Categories
Archives Digital Russian History Islam and Russian/Soviet History

Russian/Soviet Perspectives on Islam Launches

A few years back, Vadim Staklo came to George Mason University from Yale University Press. At YUP, in addition to wide editorial direction of publications on Russian and Soviet history, Vadim had worked on the launch of the Stalin Digital Archive, digitizing the Stalin Collection at the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History. [If you don’t know the Stalin Digital Archive, check out this interview with Vadim.] Vadim came to George Mason in hopes of collaborating with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media on further projects aimed at digitizing and translating materials from the archives of the former Soviet Union, but now rather than expensive subscriptions that limit the availability of the digitized projects, he would seek outside funding to make documents available via open access to everyone.

I share below his announcement of the beta launch of the first project, a collection of transcribed and translated documents devoted to the history of Islam in Russia and the Soviet Union. In addition, I will join him on a roundtable at the upcoming conference of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, where we will talk more about the online archive. We are anxious for your feedback as we continue to develop the project. Without further ado, here’s Vadim.

*************

George Mason University is launching a major new international multidisciplinary scholarly program, the Russian/Soviet Perspectives on Islam Project (RPI). The project, with primary support from the Luce Foundation and the NEH, documents the encounter and evolving relationship between the Orthodox/secular state and the Islamic regions, groups, individuals, and ideologies on the territory of the former Soviet Union and neighboring countries. This set of unique materials illuminates the strategies implemented by the Soviet and Russian state to establish authority and legitimacy among predominantly Muslim populations in Central Asia, the Northern Caucasus and Siberia and to enhance Moscow’s influence internationally with nearby Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey. The digital archive is designed to disseminate these documents to the widest possible scholarly community and general readership.

Please join us for the launch and presentation of the RPI
at the ASEEES Congress on Saturday, 19 November at 3:45 PM.

Categories
Digital Russian History Historiography Uncategorized

New online journal

Just this week a new online journal for Russian Studies arrived, The Journal of Frontier Studies/Zhurnal frontirnykh issledovaniiIt is being edited by a group of scholars at Astrakhan State University, and aspires to put Russian and Western scholars into conversation.  They are planning on publishing articles in English down the line.

By way of disclaimer, I’m on the editorial board, but if there’s a new forum to publish articles on the relationship between Russia and Iran in the imperial era (as an article by V. O. Kulakov does in the first issue), then I really am on board with the journal!

Categories
Digital Russian History

Open Access – Change Is Inevitable

The tragic suicide of Aaron Swartz has brought a new round of discussion around the issues of open access academic publishing. Even the field of Russian history has gotten involved in the discussion, driven by Sean Guillory’s thoughtful blog post. The post has drawn comments from editors of Kritika, Russian Review, and Slavic Review, who have chimed in with their take on the economic difficulties of open access for the peer-review journal. My co-blogger Joshua Sanborn has already written about the issue at some length here at Russian History Blog.

Categories
Digital Russian History Teaching Russian History Uncategorized

MOOCs and the Future of Russian History in America

At the most recent Slavic Studies convention, I was talking with an old friend about the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). We teach similar courses at different institutions – he teaches at a university with global name recognition, while I teach at a small liberal arts college.  Even the “college” part of the name can be a problem in those many locations where the liberal arts college model is not well known. More than a few archivists and scholars have crinkled their eyebrows when examining my credentials, trying to make sense of what “Лафает Колледж” could possibly mean. My friend described to me some of the issues faculty members at his university were grappling with – when, how, and to what extent they should join the MOOC bandwagon.  It is already clear that at big-time universities folks are beginning to be concerned that a failure to develop MOOCs could bring real harm to their profile and reputation at home and abroad.

