Without a doubt, the last three semesters were extraordinarily difficult, and one of the most difficult aspects during the pandemic and strict distancing requirements was trying to create and maintain our sense of community, so dear to the Russian program. But we needn’t have worried: Our amazing students went above and beyond in organizing and running events, they attended and participated enthusiastically in everything that was offered, and our community in the Russian program continued to thrive in these challenging times. Russian House residents got together, whether virtually or outdoors, to play games, watch and discuss movies, and do art projects. The student-run newspaper, Газета, moved to an online format and is now more attractive than ever! Please visit to read the current issue. The student-run film series were hugely successful both in the Fall and in the Spring of this pandemic academic year. The Russian Music Ensemble got creative about their performances by recording music videos and giving concerts outdoors.
But, arguably, more than anything else that exemplifies the outstanding community of our Russian program is our annual Russian Language Olympics (RLO) – traditionally, a large in-person gathering of students and faculty on a Saturday in March. In spring 2020 when everything shut down, our Olympics were canceled, and this year we were not sure if our fun, popular “event of the year” could be reproduced in a virtual format. The students, however, voted overwhelmingly to hold the event on Zoom and, as always, on a Saturday. Their participation in the virtual Russian Language Olympics was nothing short of spectacular. Of course, all of the credit and our deepest gratitude goes to the amazing RLO organizing committee – Celia Metzger, Rodrigo Arias, Tem Bullock, Maggie Herndon, Sonia Kelly, Liz Rives, and Gabriel Spira. They prepared and ran Russian language Jeopardy games for each level of study (Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced), they organized games that were focused on Russian culture for students who don’t yet take Russian language courses, and they included such traditional and beloved elements of our annual RLO events as video greetings from recent alums, the musical interludes by the Russian Music Ensemble, and everyone’s favorite: “Professor Trivia”. Thanks to all the organizers and participants the RLO is back to being the highlight of the year for the Russian program, and the 2021 RLO made it abundantly clear that our community is as strong as ever!
On 31 October 2020, the Russian Music Ensemble, Gallery Players, and Middle-Eastern Music Ensemble held a Pop-up Performance. The event was well attended, and the audience enjoyed a wonderful musical performance.
On October 29, 2020, Rachel Faith ’14, who works as a translator for the World Intellectual Property Organization (UN) in Geneva, talked about how her expertise in Russian language and culture opened up for her an exciting career in the field of translation and patents. We had a large turnout at the talk and students were exited to ask questions and learn about Rachel’s exciting career path.
On October 15th, as a part of the Tepper Speaker Series: Global Russia, Prof. Roman Utkin (Wesleyan University) gave a talk on “Queer Exile: Russian Emigres in Interwar Berlin and Paris.”
Prof. Utkin’s talk focused on configurations of queer subjectivity in interwar Europe’s Russian exilic communities in Berlin and Paris. In his talk, Dr. Utkin discussed the case of the Nabokov brothers, the well-known Vladimir and, in particular, his unknown brother Sergei, and analyzed how Sergei’s exilic gay experience can give us insight into understanding on how queer artists and intellectuals contented with the heteronormative world.
The Russian and Post-Soviet Studies Program held its annual Tepper Speaker Series: Global Russia virtually this semester.
On September 17th, Prof. Douglas Rogers (Yale) gave a talk titled “How and Why to Make Oil into Food: A Tale of Soviet biotechnology and Human – Microbe Relations.” In his talk, Prof. Rogers focused on an interesting period in the history of Soviet science: the massive effort, from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, to transform oil into food through industrial scale fermentation, which was a part of a larger international science competition in a Cold War context.
To stick with tradition, Fall the semester kicked off with a student-run film series in early September. This semester’s theme was “Post-Soviet Portraits” and students together with faculty enjoyed watching and discussing Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, Battle for Sevastopol, Legend No. 17, and A Bitter Taste of Freedom.
On April 17th, 2020 RPSS program held a Zoom reception to recognize graduating seniors and their accomplishments. Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Russian and Post-Soviet Studies awards, Modern Language Excellence Award, ACTR Post-Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate Award—PSRSLA, and Fulbright Scholarships!
Robin Bradley — RPSS Excellence Award
Catherine Green — RPSS Excellence Award
Reid Nagurka — RPSS Excellence Award
Elizabeth Sutterlin — RPSS Excellence Award
Catherine Tyson — Modern Language Excellence Award
Grace Kier ’20 is among a select group of 12 students nationwide to receive a prestigious 2020-21 fellowship to the James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). Congratulations, Grace! So well deserved!
On February 29, Russian program gathered to celebrate Maslenitsa. In Russia, Maslenitsa, or the sun-festival, marks the end of winter and advent of spring. Maslenitsa is celebrated during the last week before the Lent, seven weeks prior to the Easter. In the Russian House, it’s a celebration of friendship and the spring semester. This year, in addition to enjoying delicious food (lots of bliny!), students played Kahoot based around Maslenitsa and forthcoming Russian Olympics.We had an amazing time, lot of fun and laughs!
Congratulations to Bella Ginzbursky-Blum, the recipient of 2020 National AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages) Excellence in Teaching Award! Professor Ginzbursky-Blum is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. She teaches Russian language classes at all levels, and also enjoys teaching classes on Russian literature and, especially, on the Russian Fairy Tale Tradition.
Kier learned about the essay contest in Foreign Policy from Professor Prokhorov in the Russian/Post-Soviet Studies Department, who emailed Russian students and encouraged them to apply. She decided to submit an essay, “The United States and Russia Must Work Together on Nuclear,” because she wanted to share her thoughts on nuclear cooperation and nuclear issues generally. Having interned at a nuclear think tank in Moscow and in the United States, this issue is an important one for Kier, who also hosts a podcast about nuclear topics called Big Nuke Energy. Given the pressing nature of nuclear weapons, Kier decided to focus on this topic in her essay.
In the future, she hopes to continue working on both nuclear and Russia issues. Kier is grateful for the continued support from the College she has received in order to pursue both of these interests. She received merit scholarships to study abroad in both Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and has enjoyed being a part of numerous Russian-related activities on campus. She looks forward to using her knowledge and skills she gained at the College in the future.
This summer I traveled to Russia for six weeks on one of the W&M Summer Study Abroad programs. There were ten students and Professor Corney in our group, and we stayed in St. Petersburg for five weeks and Moscow for one week. While in St. Petersburg, we took Russian language courses at Herzen State Pedagogical University and a Russian history/culture class with Professor Corney. In Moscow we took Russian language classes at Moscow State University and went on field trips around the city with our teachers.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was my homestay in St. Petersburg. I stayed with a Russian couple in an apartment on Vasilevskiy Island. My room was gorgeous and had its own balcony overlooking the River Smolenk, from which I watched many sunrises, sunsets, and fireworks! My host mom Ekaterina was genuinely interested in helping me practice Russian, and she taught me new words each day. She also was an amazing cook; at every meal I had more food than I could possibly eat, and all of it was delicious. Ekaterina also gave me suggestions for places to go (monument parks, museums, a flower festival, etc.). I feel like living in a homestay gave me cultural opportunities that I never would have had otherwise.
One of my favorite things that we did as a group was go to the old building of the Mariinsky Theater to see the opera Boris Godunov. I’ll admit, when Professor Corney said that he had bought tickets for us to go to a four-hour historical opera all in Russian, there was a lot of skepticism in the group. However, we all left the opera talking about how much we loved it and how glad we were that we had gone!
One of my favorite things that I did independently was go to the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art. They had many interesting displays of art by current Russian artists, several of which were interactive. It gave me an interesting insight into how Russians view their own country. The museum also had cartoons in Russian about Malevich’s Black Square coming to life and wreaking havoc, which I still watch on YouTube sometimes because they’re funny and perfect for practicing Russian!
Overall, I had an amazing time on my study abroad trip to Russia this summer. I highly recommend the trip to anyone who wants to learn more about Russian language, culture, or history!
This past summer I studied abroad at Herzen State University in St. Petersburg with William and Mary. Our group studied in St. Petersburg for five weeks and traveled to Moscow for a week. At Herzen State we studied Russian language and history. Our history class, taught by Prof. Frederick Corney, focused on historical sites of memory from the Soviet Union. We had many interesting excursions around the city exploring the theme of historical memory in Russia.
My favorite excursion was the visit to Peterhof Palace. Peterhof was built by Peter the Great in the early 18th century. The palace was almost completely destroyed during World War II but has since been reconstructed to its former glory.
When we first arrived at Peterhof we took a tour of the palace which featured gilded ball rooms and bedrooms. Although, it is a beautiful palace it is hard to imagine real people living there. The interior of Peterhof is impressive but the real showstopper of the palace is its fountains. All of the fountains work by gravity and the gardens feature a plethora of beautiful decorative and trick fountains.
After we walked through the gardens and saw the fountains, we saw the palace Peter the Great originally built at this location. This palace is known as Monplaisir palace and is much smaller and right on the banks of the Gulf of Finland. Monplaisir was my favorite palace we visited in Russia because it felt more like a real home than the other places we saw. If I were a Czar, I would live in Monplaisir. When it was time to leave Peterhof, we didn’t take the bus back but instead rode a hydrofoil on the Gulf of Finland. It was a really amazing chance to see Peterhof from the water. My day at Peterhof, like my time in Russia, was truly unforgettable!
The Russian House (Pleasants Hall) hosted the RPSS Homecoming reception for alumni of the program. Former and current students, friends, majors and minors gathered to catch up and enjoy delicious Russian food. It was great to learn about all the exciting things you are doing and about your future plans. Stay in touch and visit us again at next year! It was so wonderful to see you all!
On October 18, 2019, Danny Wysong, Russian Studies alumnus (2007) talked about how his expertise in Russian language and culture opened up for him an exciting career in the field of cybersecurity. His past jobs in both the public and private sector have ranged from the detection and prevention of international human trafficking to the analysis and study of emerging threats in the cybercrime arena.
