Spring 2017 Newsletter

FROM THE DIRECTOR:  For Russian experts today, the question is fundamentally unclear: are we living in the best of times or the worst of times?

At the recent Munich Security Conference (17-19 February), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—promising that 2017 is going to be “the year of kicking Russia”—vowed to support additional sanctions (and presumably trigger Russian counter-sanctions in response). 
Most of us—including myself—would not automatically recall how Dickens’ famous passage continues:
…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
Joining REES on 1 January 2017, I considered myself extraordinarily lucky to move into a robust and innovative Center led by Dr. Dawn Seckler, who served as Interim Director during Fall 2016.  Together with Dr. Andrew Konitzer, who stepped down in August 2016, Dawn has ensured a stable direction at a critical time, in preparation for the next Title VI competition in 2018.  Dawn’s strong leadership, tempered with a restorative sense of humor, has helped enormously in the first four months of transition.
Apart from my own arrival, we are also very happy to welcome the newest REES staff member, Dr. Zsuzsanna Magdo, Assistant Director for Partnerships and Programming, who has come to Pitt from the University of Illinois’s Global Studies Center.  Dr. Magdo’s research is grounded in Illinois’s Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center, so she brings to UCIS invaluable multi-Center familiarity with National Resource Centers.  Within a short time of her arrival, Zsuzsa took up the challenging task of organizing a weeklong visit by twelve Moscow undergraduate and graduate urban-policy students (most in the US for the first time) from the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). They arrived in Pittsburgh to study the city’s rustbelt transformation and its current challenges, including affordable housing, transportation, and income disparity.  At a time when our two countries are in a period of geo-political tension unparalleled since the early 1970s, this Pittsburgh visit by young Moscow guests was a significant effort in examining common issues and offering a range of US political perspectives to the next generation of Russian policymakers and experts.
While welcoming one new REES colleague, we found ourselves reluctantly saying goodbye to another.  In our effort—originally initiated by Andrew Konitzer—to dedicate substantial resources to the Central Eurasian region, we had been lucky in Fall 2016 to bring Dr. Ainur Begim and Dr. Patryk Reid, the two current UCIS/REES Postdoctoral Fellows, to Pitt, joining Dr. Jennifer Murtazashvili (Assistant Professor, GSPIA) and Dr. James Pickett (Assistant Professor, History) in this research field.  Aina is now leaving us for a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oslo, where her work will examine investments at the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (the Norwegian Oil Fund).  We will miss her.
For REES, the academic year has been rich in faculty recognition and awards.  Two REES faculty (out of only four faculty members campus-wide) have been honored by the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring: Peter Brusilovsky (Information Sciences) and William Dunn (Graduate School of Public and International Affairs).  We likewise congratulate three colleagues for their recent book publications: our two History colleagues Irina Livezeanu (The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700) and Katja Wezel (Geschichte als Politikum. Lettland und die Aufarbeitung nach der Diktatur), as well as our Sociology colleague John Markoff (Social Movements and World-System Transformation, together with Jackie Smith, Michael Goodhart, and Patrick Manning).  We are proud that they are among our affiliated faculty.
For nearly twenty years, the end of the academic year has been celebrated in early May by the weeklong Russian Film symposium, organized by Vladimir Padunov (Slavic) and held at Pitt and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  Quite apart from its reputation as an event for cinéphiles, the Symposium brings first-time Russian visitors—directors, actors, producers, critics, and journalists—to Pittsburgh to screen contemporary Russian films, some of which have encountered serious (or even insurmountable) challenges from their own cultural authorities.  For nearly two decades, we have argued about both the value of the films and the range of values they have projected on our own screens here at home.  We count ourselves lucky to participate in these conversations each May.
So the debates continue across and within both sides of the world.  To return to Dickens’ 1859 historical novel—an account of London and Paris in the years immediately prior to the French Revolution and Jacobin Terror—we find ourselves steeped in an epoch of belief and incredulity, an era of post-truth, when more knowledge seems to guarantee only more confusion.  As Woody Allen might have replied, less knowledge is no picnic either.  And so, in the spirit of “more knowledge,” we hope you will take a moment to read the REES Spring 2017 news of our events, lectures, colleagues, students, and visitors.  We welcome your comments, contributions, and inquiries as we weather through these interesting times.
Nancy Condee, Director
Center for Russian and East European Studies

