Digital Russian History

Why Russian Historians Should Blog

Next Saturday morning, at the annual ASEEES convention in Washington, DC, I will join fellow Russian History Blog-ger Andrew Jenks, New Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies and Sean’s Russia Blog‘s Sean Guillory, and Harvard University’s Kelly O’Neill in a discussion of digital resources for Russian historians. I thought I would offer a very brief preview of my comments here, as I plan to encourage other Russian historians to start blogs.

At last year’s ASEEES in Los Angeles, in a conversation with Andrew Jenks, I speculated that launching a group Russian history blog could make a substantive contribution to the academic field of Russian history while also bringing academic voices beyond the confines of journals that for the broader public are digitally invisible behind pay walls. I have discussed my thinking about starting the blog here and here.

Nine months after launch, I find myself pleased with our progress and yearning for more–yearning for a community of Russian history bloggers. As is evident in many blogs from fields beyond Russian history and as I think we have demonstrated at Russian History Blog, blogs can be serious scholarly endeavors, enhancing rather than replacing more traditional types of publication.

I really cannot express the reasons why academics should blog any better than the 2006 piece, “Professors, Start Your Blogs,” written by my colleague Dan Cohen, the director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. He counters the many qualms academics had at that time about blogging as a scholarly genre and shows some of the tremendous advantages presented by blogging. Dan’s influence was critical to my own decision to launch Russian History Blog. Now, I hope to convince others not only to value reading blogs but also to begin blogging themselves.

As Cohen noted, bloggers need not write frequently to produce value. He hopes for a proliferation of blogs in his own field:

I would love to see a hundred historians of Victorian science have blogs to which they post quarterly. That would mean an average of one thoughtful post a day on a subject in which I’m greatly interested.

Furthermore, as I can personally attest, the skills and resources required to start a blog are minimal. Although I am surrounded by digital historians at George Mason, I’m not a specialist in digital history. I did none of the technical work on the Gulag history website, drawing on a team of CHNM specialists to bring my subject matter expertise to life. Yet setting up and running a blog does not take the type of technical skills required by that web exhibit. My technological skills are rudimentary at best, yet with minimal assistance I was able to set up and maintain Russian History Blog using WordPress, one of the many available blogging platforms.

So think about it. If you need technical assistance, let me know and maybe I can help. Check out Larry Cebula’s advice for starting an academic blog. And join a new community.

3 replies on “Why Russian Historians Should Blog”

My mother was present and remembered much about the Bolshevik Revolution and was a descendent of Prime Minister Sergei Witte. I know a great deal but am missing a few pieces to tie all of my information together. Am looking for a Russian Historian that can help me. Her story is remarkable about survival and escape through the Sakahlin Islands when Russia “took over”. Her father was ranking soldier in the Russian Army and was killed by the Bolsheviks. My mom remembered every detail and passed all, including photos, to me. Anyone interested to help? Thanks – Michele

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