Digital Slavists, Unite?

Marijeta Bozovic is an Assistant Professor of Russian & Eurasian Studies at Colgate University.


Dear colleagues and comrades,

This blog-post grows from a group discussion that began over Facebook, and includes input from Eliot Borenstein, Serguei Oushakine, Kevin Platt, Katie Holt, Bella Grigoryan, Maksim Hanukai, Rossen Djagalov, Jesse Labov, and Roman Utkin.

Not long ago, Eliot prophesied the doom of SEELANGS as hardly the most efficient forum for Slavists to reach each other digitally and to share work and ideas online. However, we have yet to come forward with, much less implement a viable alternative — or supplement. At the same time, many of us in the field find ourselves increasingly indebted to social media for our research, teaching, news-gathering, and other forms of work and play. So I write to you to ask, What new platform might work for us? And, shall we start?

Thus far we have discussed Twitter, Pinterest,, but Facebook remains by far the most dynamic, open and multi-media platform — welcoming images, videos, links, literature, politics, poetry, as well as opportunities for rapid response and feedback.

Serguei — whose emails and Facebook posts have probably done more than anything else out there to help orient Slavists to the goings on of our field — suggests a Facebook group or a Facebook page. We might call it something like, “Slavists, Unite!” Unlike SEELANGS, as Kevin points out, Facebook allows you to tailor your feed to reflect sources that are useful and interesting to you. To take advantage of this, perhaps rather than launch a single page, we could create an interlinked set of groups, so that users could tailor their subscriptions to meet their own needs.

One possible solution is an umbrella Slavic Facebook page with several groups attached. We could start with the main page and a small number of linked groups (Russian Literature, Soviet Film, Russian Politics, South Slavic Culture, etc.) and then see how the community develops organically.

Bella and Katie suggest that we perhaps start with Facebook, as that way we would be able to reach the greatest number of Slavists online initially, and then see if we would prefer to move to an outside site of our own, once we have numbers and momentum. Eventually, we could format our own site in a way more suitable to our purposes, if we find that Facebook isn’t flexible enough.

One advantage of our own site would be specialized organization and design that Facebook can’t easily accommodate: some way to make it easier to read long posts; to tag and archive past posts and organize them around specific topics. Such a site could incorporate other blogs, as well as clear links to other sites that are already doing great work online.

Eliot suggests this very blog as a possible forum. Would that work? Is it a strength or weakness to have our forum for online exchange closely associated with one institution?

What do you think, colleagues? Digital Slavists, shall we unite, and start?