BASEES celebrates International Women's Day 2019

BASEES celebrates International Women's Day 2019

All this week over on Twitter, @BASEES has been celebrating International Women’s Day with daily “themed” calls to nominate notable women. We’ve invited you to propose your favourite fictional character from Slavic literature, your most inspiring academic colleague, the most significant women in Slavic history and culture, and, of course, Slavic women writers and translators! The result has been an outpouring of appreciation and gratitude from men and women alike, and a real celebration of women’s achievements and scholarship in the field of Slavic studies.

Call for Support by the Hungarian Academy Staff Forum

Call for Support

Dear Colleagues,

It is with genuine concern for the future of academic freedom in Hungary that we write to you to

appeal for your help. As a staff member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, it has been my

misfortune over the course of the past roughly one year to watch as the current government has

taken concrete steps to assert its control over scholarly institutions in Hungary, thereby

endangering academic freedom and open intellectual inquiry. We are appealing to you out of my

firm conviction that, as scholars and educators, we share a commitment to the fundamental

principle that the freedom of academic life from political interest is one of the pillars of a

functioning democracy and vigorous intellectual inquiry. This principle is being seriously

compromised right now in Hungary, and academic freedom is under imminent threat.

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In May 2018, the Hungarian government created a new ministry, the so-called Ministry for

Innovation and Technology. Then, in July 2018, 70 percent of the budget of the Hungarian

Academy of Sciences for 2019, was moved to this ministry. The budget provides normative

funding for the network of research centres of the Academy, which have approximately 5,000

active staff members. The disbursement of the budget is now bound to a newly established

system of short-term, topic-based tenders that are subject to several laws and academic decrees.

On January 31, 2019, the National Office for Research, Development, and Innovation, which is

controlled by the Ministry for Innovation and Technology, launched a so-called “program of

excellence.” According to this new model, research centres must apply for their entire budget by

submitting tenders which are assessed according to unclear (unspecified) evaluation procedures,

allowing for arbitrary, politically motivated decisions. (For a more detailed presentation of the

situation, see the attachment or https://adf2019.wordpress.com/english/).

The opaque evaluation system of the project-based tenders, which also extends to public

universities and state-controlled research centres, constitutes a break from standard practice and a

violation of fundamental principles of academic freedom in the European Union. Basic research

is being placed under governmental funding and direct political control.

The Hungarian Academy Staff Forum remains firm in its conviction that the independence of the

Academy and the integrity of its research network can only be preserved if the Presidium of the

Academy refuses to participate in the tender under the given conditions. For the future of the

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary’s oldest and most prominent scholarly and scientific

institution, it is essential that it be able to continue to pursue its work as an independent body

partly financed by state funds on a regular, non-partisan basis. We are confident that the

international community of scholars agrees, and we appeal to you as our colleagues and as

scholars committed to genuine, open intellectual endeavour to voice your support for us.

We therefore ask you please to send a letter of support for academic freedom in the name of

your institution to the President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Prof. László Lovász.

You can use the following email addresses:

elnokseg@titkarsag.mta.hu

balla.andrea@titkarsag.mta.hu

simon.tamas@titkarsag.mta.hu

We extend our sincerest thanks in advance for your support, and we trust that our common

commitment to academic freedom will prevail.

With kind regards,

Researchers of MTA KRTK

Special Issue: The Global Impact of the Russian Revolution, Revolutionary Russia 31, 2 (2018)

Revolutionary Russia, the journal of the  Study Group on the Russian Revolution (founded in 1975) has published a special issue on ‘The Global Impact of the Russian Revolution’.

Front/back cover of Ezh No. 8, 1930 (LS collection Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven).

Front/back cover of Ezh No. 8, 1930 (LS collection Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven).

VOLUME 31 NUMBER 2 DECEMBER 2018

Special Issue: The Global Impact of the Russian Revolution

Introduction

From Lenin’s Overcoat? the Global Impact of the Russian Revolution
Aaron B. Retish and Matthew Rendle 145

Forum: The Global Legacy of the Russian Revolution?