On September 19, 2019, Professor David Brandenberger from University of Richmond gave a talk entitled “Stalin’s Master Narrative” in which he discussed his book Stalin’s Master Narrative: A Critical Edition of the Short Course on the History of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks), co-edited with Mikhail Zelenov (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019). Dr. Brandenberger talked about his 12-year extensive archival research that resulted in a thorough critical study of the Short Course. In Stalin’s time the book was considered to be the encyclopedia of Bolshevism and served as primer of party history both at home and throughout the communist world abroad. Prof. Brandenberger discussed the history of the Short Course, starting with the inception of the text in the twenties, Stalin’s rewriting of the original version, Khrushchev’s denouncement of the book, and the afterlife of the party catechism.
I have really valued my time in the Russian Department at William & Mary. After a great experience studying abroad in Russia in high school, I was so excited for the opportunity to continue studying the language in college. As an International Relations major with a minor in Russian, W&M has afforded me such great opportunities to better understand the language, culture, history, and politics of Russia and the Post-Soviet sphere. With W&M’s study abroad program in St. Petersburg, I gained invaluable insight into the history and language, which has since led me to other internationally focused opportunities. Thanks to my studies here and abroad, I have interned with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, D.C., and with the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia. After graduation, I look forward to further expanding my Russian studies as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan.
This summer I participated in William and Mary’s study abroad program in Russia. The College organized language class with Russian faculty, a history course taught by a William and Mary professor and multiple cultural and historical excursions per week. We spent five weeks in St. Petersburg and one week in Moscow and it was an absolutely fabulous and transformative experience. To the chagrin of many of my fellow classmates, I found Moscow to be a much more dynamic, diverse, and interesting city than St. Petersburg. The professors we worked with at Moscow State University were more adamant in sharing their favorite aspects of Moscow, so we were able to better experience the city through Russian eyes. One such example is when our professors took us to see Lenin’s Mausoleum, after reading about and discussing its history in class. While it was certainly nice to have locals help us navigate such a sprawling city in only a week, exploring Moscow on our own was equally as valuable.
On the recommendation of our William and Mary and Moscow professors, I visited Park Muzeon, or the Park of Fallen Monuments, on a gloomy Saturday morning. I first walked through the beautiful Gorky Park and then passed through an arts fair along the Moscow River. When I arrived, it truly looked as if I had gone back in time. Sprawled across the grass lawn were busts of Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, founder of the Soviet secret police Felix Dzerzhinskii, and countless hammers and sickles and other Soviet iconography. It was quite strange to be standing in a family-friendly park among so many formerly venerated individuals, whose images have been strewn about in an attempt to discard and discredit them. These statues were prominently displayed across the country just a few decades ago and are now abandoned in an attempt to separate modern Russia from its Soviet past. Much like the rest of Moscow, the park encapsulates a long, fascinating and ever-changing history, which I am so grateful to have experienced through such an amazing program.
This summer, I spent six weeks studying in St. Petersburg, Russia. I stayed with a host family, took daily classes in language and literature at St. Petersburg State University, and spent afternoons exploring the city’s many museums, parks, and cafes. The trip was an enriching cultural experience that both challenged and delighted me as I learned to navigate the city on my own and grew accustomed to hearing and speaking Russian all the time.
I also had the opportunity to conduct research while abroad, in which I examined state-sponsored narratives about natural resource dependence in Russia. Since my return from the program, my project has been featured on the RPSS website and my paper will be published in this semester’s issue of The Monitor, a journal devoted to promoting undergraduate international research on campus.
The highlight of the whole trip? Attending a performance of Swan Lake at the Mariinskii Theater!”
By Kathrynn Weilacher and Katherine Olivette (the Кати)
Last summer we had the incredible opportunity to participate in the College of William & Mary’s St. Petersburg Study Abroad Program in St. Petersburg, Russia. We attended classes at St. Petersburg State University and Moscow State University that covered Russian language, literature, and history. We went on many amazing excursions that made those lessons come to life. We want to share some of our favorite experiences with you.
As we both share a name with Catherine the Great, we were excited to see her Winter and Summer Palaces. We were impressed by the opulent architecture, variety of artwork, and the sheer amount of gold! Peterhof, the summer residence of Peter the Great, also boasted many gilded features, most notably the fountains. We enjoyed walking through the gardens and sneaking an exclusive look into the grotto beneath the Palace.
At the end of the program, we travelled to Moscow by high-speed train for one week. While there, we visited Red Square and other sites that previously we had only seen on the pages of our Russian textbooks. In Moscow, it was also fun to meet up with the person who started our Russian journey—our first-year language instructor Robert Mulcahy. The two of us met in his class during sophomore year and we strengthened our bond throughout this trip. We will never forget the memorable experiences on this trip!
This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to not only visit and study in St. Petersburg, Russia for six weeks as part of the Reves Center’s study abroad summer program, but also conduct research regarding one of my favorite things—jazz.
Initially, I was not sure if I could turn my idea into a full-fledged project. After all, what is so different about Russian jazz? Well, almost everything it turns out! The only English-language book published on the subject led my project to explore the differences between “Soviet” jazz, played by local musicians and heavily influenced by the country’s difficult relationship with the music, and “true” jazz, played in swanky hotels for mainly American tourists. When I arrived in St Petersburg, I decided to examine why Russians are still interested in jazz music and what aspects of Russian life influence its musicians.
What really made this project special; however, were the personal interviews I conducted. I had the opportunity to interview Russian jazz legends, a professional jazz singer, and a local jazz bar owner. My summer nights were filled with visits to jazz cafes off of Petersburg’s main thoroughfare Nevskii Prospekt and to concerts at the St. Petersburg State Jazz Philharmonic Hall. I even attended the international music festival PetroJazz! Being thrust into such in-depth interviews forced me to step up my language game. I had to articulate my questions perfectly, as well as listen carefully to and comprehend my interviewees’ answers to make sure I did not ask something they had already said. In my Russian classes I had never had a Russian unit on jazz, so I found myself adding new music/jazz specific verbs and phrases to my ever-expanding vocabulary every night.
Culturally, I was able to learn about St. Petersburg’s relationship with the West. All the music I heard during my time in St. Petersburg was American jazz music. I also learned what Russians think about themselves and Russian culture. Everyone I interviewed was proud of Russian jazz and articulated perfectly how it differed from any other genre of music. “Russian art is inherently confessional,” Alexandra Soboleva, one of the field producers and a professional jazz singer, told me during an interview.
The research project I conducted in St. Petersburg has greatly helped my understanding of Russian culture. Moreover, my language skills have improved dramatically. No matter what topic I had looked into, I would have learned a great deal. However, the fact that I was researching something I love made my summer adventure in St. Petersburg a more enjoyable and meaningful experience.
This past summer I spent six weeks in St. Petersburg, Russia as part of the Reves Center’s study abroad program. Beyond the typical language immersion, classroom experience, homestay accommodation, and cultural excursions, we conducted a research project in collaboration with Russian students from the St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television. At first, I was overwhelmed by the concept of doing a video project because I had never filmed or created anything cinematically before, but we learned from Swem Library media specialist Cindy Centeno, who assisted us in Russia for the first few weeks.
The topic for my project was originally just the St. Petersburg Dam, which is a massive structure that closes off the part of the Gulf of Finland near St. Petersburg from the rest of the Gulf to protect the city from flooding. Program Director Professor Alexander Prokhorov suggested the idea to me and I decided to read more about the dam. As I began my research, I realized that there had to be an environmental impact from the structure, so I decided to change my topic to the St. Petersburg Dam and Environmentalism. At first, I could only find information on positive aspects of the dam, but then I continued my research with interviews in St. Petersburg. Both an architect and a professor raved about the dam. However, I knew this could not be the whole story. The rest of the narrative emerged one morning when I was talking to my Russian professor before class started about my project. He told me the phrase “damba – gorodu amba,” which he translated as “the dam is the end of the city.” I researched this saying and found an online interview detailing the negative effects of the dam. From there my research took off.
Taking almost six months to complete, this was certainly the largest project I have ever undertaken, yet it was also my most rewarding endeavor. I learned so much about the history of St. Petersburg from my research, my interviewees, and talking with Russian university students. The collaboration with the students was by far the most valuable experience, because it required overcoming a language barrier and made cross-cultural exchange possible among our peer group. Watching all of the completed films recently was a proud moment for me as well and it made our entire group very nostalgic.
Gastronomy is one of the most significant qualities that defines culture, for it possesses the power to narrate the history, and even the politics, of those who eat it. Given that nutrition is such an ordinary part of quotidian life, people rarely contemplate the deeper cultural implications that cuisine embodies, nor is much thought given to the politics of food. After conducting some preliminary research about the legacy of Soviet cuisine and the history of the Stalinist cookbook, TheBook of Tasty and Healthy Food (1939), I went to St. Petersburg, Russia this past summer to further investigate my topic through interviews with various people in the food industry and everyday cooks at home.
Over the course of my six-week study abroad program organized by the Reves Center at William & Mary, I learned more about people’s personal experiences, memories, and nostalgia for Soviet cuisine, and subsequently, I recognized their understanding of the cookbook and of food as vehicles for promoting and securing Soviet propaganda. The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food was an essential tool for promoting the Soviet Union’s political agenda, and the same politicization of food still persists today in both the private and public spheres of modern day St. Petersburg.
