FLAS Notes from the Field: Poland’s Open Air Village Museum

UW Slavic Languages and Literatures graduate student Nathan Marks is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) at John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland. Nathan’s Polish language and culture program also includes regional excursions, such as this recent visit to a museum of village life.

“On Sunday July 17th we traveled not far outside of the city to the Muzeum Wsi Lubelskiej. It was a wet and stormy day which, though it made our shoes and clothes wet and muddy, reminded us that this was how Poles lived in times past. Though made of straw, the roofs were watertight and the interior of the old village homes were cool and dry with decor ranging from tools to dolls and toys. 

The Muzeum Wsi Lubelskiej is an Open Air Village Museum in Lublin located in the valley of the Czechówka River. It is one of the biggest open air museums in Poland and shows the cultural diversity of the province along with rich architecture and exhibits. It gathers items related to the former way of life in the village, in the manor, and in the small town. It also preserves knowledge about the customs, rituals, traditions, and everyday work of historical Polish life.

The museum in Lublin is a permanent public institution of knowledge and science which specializes in creating, preserving and sharing both material and cultural heritage and social background. The institution plays a significant educational and societal role in popularizing both aesthetic and intellectual needs. This role defines cultural identity as a mediator between the interpreted past and the created future.

Though it was rainy and wet, there were still many other groups and families taking in the educational and cultural experience that the museum has […]

By |July 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

FLAS Notes from the Field: Russia’s Great Cities

UW junior and electrical engineering major Molly O’Brien is currently on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship (FLAS) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where she is studying at CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange). During her studies, she is also exploring Russia’s other cities, learning about their pace of life and even how their citizens take their coffee.

“This week I returned to St. Petersburg from my long weekend in Moscow. Both cities are so Russian in nature, but such a stark contrast appears between them. The street sign marking Red Square has the number 1, meaning that all streets radiate out from the Kremlin, a typical layout for such an old settlement. St. Petersburg, established many years later, resembles a planned grid. The political and economic center of Russia, Moscow conveys a fast-paced lifestyle; while St. Petersburg, considered to be the cultural center, is not so focused on efficiency. Coffee “с собой” (to go) is available here these days, but Peterburzhtsi (Petersburgers, perhaps?) are not eager to embrace the idea. Both cities represent different perspectives, but I found myself more inclined to call Petersburg home upon returning.”

Russia’s two most major cities have distinct personalities and enjoy a spirited rivalry, as suggested by the joke one of Molly’s professor’s shared with CIEE students:

“A young man is sitting on the subway. An old woman gets on, and he stands up to offer his seat. “Садитесь, пожалуйста.” (Please, have a seat). The old woman sits down and tells him that he must be from St. Petersburg, since in Moscow, they would never say “Садитесь, пожалуйста.” A few minutes pass, and the young man remarks that she must be from Moscow. She confirms this, and asks how he knew. […]

By |July 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

University of Washington Translator Michael Biggins on Lojze Kovacic’s “Newcomers” 7/20 in DC and 7/21 in NYC

Archipelago Books, a New York-based non-profit publisher that in the ten years it has existed has made major contributions to the availability of great works of world literature in English translation, is now making its first venture in Slovene literature with the publication of Newcomers, a highly autographical novel by Lojze Kovačič (1928-2004) that was first published in Slovenia in the mid-1980s.   A Bildungsroman that follows its protagonist’s maturation from young boy to young man over the course of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous decade – from 1938 to 1948 –each of the three volumes of Newcomers focuses on a progressively higher stage in the process of growth, from the young boy’s search for safety and his quest for power in Book One, to the adolescent’s discovery of sex and love in Book Two, and culminating in the young man’s emergence as a gifted creative artist in Book Three.  The arc of this development takes place amid extreme material deprivation, inter-ethnic hostility, occupation by Axis powers, civil war and revolution, all of which marked life in the northwest corner of Yugoslavia at the time.  As a fifty-five-year-old narrator looking back, Kovačič does a seamless job of channeling his boyhood, adolescent and young adult selves – all of them preternaturally observant – to produce one of the most perceptive and vibrant accounts of that time available in any literature.  Newcomers is often referred to as the great twentieth-century Slovenian novel.  Book One, which Archipelago just published this May, will be followed by Books Two and Three in English translation in 2018 and 2019.

Michael Biggins will speak on his translation of Lojze Kovačič’s Newcomers on July 20th at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC and on […]

By |July 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

PODCAST | State Department DAS Rosenblum: The US and Central Asia – 25 Years after Independence, Why Should We Care?

Daniel Rosenblum, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State, visited the University of Washington earlier this year and gave a talk to packed room of graduate students, faculty and community members, including representatives of the Seattle-Tashkent Sister City Association. He started his remarks by sharing the story of his own journey through a career in various roles focused on the region before launching into the United States’ role in the region and why the West should care. A podcast of DAS Rosenblum’s presentation is now available on the Ellison Center’s SoundCloud and iTunes channels.

By |July 12th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

PODCAST | Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Farkas on “The Perils of Putin’s Russia”

Recent Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas came to the University of Washington this spring to give the 2016 Herbert J. Ellison Memorial Lecture. In her lecture, Dr. Farkas discussed the current state of affairs between the United States and Russia, and highlighted the steps the United States could take to counter Russian aggression. Dr. Farkas’ full lecture is available here as a podcast.

From 2012 to 2015, Farkas served at the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and was responsible for conventional arms control policy towards Russia and Eurasia. Currently, she is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative. She has had recent articles appear in Defense One and Politico, among other media outlets.

By |June 8th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

NATO v. Russia: Can more defense mean less security?