Center News

RANEPA Achievements
& Rustbelt History

While Pitt students were away on spring break, REES was busy hosting a Moscow group of graduate and undergraduate students from the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). Over five days, the twelve students were given a crash course on Pittsburgh's successes and rustbelt history, as well as its more recent initiatives in technology, education, and public art.  The project also highlighted issues that Pittsburgh—along with many of the rustbelt cities—is facing, including gentrification, income disparity, and housing accessibility. On site visits to innovators in the region, such as Carnegie Mellon University and the Energy Innovation Center, the students saw the challenges and successes Pittsburgh has seen in the postindustrial period. With representatives of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Hazlewood Initiative, and the Mayor of Braddock's office, students reflected on some of the issues still facing Pittsburgh, many of which they can relate back to their home institution in Moscow. Students of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and the School of Social Work accompanied the students throughout the week, adding an extra dimension of collaboration between the two universities. The Rustbelt Project showcased the fact that—despite our countries’ differences—many of our interests and policy concerns  have striking similarities.  Read more.

Exploration of Cultural Identity
Along the Silk Road

In a Pitt series running from November 2016 to April 2017, REES—alongside the Asian Studies Center—hosted several talks and film screenings to highlight the Silk Road region of Central Asia. Many of the talks and films included a discussion of the music of the region and the diverse issues surrounding of Islamic identity. Guests included documentary film director Lauren Knapp (Live from UB, 2015), Prof. James Millward (History, Georgetown University), Prof. Dr. Morgan Liu (Anthropology, The Ohio State University), and Prof. Rian Thum (History, Loyola University).  Read more about the Silk Road event series. REES is planning additional events on Central Asia for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Community College Partnerships

This winter, REES concluded its 2.5-year, National Endowment for the Humanities-funded partnership project with the Community College of Beaver County, “Bridging Cultures: Eastern Europe in the Curriculum.” A conference in November 2016 showcased course modules on East European cultures developed by nine participating faculty members at CCBC. These modules, along with participants’ reflections on the project, are available on a Blackboard Open Educational Resource site. In February 2017, several CCBC faculty members returned to Pitt with their students for a screening of the Academy Award-winning Hungarian film Son of Saul and a panel discussion featuring the lead actor from the film, Géza Röhrig. Since the end of the NEH grant period, REES and the other centers within Pitt’s University Center for International Studies have continued working with CCBC faculty and staff to further advance internationalization of their campus and curriculum, most recently by organizing a workshop on “Global Human Trafficking Today.” This March 27 workshop drew approximately 80 faculty, students, and social service professionals from CCBC, Westmoreland County Community College, and other local organizations.

Student Conferences

REES recently presented its two annual international student conferences: the Graduate Organization for the Study of Europe and Central Asia (GOSECA) conference on March 25-26, 2017, and the European and Eurasian Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) (co-sponsored with the European Studies Center and International Business Center) on April 7. Selected students from educational institutions throughout the US and abroad presented their original research projects, featuring a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. Many thanks to the faculty discussants, presenters, and organizing committees for their essential roles in these highly successful showcase events for student research!

The following REES certificate students presented at the 2017 URS:  Nancy Conroy, Solookhuu Bat-Erdene, Nina Cairns and Pablo Lindsay.

Russian Film Symposium

The nineteenth annual Russian Film Symposium (Kino-Ivory) will be held on Pitt's campus beginning Monday, May 1st and running through Saturday, May 6th. Evening screenings will be held at the Melwood Screening Room of Pittsburgh Filmmakers. The White Elephant Award is conferred upon the best film produced and released in Russia as well as awards for directing, script writing, musical score, and acting. This award continues to be one of the most prestitigious and respected Russian awards within the film industry and amongst film scholars worldwide. The White Elephants films are not just the best produced in Russian cinema; they also showcase the vast changes in the film industry in the post-Soviet era from production to distribution to exhibition.

