Fall 2017 Newsletter

The October 1917 Revolution centennial has turned out to be an odd commemorative moment.  Observed at most REES centers around the world, 1917 was marked in muted tones in the Russian Federation itself, where the remembrance of such watershed dates as 1917, 1989, and 1991 are increasingly leaning in favor of zakonomernost' rather than rupture.  This Russian word, so hard to translate that one must aim a dart somewhere between “consistency with laws of development” and “inevitability,” enjoys high frequency in a language that equally treasures avos' [“off-chance” or “happenstance”] as an account of causality.  
Whatever the range of ways that 1917 was celebrated in Russia itself, Pitt REES marked the centenary three times with a series described in the pages below.  We were very happy to welcome Mark Steinberg, Grace Kennan Warnecke, and Anne Garrels to discuss—respectively—the Russias of the early 20th century, the second half of the 20th century, and the early 21st century in the fields of history, autobiography, and journalism.  Each spoke to a full house of faculty and students from Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, GSPIA, and Law, as well as from the larger Pittsburgh community.  We look forward this spring to the appearance of Grace Kennan Warnecke’s volume, Daughter of the Cold War, published by University of Pittsburgh Press.
Neither zakonomernost' nor avos' factored into a long-awaited effort that has come to fruition this fall.  Sean’s Russia Blog ( is a major addition to REES’s electronic presence, joining such US web resources as NYU Jordan Center’s All the Russias blog (, David Johnson’s Johnson’s Russia List ( at GWU’s Elliott School, or Maxim Trudolyubov’s The Russia File ( at Kennan Institute (Wilson Center).  
Sean’s Russia Blog, an invaluable web source that features interviews with writers, filmmakers, academics, and policy figures from Russia, the US, and elsewhere, is hosted by Sean Guillory (Digital Scholarship Curator, REES) and provides hour-long interviews that have ranged from Russian LGBTQ and New Left Activism to The Early Russian Empire and Reforging Roma into New Soviet Gypsies.  Sean has explored a broad range of political topics in such podcasts as The Russian Propaganda Machine and Russophobia in America: A Genealogy.  Subscribers will find something for any vector of curiosity: interested in Russian Punk Rock? The Stillbirth of the Soviet InternetThe Political Life of Vodka? Gangs in Russia?  Further details are in the newsletter below.  How can you subscribe? Search Sean’s Russia Blog in your favorite podcast app or go directly to
A second cause for celebration this fall is the relaunching of the Russian and East European Film database (, listing information on the largest holdings of East Central Europe and Central Asian celluloid, film, video, DVD, Blue Ray, and Laserdisc media outside the Russian Federation.  The collection is curated by Vladimir Padunov (Slavic Department) and available to Pitt colleagues at Media Resources Center at Hillman Library.  We are particularly grateful to Robert Ackerman (Instructional Technologist, University Center for Teaching and Learning) for his generosity, professionalism, and expertise in migrating the database to an updated, usable platform.
As the newsletter will detail below, three major grants deserve mention as well: record-high funding for Project GO (over a half-million dollars) for ROTC students of Russian and Turkish language; a three-year International Research and Studies grant (U.S. Department of Education) for an impact study on new student learning assessment technologies (with other UCIS centers and the School of Education); and a grant from the Longview Foundation for summer-institute training of high school teachers (with other UCIS centers).  These and other grant initiatives are the result of hard work and meticulous attention by REES staff members Dawn Seckler, Gina Peirce and Zsuzsánna Magdó.
Finally, we congratulate the Slavic Department on the final approval for two additional minors, one in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian; the other in Polish.  These minors will complement the existing minor in Slovak, which is part of the Slovak Studies Program (, the only such program in the US.  These minors round out a rich slate of offerings in the cultures of East Central Europe, recently highlighted in the Eastern Europe in the World lecture series and the Balkan and Central Asian film festival, described in the newsletter below. 

Happy reading!

Nancy Condee, Director
Center for Russian and East European Studies

Center News

New Grant Awards
Following another successful year of providing critical language training to nationally recruited ROTC students, REES' Project GO grant funding from the federal Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) was renewed for 2017-18 at the record-high level of $543,608. This increase will enable REES to provide even more Project GO scholarships to future military officers for intensive Russian or Turkish language study in summer 2018.

REES will also participate in two new projects for which Pitt's University Center for International Studies (UCIS) was recently awarded grant funding. A three-year International Research and Studies grant from the U.S. Department of Education will fund an impact study on new technologies for assessing global competencies among students enrolled in UCIS international studies credentials, including the REES Certificate. This project will be implemented in collaboration with a team of researchers from Pitt's School of Education and Institute for International Studies in Education (IISE). In addition, the Longview Foundation will support a UCIS-wide project to partner with Pitt's College in High School program on a summer institute training Pennsylvania high school teachers to offer globally focused courses at their schools, for which students will have the opportunity to earn Pitt credits. 
Pitt in Prague and Krakow
In May 2017, Svitlana Maksymenko of the Department of Economics led, for the 7th time in her Pitt career, Pitt's study abroad program in the Czech Republic and Poland. This year, the program united 18 undergraduate and 2 graduate students (from GSPIA), who were exploring political and economic changes in Central Europe after the collapse of a command system, as well as transition and integration  into the EU. The program was rich in academic lectures, business meetings and sites visits - to Skoda Auto Group, BRICK spark plug factory in Tabor, Kutna Hora silver mines, Nova Huta steel mills, ERICSSON corporation, and Brown Brothers Harriman Financial Group  in Krakow.
Summer STARTALK Program
For the third year in a row, the Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies was awarded the STARTALK grant to run a summer language program to teach Russian to high school students. This program is designed for both beginner level students and those that have taken one year of high school Russian. This past summer the program brought together 20 high school students, mostly from Brashear High School in Pittsburgh and two high schools in Chicago. 

Over a four week period in June and July, students immersed themselves in the language and culture of Russia. The language is taught to students in a way that would be useful in real-life situations and is complemented by various cultural activities to give a new appreciation of foreign cultures. Students took a Russian Orthodox icon painting course with inconographer, Randi Sider-Rose, as well as visited local St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church. 
Teaching Russian and Eastern European Studies (TREES)
In spring 2018, Zsuzsanna Magdo of REES and Michael Lovorn of the Department of Instruction and Learning in Pitt's School of Education will oversee the second annual Teaching Russian and East European Studies (TREES) program. The TREES program pairs an undergraduate specializing in Russian or East European studies with a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) student teacher in a public secondary (grades 7-12) school for the purpose of engaging middle or high school students in the study of Russia and Eastern Europe in historical, geographical, and cultural contexts. This year, REES will collaborate with Pitt's European Studies Center and Asian Studies Center to bring the TREES program under the umbrella of the Partnership for Advancing Global Education (PAGE), a broader effort to promote international studies in Pittsburgh-area schools.

Participants in TREES engage in weekly meetings to discuss and reflect upon teaching and learning about Russia and Eastern Europe. During this time, the undergraduate also examines research articles on social studies pedagogy and collects materials for teaching on Russian and/or Eastern European history, geography, or culture. The undergraduate also observes the student teacher as he/she teaches, and works closely with him/her and the mentor teacher to develop a mini-unit on these topics. Then in late March or April, the undergraduate and student teacher co-teach the mini-unit to middle or high school students. In late April, the undergraduate returns to Pitt to present to a university audience. This presentation is comprised of an overview of the mini-unit and a reflection on the student's experience in the public school setting. Participating MAT students receive generous financial support from REES, while undergraduates have the opportunity to earn three credits through the School of Education and are reimbursed for their transportation to the school site. For more information, please contact
REES Fall 2017 Events
This semester REES has sponsored two special lecture series, as well as an innovative film festival and the annual East European Festival. The 1917 Centenary Series, recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, featured the following distinguished speakers: Mark Steinberg on “The Russian Revolution as Utopian ‘Leap in the Open Air of History’” (October 13); Grace Kennan Warnecke on “Daughter of the Cold War: George Kennan as Father and Architect of 20th Century Geopolitics” (October 25); and Anne Garrels on “Putin Country: A Journey into the Real Russia” (November 7). The Eastern Europe in the World series included four lectures in September–October by expert speakers on East European history and current affairs, as well as a day-long graduate student workshop on “New Trends in Security Studies,” led by Peter Haslinger, director of REES’s partner institution, the Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe (Marburg, Germany).
The festival “Balkan and Central Asian Women Filmmakers: Finding Their Own Voices in Post-Socialist Cinema,” held on September 29–October 1, featured screenings and discussions of four recent films directed by women. Speakers included Ines Tanovic (director of Our Everyday Life, Bosnia, 2015) and Zhanna Issabayeva (director of Nagima, Kazakhstan, 2013), in addition to several prominent U.S. and European film scholars. Special thanks to Ljiljana Duraskovic and Olga Klimova of Pitt’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures for organizing this unique film series.

The East European and Slavic Fall Festival, held on October 29, featured musical performances by the Pitt Carpathian Ensemble, an array of delicious foods, and participation by a wide range of student and community groups. This year’s festival was co-sponsored by the Yugoslav Room Committee and Pitt’s Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG).
Please visit the REES Events page for a complete listing of the Center’s upcoming events.
European and Eurasian Undergraduate Research Symposium 2018
This annual event, organized by REES, the European Studies Center, and the International Business Center, will be held on Friday, April 13, 2018. Applications from undergraduate students to present their research papers are due on January 26. Find more information and an application form here.
Sean's Russia Blog
REES is pleased to welcome Sean Guillory to the newly created position of the Center’s Digital Scholarship Curator. “Sean’s Russia Blog,” featuring interviews with scholars, policy-makers, journalists, writers and filmmakers working on topics concerning the Former Soviet Union, is now sponsored by REES and linked to the Center homepage. Check it out here
UCIS/REES Post-Doctoral Fellows
REES is also pleased to welcome Colin Johnson as the newest UCIS/REES Post-Doctoral Fellow, whose appointment began this semester. Dr. Johnson recently defended his dissertation in Political Science at Brown University and specializes in the politics of development, conflict and migration in Eurasia. He joins Patryk Reid, UCIS/REES Post-Doctoral Fellow since 2016, a historian of environment specializing in Russia and Central Asia (see Faculty Spotlight in this issue). REES continues working closely with its Post-Doctoral Fellows, other Pitt faculty experts, and the Asian Studies Center to expand the University’s research and teaching capacity on the critical Central Asian region.

Faculty Spotlight - Patryk Reid

Over my first year as UCIS Postdoctoral Fellow in Russian and East European Studies, I have researched historical river-society relationships of the former Russian and Soviet empires. This also informed the content of two courses I developed. Water features prominently in my Fall 2017 course, Environmental History of Russian and Soviet Eurasia, and my Spring 2018 course, Eurasian Currents: Silk Roads of the Common Era.

It is satisfying to have this opportunity to bring my research to the classroom, and fun to engage students on topics that are not usually covered, like the role of rivers in the expansion of Russian empire, economic geography and growth, and critiques of Soviet waterway engineering and new problems it created in nature and society.

My forthcoming monograph examines the environmental and economic history of socialist regime building in postcolonial Tajikistan in the 1920s and 1930s. In the name of ideology, the state altered rivers to advance goals in irrigation, electricity, transportation and shipping, and even geopolitical security. I address such problems by analyzing sources from underutilized archives of Tajikistan, in addition to those in Russia. REES supported me to conduct further research last December in the Hoover Institution Archive at Stanford University where I gathered information produced by American engineers. These individuals worked as contractors for socialist economic growth projects in Central Asia. Their letters, reports, and other documents give valuable, outsiders’ insight into water usage practices and more general conditions of life under Soviet rule.

