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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On Translating the chinari

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While their participation in OBERIU offered a crucial period of incubation for their thought and art, it is as chinari that Kharms, Vvedensky, Lipavsky, and Druskin assumed their most influential creative form. After all, these authors attained their “spiritual ranks” sometime around 1925, before OBERIU had even been conceived. The enunciations of the OBERIU manifesto establish crucial features of the chinari method: creating art that is “real” — art that is first and foremost an object with noumenal status, a body interacting with other bodies. But the full application of this theory occurred only after 1930, after OBERIU’s dissolution, in the twilight of vandalized bedrooms in the apartment of Leonid and Tamara Lipavsky, with their Conversations being perhaps the most crucial text for understanding the group as a whole.

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The Difficulty Of Ending a Story: On the ‘Thick Novels

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On September 23rd Schamma Schahadat, of the University of Tübingen, joined the Jordan Center for another talk with 19v, a working group on 19th century Russian culture.  She discussed Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment in her talk, “The Difficulty Of Ending a Story: On the ‘Thick Novels.’”

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A Trial Against Racial Hatred: White Chauvinism and International Communism

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On September 21st, Sean Guillory, host of the SRB Podcast and Digital Scholarship Curator in the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, joined the Jordan Center and Yale University’s Program in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies for a talk on the Yokinen trial, “A Trial Against Racial Hatred: White Chauvinism and International Communism.”

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