Categories
Digital Russian History Soviet and Russian Space Flight

Reaching out beyond the ivory tower

Here is a first review of my new book on Yuri Gagarin. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2109/1

The publication is read by space enthusiasts and engineers and managers in the space business. I like the fact– which was partly my hope in publishing this book — that the book would reach non-academics as well as the usual academic market of 300 or so libraries and various interested historians and specialists. Just a few weeks ago I gave a talk on my book to the Boeing Defense and Space Systems group in Seal Beach California. The audience consisted of executives and managers in Boeing’s space and defense operations. Many had visited Russia to work with their counterparts in the Russian space business. They provided a unique, non-academic perspective on my topic — yet they were also receptive to many of the same problems that professional Russian historians grapple with in their work: issues of identity, cause and effect, the politics of gender, class, and race, etc.

Categories
Digital Russian History Uncategorized

Open-Access and the General Public

I have written here and elsewhere on the reasons I decided to launch the Russian History Blog. One reason is a commitment to open access scholarship–to make the products of our scholarly research freely available to the general public. Most academic journals sit behind the pay walls of JSTOR, Project Muse, and the myriad other non-profit and for profit academic databases. As such, they are virtually invisible in the internet age, when not only students and the general public but also policy and opinion makers rarely venture beyond what is quickly and freely available online. I was shocked to read recently that JSTOR turns away 150 million attempts to access articles each year. Clearly, our scholarship would have a reading audience if only we would make it available!

Categories
Digital Russian History Imperial Russia Russia in World History Uncategorized

Imagining the Petersburg-Moscow Road in the Late 18th Century

How do you imagine what a road was, historically?  Quite often, histories of transport describe histories of surfaces: the evolution of building techniques, say, from wooden planks to macadamized stone to modern asphalt or concrete.

Novgorod Province, Postal Map (1808)

Alternatively, roads are presented as transportation networks or ‘scapes’: that is, as a series of junctures (like the famous Moscow Metro Map) that permit traffic to flow from stop to stop to stop. Yet however important construction- or traffic-based approaches are, one thing they don’t capture is the way that human community is arranged in support of roads, and why. What are the social ‘moorings’ that sustain roads: that service their surfaces and also their travelers, and thereby make transportation along their elaborately constructed landscapes possible at all?

I’ve been trying to visualize an answer to this question, for one of Russia’s most famous roads: the Petersburg-Moscow corridor, in the late 18th century.  In what follows, I sketch some initial results; I’d be happy for your thoughts on it.

Categories
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.

Categories
Blog Conversations Digital Russian History Gulag Gulag Boss

Blog Conversations

Starting Wednesday, Russian History Blog will host what hopefully will be the first in a series of blog conversations. On Wednesday, I will provide a more formal introduction to this particular blog conversation (on the new memoir Gulag Boss), but for now I wanted to talk a bit about the format and goals of these conversations.

Categories
Digital Russian History Gulag Soviet Era 1917-1991

Interview on Death and Redemption

Princeton University Press published my book, Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society in May. I had the great pleasure to talk about the book with Sean Guillory (of Sean’s Russia Blog) at New Books in Russian and Eurasian Studies.

Listen to the interview here.

Categories
Digital Russian History Nostalgia and Memory World War II

TASS Posters

On a recent trip to Chicago, I spent several hours wandering around a current exhibit at the Art Institute: “Windows on the War: Soviet TASS Posters at Home and Abroad.”

It was, in a word, fascinating.

The story behind the collection is that during the Second World War, TASS had a group of artists, both visual artists and writers, who produced nearly daily monumental posters.  If you think you know Soviet poster art from the war, these will still surprise you.  The images were put up in the windows of the TASS building, and some were used more widely.  In 1997, the Art Institute discovered a bunch of these posters hidden in a closet, and this exhibit grew out of it.

There are far too many images to talk about in a quick blog post–but you can look through them all at the museum’s website.  As the resident historian of things before the twentieth century, I’ll just post one image.

Fritz meets his ancestors
Radlov and Mikhailkov, "Meeting with an Ancestor," from http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/TASS/artwork/203965

It’s a variation on the conflation of historical battles with the Second World War. Here, though, “Fritz” (the Nazi everyman who’s featured in a lot of the posters) is meeting one of the knights–his Germanic ancestor!–defeated by Alexander Nevsky at the Battle on the Ice.  I’ve always loved the ways that history gets used in Soviet posters, and this is really one of the more unusual ones, in part because it’s tied in with comedy, particularly in the verse that goes along with it (which you can see at the site in the caption, above).

