SRB Podcast

SRB Podcast

To many, Russia, and the wider Eurasia, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. But it doesn’t have to be. The SRB Podcast dispels the stereotypes and myths about the region with lively and informative interviews on Eurasia’s complex past, present, and future. New episodes drop weekly with an eclectic mix of topics from punk rock to Putin, and everything in-between. Subscribe on your favorite podcasts app, grab your headphones, hit play, and tune in. Eurasia will never appear the same.

All Episodes

This is the sixth event of the REEES Fall 2021 Series “The Soviet World in the Long 1970s.” You can see the entire event schedule here: Guest: Catriona Kelly is Senior Research Fellowship at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. She is the author of many books on Russian history and culture, including, amongst others, Comrade Pavlik: The Rise and Fall of a Soviet Boy Hero, the prize-winning Children's World: Growing Up in Russia, 1890-1991, St Petersburg: Shadows of the Past. Her new book is Soviet Art House: Lenfilm Studio under Brezhnev published by Oxford University Press.

Nov 19

1 hr 29 min

This is the fifth event of the REEES Fall 2021 Series “The Soviet World in the Long 1970s.” You can see the entire event schedule here: Guest: Alexey Golubev is a scholar of Russian history with a focus on social and cultural history of the twentieth century and an additional expertise in Science and Technology Studies, transnational history, and digital history. He’s the author of several articles and books, including The Search for a Socialist El Dorado: Finnish Immigration from the United States and Canada to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s published in 2014 by The University of Manitoba Press. And most recently The Things of Life: Materiality in Late Soviet Russia published by Cornell University Press in 2020.

Nov 15

1 hr 32 min

This is the fourth event of the REEES Fall 2021 Series “The Soviet World in the Long 1970s.” You can see the entire event schedule here: Guest: Juliane Furst is the head of the "Communism and Society" department at the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History. She’s the author or editor of several books and articles on Soviet youth culture, marginality, and counterculture in late soviet socialism. Her first book was Stalin’s Last Generation: Soviet Post-War Youth and the Emergence of Mature Socialism published by Oxford University Press in 2010. Her new book is Flowers through Concrete: Explorations in the Soviet Hippieland and Beyond published by Oxford University Press, 2021.

Nov 5

1 hr 26 min

Guest: Joe Weisberg grew up in Chicago. He worked in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations in the early 1990s. After leaving the agency, he worked as a novelist and teacher. Weisberg created FX Network’s critically-acclaimed and Emmy-winning drama series The Americans, on which he served as Co-Showrunner. He’s the author of Russia Upside Down: An Exit Strategy from the Second Cold War published by Public Affairs.

Oct 29

1 hr 24 min

Guest: Russell Martin is a professor of History at Westminster College focusing on autocracy, marriage, power and the Romanov dynasty in early modern Russia. He is the author of many books and articles including A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia.. His most recent book is The Tsar’s Happy Occasion: Ritual and Dynasty in the Weddings of Russia’s Rulers, 1495–1745 published by Cornell University Press.

Oct 22

1 hr 30 min

This is the third event of the REEES Fall 2021 Series The Soviet World in the Long 1970s. You can see the entire event schedule here: Guest: Theodora Dragostinova is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University. Her work focuses on nationalism, migration, global history, and Cold War culture. She is the author of Between Two Motherlands: Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks in Bulgaria, 1900-1949 (Cornell University Press, 2011) and coeditor of Beyond Mosque, Church, and State: Alternative Narratives of the Nation in the Balkans (CEU Press, 2016) and the thematic cluster, “Beyond the Iron Curtain: Eastern Europe and the Global Cold War,” Slavic Review in 2018. Her most recent book, The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene, was published in 2021 by Cornell University Press.

Oct 18

1 hr 5 min

Guest: Irina Erman is Assistant Professor of Russian Studies and the Director of the Russian Studies Program at the College of Charleston. Her research focuses on marginality, performativity and monstrosity in 19th and 20th century Russian literature. She’s the author of articles on Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vasily Rozanov. Her most recent article is “Nation and Vampiric Narration in Aleksey Tolstoy’s “The Family of the Vourdalak” published in the January 2020 issue of Russian Review. You can read the article:

Oct 8

55 min 48 sec

This is the second event of the REEES Fall 2021 Series The Soviet World in the Long 1970s. You can see the entire event schedule here: Guest: Clare Ibarra is a PhD Candidate in History at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation examines scientific exchange between Cuba and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. She wants to understand how socialist ideology affected each country’s approach to development, resource extraction, and decolonization.

Oct 1

1 hr 23 min

This is the first event of the REEES Fall 2021 Series The Soviet World in the Long 1970s. You can see the entire event schedule here: Guest: Constantin Katsakioris is a Senior Researcher in the Institute of World History at Charles University in Prague. He is researching the relations between the socialist countries and the global South, international communism, African socialism, the history of education and development, and the history of federalism.

