graduate students launched the 16th Annual Conference of the Graduate Organization for the Study of Europe and Central Asia (GOSECA), a two-day conference (1-2 March, organized around the theme “Persuade and Coerce: (Mis)Information and Security in Eurasia.”  Our colleagues in Central Asian studies, including Jennifer Murtazashvili (Graduate School of Public and International Affairs), hosted the 19th Annual Conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS, this past October, when local, regional, national, and international scholars presented their research over a three-day event that included two film screenings, a Silk Road exhibit, and a keynote by Orzala Nemat (Director, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit).  This semester, REEES’s commitment to Central Asian programming will also include an effort to bring students from Nazarbayev University (Astana, Kazakhstan) to Pitt’s annual European and Eurasian Undergraduate Research Symposium (12 April, to present their work in English to the international scholarly community.
As for our Spring 2019 collaborations on the region of East Central Europe, we were first of all happy to welcome the broader community to the annual East European Festival (24 February,, a celebration of regional cuisine, cultural entertainment, and children’s activities, co-sponsored with the Yugoslav Nationality Room and GOSECA.  A month later, our colleagues Ljiljana Duraskovic and Olga Klimova (Slavic), as well as Ilknur Lider (Less Commonly Taught Languages) presented the two-day event Eastern European, Balkan, and Middle Eastern Female Artists: Finding Their Own Voices in Writing, Cinema, and Art (21-22 March), with guest artists Asja Bakić (Bosnian writer), Darya Zhuk (Belorussian film director), and Münire Kırmaci (Turkish artist and industrial designer).  East Central Europe is only one of the foci for the 29-30 March meeting of the Soyuz Research Network for Postsocialist Cultural Studies (, an interdisciplinary forum for work on post-socialist countries—not only in East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union, but also the regions of Africa, East and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.  Finally, on 4-6 April, REEES is proud to host the 44th Annual Conference of the American Hungarian Educators Association (AHEA,, a professional and scholarly organization for the study and dissemination of Hungarian culture, including in countries with large indigenous Hungarian minorities. 
REEES’s ability to sustain this level of programming is greatly enhanced by the arrival of three new staff members.  Susan Dawkins has already been serving as Academic Advisor, but has now moved on to a new position as Acting Engagement Coordinator.  Her replacement as REEES Academic Advisor is Trevor Erlacher.  Our third addition is Sera Passerini, who replaces Kiersten Walmsley as REEES Administrative and Program Assistant.  We are very happy to have all three on board.
I cannot conclude this letter, however, without mentioning a loss not only to REEES, but also to the University and the community more broadly.  Our colleague and friend, Martin Votruba (Slavic Department; Director, Slovak Studies Program), died in November after a brief illness.  Professor Votruba taught a broad range of courses on Slovakia and East Central Europe, including the region’s history and culture; the Slovak language; and Slovak transatlantic cultures.  Martin Votruba’s work as the founding director of the Slovak Studies Program (the only such program in North America), as well as an organizer of the annual Slovak Heritage Festival and the Thomas Kukučka Memorial Lecture, marked the University as a national leader in this field.  Because of Martin’s efforts, Pitt’s collection of Slovak films comprises a holding unmatched outside of Slovakia.  His awards and commendations—from the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL); the Slovak Studies Association; the Slovak Academy of Sciences; the Embassy of the Slovak Republic to the US; and the University of Pittsburgh Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs—testify to his stature as a teacher, scholar, and colleague.  Our work will not be the same without his contribution.
Looking ahead to the end of this 2018-2019 academic year, we invite you to join us in honoring our graduating undergraduate and graduate students at the annual REEES/Slavic Spring Reception on Friday, 26 April at 12:00 in the Alcoa Room (Law School), followed immediately by a larger UCIS graduation ceremony at 3:00 in the University Club.  We hope to see you there, and we continue to welcome your involvement in the Center’s activities, research agendas, and programming in these interesting times.
Nancy Condee, Director of the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Professor of Slavic; Film and Media Studies

Center News

SOYUZ: Research Network for Postsocialist Cultural Studies Annual Symposium, March 29-30, 2019

The Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Department of Anthropology are pleased to welcome the 2019 Soyuz Symposium to the University of Pittsburgh. Ten years after Sharad Chari and Katherine Verdery’s provocation to “Think Between The Posts” (2009), the 2019 Soyuz Symposium will highlight scholarship carried out at the intersections of postsocialist and post-colonial studies. Accepted research papers and multimedia presentations (including documentary/ethnographic/artistic films and performances) will focus on the broad themes of race, indigeneity, and identity. Presenters will critically interrogate two sets of questions: 1) how these themes have been refracted through the legacies, afterlives, and reproductions of socialist and colonial projects writ large, and 2) how race, indigeneity, and identity reemerge with new meanings at the meeting points between postsocialist & postcolonial cultural and political landscapes and imaginaries. 