I had the pleasure of taking my knowledge of Russian language to a whole new level by conducting interviews with various people in St. Petersburg. The documentation of these oral histories was paramount to my research as I spoke with a wide range of Russians, including host mothers, restaurant chefs, and even the brand manager of a chain of Soviet cafes. Despite the harsh Soviet reality of breadlines, persistent scarcity, and, at times, starvation, the cookbook still enjoys popularity today among Russians who are nostalgic for the Soviet Union, or at least for the various staple Soviet dishes that defined the era. I emerged from my research with a better understanding of the cultural amnesia that surrounds memories of food during the Soviet era. People have an inevitable tendency to bury unpleasant recollections in favor of happier ones, and consequently romanticize a past that was much harsher than the rose-colored version of it they wish to remember. At the end of my research I also concluded that food is more than simple alimentation; it is culture, politics, and identity.
Gabrielle Hibbert (German Studies, Honors, ’17) has just accepted a position as a researcher/intern at the Library of Congress’ European Division (mainly working within the Russian, German, and Rare Books Sections). She will be working at LoC for the duration of my gap year. The director liked her honors thesis so much so that she will be helping to create and organize their punk section within the Soviet sphere. Additionally, they want Gabi to catalog her experience in a blog format for them.
Founded in 2014, the William & Mary Russian Music Ensemble (RME) is the latest formation to emerge out of W&M’s diverse array of musical groups. What began as a labor of love for ethnomusicologist Jonathan Johnston has evolved into a one-credit course that students across all disciplines can take in order to learn about the cultural history of Eastern Europe and become acquainted with instruments they may have never seen before. The group has an ever-expanding diverse repertoire, which includes Russian, Ukrainian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Bulgarian, and Jewish songs.
Despite its youth, the RME has already collaborated with a number of prestigious musicians and organizations, including the Washington Balalaika Society and the Balalaika and Domra Association of America, whose annual convention members will attend this summer. At its last concert, the Ensemble collaborated with Ukrainian balalaika virtuoso Tetiana Khomenko during her first tour of the United States, and in November it will have the pleasure of performing with domra virtuoso Angelina Galashenkova and bayan professional Alla Melnyk.
In addition, the RME has performed at local venues and events, such as the 2017 William & Mary Global Film Festival, during which it helped present Chad Gracia’s Ukrainian documentary The Russian Woodpecker (2015), the Williamsburg Public Library Theatre, and the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) convention at the Williamsburg Hilton Double Tree Hotel in 2016. The RME prides itself on educating audiences about the rich and varied cultures of Eastern Europe. In February 2017, members performed at the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia to encourage students to pursue Slavic studies in their undergraduate careers.
Let us start at the beginning. I remember arriving in St. Petersburg so clearly, sitting on the airplane as it landed at Pulkovo Airport and thinking, “Blin, what have I gotten myself into!” After that, I successfully went through customs and accomplished my first language snafu as I told the officer that I spoke “American.” Classic. The next step involved a group of us being piled into a van to be dropped off at our respective host families. As we sped through city absorbing the sites around us, I remember looking at an intimidating statue of Lenin and thinking: “You idiot, you can’t speak Russian, what were you thinking!” Oh, how palatable the anxiety and self-loathing was! However, from there the only place to go was up (thankfully).
I was the first to be dropped off on a street corner. After waiting for 15 minutes in my state of panic, I saw a short vision of bright red hair approach me. It was love at first sight, seeing my brilliant host mom Raisa. She led me by the hand into her forth floor apartment, tucked me into bed, and told me to rest before waking me up for a late meal of blini. She was such an important person in my life during that six-week adventure. The next morning, after a few false starts due to the never-ending sunshine blaring through my window and destroying my circadian rhythm, my host mom my took my hand and walked with me to my first day of classes.
Since this was a study-abroad trip and not a vacation, classes were a crucial part of my time in the Northern Capital. Each day we would alternate between cultural and grammatical classes—all in Russian, all the time. While the classes demanded a lot of work, especially since they involved sitting for hours at a time drilling new vocabulary and grammar into our brains, I enjoyed them immensely. The classes taught me a great deal. Also they helped boost my confidence in my language skills as well.
In my free time, I teamed up with two friends and we would conquer new parts of the city daily. I loved discovering new restaurants and cafes, while eating my weight in deliciously rich food. Sightseeing was also a popular pastime. It often felt surreal to walk along the Neva River and see iconic buildings like the Winter Palace or St. Isaacs Cathedral in the distance. When I found myself alone, I would ride the metro for hours; people watching, reading, and soaking in everything around me.
Some of my favorite parts of the trip were our excursions with W&M Professor Fred Corney, our shepherd and valiant leader on the trip. By far the best excursion for me was to the Peterhof Palace, the summer residence of the Russian emperors. The golden wonder and home of fountains galore treated us to jaw dropping sights and a truly magical experience. Not only was the tour informative, but I also felt like a child again as I raced through water sprays and explored the underground secrets of the palace.
I also really enjoyed the weeklong trip to Moscow and our stay at Moscow State University (MGU). However, one week was not nearly enough to see that magical and vibrant city. While we managed to hit the major sites, I cannot help but wish we had had more time! There is nothing that I want more than to travel back someday and pick up where I left off.
In conclusion, the William and Mary summer study abroad trip to St. Petersburg was the most fantastic and brilliant experience of my life. The six-week crash course on Russian culture helped me grow so much as a person in a remarkably short period of time. I am grateful for all the opportunities this trip provided for me. I cannot wait to return to the Russian wonderland!
Gabriella Hibbert successfully defended her Honors Thesis Alternative Notions of Dissent: Punk Rock’s Significance in the Soviet Union and East Germany in April 2017.
Her thesis asserts that the initial punk rock movements of the United States and Great Britain served as a foundation for the Soviet Punk and Ostrock movements of the Soviet Union and East Germany. Although the movements of the U.S. and Great Britain helped shape the Soviet Punk and Ostrock scenes, those movements incorporated their own cultural traditions, adding to the complexity of the international punk rock scene as a whole. Hibbert conducted two cases studies on the seminal bands of the Soviet Punk movement— Grazhdanskaia Oborona (“Civil Defense”) and the Ostrock movement, Zwitschermaschine (“Whirring Machine”). These two movements in Soviet-led regions effectively functioned as the beginnings of a societal perestroika, ushering in a bottom-up social revolution.
When I tell people that I studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia in the summer of 2016, I am always asked: “What was it like? Was it scary?” Well at first, yes. On the two-hour trip from the airport to my homestay, all of us wondered what the next six weeks had in store for us. I, along with some of the other first-year Russian language students, considered how much Russian we actually knew compared to how much it took to communicate with people, but especially our homestay parents/families.
As it turned out, communicating with my host family was easy, but mostly because I listened to them and they listened to me. And also because we had dictionaries. When my host father, Igor’, greeted me at the door, our interaction was a bit clumsy, mostly because I had just spent twelve hours traveling from Switzerland and was exhausted. After feeding me, he showed and made me practice getting into the apartment. After that, he just sat and talked to me. It was very comforting to be able to listen to him talk about his family and job. When my host mother, Katia, came home, I was introduced to the powerhouse of the family. Katia was my favorite part of the study-abroad experience. She would wake me up every morning with a sweet-toned “Sophia, time for breakfast!” and taught me how to use the coffee machine to make early mornings easier. She came home every day and sat with me while I ate soup, then a main course, talking to me all the time.
Katia and her family made my time in Russia a formative experience. When visiting a place as a tourist, you rarely meet or interact with the people who live there, but through my homestay I was able to gain a small glimpse into what it is like to be Russian. I had two host siblings as well—Nastia and Anton. Anton still lived at home and is the same age as my younger brother. This made it easier for me to ask questions to someone my own age. Twice Nastia and Anton took me out to festivals on the weekend and made me feel welcome into their family.
The first week of our trip was the “Scarlet Sails” festival, during which all graduating high school students celebrate and attend a concert organized for them in front of the Winter Palace. At the same time, a ship with bright scarlet sails floats down the Neva River. The entire city turns out for the event, but public transport stops from midnight to three in the morning. I knew this, but lost track of time while hanging out in the street with a few friends. Subsequently, I was stranded about three miles from my apartment. I ended up staying a few hours (until sunlight!) in another girl’s homestay that was not far from mine and walking home at about five in the morning. The next day Anton asked me where I had been all night and I explained myself to the best of my ability. His simple response was: “You know we have Uber in Russia?” After that I was never stranded late at night again!
St. Petersburg is a vibrant and historical city, and I discovered this through excursions with our William & Mary group and by exploring on my own. Yet my favorite experiences are the moments sitting in the kitchen with Katia while she vented her problems to me or asked me questions about the U.S. On the last day of my stay, I bought her flowers outside of the metro and did not realize how strong they smelled until I put them in a vase in the kitchen. She left them out for the rest of my stay, but I am certain the smell bothered her just as much as it bothered me. A simple gift was all it took to show her how much I cared for what she and her family had provided for me. I am forever grateful to Katia and her family for making my study abroad experience what is was. I would probably still be lost in St. Petersburg without them.
Elena Prokhorova displays a dedication to her students and the university that has earned her the respect and recognition of both her colleagues and the student body. Since becoming a member of the William & Mary faculty in 2003, she has taken on a multitude of leadership positions, including director of the Russian and Post-Soviet Studies program. She also serves on advisory committees for the Film and Media Studies and Global Studies programs. Her publications include one co-authored book, 19 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and 25 reviews of books, films and television series. Prokhorova’s deeply interdisciplinary approach to the study of media and identity prepares students for intellectual and ethical life in the 21st century and keeps the Russian Studies program relevant in the contemporary world. She consistently shows interest in her students’ research, epitomized by her development of the Senior Research Seminar, which she designed for the Russian and Post-Soviet Studies program. These accomplishments, when combined with her research and teaching, have earned her several honors and awards including the Phi Beta Kappa Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching and an Alumni Fellowship Award. She holds a doctorate in Slavic languages and literatures from the University of Pittsburgh.