The NATO allies have delivered a one-two punch this month at perceived dangers emanating from Russia by activating a missile shield in Romania and announcing plans to deploy 4,000 soldiers and their weaponry in nervous member states bordering Russia in the Baltic region [...] Alliance officials have attempted to reassure the Kremlin that the moves are not intended as a threat to Russia. Rather, the Western defense chiefs insist, the Romanian installation is meant to protect against a missile strike from a “rogue nation” and the troop deployments are merely a rotational exercise to reassure Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that NATO is ready to defend them should they come under attack.

By |May 17th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

2016 Fulbright Enrichment Seminar | Democracy in Action: U.S. Politics and Elections

Every year, the Department of State and Institute of International Education (IIE) organize special enrichment seminars for first-year Fulbright Foreign Students studying at universities across the United States.

From May 4 through May 9, 2016, IIE organized a “democracy in action” seminar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to acquaint visiting Fulbrighters from more than 100 different countries with U.S. politics and elections. As a U.S. Fulbright alum, I was invited to participate and facilitate the conference, and to provide mentorship to the visiting Fulbright students. This conference, in particular, is only done every four years to coincide with the U.S. presidential election. This year provided the participants a fascinating look into how the media and changing demographics are influencing the race. The keynote speaker was Susan Milligan of U.S. News and World Report who spoke about how America’s racial, ethnic, and religious minorities are influencing the election and changing the face of the nation.

Other speakers included Tom Healy, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011 to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, who talked about the history of the Fulbright Program and the significance of international educational exchange in forging relationships between countries.  William Rosenberg, professor of political science at Drexel University led a panel discussion with author Gary Woodward and reporter Bruce Gordon about the role of media in presenting information related to elections and the responsibility they have in shaping public opinion and political discourse. The visiting Fulbrighters who attended the conference were able to engage with the speakers and asked thoughtful questions, allowing everyone in the room – myself included – insight into how the rest of the world perceived the state of the presidential race in the United States.

On Friday evening, all the visiting […]

By |May 11th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

REECAS NW Conference 2016 | Breakdown or Breakout: Perils and Opportunities for the REECAS Region

On Saturday, April 30 the University of Washington’s Ellison Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies (REECAS) and the University of Puget Sound (UPS) partnered to hold the twenty-second annual REECAS NW conference. Students and scholars came together from the University of Victoria, Stanford University, Seattle Pacific University, UPS and UW to present on issues facing the REECAS region, exploring such topics as identity, democracy, culture, and diplomacy.

The wide variety of panels throughout the day was enough to engage the interests of anyone who attended the conference. University of Puget Sound Professor Ben Tromley and University of Victoria graduate student Matthew Miskulin opened the conference with papers on the Russian exile community in mid-20th century Europe, a topic that was further explored for the 21st century by UW Information School visiting scientist Oot Toomet, who gave a paper analyzing Russians and ethnic segregation in modern Estonia using cell phone data.  Simultaneously, another panel addressed the Balkans and the larger implications this region has for the West and for Russia. The panelists presented on Kosovo-Serbia reconciliation, similarities and differences between independent Kosovo’s emergence from Serbia and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the cultural and political currents that run in the Balkan region. It proved thought-provoking, with a lively question and answer session that engaged members of the audience.

Following the morning panels, conference organizers held a special screening of “Oleg’s Choice,” a documentary film about the fighting that broke out in eastern Ukraine in early 2014. The film explores how two young Russian men were driven by propaganda and adventure to fight in the Donbass region and in addition were able to give perspective on what this war meant to them. The film was followed by an animated […]

By |May 3rd, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

PODCAST | Matteo Fumagalli on Stateness, Contested Nationhood & Imperiled Sovereignty in Kyrgyzstan

Matteo Fumagalli, an associate professor in the Department of International Relations at Budapest’s Central European University, came to the Ellison Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies at the University of Washington in spring 2016 to discuss Kyrgyzstan and the idea of “frozen conflicts.” Kyrgyzstan’s post-Soviet political history has been marked by dramatic swings, ranging from descents into violence to swift returns to stability, which represent a trans-national dimension of conflict in the Former Soviet Union. Dr. Fumagalli directed specific attention to the events in and around the city of Osh in 2010 and the role of external actors in these and other events in Kyrgyzstan. To hear a complete recording of his UW lecture, please click on the Ellison Center’s podcast of the talk below.

This and other podcasts are also available on the Ellison Center SoundCloud and iTunes channels. Please check us out!

By |April 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

PODCAST | Lucan Way on “Pluralism by Default: Weak Autocrats and the Rise of Competitive Politics in Ukraine, Russia, and Elsewhere in the Former Soviet Union”

On April 26, University of Toronto Associate Professor of Political Science Lucan Way visited the University of Washington to give a public lecture on his new book, Pluralism by Default: Weak Autocrats and the Rise of Competitive Politics.

As part of his talk, Dr. Way outlined his theory about the perhaps surprising rise of pluralism in countries which lack democratic histories. It is not, in fact, the presence of civil society, democratic leadership, well-designed institutions, or democratic culture that facilitates pluralism, he asserted. Rather, pluralism emerges from authoritarian weakness, which he defined as the existence of an inter-developed ruling party, a weak authoritarian state, and a divided national identity.

During his visit, Professor Way met with graduate students conducting research on Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, including political scientists, historians, and sociologists.

“It was great to have such a prominent scholar of political regimes and the former Soviet Union on campus,” said Nora Williams, a PhD student in Political Science. “I particularly appreciated his willingness to meet and chat with graduate students about his research and the field.”

Please find a link to this and the Ellison Center’s many other podcasts here.


By |April 26th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments