Is the “Resource Curse” Irreversible? Experiences of the Russian Regions

In examining how the natural resource wealth of a country affects its economic development, some scholars have argued that windfall revenue from resource exploitation is a “curse” to the country because it creates incentives that reduce economic growth and living standards and worsen the business environment. Can resource-rich countries get out of this alleged economic “curse,” or are they stuck in it until the resources run out?

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Impeachment, Socialist-Style

The 1984 State Tribunal trial was preceded by an amendment to the constitution and a complicated two-year parliamentary procedure. How was it even possible to introduce such an institution into state-socialist Poland? What led the communist leadership to limit their powers and establish a special court before which their actions might be sanctioned? The answer to this question is inseparable from the eventful history of the early 1980s in Poland, and also interrogates many stereotypes of how law and politics functioned the socialist Eastern Bloc.

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Steppe School: The Late Russian Empire and Kazakh Agriculture

In 1894, Vasily A. Saenko arrived in the small town of Zaisan in what is today far eastern Kazakhstan to take charge of the Zaisan Kazakh Agricultural School. For several years, the school had suffered from changing leadership and poor management. Saenko would begin to enact a program of reform that he hoped would extend far beyond the classroom and serve as a catalyst for the transformation of the local Kazakh nomads into settled farmers.

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In Search of Russia’s Archival Mystique

If you’re a Russian historian, one of the first questions you usually get from an informed outsider is about the archives. Has the opening of the archives resulted in blockbuster revelations? Isn’t Putin shutting down the archives for good? You might protest that in terms of accessibility and ease of use, most Russian archives are more open than ever (at least pre-COVID), but it is unlikely that you’ll make a lasting impression. The perpetually tantalizing, perpetually closing Russian archives have a special mystique.

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Baltic Orthodox Monasticism

On 26 August 2018, an icon procession left the red-brick gates of the Pühtitsa convent, eastern Estonia: nuns in jet-black habits, priests in aqua vestments, and choristers in crimson velvet folk garb held aloft an icon of the Virgin, lovingly cloistered amidst glass, gold, and gems.

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Navalny, NFTs, and the New Arena for Political Dissent

NFTs or “non-fungible tokens” grant their purchasers ownership over a form of digital media. Like Bitcoin, NFTs are recorded on a blockchain to promote transparency and enhance security. Unlike various forms of cryptocurrency, NFTs are unique and not interchangeable, which solidifies their virtual rarity. While NFTs can theoretically represent a variety of digital assets, most recently they have been used in the sale of digital art.

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Dispatches from NYU Libraries

Alla Roylance is Russian/East European Studies librarian and the Librarian for the Linguistics at NYU.

As our long lockdown continues, uprooting our habits and routines, I felt it more important than ever to reach out to Russianists and other Slavists of NYU. You may be scattered across the country and the world and not realize that we are still here for you, able to provide a good number of services even while you are away from the campus.

Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to start issuing regular updates from the library to keep you informed on new book arrivals, highlight new and old, but useful databases and channel other relevant news from the library.

Disclaimer: I realize that All the Russias’ audience reaches far beyond the NYU community. My “Dispatches from NYU Libraries” are — as the title suggests — meant primarily for the NYU crowd. At the same time, these notes offer one librarian’s view of new titles of interest in the field, and as such, will hopefully be interesting to this blog’s broader readership.

Now on to our inaugural issue of the Dispatches from NYU Libraries.

New books from Russia (in Russian):

Recently, I have been granted access to the library to deal with the backlog of (alas, already not so new) arrivals that accumulated during the lockdown. When I started opening the boxes of new books, I was fairly salivating. So much good stuff — not to be discovered anytime soon since access to the library is limited, stacks are closed and browsing is off-limits. Even during better times, most new books in foreign languages go straight to offsite storage anyway. But offsite does not mean out-of-reach. You can always request them from the storage for either contactless locker pickup (at Bobst in Manhattan or Dibner in Brooklyn) — or order them for home delivery anywhere in the contiguous United States and even in NYU Abu Dhabi (which blows my mind).

Today I want to highlight a small selection of books on Russian literature history and criticism and a couple of noteworthy purchases for Film Studies.

I want to start with one significant score for Film Studies, since I am particularly excited by it.

Внуковский архив (в трех томах): Письма, дневники, фотографии и документы звезд советского кино из собрания Александра Добровинского. Mосква, [СканРус], 2017. ISBN 9785435001204.

This lavish, richly illustrated three-volume set is a treasure trove of primary materials from the recently discovered archives of Grigory Aleksandrov and Lyubov Orlova, the power couple of the Soviet cinema. The collection of the letters, diaries and photographs was believed to be lost until it unexpectedly turned up in a dilapidated dacha outside of Moscow. Only 500 copies of the title were published and only four of them can be found in other institutions in the United States.

Natalia Miloserdova. Barskaia. SPb, Seans, 2019. ISBN 9785905669491. (Available in print and e-version)

A new series on film history “F-Кино” was launched with the first significant study of Margarita Barskaya, a pioneering woman in the history of Soviet cinema, one of the first Russian female filmmakers and a founder of the Soviet cinema for children.

Within the category of Russian literary studies:

Кирилл Осповат. Придворная словесность: Институт литературы и конструкции абсолютизма в России середины XVIII века. М., Новое литературное обозрение, 2020. ISBN 978-5-4448-1218-1. (Print only).