Actually, that’s one of the most interesting things about this exhibit.  While certainly many of the posters have that high emotional content–we will avenge!–of many of the more famous posters, there’s also a LOT of comic art and writing–and a lot of making fun of Hitler and the Nazis. It puts a very different spin (to me, at least) on the Soviet reaction to and interpretation of the war.

Categories
Digital Russian History Gulag

ASEEES NewsNet Article on Russian History Blog

If you haven’t seen it yet, please do visit the first all-digital edition of the ASEEES NewsNet, where you will find an article by yours truly that discusses the origins and the goals of Russian History Blog along with a few thoughts about the digital dissemination of our research in Russian history.

If you’re new to the blog, please have a look around. We’re on a bit of a hiatus for the summer, but we will have occasional posts and look for more regular updates in the fall.

Categories
Digital Russian History Teaching Russian History YouTube in Russian History Classes

Call for Web-based Teaching Resources

Given my own penchant for sharing YouTube videos here at Russian History Blog and the recent posts from Miriam Dobson and Alison Smith sharing some phenomenal historical photographs, it seems appropriate to start gathering a list of everyone’s favorite online resources for teaching Russian history. Add your favorites to the comments, and I’ll start compiling them and create a separate page on the blog with a list of these materials. I would bet that a lot of us will find a great many useful resources for our classes.

Categories
Digital Russian History Nostalgia and Memory Soviet Era 1917-1991 Teaching Russian History Uncategorized

Cartier-Bresson in Moscow

Guardian piece on Cartier-Bresson's Moscow imagesOver the Easter weekend, I was reading The Guardian and came across a full-page photograph taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson on a visit to the Soviet Union in 1954. This stunning photograph was used the following year as the front cover of Life magazine. 

To me the image is of a balmy Moscow day. Two pretty young girls are being eyed up by soldiers. People are waiting for a trolley-bus to take them home. A man is selling ice-cream, or maybe kvass, in the background.

Categories
Digital Russian History Imperial Russia Nostalgia and Memory

Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1909

Although I’d hoped to post something more substantive for my second post, instead, here’s a drive-by link to two photo albums that include some amazing images of Moscow and St. Petersburg in 1909.

To me, they bring home how much some of the streetscapes of these cities haven’t really changed in a century–and then how much some of them have.

My favorite image is this one, showing an early public health measure: free boiling water to fight the spread of cholera. The cucumber seller is a close second.

(Incidentally, I first saw these at metkere.com, an interesting blog that often links to wonderful image sources–including, today, images from the blockade of Leningrad.)

Categories
Digital Russian History Soviet Era 1917-1991 Teaching Russian History World War II YouTube in Russian History Classes

Rapping about the Divided Memory of Victory

Today marks the 66th anniversary of Victory Day. As Sean Guillory notes in a must-read post, victory, like so many other aspects of 20th century east European history, is remembered quite differently in many post-Soviet and post-Communist states. He writes:

Russia, with much justification, views this transformation of the memory of liberation into the memory of conquer as deeply insulting.  Yet the whether one thinks about the legitimacy of these moves, they nevertheless raise some quite uncomfortable questions about the basis for history, memory and identity. How to reconcile all these memories of victimhood into a general narrative, where the field of victims in the war can be objectively be dispersed between the war’s winners and losers?  Can it be done?  Should it? Or is the European memory of the war, as Tony Judt suggests, ever to remain “deeply asymmetrical”?

Of course, it is not only in Russia where the war is fondly remembered and revered as unsullied victory. In addition to the beautiful sand art animation from Ukraine’s Got Talent that I shared previously, I can’t help but think of this video, which I frequently show to my post-1945 Soviet/post-Soviet history students. It was made for the 60th anniversary of Victory Day in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. It is another great way to get my students to think about the different degree to which World War II continues to matter in the United States versus the former Soviet Union (obviously, as Sean highlights for us, this memory is not always positive). All you have to do is pick the latest favorite hip hop artist and ask the students if they could imagine them rapping about World War II.