The Global Legacy of the Russian Revolution: A Comparative Perspective
Steven G. Marks 152

The Global Legacy of the Russian Revolution: A Comparative Perspective
Paul Dukes 175

The On-going Legacy of February: A Response to Steven G. Marks
Daniel Orlovsky 189

Centennial Thoughts on an Exhausted (?) Revolution
Christopher Read 194

Interview

Interview with S. A. Smith
George Souvlis, Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez and S. A. Smith 208

Articles

Anarcho-Syndicalism and the Russian Revolution: Towards a Political Explanation of a Fleeting Romance, 1917–22

Arturo Zoffmann Rodriguez 226

Glory to the Russian Maximalists!’ Reactions to the Russian Revolution in Argentina and Brazil, 1917–22
Franziska Yost 247

The Russian Revolution and the Emergence of Japanese Anticommunism
Tatiana Linkhoeva 261

Youthful Internationalism in the Age of ‘Socialism in One Country’: Komsomol’tsy, Pioneers and ‘World Revolution’ in the Interwar Period
Matthias Neumann 279

Book Reviews

Rachel Morley, Performing Femininity: Woman as Performer in Early Russian Cinema
Susan Grant 304

Elizabeth McGuire, Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution
Rachel Lin 306

C. L. R. James, World Revolution 1917–1936. The Rise and Fall of the Communist International
Fredrik Petersson 308

Lynne Viola, Stalinist Perpetrators on Trial. Scenes From the Great Terror in Soviet Ukraine
Immo Rebitschek 310

Melissa Kirschke Stockdale, Mobilizing the Russian Nation: Patriotism and Citizenship
in the First World War
John W. Steinberg 312

Lara Douds, Inside Lenin’s Government: Ideology, Power, and Practice in the Early Soviet
State
Michael Melancon 314

Boris Gorshkov, Peasants in Russia from Serfdom to Stalin: Accommodation, Survival, Resistance
Kieran Nelson 316

List of Russian Publications, 2018 319

Obituary

The Non-Geometric Carter Elwood (1936–2018): An Appreciation
Lars T. Lih 323 

Obituary: Dissident academic, Zhores Medvedev, dies aged 93

Zhores Medvedev

Zhores Medvedev

The dissident academic, Zhores Medvedev, author of books on T D Lysenko, agriculture, the 1957 nuclear accident in the Urals and the political use of psychiatry to quell dissent, has died. Here, his friend of many years, Professor Margot Light, reminds us of his contribution to our understanding of Soviet science.

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Zhores Medvedev, who died on 15th November on the day after his 93rd birthday, first came to international prominence when he was incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital in May 1970, in response to his samizdat publications criticising the pseudo-science of Lysenkoism.  He had already been dismissed from his post as head of the department of molecular biology at the Institute of Medical Radiology in Obninsk.  His sojourn in the psychiatric hospital led to the publication in the West of an account, co-authored with his twin brother Roy, of the use made by the Soviet authorities of psychiatric hospitals to silence dissidents (A Question of Madness, 1971).  In 1973 he was unexpectedly allowed to accept a 12 month research fellowship at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. Soon after his arrival in the UK, he was informed that he had been deprived of Soviet citizenship.  It was restored in 1990, but Medvedev continued working at the NIMR until he retired in 1991.  Despite being an active scientist, he found time after hours to research and publish books on Soviet Science (1978), The Nuclear Disaster in the Urals (1979), Soviet Agriculture (1987), and The Legacy of Chernobyl (1990). He also wrote political biographies of Andropov and Gorbachev.  Medvedev remained physically and intellectually energetic until his death, cultivating vegetables on his allotment and writing every day. Medvedev remained physically and intellectually energetic, cultivating vegetables on his allotment until his late eighties (and then in his garden) and writing every day. In January he concluded his 115-chapter memoir, and shortly before his death he had completed Chapter 15 of a book on longevity.

BASEES Statement on Gender Studies in Hungary

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Dr József Bódis 

Secretary of State for Education

Ministry of National Resources

                                                                

21st August 2018

Dear Dr Bodis

I am writing on behalf of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies. The Association is the largest professional association of academics and scholars who are engaged in research and teaching on East Central European and Slavonic studies. Our members are drawn from a wide range of disciplines the arts, humanities and social sciences from higher educational institutions in the UK and Europe.   