Professors Alexander Prokhorov and Elena Prokhorova have published a pioneering book that examines Soviet film and television of the 1970s as mature industries articulating diverse cultural values via new genre models. During the 1970s, Soviet cinema and television developed a parallel system of genres where television texts celebrated conservative consensus while films manifested symptoms of ideological and social crises. The book examines the genres of state-sponsored epic films, police procedural, comedy and melodrama, and outlines how television gradually emerged as the major form of Russo-Soviet popular culture. Through close analysis of well-known film classics of the period as well as less familiar films and television series, this groundbreaking work helps to deconstruct the myth of this era as a time of cultural and economic stagnation and also helps us to understand the persistence of this myth in the collective memory of Putin-era Russia. This monograph is the first book-length English-language study of film and television genres of the late Soviet era.
Russian Studies and Film/Media Studies Professor Elena Prokhorova won the annual Raft Debate in 2016. The Raft Debate features four W&M faculty members from various disciplines who, stranded on a deserted island with only a one-person life raft to get off the island, have to argue which of them should get the raft and escape back to civilization. Professor Prokhorova persuasively and convincingly argued the case that the person representing the humanities should get the raft, crafting her argument around the important of the humanities and foreign language education for human civilization. According to the rules of the debate, the participant who receives the loudest applause from the audience wins the raft. Professor Prokhorova successfully out-maneuvered representations from the Social Sciences, the Natural and Computational Sciences, and the Devil’s Advocate.
A compilation of the best moments of the Raft Debate, including Prof. Prokhorova’s moment of triumph:
A video of Prof. Prokhorova’s participation, and the full Raft Debate:
Come join the Russian Music Ensemble for an evening of folk music from Russia and other eastern European countries! Performances will include traditional tunes from a variety of countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Greece, and Macedonia.The ensemble will be joined by special guest musicians from the Washington Balalaika Society. Admission is free, but a $1 donation is suggested.
Location: Ewell Recital Hall
Sophie Kosar is a graduating senior with a Russian and Post-Soviet Studies major, who had very rich and fulfilling experiences both at William & Mary and in her studies abroad. Over the course of her studies she published two articles about history and modern day urban development of St. Petersburg. One of her articles appeared in the Journal of Undergraduate Studies at Columbia University. Sophie also produced a documentary film The Marine Facade: Underneath Piter’s New Face, which was screened at several domestic and international film festivals. During her senior year she worked on a translation project for the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relation.
Sophie is the recipient of the 2014 MLL Outstanding Achievement Award in Russian Studies, which is given to a graduating senior for contribution in research and Russian language studies, she is a member of the National Slavic Honor Society — Dobro Slovo, and she is the recipient of the 2011 Dobro Slovo Scholarship to study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia.
We recently sat down with Sophie Kosar for a conversation about her research in St. Petersburg and about her experiences in the Russian and Post-Soviet Studies program here at William & Mary.
The RPSS Executive Committee is happy to announce that the RPSS Excellence Awards for the year 2014 went to Jessica Parks and Hannah Kitchen.
The RPSS Excellence Award seeks to provide recognition for the best Russian Studies senior majors and minors who made a major contribution to the Russian Studies program in the areas of research, language and culture studies.
The event will be held onSaturday, March 22nd, 12:00 -4:00 pm, McGlothlin Street 20.
The Russian Language Olympics are a newly born tradition at the College of William and Mary. It gives an opportunity to students taking Russian to demonstrate their language skills in both an engaging and creative atmosphere. Level 1 students will compete with each other in Jeopardy-style games. Level 2 students will act out skits completely in Russian. Level 3 students will recite Russian poems and present on the significance and influence of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin.
Competitors will have a chance to win great prizes such as RLO t-shirts, mugs, and official Sochi Olympics magnets. A fair evaluation of students’ performances will be provided by a panel of judges including:Guest Judge, Pr. Yanni Kotsonis (New York University) and Professors Fred Corney, Bella Ginzbursky-Blum, Alexander Prokhorov, and Lena Prokhorova of The College of William and Mary.
Professor Yanni Kotsonis (Department of History, New York University) will give his presentation on Thursday, March 20, 4:00-5:30 pm, Washington Hall 201.
Taxes secure revenue but taxes are equally tools that reshape societies. In Russia this was a movement away from regimes of privilege where only the lower orders paid, to systems of income and excise taxation where everyone paid, though at flat rates. Soon the demand for equality yielded to the need to tax progressively on income as a form of socioeconomic fairness. Taxes could also produce new kinds of subjectivity as citizens were asked to fill out their tax forms and declare who they are economically, while states used the fiscal tools to encourage certain activities and lifestyles and penalize others. Modern tax systems therefore embody larger modern tensions that are still with us: between political equality and social fairness, between our right to be left alone and our obligation to the society as a whole, between our laissez faire impulses and our expectation that people can be reshaped and improved. This lecture shows how the evolution and the paradox were played out in the diverse historical settings of Imperial Russia, Soviet Russia, Europe, and North America.
Rachel Faith’14 was recently elected to become a member of Phi Beta Kappa. The Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest honor society, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. The induction ceremony will be held on December 5th, 2013 in the Wren Chapel. Faith is double-majoring in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and Chinese Studies. She was previously the recipient of the first Gates scholarship for study abroad and is also a member of Dobro Slovo, the National Slavic Honor Society.
Our colleague from Swem Library, Amy Schindler, just digitized and posted on Swem Library Youtube Channel this recording of a Russian language class at William and Mary held in 1960 by the founder of our program Professor Pierre Oustinoff. Russian Language Lesson at WM in 1960
On Saturday, March 23rd, students and faculty of the Russian Language department congregated for the first ever Russian Language Olympics at the College of William and Mary. The games, held in honor of Russia’s hosting of the 2014 winter Olympics in the city of Sochi, were the site of fierce, but fair, competition by Russian students of all abilities.
The event was organized from scratch by the students of Victoria Kim’s RUSN 306 class over the first half of the spring semester.Each level (1st, 2nd, and 3rd years) of students faced off for exclusive prizes, such as authentic Russian spoons, official Russian Language Olympic t-shirts and mugs, and of course, beloved Cheburashka dolls. The students competed in a jeopardy tournament, a short film contest, and a poetry recitation competition, respectively. Punctuated by brief breaks for pizza, trivia, and the screening of promotional videos for the Sochi Olympics, the event went off almost entirely without a hitch – the only exception being the Great Firewall of China prevented a “skyping in” of junior Rachel Faith.
In the end, almost every one of the 60 or so students and faculty in attendance went home with a prize or souvenir. The poetry contest in particular, where 3rd year students gave a short presentation on a famous Russian poet and then recited, first, Pushkin’s classic “I loved you,” and then a poem of their choice, revealed highly developed Russian skills and made a profound impression on the audience. In fact, some members of the audience were moved to tears by a stirring rendition of “Babi Yar” by junior Jessica Parks.
The undeniably fun event concluded in true Olympic fashion with the extinguishing of the Olympic torch… for now!
The RPSS Executive Committee is happy to announce that the RPSS Excellence Awards for the year 2013 will go to
Andrew Andell and Matthew Levey.
The RPSS Excellence Award seeks to provide recognition for the best Russian Studies senior majors and minors who made a major contribution to the Russian Studies program in the areas of research, language and culture studies.
Alex McGrath has been selected to receive the Post Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate Award!
Organized under the auspices of ACTR (the American Council of Teachers of Russian), this national award seeks to provide recognition for the best Russian Studies senior students nationwide–those students who best embody an enthusiasm for and love of things Russian. Congratulations to Alex!
Saturday, March 23, 12:00 – 4:00 pm, McGlothlin 20
Students of different levels will compete in a variety of events connected with Russian language and culture. It should be awesome! Follow the link below to watch our promotional video (the running of the Olympic torch!).
On Thursday, March 21st, Professor Irina Paperno (U. of California) will be giving a talk entitled, “How We Used to Live: Survivors of the Soviet regime.” The talk will be held in Wash 201, from 5 – 6 pm. Here is a brief description: Since the collapse of communism, there has been an outpouring of personal documents about life under the Soviet regime. The talk discusses such stories of the Soviet experiences–memoirs, diaries, blogs, and recorded dreams–and suggests ways of seeing them as a cultural trend.
In “Russia’s Digital Revolution,” Michael S. Gorham, University of Florida, examines political communication in the age of the internet and new media technologies, considering a wide range of strategies—rhetorical, political, and technological—that have helped shape, for better or for worse, civic culture in Russia today.
Recent world events have shown that new media technologies are neither “democratic” nor “authoritarian” by nature or design. Depending on a variety of factors—cultural, political, and technological—they have the capacity to both aid and suppress revolution. That being said, Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, social networking, and crowdsourcing sites nearly always begin as alternative spaces and, as such, naturally attract oppositional voices. In the United States political blogging grew out of a frustration with the mainstream coverage of the television and print media for being (from either left or right) too “mainstream.” This has especially been the case in Russia, where Vladimir Putin and associates have maintained tight control over print media and broadcast television especially. Be it in the transformation of the ruling United Russia party into the “Party Swindlers and Thieves,” state-sponsored “e-Government” projects, or behind-the-scenes hacking and “botnet” attacks, the Russian-language internet (or “Runet”) has assumed an increasingly critical role in rewriting the rules of civil discourse. Particularly as the Russian internet continues to grow and compete with mainstream broadcast media for the public eye, how public virtual space comes to be designed, defined, occupied, and contained will have a considerable impact on the political language and the polity itself for years to come.
What better way to end a semester studying the works of Leo Tolstoy than to go see the most recent Hollywood adaptation of his Anna Karenina? On December 10th, Professor John Lyles took 8 students to Richmond for a screening of the Oscar-nominated film starring, among others, Keira Knightely and Jude Law. And while many Russian critics have reacted negatively to the film, John and his students enjoyed it. Here are some of the reactions from those who went:
“I thought that the film did a very good job of adapting such a long book into a movie. The way that they filmed it, as if the whole story took place on a stage, was a really clever way to manage abrupt changes in scene and character feelings. The drama of the story was also especially poignant because of this theater-like style. I would definitely recommend this movie!”