Several White Elephant films have been shown at the annual symposia in the past. But the goal of the 2017 Symposium is to select films not yet screened as a backdrop for a weeklong investigation of transformations in the industry. Participants to the symposium include a former president of the Guild of Film Scholars and Film Critics of the Russian Union of Filmmakers, a leading Russian film critic and television host, and a Senior Research Analyst for Nevafilm.

You can view the week's schedule and full list of participants here:

Visiting Scholars

REES hosted three international visiting scholars during the Spring 2017 term. Christian Hörbelt of European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany came to Pittsburgh to conduct research on memory politics and national identity in Ukraine in cooperation with Gregor Thum of Pitt’s Department of History. Matija Črešnar and Branko Mušič, faculty members in Archaeology at the University of Ljubljana (REES’s partner institution in Slovenia), came to work on a collaborative research project with Bryan Hanks in Pitt’s Department of Anthropology. REES is pleased to support these productive academic partnerships between the Center’s affiliated faculty members and their counterparts abroad, and we look forward to continuing such exchanges.

Faculty/Staff News

Peter Brusilovsky (Information Sciences) was one of four Pitt faculty members who received the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring. The annual award, which includes a check for $2,500, is given to faculty members who demonstrate outstanding mentoring of a student seeking a research doctorate degree.  Provost Patricia E. Beeson said that Brusilovsky not only encouraged students to broaden their scientific horizons, he showed them how to handle the life-work balance by taking them to concerts, the ballet and on picnics.  Read more.

Nancy Condee's (Director of REES, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures) jury work includes the 2016-17 Historia Nova jury for Best Book on Russian Intellectual History (Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation) and the 2016-17 Vucinich Prize Committee (ASEEES) for the most important regional contribution to scholarship in any discipline. Her advisory and editorial board service includes Academic Studies Press (Russia), boundary 2 (US), Critical Quarterly (UK), KinoKultura (UK), KINORUSS Film Art Journal (Brazil), Slavic and East European Journal (US), and Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema (UK).  Read more.
William Dunn (Graduate School of Public and International Affairs) was also one of four Pitt faculty members who received the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring. He has supervised more doctoral dissertations than anyone else in GSPIA’s history, and his mentees have gone on to leadership positions in think tanks and universities the world over. He says he has maintained a lifelong relationship with them.  Read more.
William Harbert (Department of Geology and Environmental Science) had a notable year, giving five talks at major conferences in the field of geophysics and global energy as well as publishing six papers in peer reviewed publications. His work largely centered around seismicity related to energy activities and geostatistics, an area of study of increasing importance. He also co-chaired sessions at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco in December where he was also invited to talk during the oral session.
Irina Livezeanu (Department of History) recently published a book, The Routledge History of East Central Europe since 1700. This book explores the origins and evolution of modernity in East Central Europe through an exploration of the history and historiography of the region. With thematically ordered chapters and the application of critical approaches to major controversies, this book largely expands the knowledge of this region of Europe.
John Markoff (Department of Sociology) joined Jackie Smith, Michael Goodhart, and Patrick Manning as co-editor of Social Movements and World-System Transformation (London: Routledge, 2017). This volume grew from the 2014 meetings of the Political Economy of the World-System section of the American Sociological Association, held at Pitt. John published "Democratic Legitimacy at the Present Time" in Ayer  (Revista de la Asociación de HistoriaContemporánea), 2016. He also examined democracy in "Essential Contestants, Essential Contests" in Research in Political Sociology 24, 2017.