Sep 24

1 hr 2 min

Guests: Jan Matti Dollbaum is a postdoctoral researcher at Bremen University, specializing in activism and civil society in Russia. Morvan Lallouet is a PhD candidate in comparative politics at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. Ben Noble is Lecturer in Russian Politics at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow. His research interests include Russian domestic politics, legislative politics, and the law-making process in non-democratic states. They are the authors of Navalny: Putin's Nemesis, Russia's Future? published by Hurst Publishers.

Sep 17

1 hr 31 min

Guests: Michael Kofman is Research Scientist at Center for Naval Analyses and Fellow at the Kennan Institute where he specializes in security and defense in Eurasia. He comments widely on Russian military affairs and foreign policy. He also blogs on the Russian military at his site Russian Military Analysis. You can also find a long list of his many recent publications there as well. Dmitry Gorenburg is Senior Research Scientist in the Strategy, Policy, Plans, and Programs division of Center for Naval Analyses since 2000 and an associate at the Harvard University Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He currently serves as editor of Problems of Post-Communism. Gorenburg is author of Nationalism for the Masses: Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation. He has published widely and comments on all things related to the Russian military on his blog Russian Military Reform.

Sep 12

1 hr 7 min

Guest: Alexander Morrison is a Fellow & Tutor in History at New College, Oxford University. His research focuses on empire and of colonial warfare, particularly on the Russians in Central Asia. His most recent book is The Russian Conquest of Central Asia published by Cambridge University Press.

Sep 3

54 min 37 sec

Guest: Ana Sekulic is UCIS Postdoctoral Fellow in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Ana is a historian of the early modern Ottoman world and Southeastern Europe. Her research examines the history of inter-religious relations, the cultural history of the environment as well as the history of archival practices. She is revising her manuscript “Conversion of the Landscape: Environment and Religious Politics in an Early Modern Ottoman Town” for publication.

Aug 20

12 min 27 sec

Guest: Attila Kenyeres is a Fulbright Visiting Professor at Pitt in Hungarian Studies in Fall 2021. He is an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Cultural Management at the University of Debrecen, a journalist, and freelance writer. His research examines manipulation techniques in news media, “fake news,” and the role of educational science television programs in adult informal learning of adults. At Pitt, Attila will be teaching a Fulbright Seminar in Hungarian Studies for undergraduate students focusing on fake news and media manipulation in Hungary and East-Central Europe.

Aug 20

13 min 18 sec

Guest: Faith Hillis is a Professor of Russian History at the University of Chicago. She’s the author of Children of Rus’: Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation. Her most new book is Utopia’s Discontents: Russian Exiles and the Quest for Freedom, 1830–1930 published by Oxford University Press. To view the digital companion for the book go to:

Aug 6

1 hr 5 min

Guest: Timothy Frye is the Marshall D. Shulman Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy and co-director of the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. He is the author of many books on post-Soviet Russia. His new book is Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin’s Russia published by Princeton University Press.

Jul 30

1 hr 10 min

Guest: Russell Martin is a professor of History at Westminster College focusing on autocracy, marriage, power and the Romanov dynasty in early modern Russia. He is the author of many books and articles including A Bride for the Tsar: Bride-Shows and Marriage Politics in Early Modern Russia.. His most recent book is The Tsar's Happy Occasion: Ritual and Dynasty in the Weddings of Russia's Rulers, 1495–1745 published by Cornell University Press.

Jul 23

1 hr 10 min

SRB interns Amelia Parlier and Felix Helbing dive into the weird world of advice columns and discuss too unlikely parings—Komsomol decorum and the diva of dish, Emily Post. It’s wine and cheese!

Jul 16

46 min 48 sec

Guest: Kristy Ironside is an assistant professor of history at McGill University. She studies and writes about the political, economic, and social history of modern Russia and the Soviet Union. Her new book is titled A Full-Value Ruble: The Promise of Prosperity in the Postwar Soviet Union published by Harvard University Press.

Jul 2

1 hr

Guest: Dina Fainberg is Assistant Professor in Modern History at City, University of London.. She is the co-editor of Reconsidering Stagnation: Ideology and Exchange in the Brezhnev Era. Her book, Cold War Correspondents: Soviet and American Reporters on the Ideological Frontlines, is published by John Hopkins University Press.

Jun 25

1 hr 20 min

Guest: Guido Sechi is a researcher and lecturer Department of Human Geography, University of Latvia. The focus of his research post-socialist urban and regional studies. His new book is Tolyatti: Exploring Post-Soviet Spaces co-authored with Michele Cera is published by the Velvet Cell and VAC Foundation.

Jun 19

54 min 42 sec

Guest: Marko Dumančić is Director for the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning and Associate Professor in Western Kentucky University’s History Department. His research covers a range of topics involving gender and sexual identity in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and in former Yugoslavia during the 1980s and 1990s. His new book is Men out of Focus: The Soviet Masculinity Crisis in the Long Sixties published by the University of Toronto Press.

Jun 13

1 hr 8 min

Guest: Andrei Tsygankov is a Professor in the departments of Political Science and International Relations at San Francisco State University where he teaches Russian/post-Soviet, comparative and international politics. He is the author of many books and articles, most recently Russia and America: The Asymmetric Rivalry and The Dark Double: US Media, Russia, and the Politics of Values published by Oxford University Press.