Kirill Ospovat (University of Wisconsin-Madison) scrutinizes the establishment of the institute of Russian literature and the relationship between poetics and politics, between literary forms and the absolutist model of the society.

Игорь Волгин. Ничей современник: Четыре круга Достоевского. М., Нестор-История, 2019.  ISBN 978–5–4469–1617–7. (Print and ebook)

This behemoth book (700+ pages) by Igor Volgin, professor of literature and journalism history and one of today’s most prolific Dostoevsky scholars, as well as a founder of the Dostoyevsky Foundation, offers a comprehensive biography of one of the world’s most seminal writers. Highlights include a newly researched literary history of A Writer’s Diary (based on previously unknown archival materials) and a discussion of the literary context surrounding Dostoevsky’s works, specifically links to influential contemporaries like Vasilly Rozanov and Ivan Ilyin.

Баршт, К. А. Достоевский: Этимология повествования. СПб, Нестор-История, 2019. ISBN 9785446916153 (Print and e-book)

Dostoyevsky is the gift that keeps on giving. This book delves into what the introduction calls the “writer’s creative laboratory” and is organized around five fundamental themes: “Biography/Plot”; “Novel/Context”, “Author/Narrator”, “Aesthetics/Ontology”, “Monolog/Dialog/Trialog.” Barsht, a scholar at RAN’s (Russian Academy of Sciences) Pushkinskii Dom, introduces new research and new ideas. Topics of investigation include whether V.P. Burenin inspired the character of Raskolnikov; traces of Christopher Columbus in “Crime and Punishment”; and other intriguing ideas and discoveries.

Александр Пушкин. Евгений Онегин. Подробный иллюстрированный комментарий. М., Проспект, 2019. ISBN: 9785392291052  (Print only).

What distinguishes this book from seemingly endless editions of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin is its exhaustive illustrated commentary on all the questions that one might have while reading this canonical text. If you are a non-native Russian learner, you may find this edition particularly useful: one stanza per page is fringed with explanations what all these “кибитки,” “облучки,” “шлафор и чепец” and “альбомы нежных дев” mean and how they look.

SimplyE App Launches, Offering Instant Access to ProQuest Ebooks:

NYU Libraries just made ebook access more convenient. NYU users can read more than 150,000 ebooks (including textbooks) using the SimplyE app on a phone or tablet. Visit the research guide for instructions and more information. It is a pilot project and it will run through August 2021. During this beta test phase, the working group will conduct user testing and collect user feedback to improve the service. Feel free to send feedback to Here is the link to the full article.

Russian e-journals:

In case you missed an earlier announcement about nearly 40 Russian academic periodicals that we now subscribe to in e-format, here is the list of the titles.

All should be discoverable through the library catalog. They are linked to the catalog from the eLibrary digital platform which — along with our paid subscriptions — also provides access to many Open Access materials.

And finally:

Warm congratulations to our own Eliot Borenstein, whose book Plots against Russia: Conspiracy and Fantasy after Socialism just received the 2020 AATSEEL book prize in the category “Best Book in Cultural Studies.” I am happy to report that the book is available in print and e-version; the e-version is licensed for an unlimited number of users (NYU login credentials are required, of course).

In the next issue: more new books in Russian (history, political sciences + Central Asia/Caucasus/Siberia) and other news and updates.

Links to remember:

Suggest a purchase

Russian and Slavic Studies libguide (always the work in progress)

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Sex and Cold-War Technological Fixes, Part I

Like their counterparts among American defense intellectuals, Soviet engineers often imagined their work in sexual terms. Mating thus became a convenient shorthand for complex engineering couplings. Through the mid-1960s, docking simulations were popular events among space managers, engineers, and politicians in the secret Soviet space testing facility, a kind of mechanical peep show. “Hold the stallion,” said one engineer, positioning the probe at the entrance of the cone.

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On Studying and Teaching Lesser-Known Russian Writers

At every meeting of “The Other 19v,” a reading group devoted to discussing less-studied nineteenth-century Russian writers, we find new insights into this century of literary experimentation and cultural transformation. We are also currently working on a special issue of “Russian Literature” on the “unknown nineteenth century,” focused on less-studied writers. We are collecting abstract submissions for the issue until March 15; please contact Helen Stuhr-Rommereim or Vadim Shneyder if you are interested in contributing.

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Minor Writers and the Major Leagues, Part II

Another reason to study minor writers is that they help us to understand historical eras. They are part of the thick description of a given time. For the major-centric among us, minor writers can be seen as important for what they can tell us about major writers, although the relationship is not always cristalline. Even major writers had to read something, after all, although they might not tell you what it was or how it influenced them. Just as Pushkin would not have told you that he’d devoured the novels of Sophie Cottin (as Hilde Hoogenboom has explored), so did Tolstoy play down Mariia Zhukova (as discussed in Part I), while both Turgenev and Dostoevsky borrowed plot motifs from authoress Evgenii Tur (Jane Costlow, Svetlana Grenier).

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Workers Against the Workers’ State, Part II

“Dear Comrades!” won a special jury prize at the Venice film festival in September 2020. A one-hour promotional video follows Konchalovsky and Vysotskaya as they cavort through luxury locations in Venice between interviews. At one point, Vysotskaya goes down on her knees before Konchalovsky and bows to him as a “master.” These scenes are surreal when juxtaposed with the grim lives of the Russian workers who are the pretext of the film.

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