Minds and Bodies in the World, or: Learning to Love Dostoevsky



I’m not one of those American Slavists who came to the study of Russian literature by way of Dostoevsky. For a long time, I wasn’t even particularly interested—I’m afraid that I took the pseudo-Nabokovian reading of Dostoevsky as my own, and even as my students clamored for more Dostoevsky, I resisted the idea of a Russian literature defined by Big Ideas.

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Art in the Middle



When I started working on nineteenth-century Russian art almost two decades ago, one of the things that surprised me most was the stark division between the two halves of the nineteenth century—and the absence of a middle.

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“Traditional Values” Rhetoric and Efforts for Greater Domestic Violence Protections in Russia: Why Legislative Action May Not Be Enough



Pervasive domestic violence remains an ongoing human rights concern in Russia, with cases underreported and a pronounced lack of recourse and governmental support services. Efforts to address this issue have been consistently stymied by the rhetoric of conservative factions supporting “traditional Russian values.” Unless the concept of “traditional values” is separated from the legal sphere, formal measures meant to prevent domestic violence and assist survivors will be hollow in practice.

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US-Russia Relations Under a Biden Administration



It seems too early to predict what form Russian-American relations will take during the incoming Biden administration. We do not yet know who will head up the Departments of State and Defense, who will become national security advisor, and who will lead the Russian desk. Still, we know enough already to surmise that we should not expect much change. 

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In Memory of Stephen Cohen



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



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



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



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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Peremen! I Want Change!



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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