– Megan Fitzpatrick
“The interpretation Anna Karenina showed a sensitivity to the falseness of most interactions in the novel.”
– Emily Durbin
“I really enjoyed the styling of the film. I thought it was a nice visual interpretation of the underlying themes of Tolstoy’s novel.”
– Kait Armstrong
“Anna Karenina captivates the eye in capturing Tolstoy’s voice, his resplendent comment on Russian society and love. Perhaps no movie could hope to breathe the genius of the original, and yet with seamless aesthetics and deliberation, the savor of the sauce in this adaptation leaves one full with joy and an aftertaste of charm. It is a thing of art, valiant and mellifluous.”
– Adam Jack
“I really liked the movie Anna Karenina. It seemed to me that the director and the screenwriter must have both really loved the book because they seemed so dedicated to keeping the characters human, both tragic and charming, just like Tolstoy does. I also thought it was visually very beautiful and the transitions between scenes added to the drama of the film.”
Speaking a different language, meeting new people from another culture and visiting new sites are all part of the adventure one undergoes when exploring a foreign country. It can be an exciting – and intimidating – experience.
Now take all of these components and add a research project that Professor Sasha Prokhorov describes as “unique and original.”
The result is a summer experience told by William & Mary students Andrew Andell ’13 and Rachel Faith ’14. The duo – both second-year Russian studies students – conducted oral history interviews on movie-going in Russia.
“We interviewed Russians about their experiences with Russian movie theaters – what were the theaters like, who did they go with, how has the experience changed, etc.,” said Andell. On-the-street interviews were captured with teachers such as their Russian language professor from St. Petersburg State Univeristy, Irina Leventhal, and also more familiar individuals such as Rachel’s host mother Natalia Alyrzaeva.
As these two members of the Tribe scurried about the streets of Russia, they were digging deep into the heart of an issue that made an impact on many people in a not too distant past. Their research investigates the impact the film industry had on Russians before, during, and after the Soviet Union.
“Initially, doing the interviews themselves was daunting idea,” said Faith. “Neither Andrew nor I had any acquaintances in St. Petersburg (or Russia in general) besides our Russian tutor Vika, and I personally had no idea how we were going to find someone to interview.”
Faith’s anxieties and fears gradually subsided as the students received guidance from Prokhorov to develop the research skills necessary for the project. They enrolled in his course, “Russian Movie Theater Project,” where they read about oral history scholarship and acquired the necessary research tools to complete the project.
Their first task was to create a questionnaire – which served as a blueprint – for the interviews. They also learned how to use cameras and microphones, and how to archive the research they collected in the Swem Digital Archive as well as the Russian Movie Theatre Project blog site.
Prokhorov says that he couldn’t be prouder of his students and their scholarly accomplishments.
“Andrew’s and Rachel’s oral history research provides scholars with firsthand viewers’ testimony on what films were popular at the time,” Prokhorov said.
Prokorhov explained that when people talk about the 1970s and 1980s they remember better such American films as “King Kong” (the 1976 feature) or “Some Like it Hot” (a 1959 film released in the USSR in the late 1980s) than Soviet big budget features.
“The picture of what constitutes the national cinema of the Soviet Union at the time becomes more complex and multidimensional,” said Prokorhov. “The viewers receive the voice in the creating this picture, not only filmmakers and film critics.”
As part of their research, Andell and Faith had the opportunity to attend the Moscow International Film Festival. While there they viewed films entered into the competition.
“Rachel and I were fortunate to experience the film festival as part of the project,” said Andell. “We viewed two movies, ‘The Admirer,’ (directed by Vitalii Melnikov) and ‘Ana Bana,’ (directed by Eduard Oganesyan), each of which had the director and a large portion of the cast in attendance.”
Elaborating on her experience at the film festival Faith reminisced, “The film festival was one of my favorite parts of my summer trip, and one of the main things that helped me to fall quite madly in love with Moscow.
“There were all sorts of very official-looking film industry people all over the October Theater – which is an absolutely amazing theater complex – and the excitement was infectious. Once we got seated in the enormous hall where the film would be shown, it was all I could do to wait for it to start.”
Andell and Faith say they will always carry with them the memory of a summer spent immersed in the study of a different culture. Faith is currently studying abroad in Moscow this fall and Andell is back in the U.S. transcribing and archiving their research.
So for now, they’re not saying goodbye to their experience. Or “dasvidania,” as they would say in Russia.
Erin Alpert graduated from the College in 2007 with a degree in Russian and Post Soviet Studies. During her time at W&M, she studied abroad in Russia thanks, in part, to a scholarship she received from the Reves Center.
“One of the highlights of my college career was definitely my summer study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. I loved having the opportunity to live with a host family, study in a Russian university, and explore the country whose language I had been studying in the classroom.”
Currently, Erin is pursuing her Ph.D. in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. Despite living on a graduate student’s pay, Erin contributes something each year to the Dobro Slovo Scholarship Fund, which annually provides a scholarship to one W&M undergraduate who is studying at St. Petersburg State University through the department’s study abroad program. Watch a video about Erin’s graduate experiences below:
“Even though as a graduate student I don’t have much extra to spare, I always find a way to contribute to the Dobro Slovo Scholarship Fund so that other students can have the same opportunities that meant so much to me when I was at William and Mary.”
It is generous donors like Erin who give a little each year that allow RPSS to continue supporting deserving students in their pursuit of a truly globalized education. One such current student, Sophie Kosar (‘14), received just this kind of support for her trip to St. Petersburg in the summer of 2011, the results of which exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Modest Gifts Pay Big Dividends
Sophie’s 2011 summer trip to St. Petersburg featured many of the staple experiences students abroad have: classes in the target language, great times with the host family, and many fond memories of a city explored and friends made. Where her experience differed begins with the research and film project she and her fellow students were tasked with by their group leaders, Alexander Prokhorov and Jes Therkelsen .
According to Sasha Prokhorov, “In 2011 WM students made several key innovations in their research projects. First, they redefined their understanding of the sites of urban memory. Instead of focusing on the sites that interpreted the past, they examined the sites that create history in the present and define St. Petersburg’s future. For example, Alex McGrath analyzed the project for the new skyscraper The Gazprom Tower and Sophie Kosar studied the Marine Facade, St. Petersburg’s new seaport. Second, student added to their traditional tools of analysis, pen and paper, the new media, lapel microphone and digital camera. In addition to research papers, they produced documentary films. Third, students included in their film crews collaborators from St. Petersburg University School of Journalism. Russian students helped WM students and served as their field producers. The result of this genuinely international effort was a multimedia portal that combined the interactive potential of a blog, immediacy of a documentary and reflexive power of a research paper.”
Sophie and her partner’s film project approached the theme of memory through a somewhat non-traditional angle: the myth of St. Petersburg and the construction of the Marine Façade. “Our projects were supposed to be about sites of memory, which makes one usually immediately think history and monuments and things like that,” says Sophie, by way of introduction. “My project was on contemporary issues and contemporary problems.”
Sophie’s topic – the Marine Façade, a commercial port and business center meant to facilitate tourism and increase revenue in the city. While many Petersburg residents were onboard with the proposed plan, which would also include the building of new neighborhoods and expanding city transportation, some were less than excited about the prospect of such a Western urbanization of the traditional Vasilievsky Island, one of several islands making up St. Petersburg. This new, largely commercial and highly modernized region would clash with the city’s traditional aesthetic, thereby diverging with Petersburg as these residents viewed and remembered it.
However, as Sophie explores in the paper she wrote about her research into the Marine Façade, the myth and memory of St. Petersburg is a double-edged sword. The traditional Petersburg many of the Marine Façade’s opponents used to support their case was itself an example of an extremely modern, Western city planned and built by Tsar Peter the Great as a means of connecting Russia with Europe. Founded in 1703, Petersburg embodied from the very beginning the tensions between the old and the new, the East and the West. As Sophie explains, the Marine Façade is simply continuing this tradition.
Researching a site of memory and making a documentary about it led to more opportunities the average study abroad student does not have, like interviewing a variety of pivotal figures in the Marine Façade discussion. “First we interviewed an architect Rafail Dayanov who does historical restoration in the city,” describes Sophie. “Then we interviewed the PR manager for the Marine Façade managing company Alexander Shimberg who is doing all the port business, all of the current development, all of the land reclamation. And then we interviewed an opposition NGO leader Tatiana Sharagina.”
This experience, facilitated by the Dobro Slovo scholarship, not only did wonders for Sophie’s Russian, it gave her vital research and writing experience. “Going to St. Petersburg last year was great, not only because it helped me a lot with my Russian, it gave me more confidence definitely…Doing independent research, especially at the undergraduate level, is invaluable.” Watch excerpts from our interview with Sophie in Kazan via Skype:
Sophie’s hard work abroad has led to more unexpected and pleasant surprises. The research paper she wrote about the project has been published in Columbia University’s Birch, the first national undergraduate publication devoted exclusively to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian cultures. It has also been featured in Vestnik, the School of Russian and Asian Studies’ newsletter. Meanwhile, the documentary she and her partner made has been screened several times, including at the Global Film Festival, an international venue, in Feb 2012, where she got to walk the red carpet at the Kimball Theater in Colonial Williamsburg. It was also screened at the University of Virginia’s Slavic Forum.
And all this is thanks, in large part, to the scholarship alums like Erin contribute to every year. Such donations go far beyond the financial – they enable students to expand their horizons and inspire them to pursue new adventures and opportunities. Sophie is currently spending her junior year studying Russian in Kazan, something she would have been hesitant to do had she not been able to go to St. Petersburg the summer before. “I am so glad that I went last year. It’s so much better, so much better.”