The proposed law of the Hungarian Government to abolish accredited MA programmes in gender studies has been met incredulity by members of the Association, regardless of their own personal research interests. Gender Studies has so long been included in postgraduate courses and consideration of gender processes integral to courses in the humanities and social sciences in leading Universities across that world, that I do not propose to mount a defense of the discipline; gender, self-evidently, belongs in the curriculum of any institution of higher learning in the 21st century. Rather than trying to abolish gender studies courses at the Central European University and Eötvös Loránd University, the Hungarian Ministry of Education should be congratulating both universities for forging a path for other institutions of higher learning in Hungary to follow. Hungary appears to have chosen to be a pariah and object of ridicule in global teaching and research. The prosed law will damage even further its reputation, which has already been compromised by its assault on the CEU.  

Our thoughts are with the students, scholars and teachers who will find their legitimate pursuit of knowledge in the sphere of gender studies handicapped by this action. Our message to our colleagues in the CEU and ELTE is that BASEES will give them a warm welcome at its conferences, where they will have unconstrained opportunities to engage in critical discourse on all aspects of the theory and practice of gender relations and politics.  

BASEES calls upon the Secretary State of Education to refuse this absurd amendment and, more generally, to call a halt on all state interventions in the legitimate pursuit of knowledge by scholars in Hungary.

 Yours sincerely,

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Professor Judith Pallot

President of BASEES

 

University of Oxford.

Christ Church

OX1 1DP

 

Cc 

Dr. Lajos Aáry-Tamás, Commissioner for Educational Rights

Mr Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky. Hungarian Ambassador

Uppsala-BASEES Conference - Regimes and Societies in Conflict: Eastern Europe and Russia since 1956

Regimes and Societies in Conflict: Eastern Europe and Russia since 1956

Uppsala-BASEES Conference 13-14 September 2018

Uppsala Universitet

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The Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies are hosting a two-day conference to be held at Uppsala University in September 2018 with the theme ‘Regimes and Societies in Conflict: Eastern Europe and Russia since 1956’.

Over the last 60 years Eastern Europe and Russia have been the scene of immense political, social and cultural upheaval. This conference provides the opportunity to reflect on the changes in the region that have led from Stalinist dictatorships to the very varied polities of contemporary Eastern Europe and Russia.

Download the full draft conference programme.

Register at www.uppsala-basees.org 

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Registration fee: €100 (€120 after 17 August)

Registration fee (PhD students): €70 (€90 after 17 August)

If you are unable to take advantage of the early-bird rate due to outstanding visa or funding applications, please contact us at uppsalabasees@gmail.com

Enquiries about the conference are welcome at uppsalabasees@gmail.com

 

Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies

The Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences “The SHANINKA” - Statement form the President of BASEES

It is with the deepest regret and incredulity that the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies has learned of the decision of Rosobrnadzor in the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation not to renew the accreditation of the Moscow School of Social and economic sciences.  This institution is known affectionately as “the Shaninka”, after its founder the scholar of Russian peasantry Teodor Shanin, an old and valued member of BASEES.

BASEES President Prof Judith Pallot

BASEES President Prof Judith Pallot

The consequence of Rosobrnadzor’s decision for the 300-strong student body is that if they choose to continue their courses at the university their hard-earned diplomas will no longer be state-recognized, with all that that implies for their future academic and career trajectories (including, their deferment from military service). The impact on those who were planning to enter  the university in the future  is not difficult to imagine.

I will not speculate on the reasons for the decision to revoke the Shaninka’s accreditation, except to note that it seems set to extinguish yet another of the shining beacons of higher education in the Russian Federation.  Since its foundation in 1995, the Shaninka has become an internationally respected institution of higher education and research.  Its graduate and, recently introduced, undergraduate programmes attract the very best and talented young people from all over the Russian Federation. These students had the benefit of tuition from some of the Russian Federation’s liveliest minds, scholars who are academic leaders in varied fields of social and economic sciences, but also who are experienced practitioners in the world of culture, business and the law. They include Vasily Zharkov, Victor Vakhstain, Linor Goralik, Pavel Rudnev, Grigory Yudin and the Rector, Sergey Zuev.

