Exploring the Russian Culture – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Exploring the Russian Culture

Thomas Luly ’12 and Melissa Warner ’12 quickly realized the broad scope of Russian academic pursuits as they walked into the conference center of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., to attend one of the largest Russian studies meetings in North America.

Even for Luly, who spent this past summer in Moscow working at the Carnegie Moscow Center as the recipient of the Charles H. Salisbury Summer International Internship Stipend Award, the experience of attending The Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies Conference was eye-opening.

 “I think they were surprised to see that there were a couple thousand people at the conference, it was as if suddenly they were seeing a whole new world,” says Associate Professor of Russian Kristen Welsh. “Tom and Melissa were able to see that there are a lot of possibilities for work – not just in academics, but in think tanks and with government affiliates. It was wonderful for them to see how diverse, vibrant and large the Russian area studies community is.”

A presenter at the conference, Welsh organized the trip for the HWS contingent that included fellow presenter Assistant Professor of Russian Marina Aptekman, and Associate Professor of Economic Judith McKinney, Professor of Political Science David Ost, as well as alums Emily Lyons-Ellison ’10 and Ted Cook ’07.

“This is a broad organization that encompasses political science, history, media, literature, the environment – it is very multidisciplinary,” says Welsh. “It’s also incredibly multicultural – those attending are from all ends of the world. These are people who are teaching not only in the United States, but also in Europe and Russia.”

Welsh presented “Post-Memory and Apocalypse: Treating Time and History in Recent Russian-American Literature” in a panel on recent Russian-American Fiction. Welsh’s presentation focused on Soviet born writers who are now writing in English, a topic she has been working on for some time. This was her third year presenting the material; she and her colleagues – all from various universities – were recently published in a special Spring 2011 issue of the Slavic & East European Journal.

Aptekman spoke on “Jewish Utopianism Meets Socialist Realism: ‘The Steamboat to Jaffa and Back’ and ‘The Seekers of Happiness’ and their Role in the Formation of Anti-Zionist Soviet Jewish Identity of the 1930s” in a panel on forming Russian-Jewish identity.

Luly, a double major in political science and Russian area studies, found the panelists particularly compelling. “While I follow the political and economic situation in Russia rather closely, the panel discussions were intellectually stimulating, and they helped refresh my thinking on many contemporary issues in Russia,” remarks Luly. “The conference nicely supplemented the foundations that I’ve built at HWS in politics, economics and the Russian language, and gave me a glimpse of how I might be able to apply my skills in a future professional capacity.”

Warner, a double major in Russian language and culture and Asian languages and cultures, sought out the conference as a means to explore her current scholarly interests – which include Russian folklore, the Orthodox Church, and Russian-to-English translation – through the work and research of the fields’ best minds. Warner also found the materials and knowledge she gained from the conference helpful to her the honors project on modern Russian women writers.

 “I was also able to meet a number of people, both professors and graduate students, who were able to tell me about their experiences with Russian studies,” explains Warner, who is currently applying to grad schools to study Russian folklore. “Since I’m approaching a new phase in my life, it was really helpful to hear about what directions other people decided to take in relation to Russian studies.”