For all those generous alums, Sophie, and others like her, appreciate all that you do for them and plan to pay it forward themselves. “I know that I for one, having received donations, definitely in the future am going to want to help out because it’s really important and I feel like if you can help other students, inspire their love of learning about x, y, or z, then it’s definitely worth it.”
So, thank you to all who contribute. Without you, many of our students would be unable to have the kind of amazing experiences abroad that Sophie has had. And don’t be strangers! Sophie perhaps says it best: “It was really cool to meet all of the alums at Homecoming.”
RPSS Faculty and Students Attend Play in Washington
On October 20, 2012, the students and faculty in the Russian and Post-Soviet Studies Program went to Washington, DC, to see a Russian classic performed in English – Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General. This new adaptation of the play is being performed by the Shakespeare Theatre Company at the Lansburgh Theater in Washington, DC.
Nikolai Gogol is one of the most influential Russian writers of the 19th century. Although his comedy, The Inspector General, is a satire of 19th-century Russian bureaucracy and provincial kowtowing, the play is so universal that over the last two centuries it has been performed all over the world and has inspired numerous film and stage adaptations.
Attending the matinee performance of this new adaptation of Gogol’s classic comedy was a unique opportunity for the students and faculty in our RPSS program! We are tremendously grateful to the Parents Association at the College of William & Mary and the Mellon Foundation Grant for making this trip possible. We also want to say a big thank you to Bella Ginzbursky-Blum for organizing the trip!
Here’s what some of those who went had to say about the experience:
“I thought the play was very interesting. I would really like to see how the version we saw compares to the play as it was originally written.”
~ Natalie Hulse
“The play, while clearly having been adapted for a modern, American audience, was still very enjoyable. This outing was an excellent opportunity to see one of Russia’s most famous works; I’m hoping more Russian works follow so the department can continue doing really cool field trips!”
“The trip was a fantastic way to not only see a hilarious show but to also spend time with other Russian students. Special recognition goes to the superb timing of the actors/actresses as an ensemble and the generous affordability of the trip. Thank you for your help in preparing this outing!”
~ Matthew Baker
“I thought the play was excellent. It was both funny and relevant, and the overall trip was a great experience!”
~ Zach McCarty
“The trip to see The Government Inspector was an incredible experience for me. Absurdly funny and smart, this adaptation of Gogol’s famous play brought a tale set in 19th-century Russia to life on the modern stage, showing its stark portrayal of corruption, stupidity and hypocrisy in society is just as relevant now as it was then.”
~ Ben Raliski
“I thought this play was very funny and the characters were very interesting. However, I thought that this version was very Americanized and therefore Gogol’s original Russian text probably has quite a different tone.”
~ Ben Oelberg
“After arriving in D.C. all of the groups split up to grab a bite to eat before the show. My group ventured into China Town and had some delicious egg rolls, dumplings, noodles, and duck! Once we finished eating we headed out to the streets and took in the sights before our 2 o’clock show. The Government Inspector was by far one of the best plays I have seen this year! This was definitely a good investment on the Russian House’s part and I would recommend all students to attend similar events!”
Homecoming Reception: Saturday, October 27, 4:30 – 7:30 pm — RPSS Annual Homecoming Reception at the Russian House (Pleasants Hall, 3rd floor). Come meet some alums, hang out with your professors and classmates, and eat some good food!
Erin Alpert (’07) Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, will give a talk titled, “The Truth”: Soviet and Post-Soviet Documentary Cinema. Here is a brief description: “Documentary cinema played a key role in Soviet intellectuals’ fight against political censorship during Gorbachev’s perestroika. The lecture examines the evolution of Russo-Soviet documentary cinema as an art form and industry in the late USSR and post-Soviet Russia.”
The time I spent at the College greatly influenced both my career path and who I am as a person. The people I met there, both friends and professors, continue to be a significant part of my life. I think it’s important for alumni to remain connected to the College and to help foster those kinds of connections for current and future students.
I majored in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at the College, and my professors were excellent examples of teachers as well as mentors – a role they continue to play, even though I’m no longer “officially” their student. Now, as a graduate student, I hope to teach at the college level when I complete my degree.
One of the highlights of my college career was definitely my summer study abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia. I loved having the opportunity to live with a host family, study in a Russian university, and explore the country whose language I had been studying in the classroom. Without the scholarship I received from the Reves Center, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the program.
Even though as a graduate student I don’t have much extra to spare, I always find a way to contribute to the Dobro Slovo Scholarship Fund so that other students can have the same opportunities that meant so much to me when I was at William and Mary.
Alpert is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh.Last year while Alpert was in Moscow conducting research for her dissertation, she met with William and Mary study abroad students to share her research and graduate school experience. The Dobro Slovo Scholarship Fund was established in 2004 to support study for a W&M undergraduate through the department’s summer program at St. Petersburg University.
Professor John MacKay, of Yale University, will be giving a talk on Vertov’s groundbreaking film, Man with a Movie Camera (1929), on Thursday, September 27th, at 5 pm in Washington 201. Here is a brief description of what his talk will be about:
This talk will closely examine both the montage construction of Man with a Movie Camera and the film’s representation of women in light of a central ideological tension characteristic of early Soviet Marxism: specifically, between conceiving of subjectivity in terms of distinct and recognizable categories (such as class, gender, and ethnicity), and conceiving of subjectivity in terms of dynamics (of economic production and consumption, in particular) that bind everyone together. It will argue that the identity called “proletarian” was valorized by artists like Vertov, and that Man with a Movie Camera attempts, on a figurative level, to link the work of non-proletarians like filmmakers to proletarian labor, and especially that of industrial workers, in part through minutely organized montage that mimics machine rhythms.
Note: In anticipation of this talk, there will be a screening of Man with a Movie Camera on Wednesday, September 26th at 3:30 in Wash 320.
The following is a guest post is by Betty Lupinacci, Lead Technician for Legal Processing Workflow Resolution in our Collection Services Division.
The Law Library Collection Services Division’s Junior Fellow Wesley Verge and Associate Junior Fellow Mari Gavin exhibited items from the Law Library’s gift collections as part of the 2012 Library of Congress Junior Fellows display event.
This summer they inventoried records and briefs from the Law Library’s U.S. courts of appeals collection so that these items could be sent to the Library’s storage facility at Ft.Meade. They also inventoried foreign government gazettes donated from the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold Library, which they compared against the Law Library’s holdings in an effort to complete our collection.
Items presented included:
1. A 5th Circuit Court of Appeals brief for a trademark infringementcase between General Mills and Frito Lay over product names (Cheerios vs. Cheetos);
2. A Transcript of Record from one of the many lawsuits against organized crime figure Al Capone; and
3. Examples of South Africa apartheid laws, which were repealed when the country’s government was democratized in the 1990′s.
by Megan Shearin | August 3, 2012
Reprinted from William and Mary News and Events
Soon-to-be-graduate Jacob Lassin is getting international attention for his honors thesis.
Recent tweets from VIPs Edward Lucas, international editor of the “Economist,” and Evgeny Morozov, visiting scholar at Stanford University and author of “The Net Delusion,” give big hurrahs to Lassin’s thesis about the commemoration of World War II in Russian social media.
“I was shocked, and honored,” said Lassin, a Russian and post-Soviet studies and government double major at the College of William & Mary. He’s also the recipient of a 2011 Critical Language Scholarship by the State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, where he studied Russian in the city of Ufa for a summer.
Just a few days after the tweets, reporter Zach Peterson with Radio Free Europe, an international news and broadcasting agency, reviewedLassin’s 95-page thesis. Peterson praised Lassin for getting “tweets of approval” from Morozov and Lucas and for writing “a compelling thesis on Russia and the ‘myths and memories’ of the country’s involvement in World War II.”
‘Myths and Memories’
In his thesis “From the Trenches of Stalingrad to the Digital Front: The Myth and Memory of WWII in the Soviet Union and the New Russia,” Lassin details how war mythology has been used over the past 60 years to tell the story of the war. He examines how oral histories from veterans and websites differ from how the war was talked about during Soviet Union rule, and how it’s perceived in Russia today.
During the war, Lassin describes how Soviet leader Josef Stalin used the war narrative to glorify his leadership and control the memory and meaning of the war in order to maintain popular support for the army, the party and the state.
“After World War II ends, Russia realized it had to rebuild,”said Lassin. “But what exactly did the Soviet Union stand for? The war was so universal and so devastating that it had become a national unifying agent the government used as state control.”
Stalin’s death in the early 1950s allowed for a re-assessment of who won the war. “This was a time period that gave credit to the people and the Red Army,” described Lassin. Historically, it’s known as the Thaw Period. This allowed for some freedom of information in the media, arts and culture. Filmmakers and writers enjoyed a climate where they could express themselves, including first-hand accounts of the war with films such as “Ballad of a Soldier”and “In the Trenches of Stalingrad.”
Throughout the mid-60s, 70s and 80s, a sagging economy attracted leaders to return to the war mythology of World War II – a perfect story to unify and maintain the loyalty of the population. The Soviets “canonized” the war and May 9– Victory Day – once again became a state holiday complete with a 20thanniversary celebration parade on the Red Square.
“One of the most important ideas that the state imprinted upon the Soviet consciousness was the unbreakable link between the people and the Party when speaking of the war,” he writes.
Fast track to the Russian Federation today under President Vladimir Putin. The myth of World War II is still being used, explains Lassin, and is a key part of Putin’s policy. Perhaps the most obvious use of Victory Day for the purposes of the state’s agenda is the linkage of World War II to the war on terror.
“At the end of a montage of documentary images from the war, the producers placed images of the 9/11 attacks,” Lassin writes. “Throughout the day television announcers drew parallels between fighting against Hitler and fighting against Chechen terrorists within Russia.”