Experience has shown that higher education is most successful in achieving its mission of producing the next generation of scholars, figures in public life, industry and enterprise when tuition is informed by rigorous, cutting-edge research and real-world practice. Rosobrnadzor not only inflicts a blow on the cause of quality higher education in the Russian Federation, from which the whole sector will suffer, but it also harms the reputation of academic scholarship in the Russian Federation more broadly by landing a fatal blow on the numerous varied and innovative programmes of international cooperation and collaboration in research, teaching and learning that have been painstakingly built over the past two decades. In particular, the partnership of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences with the University of Manchester, where Teodor Shanin is emeritus professor, has demonstrated how the international academic community can be enriched at all levels by collaborative programmes, which can act as rare forums for genuine and disinterested exchange of views. 

BASEES wishes to convey its solidarity with the staff and students of Shaninka and to add its voice to those urging the Ministry of Education to reverse Rosobrnadzor’s potential death sentence on this has pronounced on this unique seat of scholarship and learning.

Judith Pallot, President of BASEES

BASEES Women’s Forum Prizes 2018

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Book Prizes

Pauline Fairclough, Classics for the Masses: Shaping Soviet Musical Identity under Lenin and Stalin

In the shaping of Soviet cultural identity from 1917 to 1953, music played an important role. Great works of art were integrated into the Soviet canon, but could also be used to criticise contemporary Soviet artists, to build a new narrative of Russian supremacy, while stamping out musical avant-gardism. Fairclough’s book provides fascinating detail on programming and performance based on archival research. She explains judiciously an era which, while it may not have ‘moulded’ the Soviet listener, did offer a form of entertainment not widely accessible before 1917. The canon was never wholly static, even in the years 1948-53, when it was most tightly controlled. Her book will be the definitive work on this subject.

Sarah Badcock, A Prison without Walls? Eastern Siberian Exile in the Last Years of Tsarism

While Soviet historiography emphasized the cultural benefits that political exiles brought to Siberia, Badcock gives voice as well to the regional authorities and local populations, who articulated the negative impacts of exile on their communities.  Exiles who lacked private means were forced to provide for themselves in unaccustomed conditions. There was a quota on those allowed into the towns, and little work elsewhere. Criminal exiles roamed free, for example in Yakut villages, further impoverishing and terrorising their local inhabitants. Badcock has consulted archives in the Sakha Republic and the Irkutsk Oblast. We hear new kinds of voices in this study, and find descriptions that prove further that state ambitions for forced labour and the misery of prisoners and their families did not begin with the Soviet state. 

Book Prize Jury: Dan Healey and Barbara Heldt

 

Article Prizes

This year saw a great range of essays submitted which demonstrated that
scholarship by women on Eastern Europe is really flourishing.

We awarded the BASEES women's prize jointly to Agnes Kriza for her
beautifully illustrated article on ‘The Russian Gnadenstuhl’ for the
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 79 (2016), pp. 79-130.
 
The intricacy of the research impressed the judges as well as her
empirical range which integrated material from a several
historiographical traditions. We thought it was a striking piece of
historical detection, which rescued a little known period in Russian
history. The other joint winner was Michelle Assay for her original and
incisive article 'What did Hamlet (not) do to offend Stalin?' Actes des
congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [on line], 35 / 2017
. Dr
Assay elegantly traced Stalin’s antipathy to ‘Hamletism’ and historic
Russian interpretations of Hamlet rather than to Shakespeare and the
Danish prince per se.  Drawing on a wide range of secondary and archival
sources, the article presented a nuanced, compelling and tight argument.

Runners up

The judges also warmly commended the runners up. We
thought that Maria Engström's essay ‘Daughterland [Rodina-Doch’]: Erotic
patriotism and Russia's future. Conservative mobilization and
sexualization of the nation’
, published with the online journal Intersection: Russia/Europe/World, contained the kernel of a fascinating idea which could be developed into a longer piece. We admired the empirical detail about Ivanovo and the intellectual ambition of the article ‘Appropriation and Subversion: Precommunist Literacy, Communist Party Saturation, and Postcommunist Democratic Outcomes’ by Tomila V. Lankina, Alexander Libman and Anastassia Obydenkova which was published in World Politics, vol. 68 no. 2, 2016, pp. 229-274. The article by Sigita Kraniauskien and Laima Žilinskien on ‘Soviet Ethics in Soviet Memory Studies’ in The Soviet Past in the Post-Socialist Present: Methodology and Ethics edited by Melanie Ilic and Dalia Leinarte (London: Routledge 2016), pp. 92-109 showed deep insight into complex processes.

Article Prize Jury: Mary Buckley and Cathie Carmichael

 

POSTGRADUATE PRIZE

Awarded jointly to Lara Green, for the paper 'Feliks Volkhovskii, Transnational Networks, and Terrorist Propaganda, 1890-1914' and Sarah Dorr, for the paper 'The elite-level demonstration effect of the Arab Spring in Kazakhstan: 2005-2015'.

Postgraduate Prize Jury: Sarah Badcock, Melanie Ilic and Claire Shaw

Olena Palko wins BASEES Postgraduate Prize, 2016

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BASEES is delighted to announce that the Postgraduate Prize, 2016 (to be awarded at the 2018 Annual Conference) will go to Olena Palko (Birkbeck, University of London) for her article "Between Two Powers: The Soviet Ukrainian Writer Mykola Khvyl'ovyi" in Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 64 (2016), H. 4, S. 575–598. The jury's citation:

Olena Palko’s study of ‘Soviet Ukrainian Writer’ Mykola Khvyl’ovyi effectively challenges the existing historical and literary paradigm which seeks to classify prominent intellectuals as communist or nationalist. Palko’s central argument, that Khvyl’ovyi’s multifaceted identity as proletarian writer, Bolshevik and Soviet Ukrainian during the 1920s was complex but not contradictory, is compelling and lays the basis for a much more nuanced analysis of his life and literary legacy. This engaging and well-written article draws on available archival materials and original literary analysis, effectively integrated within a rich historiographical context. Palko’s study not only broadens our knowledge and understanding of Khvyl’ovyi and his work, but also provides many useful observations about ‘national intellectuals’ in the early Soviet period. Therefore, it is a deserving winner of this year’s BASEES Postgraduate Prize.

Jury: Andrea Gullotta, University of Glasgow and Kelly Hignett, Leeds Beckett University

The Postgraduate Prize for the best scholarly article by a postgraduate student was established by decision of the annual general meeting of the Association in April 2013.

Jakub Beneš wins George Blazyca Prize for 'Workers and Nationalism'

BASEES is delighted to announce that the George Blazyca Prize, 2016 (to be awarded at the 2018 Annual Conference) will go to Jakub Beneš (University of Birmingham) for Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Hapsburg Austria, 1890-1918 (Oxford University Press, 2016). The jury's citation:

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Jakub S. Beneš’s book, Workers and Nationalism: Czech and German Social Democracy in Habsburg Austria, 1890-1918, addresses the issues of nationalism, socialism and ‘national indifference’ in the Austrian half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the turn of the twentieth century. Beneš takes issue with Hans Mommsen’s argument that Czech Social Democrats adopted nationalist politics because the party leadership pandered to petty bourgeois elements. He directs our attention, rather, to the grass roots, where a transnational, socialist movement fighting exclusion from political society on class grounds gradually switched focus, once the vote had been won, to a struggle against exclusion on the grounds of national minority status. In the process, social democracy split along ethnic lines, because neither side understood the concerns of the other. As Beneš insists and illustrates, with copious and vivid evidence from Czech and German memoirs, newspapers, pamphlets and popular literature, this distinctly working-class variant of nationalism was, by the time of the First World War, a mass movement; the opinions of party leaders were irrelevant.