 

Categories
Chernobyl Digital Russian History Soviet Era 1917-1991 Teaching Russian History

Chernobyl at 25

The recent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi brought the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown back into an often forgetful public consciousness. Although we will no doubt soon forget these events again, especially amidst the insane amount of coverage focused on royal nuptials, the world press is taking some note of Chernobyl today–the 25th anniversary of the disaster. A search on Google news shows over 9,400 articles referencing Chernobyl in the last 24 hours. The articles run the gamut: human interest stories (see also here), reminiscences from those who lived near Chernobyl and from the leaders who had to deal with the disaster, and a panoply of stories on how Chernobyl affected this or that locality. Although the Washington Post presented Chernobyl as the key to Ukrainian independence, coverage of the 25th anniversary differs significantly from the 20th in 2006. Then, many articles stressed Chernobyl’s role in the Soviet collapse. Although such stories are not entirely absent this year, ties to Fukushima Daiichi and anti-nuclear protests dominate the headlines (along with Russian President Dmitrii Medvedev’s trip to Chernobyl to mark the anniversary.) Nature magazine, I should add, has some important extensive coverage of the event.

Most of us, no doubt, teach about Chernobyl in our Soviet history courses. I wanted also to share two phenomenal resources for helping our students understand that horrible event. First, thanks to a number of colleagues for pointing out these chilling photographs taken at the time of the event. Second, I wanted to share a video that always helps students understand the magnitude of the tragedy. The French organization IRSN which focuses on nuclear safety issues provides this frightening video showing the spread of radioactive contamination during the two weeks immediately following the accident.

UPDATE

Thanks to the Davis Center at Harvard for pointing out After Chernobyl, an amazing resource on life around Chernobyl since the accident.

Categories
Cold War Digital Russian History Soviet Era 1917-1991 YouTube in Russian History Classes

YouTube of the Week – Khrushchev’s Visit to Iowa

So, this week’s YouTube of the Week is perhaps of more interest to researchers than it is to students. This is just part one of a series of videos uploaded by the Iowa State University Library’s Special Collections. They include raw news footage of Nikita Khrushchev’s 1959 visit to Iowa. I have not yet watched all of the footage, but in the midst of a lot of dullness, many great moments and images often tell you more about American history than Soviet. Of particular interest are the Iowans lining the roads for Khrushchev’s motorcade and holding up signs, including slogans like “The Only Good Communist is a Dead Communist.”

Unfortunately, it seems the ISU Library has disabled the capacity to embed the video in a blog post, so you’ll have to go here.  Khrushchev in Iowa

Categories
Digital Russian History Post-Soviet Russia Teaching Russian History YouTube in Russian History Classes

YouTube of the Week – Putin Rules

So, my YouTube of the Week feature would be better if it was actually a weekly feature. Unfortunately, a bit of illness has kept me offline for much of the last few weeks. So, when the YouTube of the Week last appeared, I shared one of my students’ favorites–I Want a Man Like Putin. I find when it comes to Putin’s “cult of personality,” that I have to stop myself from taking up an entire class period with all the great video footage. This was a new one for me last fall, though, that I just can’t help but share. As in many videos that I show in class, the students need no translation.

Categories
Digital Russian History Teaching Russian History

New Series – New Books in Russia and Eurasia

For some time now, I’ve followed and listened with great interest to Marshall Poe‘s terrific series of podcast interviews at New Books in History.  Poe, a historian of early modern Russia, interviews a wide variety of historians including many in Russian history.  Poe is in the process of launching the New Books Network including a variety of more specialized interview channels with their own hosts.  I could not be more pleased to see that Sean Guillory of Sean’s Russia Blog has launched the New Books in Russia and Eurasia channel.

Guillory’s first interview is with J. Arch Getty.  They discuss Getty’s 2008 book Ezhov: The Rise of Stalin’s “Iron Fist” (Yale UP, 2008).  This series will be an excellent resource for scholars and students alike.  Hopefully it will also bring some of the best scholarship in our field to a wider audience.