Student Spotlight

Cian Stryker is an undergraduate student currently studying Russian and pursuing his academic research for his Bachelors of Philosophy thesis in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The following is an account written by Cian about his research and travels.
I decided to pursue the B Phil with a dual degree in Political Science and Russian & East European Studies while a sophomore at Pitt. I decided to dedicate my thesis to the Russian ethnic minorities living in the post-Soviet states in order to examine ethnic group relations, monitor for possible irredentism, and study a fascinating aspect of the post-Soviet world. With the intent of pursuing this research, I decided to study in Narva, Estonia, a city located on the Russian border with a majority population that is ethnically Russian as part of the Project GO program. I was the sole civilian member of this program studying with ROTC students from across the US. I received a FLAS to aid my Russian studies there while also performing qualitative interviews in my free time.

After Estonia, I began my study abroad experience in Bishkek. I decided to spend the entire academic year there to study Russian, Kyrgyz, and cultural courses on Central Asia. The Russia education in Bishkek as well as the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the region has been incredible and has enabled me to continue gathering qualitative interviews to aid my research. I recently received the Critical Language Scholarship to study Russian in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. I also received an internship with the State Department to work in the embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan for the 2017 World Expo. I have decided to study Russian intensively in Russia instead. I will be in Nizhny Novgorod for two months to finish my entire study abroad experience.

Student News

Ognjen Kojanic (Ph.D. student, Department of Anthropology) is the recipient of an Andrew Mellon Pre-doctoral Fellowship as well as the 2016 Graduate Student Paper Prize (Society for the Anthropology of Europe) and the 2016 Midwest Slavic Graduate Student Essay Prize (Midwest Slavic Association). His preliminary research visit to the field in the Summer of 2016 was supported by the Klinzing Grant for Pre-Disseration Research (European Studies Center, University of Pittsburgh). He presented his preliminary doctoral research findings at conferences in Ljubljana (the Critical Political Economy Research Network conference, co-organized by the Institute of Labor Studies in Ljubljana), Milan (the European Association of Social Anthropologists Biennial Conference), and St. Louis (the 55th Annual Central Slavic Conference) and his master's research at the 2016 ASEEES Convention in Washington, DC.
Cengiz Haksöz (Ph.D student, Department of Anthropology) presented "'He Is One of Us!:' Conducting Transnational and Multi-sited Research in Peripheral Bulgaria," at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting,in Minneapolis, MN, 16-20 November 2016.

Student Awards

Barry Bookheimer – History – Ukrainian
Amy Karabowicz – Anthropology – B/C/S
Cass Lowry – Linguistics – Turkish
Steven Moon – Music – Turkish
Michael Wienczkowski – GSPIA – Russian
Matthew Bomba- GSPIA- Polish
Adam Brode- History- Russian
Robert Cimmino- Law/GSPIA- B/C/S
Ana Fumurescu- History- Russian
Katherine Schwalen- GSPIA- Russian
Adam Shirer- Law- Turkish
Thomas Elvins – Slavic, German, & Cultural Studies – Polish
Leo Johnson – Linguistics – B/C/S
Alek Langford – Political Science and International Area Studies – Russian
Nathaniel Tapsak – Slavic Studies – Slovak
Matthew Bomba- Intermediate Polish
Robert Bryant- Advanced Russian
Raven Hilfiker- Intermediate Polish
Mitchell Luckman- Intermediate Russian
Katherine Schwalen- Intermediate Russian
Nathaniel Tapsak- 4th Year Russian
Kristin Arbutina- Hungarian Room Committee Scholarship- Budapest & Debrecen, Hungary
Anna Weber- Polish Room Committee- Szuben, Poland

Marjorie Tolsdorf

Emily Ahli
Jesse Barrad
Natalya Bondarchuk
Nina Cairns
Andrew Chadowski
Thomas Elvins
Jessica Genkil
Allison Hosinski
Victoria Lawson
Ke Lin
Mackenzie Marcinko
Andrew Nitz
Oleksandra Plotnikova
Katherine Podvorec
Andrew Steven
Kaitlyn Wade
Jesse Werhnyak
Emmett Williams

Theodora Trimble

Kathryn Loops


Center for Russian & East European 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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