Jury: Prof. Nigel Swain, University of Liverpool and Prof. Anne White, SSEES, University College London 

The George Blazyca Prize for scholarly work of high quality in East European studies was established by decision of the annual general meeting of the Association in April 2006 in recognition of the outstanding contribution to its field of study made by the late George Blazyca.

Andy Willimott wins Alexander Nove Prize for 'Living the Revolution'

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BASEES is delighted to announce that the Alexander Nove Prize, 2016, to be awarded at the 2018 Annual Conference, will go to Andy Willimott (University of Reading) for Living the Revolution: Urban Communes and Soviet Socialism, 1917- 1932 (Oxford University Press, 2016) The jury's citation:

In Living the Revolution, Andy Willimott takes an almost entirely unknown topic and makes it his own, turning what could have been a traditional ‘thesis book’ into something of real lasting value. This fine, energetic piece of scholarship offers a genuinely new perspective on the revolutionary developments of the 1920s by making a compelling case for the importance of the much neglected urban commune movement. It strikes a convincing balance between stressing the agency of the commune activists – aptly characterized as ‘those who tried to be the change they wanted to see in the world’ - and the increasing control imposed by the party-state. Willimott’s impressive command of his sources enables him to expand the scope of his conclusions beyond his field of specialism and to make a major contribution to revitalising the study of early Soviet Russia. He is a worthy winner of this year’s Nove Prize.

Jury: (Prof. Stephen Hutchings, University of Manchester and Prof. Peter Waldron, University of East Anglia, Advisor: Prof. Stephen Smith, University of Oxford)

The Alexander Nove Prize for scholarly work of high quality in Russian, Soviet and post-Soviet studies was established by decision of the annual general meeting of the Association in March 1995 in recognition of the outstanding contribution to its field of study made by the late Alexander Nove.

CFP - REGIMES AND SOCIETIES IN CONFLICT: EASTERN EUROPE AND RUSSIA SINCE 1956 September 13-14 2018, Uppsala University

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The Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies invite proposals for panels and papers for a two-day conference to be held at Uppsala University in September 2018 with the theme ‘Regimes and Societies in Conflict: Eastern Europe and Russia since 1956’.

Over the last 60 years Eastern Europe and Russia have been the scene of immense political, social and cultural upheaval. This conference provides the opportunity to reflect on the changes in the region that have led from Stalinist dictatorships to the very varied polities of contemporary Eastern Europe and Russia.

Proposals for panels and papers are invited in any area of Eastern European and Russian Studies relevant to the theme: proposals are especially welcome from postgraduate research students and young scholars. To propose a panel or a paper you will need to fill in the electronic proposal form at www.uppsala-basees.org

There are separate forms for  panels and for individual papers.

The deadline for proposals is March 31, 2018.

Enquiries about the conference are welcome at uppsalabasees@gmail.com

Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies

Arsenii Roginskii: A Farewell. By Rose Glickman

One dreary Leningrad day in the winter of 1976, I went home to my room in the dormitory on Shevchenko and found a strange young man sitting on my bed. Brave soul, I thought.  Or foolhardy? In those years Russians were not keen to advertise their friendship with foreigners. But Senya Roginskii didn’t give a hoot. In the many years of our deep friendship I watched him violate all the rules of basic survival in the USSR.   Memorial, the jewel in Senya’s crown, was preceded by years of “samizdat.” Using a library card he got for allegedly researching Plekhanov, he was combing the archives for the evidence of Soviet chicanery, especially the kind that sent his father into the Camps and into prison where he died.  That very library card was the “violation” which the Soviet government used to send Senya as well to the Gulag for 4 years.   

Senya held a regular Friday night “salon.” If I close my eyes I can see myself getting off the metro at Park Pobeda, and walking through the park to his apartment on Ulitsa Gagarina where the most interesting people in Leningrad gathered—all, of course, dissidents.  Some of them, like Senya, subsequently became leading activists in the post-Soviet civil/human rights movement, connected in various ways to Memorial.   How lucky I was to have Senya as my guide through the intricacies of Soviet life as well as a faithful and generous friend.  How lucky Russia is to have had such an avatar of courage, intelligence and integrity: a guiding light through Soviet and post-Soviet times.  Russia is poorer for his death, as are all the friends he leaves  behind.  Слава тебе, Сеня!

