On April 1, the University of Washington’s Ellison Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies partnered with Reed College to host the 23rd annual REECAS NW Conference. Scholars, students, and educators from the Pacific Northwest gathered at Reed College in Portland, Oregon to present their research on a wide variety of topics, including contemporary politics, security, art, literature, and approaches to teaching Russian language and teaching about Russia.
Kicking off the days events, presenters discussed Jewishness in Soviet literature and history. The panel, chaired by Evgenii Bershtein, Professor and Chair of the Russian Department at Reed College, looked at various Jewish aspects of written works during the communist period. Cassio de Oliveira, Assistant Professor at Portland State University, spoke about Isaak Babel’s “Odessa Tales” and rhetoric of the revolution. Other presenters discussed the messages in Soviet Yiddish verse and views of the holocaust.
Chaired by UW Ellison Center Managing Director Philip Lyon, one of the morning panels focused on socialist legacies and current challenges in Eastern Europe. Sara Tomczuk, PhD Candidate in Sociology at UW, discussed how policies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic shape attitudes toward Roma minority communities. Kevin Aslett, PhD Student in Political Science at UW, presented his research on how newer members of the European Union approach the euro currency. Focusing on several socialist and communist political parties of Moldova, Rodica Rusu, Visiting Fulbright Scholar, explained how the communist legacy shapes politics and elections in the country today.
Following the morning panels, UW History Professor Glennys Young delivered the keynote lecture of the conference, entitled “The Russian Revolution and the Making of the 20th Century: Global Perspectives at the Centennial.” Professor Young discussed the impact of the revolution on the events of the 20th century and spoke about how refugees of the upheaval left their mark on societies across the world, including here in the Pacific Northwest.
The afternoon panels addressed a wide variety of issues, including security and leadership power structures in the Soviet Union, civic activism in modern-day Ukraine, and how Buddhist, Jewish, and Mongol identities are expressed in art, film, and history. Jose Alaniz, Associate Professor at UW, spoke about Czech comics, while Teofila Cruz-Uribe, UW Jackson School MA student, discussed the avant-garde in Russian Museology.
William Comer, Associate Professor and Director of the Russian Flagship Program at Portland State University, chaired a panel on teaching the Russian language. The presenters discussed approaches to teaching the language at different levels and to different groups. Anna Aslufieva, Assistant Professor at Portland State University, spoke about engaging students in intercultural learning through service projects.
During the final panel of the day, presenters discussed how Russia under Vladimir Putin is shaping the country’s role in the world. Celia Baker, Ellison Center MA Student, discussed how the issue of human rights are viewed by the Russian Federation and what that means for global relations. Carol Williams, former LA Times Moscow Bureau Chief, spoke about contemporary conflict between the United States and Russia. Chris Collison, UW Jackson School MA Student, spoke about Russia’s information warfare and conspiracy theories surrounding
Ukraine’s 2014 revolution and the ensuing War in the Donbas. Finishing up the discussion, Christina Sciabarra, Adjunct Faculty at Bellevue College, spoke about the challenges of teaching undergraduates about Russia amid current global events.