Jun 4

1 hr 6 min

Guest: Thomas Graham is a managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc., where he focuses on Russian and Eurasian affairs. He was Special Assistant to President Bush and Senior Director for Russia on the National Security Council staff from 2004 to 2007 and Director for Russian Affairs on that staff from 2002 to 2004. From 2001 to 2002, he served as the Associate Director of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State. From 1984 to1998, he was a Foreign Service Officer.

May 28

1 hr 17 min

Our knowledge of the Soviet penal system has substantially increased in the last 30 years. Yet, our knowledge of the camps as a lived experience remains relatively incomplete and based on either administrative documents or memoirs of mostly victims of political repression. But Gulag life had its own culture, symbols, and rituals. And much it came from the long history of criminal subculture beginning in Imperial Russia, and the criminals who made up the majority of gulag inmates in the 1930s. Gulag criminal subculture included initiation rituals, tattoos, black market activity, card playing, and prisoner run courts, to name a few. After Stalin’s death, these cultural forms had a profound influence on Soviet culture, and continues today in the representation of the Russian mafia in films and Russian criminal folklore. For more on gulag criminal subculture, its history and meanings, I turned to Mark Vincent to talk about his book, Criminal Subculture in the Gulag: Prisoner Society in the Stalinist Labour Camps. Guest: Mark Vincent is a historian based at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom specializing in Russian criminality and criminal culture. He’s the author of Criminal Subculture in the Gulag: Prisoner Society in the Stalinist Labour Camps published by Bloomsbury.

May 14

54 min 4 sec

From the 1840s until 1917, prostitution was legally tolerated across the Russian Empire and subject to medical and legal regulation. Medical police compiled information, conducted routine medical exams, and monitored registered prostitutes’ visibility and behavior in Russia’s rapidly changing urban spaces. The vast majority of women who sold sex hailed from the lower classes, as did their managers and clients. As Siobhan Hearne details in her new book Policing Prostitution, the world of sex work in late Imperial Russia provides a window into not just sexual practices. It paints a picture of lower-class urban society and the state’s attempts to police, surveil, and discipline it. The world of commercial sex was a contested one, as registered prostitutes, brothel madams, and others challenged local police, medial authorities, and reformists over the meanings of sex, labor, and morality. Guest: Siobhán Hearne is a historian of gender and sexuality in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. She is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University. She’s the author of Policing Prostitution: Regulating the Lower Classes in Late Imperial Russia published by Oxford University Press.

May 7

52 min 4 sec

Disability activism developed in the second half of the twentieth century in a world divided by the Cold War. While the history of how Western activists learned to speak in the language of civil rights is well documented and publicly celebrated, the legacies of activists from the socialist countries have been largely erased after the collapse of the communist governments in 1989-1991. This interview with Maria Cristina Galmarini gives a more complete history of the international disability movement by focusing on blind activists from the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic, their philosophies and practices, and how the socialist side shaped global disability advocacy during the Cold War. Maria Cristina Galmarini is Associate Professor of History and Global Studies at William & Mary College where she researches the history of disability under socialism. She’s the author of The Right to Be Helped. Deviance, Entitlement, and the Soviet Moral Order. She is currently finishing a book titled Ambassadors of Social Progress. A History of International Blind Activism During the Cold War.

Apr 30

57 min 46 sec

This week’s podcast is the fifth and final event for Nature’s Revenge: Ecology, Animals, and Waste in Eurasia, the Spring 2021 Speakers’ Series at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. If you want to hear the entire series, go to Like elsewhere, there’s a growing environmental movement in Russia. Activists are not only concerned about the larger issues like climate change, but local ones—the preservation and development of ecologically sustainable urban and rural space, industrial waste and carbon pollution, and the human footprint on nature. And like other political movements in Russia, activists risk arrest, repression, and marginalization. To get a picture of environmental activism its focus, goals, tactics and strategies, I talked to Konstantin Fokin and Angelina Davydova. Guests: Angelina Davydova is an expert on international and Russian climate and environmental policies, civil society movements and media. She is a director of an St. Petersburg based NGO "Office of Environmental Information', based in St. Petersburg, Russia. She is also an environmental and climate journalist, and regularly contributes to Russian and international media. Davydova has served an observer with the UN climate negotiations (UNFCCC) since 2008, and is a member of Global Reference Group and World Future Council. Konstantin Fokin is an entrepreneur, the CEO of the Russian National Business Angels Association, and a climate and environmental activist with Extinction Rebellion. Since 2016, he’s led or carried out more than 150 street actions, four hunger strikes, and has been arrested nineteen times that has resulted in seven jail sentences totally 81 days.

Apr 23

59 min 9 sec

I’ve long wondered why so many great works of 19th century Russian literature are set in some anonymous, drab, and non-descript provincial town of “N”. We never know where “N” is or what makes it special. They also tend to be inhabited by a variety of lesser nobles, eccentrics, charlatans, obsequious bureaucrats, and bored, angst ridden youth engaged in petty intrigues and performances. Thanks to Anne Lounsbery’s Life is Elsewhere, I now know that the literary trope of the provinces as homogeneous, static, and anonymous speaks to the location of cultural and political power in Russia. Power is in the center-Petersburg and Moscow—whereas the province is some godforsaken backwater. How space is organized in the literary imagination of writers like Gogol, Chekov, and Dostoevsky served as a meditation on Russia provinciality to Europe. So, what did the provinces mean? How were they represented? And what does that say about Russian cultural identity? Here’s Anne Lounsbery with some answers. Guest: Anne Lounsbery is a Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University. She has published numerous articles on Russian and comparative literature and is the author of Thin Culture, High Art: Gogol, Hawthorne, and Authorship in Nineteenth-Century Russia and America. Her most recent book is Life Is Elsewhere: Symbolic Geography in the Russian Provinces, 1800–1917 published by Cornell University Press.

Apr 16

50 min 8 sec

This week’s podcast is the fourth of five events for Nature’s Revenge: Ecology, Animals, and Waste in Eurasia, the Spring 2021 Speakers’ Series at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Industrial commodity production has exponentially increased the number of things to be bought, sold, and consumed. But waste is left in the wake of every created and consumed thing. The problem of trash—what to do with it, where to put it, and how to process and even reuse it is one of the fundamental problems of modern society. Here’s Elana Resnick and Viktor Pal on trash and the multiple challenges in dealing with it in Eastern Europe. Guests: Elana Resnick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently working on a book manuscript about waste and race in Europe based on over three years of fieldwork on Bulgarian city streets, in landfills, Romani neighborhoods, executive offices, and at the Ministry of the Environment. You can get a taste of her research in a forthcoming piece in the American Anthropologist entitled "The Limits of Resilience: Managing Waste in the Racialized Anthropocene." Viktor Pál is a Researcher at the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki, Finland. He also serves as Coordinator at the Helsinki Environmental Humanities Hub. His first book Technology and the Environment in State-Socialist Hungary: An Economic History was published in 2017 by Palgrave MacMillan. For the entire series see:

Apr 9

1 hr 2 min

This week’s podcast is a recording of an event Navalny and Next: Possibilities, Prognosis and Perceptions in Russia I hosted a few weeks ago. This event was sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, Russia Matters, and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. After a botched attempt to murder Alexei Navalny in August 2020, the Kremlin has decided to sentence him to over two years in prison upon the oppositionist’s return to Russia in January. Navalny responded with a bombshell video about the corruption around “Putin’s Palace.” Unsanctioned, mass protests in the two capitals and tens of provincial cities followed. The protesters were met with mass, indiscriminate arrests, and police violence. The political ante in this back-and-forth has certainly risen but to what end? Russia has experienced the ebbs and flows of protest on the federal and local level for years. And while each eruption quickly elicits a sense that Russia is at a turning point, more cautious and sober assessments follow in the weeks and months after. So, is what we’re now seeing something new or more of the same? What do the protests suggest about Russian society, politics, and the state of Putin’s power? Especially, as Russia will hold parliamentary elections in September. Guests: Ilya Budraitskis is political and cultural writer. He currently teaches in the Moscow School for Social and Economic Sciences and the School of Design at the High School of Economics. Budraitskis is currently a member of the editorial board of Moscow Art Magazine and host of the Russian language podcast Political Diary. His book Dissidents among Dissidents was awarded the Andrey Belyi prize in 2017. His most recent book We All Live in the World Huntington Invented (2020) treats modern Russian conservatism. Svetlana Erpyleva is a sociologist, a researcher with Public Sociology Laboratory, Center for Independent Social Research in Russia, and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki. Her research is focused on protest movements and collective action, political involvement, political socialization, youth and children’s political participation and cognition in Russia and abroad. She’s written for a number of academic journals and Russian and international media. Greg Yudin is a Professor of Political Philosophy at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences. His research focuses on the political theory of democracy with the special emphasis on public opinion polls as a technology of representation and governance in contemporary politics. His book Public Opinion: The Power of Numbers was published in Russian by European University Press in 2020. He is a regular contributor to several Russian media outlets.

Mar 27

1 hr 16 min

In the late 1930s, the Soviet Union took in about nearly 3,000 child refugees of the Spanish Civil War. These kids, aged roughly from 5 to 12 years old, were placed in boarding schools in Leningrad, Moscow and elsewhere in the USSR. Their stay in this strange new land was supposed to be temporary. But fascist victory in the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of WWII made them exiles for the foreseeable future. Now responsible to their rearing and education, Soviet officials and their Spanish minders transformed these children into hybrid Hispano-Soviets. They were steeped in patriotism for their two homelands and taught to emulate Spanish and Soviet heroes, scientists, soldiers, and artists. How did these Spanish children fare in the Soviet Union and live through the multiple traumas of their childhood? What did it mean to Hispano-Soviet? What was their fate and memory of growing up as a refugee? Here’s Karl Qualls with this little known story. Guest: Karl Qualls is the John B. Parsons Chair in Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History at Dickinson College. He’s the author of From Ruins to Reconstruction: Urban Identity in Soviet Sevastopol after World War II. His new book is Stalin’s Niños: Educating Spanish Civil War Refugee Children in the Soviet Union, 1937-51 published by the University of Toronto Press.

Mar 19

1 hr

This week’s podcast is the third of five events for Nature’s Revenge: Ecology, Animals, and Waste in Eurasia, the Spring 2021 Speakers’ Series at the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. To see the entire schedule for the series, go to Animals are some of the most impacted living things in the Anthropocene. The presence of humans has fundamentally altered their lives and environment. Humans have used animals for labor, food, sport, commodities, companionship and as objects of scientific knowledge. What does human’s complex relationship with animals say about human society? And is there a particular inflection of these issues in Eastern Europe and Russia under state socialism? I turned to Tracy McDonald and Marianna Szczygielska for some insight on the transformation of animals into objects to be caged, shown, hunted, traded, and studied in Eurasia and the wider world. Guests: Tracy McDonald is an historian of Russian and Soviet history at McMaster University. She co-edited a volume of documents on collectivization and is the author of Face to the Village: The Riazan Countryside Under Soviet Rule, 1921-1930 and is co-editor with Daniel Vandersommers of Zoo Studies: A New Humanities (McGill-Queens University Press, 2019). McDonald was one of the three founding members of the independent documentary-film company Chemodan Films. Marianna Szczygielska is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her most recent articles on zoos and colonial encounters are “Elephant empire: zoos and colonial encounters in Eastern Europe” published in Cultural Studies and “Pandas and the Reproduction of Race and Sexuality in the Zoo” in Zoo Studies. A New Humanities. She’s also co-edited a special issue of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, and Technoscience titled “Plantarium: Human-Vegetal Ecologies” in 2019.

Mar 13

1 hr 8 min

In 2017, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an explosive investigation. The authorities in Chechnya were rounding up LGBT people, torturing, and even allegedly executing them for being queer. It was a reign of terror sanctioned by the Chechen authorities, involving the Chechen security services, police, and even regular citizens. Moscow turned a blind eye and has rejected evidence showing that this state violence occurred. We know what we know about the fate of LGBT people in Chechnya thanks to the testimonies of victims smuggled out of the north Caucasian republic by activists in Russia. It’s safe to say that the activists saved hundreds of lives, and not without personal costs to them and their families. The film, Welcome to Chechnya, documents these efforts and highlights not only the victims’ traumas, survival and struggles for justice and the heroic work of those activists dedicated their cause. For more on the making of Welcome to Chechnya and the stories in it, I talked to its director, David France. Guest: David France is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning investigative journalist. He’s directed three films on LGBT rights, resistance, and life including How to Survive a Plague, The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson, and most recently Welcome to Chechnya. You can view Welcome to Chechnya on HBO.

Mar 5

56 min 30 sec

Russia and Ukraine have a long tradition of witchcraft. But this history has some striking differences from witchcraft in Western Europe. First and foremost is the lack of Satan, satanic pacts, or witches’ covens in the Russian and Ukrainian tradition. Another is that most Russian witches were men. How can we explain this? We now have an entry into the complexities of witchcraft thanks to a new sourcebook of witchcraft laws and trials in Russia and Ukraine from medieval times to the late nineteenth century. This never before published and translated material details some of the earliest references to witchcraft and sorcery, secular and religious laws on witchcraft and possession, full trial transcripts, and a wealth of magical spells. What do all these sources of magic say about Russia and Ukraine? Here’s the collections editors, Valerie Kivelson and Christine Worobec on their new sourcebook Witchcraft in Russia and Ukraine, 1000–1900 published by Cornell University Press. Guests: Valerie A. Kivelson is Thomas N. Tentler Collegiate Professor of History and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of many books on early modern Russia including Autocracy in the Provinces: Russian Political Culture and the Gentry in the Seventeenth Century, Cartographies of Tsardom: The Land and Its Meanings in Seventeenth-Century Russia and Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Russia. Christine D. Worobec is Distinguished Research Professor Emerita at Northern Illinois University. She is the author of numerous books on Russian peasant life and women’s history including Peasant Russia: Family and Community in the Post-Emancipation Period and Possessed: Women, Witches, and Demons in Imperial Russia.

Feb 26

1 hr 14 min

Imperial expansion is as much about conquering nature as it is about subjugating people. The Russian state’s expansion to the edges of the Eurasian continent exemplifies the challenge of turning frozen and inhospitable land into livable space or converting lush landscapes into profit and prosperity. To get a better understanding of this process in some of the far reaches of Russia, I turned to two people Sharyl Corrado and Paul Josephson to talk about Sakhalin and the Arctic respectively and relationship between Russian imperial expansion and nature, and how environment was imagined and shaped in the process. Guests: Paul Josephson, the author of 13 books, is professor of history at Colby College, Waterville, Maine, and visiting, part-time professor at Tomsk State University.  A historian of big science and technology, he conducted archival research in Arctic regions while working on his monograph, The Conquest of the Russian Arctic.  His most recent book, with Polity Press, is called Chicken: A History from Farmyard to Factory.  He is working now on a global nuclear environmental history. Sharyl Corrado is Associate Professor of History and History Program Director at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.  She has published articles on the environmental history and historical geography of the imperial Russian Far East in a variety of academic journals in English and Russian. She is also known within Russian Baptist circles for her research on Russian Baptist and Evangelical history, including a monograph published in Russian and an edited volume on East European Baptist History.  She is currently working on an annotated collection of letters written by a Red Cross sister serving in the Sakhalin Penal colony.

Feb 19

1 hr 15 min

A search for Stalin biographies on WorldCat turns up hundreds of volumes written or translated to tens of languages. It’s virtually impossible to account for them all. Yet, despite them all, half of Stalin’s life—his life before 1917—remains the most understudied. And the most misunderstood. How did this impoverished, idealistic youth from the provinces of tsarist Russia becoming a cunning and fearsome outlaw, and eventually one of the twentieth century’s most ruthless dictators. There’s no better person to deal with Stalin’s younger days, his upbringing and life in Georgia, and his conversion to Bolshevism than Ron Suny. So here’s Ron Suny on how Soso became Stalin. Guest: Ronald Grigor Suny is the William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan and professor emeritus of political science and history at the University of Chicago. His written many books on the history of the Soviet Union and the South Caucasus. His new book is Stalin: Passage to Revolution published by Princeton University Press.

Feb 12

59 min 32 sec

The desiccation of the Aral Sea is one of the greatest environmental catastrophes of the late twentieth century. But efforts to harness and divert the Aral’s freshwater are rooted in efforts to use technology to terraform the landscape in the modern era. Using water to irrigate a wasteland was a hallmark of modernity, progress, productivity, and prosperity. Water was also emblematic of the colonial infrastructure of Russia and the Soviet Union. Here’s Maya Peterson and Christopher Ward to discuss the role of water in the wider environmental history of the Soviet project. Guests: Maya Peterson is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research and teaching interests include Russian and Central Asian history, as well as the history of the environment, science, technology, and medicine. She’s the author of Pipe Dreams: Water and Empire in Central Asia’s Aral Sea Basin published by Cambridge University Press. Christopher Ward is a Professor of History at Clayton State University. He is the author of a number of publications, most notably Brezhnev’s Folly: The Building of BAM and Late Soviet Socialism published by University of Pittsburgh Press and co-author of Russia: A Historical Introduction from Kievan Rus’ to the Present published by Westview Press.

Feb 5

1 hr 21 min

In the final days of World War II in Europe, Georgians serving in the Wehrmacht on Texel island off the Dutch coast revolted. In just a few hours, they massacred some 400 German officers using knives and bayonets to avoid raising the alarm. An enraged Hitler learned about the mutiny and ordered the Germans to fight back, showing no mercy to either the Georgians or the Dutch civilians who hid them. It was not until 20 May, 12 days after the war had ended, that Canadian forces landed on the island and finally put an end to the slaughter. What was the larger context for the Texel Uprising? How did these Georgians end up in the Netherlands in the first place? How is this event remembered? Here’s Eric Lee with this little-known story from the last days of WWII. Guest: Eric Lee is a journalist, historian, and trade union and political activist in the US and UK. He’s the author of several books including Saigon to Jerusalem: Conversations with Israel’s Vietnam Veterans, Operation Basalt: The British Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order, and The Experiment: Georgia’s Forgotten Revolution, 1918-1921. His most recent book is Night of the Bayonets: The Texel Uprising and Hitler’s Revenge – April-May 1945 published by Greenhill Books.

Jan 29

52 min 32 sec

James Pickett focuses on empire and Islam as entangled sources of authority, with particular attention to historical memory and state formation. Hi first book, Polymaths of Islam: Power and Networks of Knowledge in Central Asia, examines transregional networks of exchange among religious scholars in the Central Asian city-state of Bukhara. Through mastery of arcane disciplines, these multi-talented intellectuals enshrined their city as a peerless center of Islam, and thereby elevated themselves into the halls of power. A second book project, Seeing Like a Princely State: Protectorates in Central and South Asia at the Nexus of Early Modern Court and Modern Nation-State, will compare Bukhara's transformation into a Russian protectorate with the Indian princely state of Hyderabad's parallel trajectory into semi-colonial status. It is especially concerned with cultures of documentation in relation to the state.

Jan 19

11 min 39 sec

Teaching is a life-long passion for Nur grounded in her desire to help students develop confidence in their abilities, realize their potential as learners, and establish links between what they do in the Turkish classroom and their personal narratives in life! Originally from the Black Sea region of Turkey, Nur is a native speaker of Turkish and she has been teaching Turkish at the University of Pittsburgh’s Less Commonly Taught Languages Center since 2008. Nur holds an MPIA degree from the University of Pittsburgh and she is fully certified by ACTFL (The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign languages) as an OPI tester for the Turkish Language. In addition to language classes, Nur teaches a general education course on Turkish Culture & Society, and she will advise students for the new Turkish Minor beginning in fall 2018. Nur is a fellow at the University Honors College, the Chairperson for the Turkish Nationality Room, and the advisor for TASA (Turkish American Student Association). She also coordinates weekly meetings of the Turkish Language Table for students to experience language and culture outside the class. Nur serves on scholarship committees and has extensive experience mentoring students for nationally competitive scholarship applications. Her recent research focuses on communication strategies like circumlocution and language competency. She gets her inspiration for teaching from students and hope that she will inspire and help students become more discerning observers of the world around them through learning Turkish Language and Culture.

Jan 19

12 min 59 sec

Would there have been a Third World without the Second? Although most historians write about these geopolitical blocs in reference to the West, the interdependence of the Second and Third Worlds remains a historical blind spot. This interconnection was evident in the production of Third World literature and cinema vis-à-vis the Soviet organized Afro-Asian Writers Association and the Tashkent Festival for African, Asian, and Latin American Film. While the cultural alliances between the Second and the Third World never achieved their stated aim - the literary and cinematic independence from the West. They did forge links that allowed now-canonical postcolonial authors, texts, and films to circulate across the non-Western world until the end of the Cold War. Here’s Rossen Djagalov with that story. Guest: Rossen Djagalov is an Assistant Professor of Russian at New York University and a member of the editorial collective of LeftEast. His interests lie in socialist culture globally and, more specifically, in the linkages between cultural producers and audiences in the USSR and abroad. His new book is From Internationalism to Postcolonialism: Literature and Cinema between the Second and the Third Worlds published by McGill-Queen's University Press.

Jan 15

49 min 24 sec

Since 2014, Ukrainian nationalism has been a focus of intense debate inside and outside Ukraine. A central, and often overlooked figure in its history is Dmytro Dontsov, the founder of Ukrainian “integral nationalism” and so-called “spiritual father” of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Who was Dmytro Dontsov, and how did this erstwhile journalist, diplomat, literary critic, publicist, and ideologue, progress from heterodox Marxism, to avant-garde fascism, to theocratic traditionalism? Here’s Trevor Erlacher on Dontsov’s intellectual trajectories. Guest: Trevor Erlacher is a historian specializing in modern Ukraine and Ukrainian nationalism. He is currently the Academic Advisor, Program Coordinator, and Editor for the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He’s the author of Ukrainian Nationalism in the Age of Extremes: An Intellectual Biography of Dmytro Dontsov published by Harvard University Press.

Jan 8

53 min 40 sec

It’s been four months since mass protests erupted in Belarus against Aleksandr Lukashenko bid to stay power. The situation is a stalemate, for the lack of a better term. But despite the gridlock, massive changes are underway in Belarus. A popular political awakening has occurred. And this will continue no matter how many people Lukashenko’s security forces arrest. Or how long he remains president. Belarus is far from where I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But even our small Belarusian community has organized to support their friends, family and compatriots. They’ve formed their own Facebook group, Belarusians in Western PA, and have been holding in-person and online actions since August. I went to one of their recent rallies. It was small, about 15 people, on the corner of E Carson and 25th Street in Pittsburgh’s southside. I came to support my friends. But I also brought my Zoom recorder to interview people. I had no well thought-out agenda in mind. I just wanted to get a sense of where they stood and what they wanted us, Pittsburghers and Americans in general to know and do about the events in Belarus. And maybe, I hoped, the material might make for a short podcast

Jan 4

10 min 29 sec

Russian views of America and American views of Russia have been fundamental to shaping relations and, to some extent, each nation’s self-image. Russian and American travelers tended to emphasize qualities of the other that their respective nations rejected. Through the Other, Russia and America reaffirmed their sense of self. So, what is the history of this othering from the 19th century to the present? What role did travel accounts, journalists, diplomats, and scholars play in shaping how Russia and the America positioned themselves geopolitically, culturally, and ideologically? Here’s Dina Fainberg and Victoria Zhuravleva to peel back the many layers to this relationship. Guests: Dina Fainberg is Assistant Professor in Modern History at City, University of London. She is an historian of US-Russia relations, Soviet media and propaganda, and Cold War Culture. She is the co-editor of Reconsidering Stagnation: Ideology and Exchange in the Brezhnev Era. Her book, Cold War Correspondents: Soviet and American Reporters on the Ideological Frontlines will be published in January 2021. Victoria Zhuravleva is a Professor of American History and International Relations, Chair of the American Studies Department and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of International Relations and Area Studies at the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Russia. Her field of research interests is American history with a specialization in Russian-American relations and U.S. foreign policy. She is author of many books and articles, including Understanding Russia in the United States: Images and Myths (in Russian), and editor of Russian/Soviet Studies in the United States, Amerikanistika in Russia: Mutual Representations in Academic Projects (in English).

Dec 2020

1 hr 31 min

For a few years after 2016, it seemed that Vladimir Putin was everywhere in America. And not just on the news, but on all sorts of items—from stickers, to t-shirts, to fiction, and knickknacks. His steely-eyed face served as a political window into the American psyche. Much of this material culture focused on the socially taboo—the satirical, scatological, even risqué—as it paired Putin with a host of American political figures, Donald Trump, first and foremost. So, what does Putin kitsch in America mean? And how does it fit within larger media, technology, consumerism, and politics? Guest: Alison Rowley is professor of Russian history at Concordia University. She’s the author of Open Letters: Russian Popular Culture and the Picture Postcard, 1880-1922. Her most recent book is Putin Kitsch in America published by McGill-Queen's University Press.

