Ode to the Hybrid: Writing as a Russian-American

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On October 16, 2020, the Jordan Center hosted Olga Livshin, an English-language poet of Jewish descent, via Russia and Ukraine. Livshin began by introducing and reading excerpts from her recently published A Life Replaced: Poems with Translations from Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Gandelsman (2019). She then joined Professor Eliot Borenstein to discuss the challenges of finding the right words for transnational ties to her home countries after the 2016 election as a poet and translator.

It is not a coincidence that Livshin started to compile poems for her book in the US election year of 2016. “It is one of those projects you know you’ll have to do someday; and then you realize that you’ll have to do it soon—because the voices, such as yours, are not exactly being represented,” said Livshin, setting the tone for her experience as a minority writer caught in many worlds.

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Revolution Goes East: Imperial Japan and Soviet Communism

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On September 17, Professor Tatiana Linkhoeva of NYU History joined the Jordan Center and the Center for the Humanities for the virtual launch of her book, Revolution Goes East (Cornell University Press, 2020). The monograph applies a novel global perspective to the classic story of the rise of communism and the various reactions it provoked in Imperial Japan. Linkhoeva started her talk by debunking the popular belief that socialism and communism only existed in countries like China and Korea, but not in Japan. She brought into focus the underexplored Japanese leftist thought and movement prominent in the imperial period and onwards. “A lot of the interwar developments in Japan happened either as a reaction or in conversation with the rise of socialist ideas globally and domestically,” said Linkhoeva.

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In Memory of Stephen Cohen

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Earlier this year, our friend and colleague Stephen Cohen passed away. His contributions to the field of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies will be felt for years to come. Professor Cohen was a historian, but his legacy extends far beyond his scholarly work. Every year, the Stephen Cohen Fellowship — established on Professor Cohen’s initiative and supported by Katrina vanden Heuvel and the Kat Foundation — funds the graduate education for master’s students in the Department of Russian & Slavic Studies at NYU. Professor Cohen has also helped enable doctoral students to conduct dissertation research in Russia through the Cohen-Tucker Fellowship. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, we give thanks to Stephen Cohen for not only his work in the REEES field but for the generosity he, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and the Kat Foundation have shown to budding Russia scholars. We honor him today by publishing the testimonials of some of current and former students who have benefitted from Cohen Fellowships.

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The Precarity of Shishkin’s Bear Cubs

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Far from naively portraying an untroubled nature, Shishkin’s “Morning in a Pine Forest” critiques the same industrialization that would later produce mass-marketed chocolates like “Clumsy Bear.” Although the bears have not yet turned their gaze toward the interlopers, the human impact on the scene is evident in the form of the uprooted tree, an early sign of Russia’s rapid industrialization toward the end of the nineteenth century. Even as the truncated pine tree offers the bear cubs temporary amusement, it signals to the viewer that this idyllic scene, like the bear cubs standing on the broken branch, occupies a precarious position. 

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Yelena Khanga, Belonging, and Blackness in Russia

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Early in Episode 694 of the This American Life podcast, “Get Back to Where You Once Belonged,” hosts Emanuele Berry and Ira Glass are watching clips from the 1936 Soviet film “Tsirk.” They are both entranced by the story’s climax, in which a multiethnic array of Soviet citizens makes a show of accepting American circus performer Marion Dixon’s mixed-race baby (played by Afro-Russian James Lloydovich Patterson). The film led Berry to wonder if the lack of racism in the Soviet Union was real, so she found a Black Russian to interview — Yelena Khanga.

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Moldovan Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Since school began this fall, we have seen a rise in coronavirus cases around the world where classes are held in person. Moldova is no exception, with cases slowly but steadily climbing since the beginning of the pandemic. As former educators in Moldova, we were interested to see how the pandemic has been affecting our former colleagues and students.

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Illustrated Children’s Literature and Reading Under Lenin and Stalin

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Yesterday and today. Broadly speaking, this is the theme at the heart of my recently published book, “Picturing the Page: Illustrated Children’s Literature and Reading Under Lenin and Stalin” (University of Toronto Press, 2020). In Russian cultural history, “yesterday and today” continues to resonate as a theme, since the Putin state is just as invested in controlling the narrative of the Soviet past as the Soviets were in harnessing the past of Imperial Russia.

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Interrogating the Declining Significance of Pushkin’s Blackness: Henry James, Ivan Turgenev, and Literary Nationalism (with Korey Garibaldi and Emily Wang)

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On October 14th, Professors Korey Garibaldi and Emily Wang, both of Notre Dame, joined the Jordan Center to speak about their collaborative work on race and literature in talk entitled “Interrogating the Declining Significance of Pushkin’s Blackness: Henry James, Ivan Turgenev, and Literary Nationalism.”

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Peremen! I Want Change!

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Last August was marked by ongoing mass protests in Belarus targeting the “last European dictator,” Alexander Lukashenko. This article discusses the song that became the soundtrack of these events: “Peremen!” (“I Want Change!”) by the legendary band KINO. First released in 1987, the song instantly became the anthem of perestroika, and has symbolized the desire for change in Russia and other post-Soviet republics ever since.

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Noviye Cheremushki: A History Forgotten

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Today, we often look with disdain at Khrushchyovkas, the low cost, concrete-panel or brick, 5- or 8-story apartment buildings of the Khruschev era. Yet they represented the hope of a better future for 1950s architects, urban planners and many other people. Wanting to find out more about their significance in the Russian history, I visited the first Soviet microdistrict, the 9th Microdistrict of Noviye Cheremushki (New Cheremushki), and spoke with some of the original residents.

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“From Another Shore”: Zoom in Russian Literary Studies

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Online technologies are, of course, a wonderful tool, but they do not solve the fundamental problems still discernible in our ways of conducting research on literature and culture in Russia today. In this note I’ll touch upon two important problems related to the institutional context and traditions of Russian literary criticism.

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Lessons Learned: Girls’ Empowerment Projects in Uzbekistan

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Western methods for encouraging girls’ empowerment and gender equality in Central Asia often lack a willingness to not only acknowledge, but also to work within historical, cultural, and political contexts. This shortcoming often renders short-term gains unsustainable and results in high turnover, meaning that empowerment efforts are typically led by a lineup of constantly-changing Western faces. Yet the success of these projects requires leadership alongside or exclusively by local experts capable of providing institutional memory, credibility, and an understanding of cultural contexts.

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