Then there’s the Internet. It offers a new platform for people to discuss their views on the war. The state-sponsored website Iremember.ru contains a wealth of information about World War II from oral histories of veterans to war film critiques.
The Putin Administration controls most of the important media outlets, said Lassin, including the new media landscape such as Russia Today, an international news outlet.
“The administration knows it has to work here (the Internet) to maintain control,” said Lassin. “And a lot of people still want to tell the story a certain way – the way they believe it.”
Lassin, who was slated to graduate in 2012, still has one more year to complete at William & Mary. That’s because in May he learned he was the recipient of a Boren Scholarship, funded by the Department of Defense. He’ll spend a year in Russia as an undergraduate student and continue studying Russian while interning at a local television station.
After his stint in Russia, Lassin is heading to Yale University where he’s been accepted to attend graduate school (he’s deferred for a year). He’ll be working on a Ph.D. in Slavic literature and culture.
He’s also picked up a part-time gig since his international acclaim this summer. He’s now a contributing writer to Central Asia Monitor, an independent news agency covering Eurasian politics and news.
Oddly enough, his love for Russian media, culture and politics happened accidentally, admits Lassin. He wanted to take a course in German, but it was full. So he opted for Russian instead.
“William & Mary is a really great place for undergraduate research,” said Lassin. “The Russian studies faculty, especially my thesis advisor Professor Elena Prokhorava, as well as Professors Alexander Prokhorov, Frederick Corney, Bella Ginzbursky-Blum and Paula Pickering, were all instrumental in my achievements at William & Mary.”
Now he’s captured a worldwide audience thanks to one little tweet.
“The Legacy of the First Russian Cartographic Firm.”
Presentation and Film Screening
Presenters Maggie Burke and Caitlin Oakley
August 2nd talk at 3pm
in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
Maggie Burke, MK Gavin, and Caitlin Oakley showcased their research findings at the Library of Congress.
Cailtin and Maggie work for Rare Book and Special Collections Division this summer.
MK Gavin works for the Law Library.
If you are in DC area, this is a great opportunity to see students’ summer
research results and to get ideas about future internship and research
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS JUNIOR FELLOW INTERNS 2012 DISPLAY
JULY 26, 9 am. – 3 pm.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, THOMAS JEFFERSON BUILDING
ROOM U 119
Working under the direction of Library curators and specialists in various
divisions, the Junior Fellows explore and increase access to the
institution’s unparalleled collections and resources. They are exposed to a
broad spectrum of library work: copyright, preservation, reference, access
standards, information management and digital initiatives. Summer interns have
identified hundreds of historical, literary, artistic, cinematic and musical
gems in the course of their work, representing the Library’s rich cultural,
creative and intellectual assets. The 2012 class will showcase their findings
and work at this event.
2012 Class of Junior Fellows Summer Interns
(Name, Hometown, College, Library of Congress Division Assignment)
• Saul Alpert-Abrams, Harvard, MA; Oberlin College; Rare Book and Special
• Thomas W. Anderson Jr., Byram, MS; Mississippi University; Geography and
• Sara Butterfass, Howard Lake, MN.; University of Minnesota, Morris;
Preservation, Research and Testing Division
• Leidy Cook, Oxford, MD; Drexel University; American Folklife Center
• Rebecca Cweibel, Mount Kisco, NY; University of Delaware; Music Division
On March 17, four Russian Studies students – along with professors John Lyles, Alexander Prokhorov, Elena Prokhorova, filmmaker-in-residence Jes Therkelsen, and Russian House Tutor Viktoria Kim – participated in the Third Annual Slavic Forum at the University of Virginia.
For the past few years, the Slavic Graduate Program at UVa has held student-organized conferences designed to provide practical experience with academic conferences, paper preparation, conference organization, and panel chairing for their students without the pressure of an official conference. This year, thanks to Professor John Lyles, newly arrived at William & Mary from the UVa program, W&M students submitted papers and joined in on the conference. There were also two students from Duke University participating. This year’s theme was “adaptation”. As can be expected, this theme garnered a wide range of paper topics, from the more conventional themes of adaptation in film and literature to examinations of music, radio programming, and oral histories.
Jacob Lassin (’12) presented a part of his thesis (Iremember.ru, Oral Histories, and the Myth of World War II in Russian Cyberspace), Maggie Burke (’12) presented her paper “Winnie the Pooh and the Soviets, Too: Animated Adaptations of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh Stories in America and the Soviet Union,” and Alex McGrath (’13) and Sophie Kosar (’14) presented documentary films made during William and Mary’s 2011 summer program in Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately, two panels were scheduled in each time slot, so it was impossible to attend all of them, but everything which I was able to attend was very interesting and well received.
This event has the potential to become something really useful both for UVa graduate students and graduate students and undergraduate seniors in the surrounding areas. With a more active recruitment of papers from surrounding universities and advertisement for a wider audience among the undergraduates at UVa, this conference could become an excellent source of experience both for students heading toward grad school and for graduate students heading toward academia. As it is currently structured, though, the conference still provides a fun, laid-back opportunity to practice presenting papers and chat with other Russian Studies folks over coffee and lunch.
Jacob Lassin recently won the American Council of Teachers of Russian’s (ACTR) Post Secondary Russian Scholar Laureate Award. This award, according to the ACTR newsletter, “honors those students who embody a love for and dedication to things Russian that is unparalleled among their peers.” Each college or university where Russian is taught may nominate one junior or senior as that school’s most outstanding student for that year. The award is given out annually from a nation-wide pool of candidates.
Jacob has had a very prolific and successful career here at W&M. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including W&M’s Russian and Post-Soviet Studies Excellence Award, and his senior thesis, “Iremember.ru, Oral Histories, and the Cult of World War II in Russian Cyberspace,” received the highest honors. Jacob will be joining the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department at Yale University this fall.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jacob and talk with him about his experiences abroad, his undergraduate research, and the mentoring he has received from the Russian faculty.
The awards committee has selected Jacob Lassin as one of two recipients for the Russian- and Post-Soviet Studies Excellence Award, which is given annually to students who have excelled in their time at W&M and who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to their studies.
The awards committee has selected Maggie Burke as one of two recipients for the Russian- and Post-Soviet Studies Excellence Award, which is given annually to students who have excelled in their time at W&M and who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to their studies.
The selection committee has awarded the 2012 Dobro Slovo Scholarship to Rachel Faith. The Dobro Slovo Scholarship was established in 2005. The Scholarship is funded by the donations of Russian alumni and faculty and is intended for students studying on the W&M Summer Study Abroad Program in St. Petersburg.
Please join us for a talk by W&M alum Mary Catherine French titled, “From TASS to Twitter: Russian and Soviet Journalism in Historical Perspective.” The talk will be held on Tuesday, March 13th, at 4 pm in Washington 201.
Professor David Herman, Chair of the Slavic Department at the University of Virginia, will be giving a lecture about Tolstoy and his fiction on February 17th at 3 pm in Washington 315. His lecture is titled: “Tolstoy in Eden.” Here is a brief description of the content of the talk: “Virginia Woolf famously called Tolstoy the greatest of all novelists, and it may be that his gift was not just technical, but also an ability to interrogate the shared assumptions that ground modern subjectivity. Tolstoy’s fiction asks us to think about life as a repeating tragedy of innocence or ignorance ruined by a fall into knowledge and awareness, rather like the Biblical narrative of Adam and Eve, but endlessly renewed in each individual life. In so doing, Tolstoy’s works challenge us to ponder what innocence really entails and why we value it so much.“
The next film in this semester’s film series, Russians: Cinema, City, Migration, will be screened Thursday, Feb 16, at 5:30 pm in Washington 201. This week’s film is Eastern Promises (dir. David Cronenberg, Canada, USA, UK 2007), and it will be introduced by Rachel Faith.
The next film in this semester’s film series, Russians: Cinema, City, Migration, will be screened this WEDNESDAY, February 8th, in the Williamsburg Regional Library Auditorium. The film is Brother 2 (dir. Aleksei Balabanov Russia, USA 2000) and it will be introduced by Sasha Prokhorov.
The first of four movies to be screened as part of the Russian Section’s Film Series:
RUSSIANS: CINEMA, CITY, MIGRATION. I Walk Around Moscow / Я шагаю по Москве will be shown on Thursday, February 2nd, at 5 pm in Washington 201.
This is a national writing contest for Russian speakers of all levels, from 1st-year to heritage, and is judged by a panel of experts. Participants have the opportunity to receive 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, or honorable mention, among all US students of their same level. The deadline for registration is January 30th. The contest will take place February 9th, at 6 pm in Washington 317. If interested, please contact John Lyles at email@example.com.
The Russian Section will begin its Spring film series, Russians: Cinema, City, Migration, will begin next week (Thursday, February 2nd at 5 pm in Washington 201). Here is the list of all the movies to be screened, along with the dates and times:
RUSSIANS: CINEMA, CITY, MIGRATION
Feb 2, Th 5:00 Washington 201
I Walk Around Moscow (Dir. Georgii Danelia USSR 1964)
Introduced by Vinny Rampino
Feb 8, Wed 6:30 Williamsburg Regional Library Auditorium
Brother 2 (dir. Aleksei Balabanov Russia, USA 2000)
Introduced by Sasha Prokhorov
Feb 16, Th 5:30 Washington 201
Eastern Promises (dir. David Cronenberg, Canada, USA, UK 2007)
Introduced by Rachel Faith
Feb 23, Th 5:30 Washington 302
Another Sky (dir. Dmitry Mamulya, Russia 2010)
Introduced by Sophie Kosar
(Moscow, 24 Dec., 2011) Today we went to Andrei Sakharov Avenue to participate in the rally for fair and just elections. About 100000 people came to the rally. It was the biggest political manifestation since the demonstrations of the early 1990s. We saw people of all walks of life and political preferences: from those who lament the fall of the Russian Empire and Communist Soviet Union to the supporters of Western style political and economic reforms.