Dec 2020

58 min 20 sec

This week’s episode is the sixth of seven events Distant Friends and Intimate Enemies: The US and Russia, the Fall 2020 Speakers Series at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was not just a battle between ideologies. It was also a technological race. The state that could produce the most advanced tech affirmed the superiority of its respective system. By the 1960s, cybernetics, and soon, the creation of national information network, became a key theater in the science race. As we know, the United States was successful. The American military developed the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) which became the technological foundation for today’s Internet. But cybernetics had broader application and influenced economics, psychology, biology, and other human sciences. What vision did Soviet and American scientists have for cybernetics? And what role did cybernetics play in the Cold War contest? Guests: Ekaterina Babintseva is a Hixon-Riggs Early Career fellow in Science and Technologies Studies at Harvey Mudd College. Her book project “Cyberdreams of the Information Age: Learning with Machines in the Cold War United States and Soviet Union” examines how American and Soviet engineers, computer scientists, psychologists, and educators worked to develop computational methods to educate American and Soviet citizens during the Cold War. Slava Gerovitch is a Lecturer in the History of Mathematics at MIT. He’s the author of several books including From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics, Voices of the Soviet Space Program: Cosmonauts, Soldiers, and Engineers Who Took the USSR into Space and Soviet Space Mythologies: Public Images, Private Memories, and the Making of a Cultural Identity.

Dec 2020

1 hr 13 min

In the autumn of 1871, Alexis Romanov, the fourth son of Tsar Alexander II, set off for a whirlwind trip around the United States. It was a major milestone in U.S.–Russia relations, but the tour also served Alexander II’s efforts to get his son to forget a scandalous romance. Alexis’ American tour also allowed Americans to examine themselves in the wake of the Civil War and demonstrate aspects of American modernity. The American press enthusiastically followed Alexis, covering his every move, his every dinner, and every dance not unlike the paparazzi today. Crowds gathered to get a glimpse of this exotic royal celebrity. Alexis’ trip also posed questions at the center of American identity—the irony that so many in a republic were falling over to welcome the son of an autocrat, and debates about what was quintessentially American to show the young prince. Here’s Lee Farrow with a deep dive into Alexis’ American tour. Guest: Lee Farrow is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of history and Associate Dean in the School of Liberal Arts at Auburn University Montgomery. She’s the author of several books on US-Russia relations, including Alexis in America: A Russian Grand Duke's Tour, 1871-72, Seward's Folly: A New Look at the Alaska Purchase, and an annotated edition of Louise Bryant's Six Red Months in Russia.

Nov 2020

50 min 47 sec

The Russian Revolution and Soviet declarations of internationalism, antiracism and anticolonialism captured the imagination of Black American radicals in the interwar period. Prominent figures like Claude McKay, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Louise Thompson and lesser ones like Lovett Fort-Whiteman, Harry Haywood and Otto Husiwoud travelled to the USSR to see this “raceless” society for themselves. What was the Black experience and engagement with Soviet communism and how did that inform their politics? Here’s a conversation I had with Meredith Roman and Minkah Makalani on the African American relationship with the USSR, the Soviet promise of antiracism, and its impact on the American and Pan-African liberation struggles in the 20th century. Guests: Meredith Roman is an Associate Professor of History at SUNY Brockport, and the author of Opposing Jim Crow: African Americans and the Soviet Indictment of U.S. Racism, 1928-1937. Her current research focuses on dissent, human rights, and repression in the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War. Minkah Makalani is associate professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939, and co-editor (with Davarian Baldwin) of Escape from New York: The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem. He is currently working on two projects. Calypso Conquered the World: C.L.R. James and the Politically Unimaginable in Trinidad is a study of C. L. R. James’s return to Trinidad and his work on West Indies Federation. And Words Past the Margin: Black Thinking Through the Impossible, which explores streams of black political imagination in popular culture, Black Lives Matter, hip-hop, and the cinema of Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène.

Nov 2020

1 hr 20 min

Though the Soviet Union was often understood as a “closed society,'' nearly ten million foreigners visited it between 1956-1985. Many came for Western nations. The majority were Americans. Why would the Soviet Union open its doors to its capitalist enemies? First and foremost, the Soviet tourism industry was about profit as foreign tourists brought hard currency. But there were political motivations as well. Soviet leaders wanted to showcase their country’s achievements, to normalize its system, and convince Western tourists that the USSR was a modern, diverse and peaceful nation. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who wanted to see the communist enemy for themselves followed suit. How did Americans experience their brief look behind the Iron Curtain? How did they evaluate the Soviet Union, and through it, themselves? And how did Soviet authorities try to control the narrative and curtail potential infection from Americans while welcoming them? Guest: Andrew Jacobs is a historian of America-Soviet relations, particularly cultural exchange during the Cold War. His dissertation, “Contact and Control: Americans Visit the Soviet Union, 1956-1985,” was completed at Indiana University in 2019.

Nov 2020

56 min 3 sec