Pitt is a great place to be engaged in this kind of research. It has unique strengths in Central Asia scholarship thanks to specialized faculty in several disciplines. The Centers for Russian and East European and Asian Studies have leveraged that concentration of expertise to support relevant region-related programming, including last year’s Silk Road Lecture Series, and a Central Asian Studies Reading Group (organized this year by Olga Kim and Loukas Barton). Next October, REES will host the Central Eurasian Studies Society’s annual conference.
In the arid region we know as Central Asia, water management has always been a major human concern. Over the past half-century, however, state control of aquatic resources resulted in tragic environmental and social problems that require urgent resolution. The most famous challenge is the shrinking of the Aral Sea: once among the largest lakes in the world, it declined so dramatically that its northern and southern portions are now separated by dry land.

This devastating environmental impact is only one result of decades of aggressively altering the waterbody’s primary inflows to provide irrigation and electricity. Like many environmental problems we face, these were anticipated at least as early as the 1960s but largely ignored. Soviet scholars even spent decades investigating the possibility of redirecting northward flowing Siberian rivers to the south as a way to satisfy demand.

Many of Central Asia’s aquatic resources cross international borders, which is a situation that generates significant geopolitical interest and tension. Today, the mountainous sources of the region’s water are particularly vulnerable to climate change and to foreign enterprises that blast glaciers to expedite mining and mineral exploration.

In conjunction with my research, I am excited to be organizing an interdisciplinary symposium that will connect Central Asian and Eurasian Rivers with global contexts. “Modern Rivers of Eurasia: Potential, Control, Change,” will take place at the University of Pittsburgh February 22-24, 2018, with substantial support from REES and the Center for Global Studies.  

This symposium will feature an international group of around 15 invited scholars with expertise across the social sciences and humanities. Their presentations in public lectures and roundtables, and in a workshop, will address waterways of Eurasia, as well as methodology and pedagogy, in transregional and global perspective. The event aims to engage its participants and audience in conversations on the many important ways that problems of society and governance converge on rivers.

I am proud to have attracted two superbly qualified keynote speakers. Terje Tvedt is Professor of Geography at the University of Bergen and Professor of Global History at the University of Oslo. He is a prolific author of books and director of documentaries, including Water and Society: Changing Perspectives of Societal and Historical Development (I.B. Tauris, 2016). Dorothy Zeisler-Vralsted is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Eastern Washington University. She is Co-Director of the UNESCO Project on Water and Indigenous Peoples, and author of Rivers, Memory, and Nation-Building: A History of the Volga and Mississippi Rivers (Berghan, 2015).
Pittsburgh has a large community in environmental studies within the humanities and social sciences. This year, it features collaboration between Pitt and CMU in the Environmental Humanities Research Seminar (organized by CMU’s Abigail Owen) and the Environmental Humanities Reading Group (which I have organized). We all benefit from the arrival this year of Ruth Mostern, Professor of environmental and world History, specializing in China, and the current Director of the World History Center. Next semester, she will offer an undergraduate seminar on rivers in world history. I will offer a related, one-credit class on rivers and contemporary politics in Eurasia, which should be a useful complement to Prof. Mostern’s class.

The year ahead promises a great deal of exciting programming in Environmental Humanities and Central Asian Studies. And what better place to study the complicated relationships between humans and waterways than in a river city like Pittsburgh?

Faculty/Staff News

Ronald Brand (School of Law) along with Professor Harry Flechtner accompanied the Pitt Law Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot team to Vienna for the 2017 Vis Competition.  The Pitt team consisted of students Robbie Cimmino, Kevin Huber, Jonathan Niznansky, and Matthew VanDyke.  The team advanced to the round of 64 from the original 338 teams from 76 countries, and defeated the team from New York University to advance to the round of 32.  They fell to the University of Muenster in the round of 32 where they also received an Honorable Mention for Best Memorial for the Claimant.  The team began the trip at the University of Belgrade Pre-Moot, followed by practice arguments at the University of Zagreb.