We are delighted that Manduhai Buyandelger, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and author of Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Gender, and Memory in Contemporary Mongolia (University of Chicago Press, 2013) will give the keynote address. We thank our co-sponsors the Year of PittGlobal, the University Center for International Studies, the Global Studies Center, and the Asian Studies Center. View the conference program here.

The Soyuz Research Network for Postsocialist Cultural Studies is an interdisciplinary forum for exchanging work based on field research in postsocialist countries, ranging from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Soyuz is an interest group in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and an official unit of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES). The Soyuz symposium has met annually since 1991 and offers an opportunity for scholars to interact in a more personal setting.

American Hungarian Educators Association 
44th Annual Conference, April 4-6, 2019


The Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies is pleased to host the 44th Annual Conference of the American Hungarian Educators Association. Welcoming over 50 international scholars, educators, and students, this year's conference will explore the theme "Identity: Hungarian, European, Global?" from the perspective of the arts, language and literature, cultural studies, music and folklore, education, history, political science, and economics. Our co-sponsors include: Pitt's Hungarian Nationality Rooms along with the William Penn Association, the Ráckoczi Foundation, the Hungarian Research Institute of Canada, the American-Hungarian Folklore Centrum, and Helena History Press.

Join us for the screening and discussion of Mom and Other Loonies in the Family at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 4 in David Lawrence 121. Directed by Ibolya Fekete, this Hungarian-German-Bulgarian drama explores Hungary's history in the 20th century through the stories of four generations of women. We are also delighted to welcome Dr. János Kenyeres, Director of the School of English and American Studies at the Eötvös Loránd University as our keynote speaker who will explore "Manifestations of Hungarian Identity in Literature" at 9:00-10:15 am on Friday, April 5 in Posvar 5604. 

Registration is free for Pitt students. See our conference program for panels and special events.

Shadow Empire: Russian Film Symposium 2019
May 6-10, 2019

The twenty-first annual Russian Film Symposium will focus on a key debate surrounding Muscovite Russia: after the conquest under Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) of the Khanate of Kazan in 1552 and Astrakhan in 1554, did Muscovite Russia leap directly into empire, or did it further reconfigure into what we would recognize as the Western nation-state? The expansion of ethnicities, nationalities, language groups, as well as territorynecessitated the formation of a strong central state (Moscow) and administration to control and oversee the numerous polities that constituted the newly emerged empire. From Ivan IV through Peter I (the Great), and Nicholai II, the state and its constantly expanding apparatus exercised autocratic control over a sixth of the planet, several hundred language-speaking communities and ethnicities. While this control was always maintained in the name of (Holy) Russia, Russia as a nation (the argument goes) was singularly absent.

The Symposium will screen twelve films (four in subtitled DCP prints and eight on subtitled DVD), will host eight panels with film scholars from Russia, the UK, and the US, and two roundtables for the participants to continue debating the issues raised during the post-screening discussions at the film panels and to examine the overall topic for that year’s Symposium. This year's co-sponsors include the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, the University Center for International Studies, the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, the Film Studies Program, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the Cultural Studies Program. View the schedule.

Beginning in March REEES will hold its Spring speakers’ series “Spying, Archiving, Reporting: Information in Eastern Europe”

In the last 30 years, scholars have made valuable use of the secret police archives of former Eastern Europe communist states to show the complexity of life under communism. These documents show how these states surveilled their populations, classified them, and deployed that knowledge to govern and repress social and political deviance. Some Eastern European governments are even selectively utilizing archives to construct the historical memory for new nation states.

Archives and their contents, however, are never neutral. While secret police records provide ample evidence of communist repression, they also reveal controversial information about historical events, figures and organizations now promoted as emblems of post-communist nationhood.

As several former communist states become more authoritarian, and historical memory politicized and instrumentalized, how we access information, its use by governments, media, and scholars, is crucial to how we engage these countries and their societies.

“Spying, Archiving, Reporting” will address these issues through three live interviews and a roundtable with scholars and journalists on the issue of “information” in Eastern Europe from a multidisciplinary perspective. Visit our calendar for more information.

We hope you’ll join us for this series! Please also check out recordings of our Fall series, “We Shall Refashion Life on Earth!” Youth in Eurasia.