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Creator: Stephan Röhl. This image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

BASEES Members Share Their Recollections of Arsenii Roginskii

There have been many obituaries in the newspapers and social media of Arsenii Roginskii since his death in December 2017. These emphasise different aspects of his life and work: his birth in Velsk in Arkhangel oblast, the death of his father in exile, the impact on him of the events of 1968, his own arrest and detention for his samizdat activities, his co-founding of Memorial which under his leadership embarked upon the work of documenting and memorialising the gulag and Stalin terror.  Because of Memorial, and notwithstanding the current assaults it is having to endure, Russia will not been allowed to sweep the past under the carpet and survivors of the Repression and the relatives of its victims know that their sufferings will not be forgotten.    

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(Image: Stephan Röhl. This image is licensed under Creative Commons License.)

For those of us engaged in the academic study of the USSR, the death of Arsenii Roginskii is also the loss of a brilliant historian and agenda-setter for investigative research.  The Memorial archive have proved to be a fundamental resource for researchers across the social sciences, history and the humanities. Those of us who were privileged to meet Arsenii know that he was very generous with his time and always open to new research projects.  I first met him in 2009 shortly after a ban on my visiting the Russian Federation imposed in 2007 (associated with the breakdown of a joint research project with the Russian Prison Service) had been lifted.  I had spent my time “out in the cold” using the information in the Spravochnik: Sistema Ispravitel’no Trudovykh Lagerei v SSR 1936-1960 that he edited with Nikita Okhotin, to draw a series of maps plotting the distribution of camp HQs for an interactive website.  I made an appointment to see Arsenii  to check that Memorial was comfortable with what I had done, before the site went live. To this day, I remember his almost child-like excitement when I showed him a computer animation of the founding and dissolution of camps; he clapped his hands, jumped up and called in everyone from the outer office to come and have a look – not an easy task as his office was small and overflowing with books and papers.  Arsenii shortly afterwards came to the BASEES conference for further discussions about mapping the gulag. I recall that he spent most of his time in the Fitzwilliam bar, giving his time to answering question for a succession of old and new acquaintances. 

It occurred to us in BASEES that many of our members must have recollections they would like to share  of Arsenii Roginskii or who would like to record their debt to the work of Memorial. We are starting the ball rolling with these recollections of Rose Glickman (Russian Factory Women: Workplace and Society: 1880-1914) who knew Arsenii from her student exchange days.  Any members who want to add their recollections please send them to me president@basees.com and we will post them here.   

 

Arsenii Roginskii: A Farewell.   By Rose Glickman

One dreary Leningrad day in the winter of 1976, I went home to my room in the dormitory on Shevchenko and found a strange young man sitting on my bed. Brave soul, I thought.  Or foolhardy? In those years Russians were not keen to advertise their friendship with foreigners. But Senya Roginskii didn’t give a hoot. In the many years of our deep friendship I watched him violate all the rules of basic survival in the USSR.   Memorial, the jewel in Senya’s crown, was preceded by years of “samizdat.” Using a library card he got for allegedly researching Plekhanov, he was combing the archives for the evidence of Soviet chicanery, especially the kind that sent his father into the Camps and into prison where he died.  That very library card was the “violation” which the Soviet government used to send Senya as well to the Gulag for 4 years.   

Senya held a regular Friday night “salon.” If I close my eyes I can see myself getting off the metro at Park Pobeda, and walking through the park to his apartment on Ulitsa Gagarina where the most interesting people in Leningrad gathered—all, of course, dissidents.  Some of them, like Senya, subsequently became leading activists in the post-Soviet civil/human rights movement, connected in various ways to Memorial.   How lucky I was to have Senya as my guide through the intricacies of Soviet life as well as a faithful and generous friend.  How lucky Russia is to have had such an avatar of courage, intelligence and integrity: a guiding light through Soviet and post-Soviet times.  Russia is poorer for his death, as are all the friends he leaves  behind.   Слава тебе, Сеня!