Nancy Condee (Director of REES, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures) served on the Jury at the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival for the Main Competition, the first time a US critic has been selected for that honor. She also served on the Short Films Jury of the Russian Guild of Cinema Scholars and Critics at the Kinotavr Festival. Nancy Condee’s advisory and editorial board service includes Academic Studies Press (Boston/Moscow), 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).

Robert Hayden (Department of Anthropology) met in June in Belgrade, Serbia with his former advisees Elissa Helms (Ph.D. 2003) and Rada Drezgić (Ph.D. 2004), on the occasion of Dr. Helms’ presentation of a paper at the Institute for Philosophy & Social Theory, Belgrade University. Dr. Helms is Chair of the Gender Studies Department at Central European University, a program which has been specifically targeted by the Hungarian government in their efforts to close CEU, so she has borne with honor the attacks of a far right-wing government.
Dr. Hayden also met in Belgrade with former advisee Narcis Tulbure (Ph.D. 2013) and participated in a conference in Istanbul with former advisee Hande Sözer (Ph.D. 2012).
While in Belgrade in the spring semester, Professor Hayden did research on the problematic nature of the Bosnian census of 2013.

Michael Lovorn (School of Education, Department of Instruction and Learning) will host a workshop entitled: Historiographical Analysis of a New Russian Nationalism on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. According to Dr. Lovorn, social studies teacher candidates need to develop the skills to historiographically recognize and analyze textual symbolism. Russian historical and cultural studies provide countless opportunities for this development. This workshop will engage Pitt graduate students and social studies teacher candidates in an examination of nationalistic symbolism as represented in text and graphics in recently published Russian and U.S. history textbooks. These representations will be observed and analyzed for how they promote a new Russian nationalist identity and grand narrative, and for how they present historical figures in both Russia and the U.S. as moral and civic exemplars. Dr. Lovorn's development of this workshop was supported by a REES course development grant.

Gabriella Lukacs (Department of Anthropology) won a Bowman Award from the Nationality Rooms Program. The Bowman Faculty Grants for Research are awarded to University of Pittsburgh faculty members to enhance the quality of their teaching or to develop new courses through research abroad." Dr. Lukacs’ award was to investigate the rise of right-wing populism based on a cultural analysis including independent theaters, with a focus on Hungary.”

Student News

Cengiz Haksöz (Ph.D student, Department of Anthropology) has two recent journal publications: "Between “Unwanted” and “Desired” Populations: Comparing Citizenship and Migration Policies of Bulgaria", Greece, and Turkey, Balkan Social Science Review, 9 (9): 23-47 and "The Making of the Rhodopean Borders and Construction of the Pomak Identities in the Balkans", International Crimes and History: Annual International Law and History Journal, Special Issue “Population Movements in the Balkans and the Making of Borders, States, and Identities,” 17: 47-100. 
He also presented a paper titled "Post-socialist Urban Landscapes and Politics of (In)visibilities in Three Turkish-Muslim Minority Cities in Post-Socialist Bulgaria,"  at the conference “City, Community and the Transformation of Space in Post-Eastern Bloc Societies,” held at Lazarski University, Warsaw, Poland on June 24, 2017.
Ognjen Kojanic (Ph.D. student, Department of Anthropology) has begun 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 Pitt's European Studies Center. His article “‘You Can’t Weed Out Corruption’: Railway Workers’ Assessments of the State in Post-Socialist Serbia” was published in a special issue on anthropology of the state in the Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnography SASA. He has recently participated at conferences in Bloomington, Indiana (the 2017 SOYUZ Symposium) and Corinth, Greece (the International Urban Symposium conference).

Trevor Wilson (Ph.D. student, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures) was recently awarded a scholarship for an intensive language course in German funded through the German Academic Exchange and conducted for two months in summer 2017 in Marburg, Germany; and a Fulbright Research Grant through the U.S. Department of State to conduct research on early twentieth-century Russian philosophy with a professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia in AY 2017.


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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