In addition to familiar political logos, such as the hammer and sickle, anarchist black flag, and Yabloko party’s apple, we saw a new symbol of fair elections: the popular animation hero, Cheburashka. Why did this character join the political struggle? Russian people wanted a mascot whom everyone loves, who unites people rather than divides them because of their political allegiances. Those who showed up at Sakharov Avenue share a common goal: to challenge the cleptocratic leadership cheating the electoral process. Cheburashka unites people fighting for their rights.
For Russians Cheburashka is the character from the fairy tales of their childhood. Everyone grew up watching Roman Kachanov’s cartoons based on Eduard Uspensky’s books about Cheburashka–a little furry creature who is found in the box of imported oranges and finds acceptance and community despite the fact that Cheburashka’s identity and origins are unclear. In the paranoid atmosphere of the late Soviet culture this was an extremely topical theme.
Like E.T.’s identity, Cheburashka’s identity is about otherness, which the mainstream culture learns to accept. The last Soviet generation learned to love Cheburashka. She (or he, or neither one) has been everyone’s favorite hero for the past forty years. Moreover, since Cheburashka’s appearance on TV screens in the 1970s, she has been asserting her right for individual agency and it is only logical that in 2011 Cheburashka became a mascot of Russians’ struggle for their civil rights.
We are so happy to be here on Andrei Sakharov Avenue at this pivotal moment in post-Soviet Russia’s history. Comrade Che rocks!
The documentary filmmaking process requires a tremendous amount of patience, discipline, creativity, and flexibility. You need to deal with people, but know how to troubleshoot technology; you must be organized, but open to spontaneity; you should be prepared for everything, but comfortable working in the unknown. For the eight students who studied abroad in the summer of 2011 in St. Petersburg, Russia, they had the added challenge of doing it all in Russian.
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Over the course of the past three years, professors Frederick Corney and Alexander Prokhorov made undergraduate research the central component of William & Mary’s St. Petersburg summer study abroad program. Each year, students work on research projects concerning places of memory and urban development in St. Petersburg. Specifically, students examine how these sites are remembered within a larger, public representation. Professor Prokhorov, the program’s director during the summer of 2011, wanted to include an element of video production into this year’s project and that’s how I became involved.
As the college’s environmental filmmaking-in-residence, I’ve sought to incorporate media production into current research and coursework across disciplines on campus. Professor Prokhorov saw the potential for collaboration, and with the support of a Reves Center Faculty Fellows grant, students gained access to camcorders and microphones, learned field production skills, collaborated with St. Petersburg journalist students, and acquired international documentary production experience.
“Making a documentary is a lot of work, but it’s exhilarating after you interview someone,” says Sophie Kosar ’14, whose project focuses on the controversial construction of a new seaport and business district, the Marine Façade, on the western
shores of the city. “You realize you had to forge this connection with your subject; you had to do this yourself.”
Will Lahue ’12, whose project explores how Russian Orthodox community and Goth subculture define Smolensky Cemetery as a site of commemoration, realizes the benefits of working on his film. “I’ve gained a more rapid acclamation into Russian society. Just running around getting things done, meeting people; it’s been a challenge. I’ve needed to accomplish a lot in Russian and that’s been good for me.”
Introducing students to video production in study abroad programs is incredibly enabling; the filmmaking process forces them out of their comfort zone, stretches their limits, and pushes them to interact in ways they would not have otherwise. The project has the potential to serve as a model for other study abroad program that want to challenge their participants to make connections, to pay attention, and to be creative.
“The biggest thing I’ve gained in this project is confidence in networking with people,” says Monika Bernotas ‘12. “It’s amazing how many people have returned my emails to say they would be willing to help out.”
On November 29th, these documentaries will be screened to the larger William and Mary community. In March, they will be exhibited at the Slavic Forum at the University of Virginia.
Jes Therkelsen is a filmmaker, photographer, media consultant, and activist. His work has confronted issues such as human rights, sustainable development and environmental justice. He is the Environmental Filmmaker-in-residence at the College of William and Mary.
The Russian and Post-Soviet Studies Program is delighted to present Russian Studies students’ documentary films. The films comprise a media component of students’ research projects, which they have conducted this summer in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In spring 2011, students took a one-credit preparatory course to learn various methodological approaches to conducting research, choose their summer sites for individual research projects and become familiar with media-production techniques and equipment. Teaching continued during the six-week summer session in St. Petersburg, where the students carried out their field research. In a final one-credit fall course, the students have used written, audio, and visual media to produce cohesive narratives of the urban environments they studied in St. Petersburg.
Films to be shown:
“Raisa Goes to the Movies” (Ashby Gaines)
“collective apARTment: the Pushkinskaya-10 Legacy of Unofficial Art” (Monika Bernotas)
“Tourism: The New Kid on the Prospekt” (Megan Doneski)
“The Three Dreams of Aurora Battleship” (John French, Sasha Prokhorov, Jes Therkelsen)
“The Marine Facade: Underneath Piter’s New Face” (Sophie Kosar)
“Negotiating the Meaning of Smolensky Cemetery” (William Lahue)
“The Power of Height: Gazprom’s Monument” (Alex McGrath)
It was so great to see you all at our annual homecoming reception in the Russian House. Food was great! And it was wonderful to touch base with all of you! Please stay in touch and update us on your accomplishments. Thank you for all your support! Below is a couple of videos from the party (вечеринка 🙂 ). We hope we will add more next year.
Russian and Post-Soviet Studies Faculty
Sean Fox (’06) talks about his most memorable Russian Studies moment.
Virginia Bacon (’08) and Aylara Odekova (’08) talk about their most memorable Russian House experience. BTW they were roommates in the House 🙂
Timothy Lee (’08) talks about his most memorable Russia experience.
The Russian Section of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is pleased to announce that Mari-Kathryn Gavin (RPSS, ’12) has been accepted into a prestigious Translate Abroad Internship Program
(School of Russian and Asian Studies, SRAS).
Translation Abroad is a practical academic program offering intensive Russian lessons and professional, hands-on translation experience. Despite advances in electronic translation technology, there is increasing need for the accuracy and readability that only human translation can deliver. With the world’s exponentially increasing information flows, the growing globalization of business, and more frequent government interactions, there is demand for not only translated literature, but also for technical, legal, and marketing documents. Each of these fields are, in fact, developing into specialized trades because of the particular skill sets they require.
After a month, students in the Saint Petersburg study abroad program find themselves in the thick of their documentary productions, taking advantage of every opportunity while in the field. Producing a documentary film is not an easy task. It takes a lot of research and planning to develop a story idea, to consider which concepts and themes to pursue, and decide what tone the piece should have to convey the film’s overall message. After answering these questions, one needs to start considering what the piece is going to look and sound like; in other words, what are the scenes that will make the piece turn into a coherent film? Will it need interviews? If so, with whom? Will the piece be best told through narration, or archival footage, or footage of a place within the city? If so, you need to arrange for those shoots. And all of this work is even before you pick up a camera!
Documentary filmmaking is a time intensive practice, as many of these students are learning. But it also takes determination, confidence, and a willingness to stick your neck out. It’s hard enough to do it in your native language. These students have been doing it in Russian. And they’ve never made a documentary before.
What has been the biggest surprise for me has been the access we have been getting while in St. Petersburg. For example, we interviewed top government personnel about the construction of the Marine Facade development. This is a controversial and sensitive issue for many, yet we were sent a car to drive us around the Facade to get B-roll footage of the terminal while it is still under construction. For another project, we spoke with Father Viktor, who oversees Smolensky Catedral and Saint Xenia Chapel. Father Viktor, who could have easily waved us away, graciously agreed to sit with us for a morning and talk in front of a camera about the younger generation of Russians in the Russian Orthodox Church. He then took us through the Cathedral and allowed us to film while a service was going on. On other occasions we’ve gotten access to film inside the historic Aurora Theater, inside the landmark Cafe Singer, and the renowned Pushkinskaya-10 art coop.
Collaborations with St. Petersburg University journalism students have benefits not only the projects, but the entire experience. In a sense, these students are our field producers, helping us acquire access to interviews and helping out during shoots. They offer advice on the story and suggestions as to the direction the pieces could go. With only two weeks left, students are pushing to get as much accomplished before they head home. Although hard work, the city has opened up to these students, which has been rewarding to watch.
Environmental Science and Policy
Millington Hall 214
The College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA 23187
Officially as of today, we have been in St. Petersburg for two full weeks! It’s hard to believe that time is flying by so fast!
This past Monday, Sasha surprised us with a tour of Pushkin’s Museum, instead of our afternoon class. It was a great surprise! Pushkin’s Museum is located in the last apartment that Pushkin rented during his lifetime. The museum chronicles Pushkin’s life and gave our group a better understanding of why the Russians love Pushkin so much.
Tuesday, we toured St. Isaac’s Cathedral. It is the second tallest building in St. Petersburg…so what did we do? Climb to the top! The climb was winding and steep. It made a few of us quite nauseous. However, the breath taking view was well worth the climb.
After climbing to the top, we climbed down to actually go inside the cathedral. Personally, the most interesting part of the tour of the cathedral was learning about St. Isaac’s during WWII. The cathedral miraculously escaped being destroyed during the Siege of Leningrad, with only a few relatively minor injuries. Residents of the city consider this to be a miracle.
Earlier today, a few of us ventured to Nevsky Prospekt in search of a fun restaurant after class. We went to an Irish Pub called “O Hooligans”. We girls were very excited to learn that this week is “Fleet Week”! We hung out with a few American Navy officers who are actually based out of Norfolk, Va. Huge coincidence to be in the same place at the same time! Hopefully we will see more Navy men in the next few days before we depart for Moscow on Friday!