SRB Podcast Top 10 for 2018

2018 was another great year for the SRB Podcast. I posted 43 episodes that in addition to the existing catalog totaled over 273,000 downloads. I maintained an eclectic mix of topics from jokes in the Stalin period, to deafness in the Soviet Union, to Kazakh nomads. Also with the speakers’ series on youth in Eurasia, I’ve began integrating the programming at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh into the podcast.

List of the 10 most downloaded interviews of 2018.

My top ten favorite interviews based on those I learned the most from or enjoyed doing.


Recent interviews:

The Soviet Origins of Lamaze
Guest: Paula Michaels on Lamaze: An International History published by Oxford University Press.

Russian Nationalism
Guest: Marlene Laruelle on Russian Nationalism: Imaginaries, Doctrines, and Political Battlefields, published by Routledge, and her edited collection Entangled Far Rights: A Russian-European Intellectual Romance in the 20th Century, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Gulag at War
Guest: Wilson Bell on Stalin’s Gulag at War: Forced Labor, Mass Death, and Soviet Victory in the Second World War published by the University of Toronto Press.

The Kazakh Famine
Guest: Sarah Cameron on The Hungry Steppe: Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan published by Cornell University Press.

Lenders and Debtors in Imperial Russia
Guest: Sergei Antonov on Bankrupts and Usurers of Imperial Russia: Debt, Property, and the Law in the Age of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy published by Harvard University Press.

I have some new stuff planned for 2019 so stay tuned!
Sean Guillory, REEES Digital Scholarship Curator

Faculty Spotlight: Olga Kuchinskaya

Olga Kuchinskaya is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and REEES affiliated faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. A native of Belarus, her research focuses on the intersection between science and the production of knowledge and ignorance about environmental disasters. She’s the author of The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl (MIT, 2014) and many other articles. You can listen to an interview with Professor Kuchinskaya on her book on the SRB Podcast.

You've written a lot about peoples' understanding of radiation around the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Talk a bit about your work on radiation.

My book, The Politics of Invisibility: Public Knowledge about Radiation Health Effects after Chernobyl, is about how we know what we know about the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. I did archival and ethnographic research in Belarus, a former Soviet Union republic that was covered with much of the fallout. What puzzled me was that radiation is completely imperceptible to the unaided senses. Even the most affected areas look and “feel” just like other areas, and contaminated food does not taste any different. In the book, I argue that radiation has to be made publicly visible and observable, but it can also be made less publicly visible, even non-existent as an issue. Public attention to the contamination and its health effects is not spontaneous or unavoidable.

My research describes the vast historical fluctuations in recognizing the consequences of Chernobyl in Belarus. In/visibility came in waves. There was a period, coinciding with the last years of the Soviet Union and beginning about three years after the accident, when radiological consequences were made amply visible, before gradually disappearing in the late 1990s. I argue that the waves of in/visibility were a function of shifting power imbalances between various groups, including local scientists, local government, international organizations, and various affected populations. The history of in/visibility of Chernobyl is the history of political transformations in the country.

What are you working on now?

I continue to be interested in questions related to lay knowledge about complex, science-based issues such as health and the environment. My current project is about patients’ efforts to improve knowledge about their conditions when these efforts rely on the use of new media platforms, which can give people more access to published research and to other patients with similar health conditions and experiences. I am interested in the work of individual patients or online communities when they face patchy medical knowledge, ignorance, and lack of adequate treatments. My examples so far come from reproductive health, rare genetic diseases, and common but understudied diseases such as some autoimmune conditions. Basically, this is the question of patients’ role in the production of medical knowledge and spaces, tools, and infrastructures that support that.

What some key themes/questions that drive your courses and teaching at Pitt?

There is quite a bit of overlap with my research interests. I teach courses in environmental communication, health communication, and communication and new media technologies. I also regularly teach organizational communication, in part because I am interested in how the labor market has been changing and in issues of work. I teach graduate seminars on Power/Knowledge, and Communication Research, and hope to offer a new seminar on the politics of health next year.

Faculty/Staff News

Oscar E. Swan (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Polish minor advisor) translated Leokadia Schmidt's diary, describing her experiences as a Warsaw ghetto survivor. His English translation of Schmidt's "Rescued from the Ashes: the Diary of Leokadia Schmidt, Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto" has been featured at the top of Amazon's list of New Releases of Jewish Biographies. Read more about Swan's publication  here.

In Fall 2018, Nancy Condee (Director, REEES, Professor of Slavic) served on the International Jury of the Golden Unicorn Awards (25 November to 2 December 2018), the annual London festival of Russian cinema.  Other International Jury members included actor Brian Cox (Bourne Identity), journalist Andrew Jack (Financial Times), Stuart Brown (BFI Head of Programme & Acquisitions), Carola Ash (Director of Europe, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), and casting director Debbie McWilliams (Derek Jarman, Roman Polanski, Stephen Frears, Ron Howard).

Vladimir Padunov (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures) served on the jury for the Cheboksary International Film Festival in Russia from May 21 to May 25, 2018. 

In 2018,  Olga Kuchinskaya (Department of Communications) with Tatiana Kasperski and Paul Josephson published "Response to Waddington et al. on "J-value assessment of relocation measures following the nuclear power plant accidents at Chernobyl and Daiichi" in Process Safety and Environmental Protection.
In May of 2018, Professors Bryan Hanks and Marc Bermann (Anthropology) took part in a collaboration with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to the Primorsky Krai of Eastern Russia. The three week mission focused on the search for missing US aircraft and airmen from the 1950s over the eastern territories of the former Soviet Union. In August of 2018, Professors Bryan Hanks and Marc Bermann continued archaeological field research with the Cultural Heritage Preservation Institute (Kragujevac) and the Institute of Archaeology (Belgrade) in Serbia. This program of research is utilizing cutting-edge, non-invasive geophysical and geochemical surveys to document Neolithic period settlements in Central Serbia dating to as early as 5,000 BCE. 

Olga Klimova (Acting Director of the Russian Program, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures) was one of the 11 nominees for the 2018 Provost’s Open Education Resource Grant.  Her project, "Runet: Learning Russian Through Russian Internet" (the development term--January-December 2019) was the only humanities project awarded with the OER funding.   Read more about the awarded grants for 2018.

In the Spring 2019, professors Tymofiy Mylovanov and Svitlana Maksymenko (Department of Economics) launched a pro-seminar in international economics  which  offers students a unique opportunity to interact with government officials and policy-makers  who are directly engaged in economic policy analysis, design and implementation. The course is titled ECON1710: Economic Policy Analysis. It uses Ukraine's neweconomic policy and reforms as a case study.   
During the semester, students  have an opportunity to explore real-world challenges identified by the Ukrainian government  and international donor agencies, interact with the state officials from the Parliament, National Bank of Ukraine, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade,  and the Antimonopoly Committee several times via Panopto, discuss the challenges of economic policy making, and contribute directly to the policy-making process with memos and briefs under the guidance of  two faculty members. Professors Mylovanov and Maksymenko also plan to pilot a study abroad program in Ukraine in May 2020, in collaboration with the Kyiv School of Economics.

Student News

Ognjen Kojanić (Department of Anthropology, Ph.D. student) has finished his ethnographic field research on ownership and property rights in a worker-owned company in Croatia, generously supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the University of Pittsburgh European Studies Center. He has recently presented papers based on the research at the EASA Biennial Conference in Stockholm, Sweden; InASEA Conference Zadar, Croatia; and the AAA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA. He gave a talk entitled “ITAS and the Changes of the Geography of Production in the (Post-)Yugoslav Space” at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb, Croatia.

Zhanna Budenkova (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Ph.D. student) is the author of "Fragments of Empire: Heartland in Post-Soviet Films" in the volume Cinemasaurus: Russian Cinema in Its Contemporary Context (Academic Studies Press 2019), edited by Nancy Condee, Alexander Prokhorov, and Elena Prokhorova. She also attended the Summer ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Workshop in October 2018.

Karyn Bartosic, a first-year student in Politics-Philosophy and Economics with a certificate in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, is currently researching Belorussian national identity and its relationship to Russia for the Fall 2019 Pitt Political Review. Karyn also plans on participating in the Summer Language Institute for the Russian hybrid program. 
Alexa Tignall, REEES student ambassador, is pursuing the REEES certificate and her B.A in Social Science at the College of General Studies. In her time here at the University of Pittsburgh she has been involved in various study abroad opportunities and internships. Alexa has participated in the Summer Language Institute twice for the Russian Language. This current semester for spring break she is doing a study abroad in Cuba at the University of Havana. After she graduates this spring she will participate in the Critical Language Scholarship Program in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She will be presenting her work, "Scottsboro Nine: Internationalism in Black and Red," on April 12 at the European and Eurasian Undergraduate Research Symposium. 
Alumni News
Megan Tingley, a Spring 2018 graduate in Philosophy and Political Science with a certificate in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, is working in Washington, D.C. with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) as a Ukraine Program Assistant. She will be travelling to Ukraine for a presidential election observation mission. She frequently explores the capital with her Corgi, Sobachka. 


Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies
University Center for International Studies
4400 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA  15260

(412) 648-7407

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Center for Russian, East European, & Eurasian Studies · 4400 Posvar Hall · 230 S. Bouquet Street · Pittsburgh, Pa 15260 · USA

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