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Director's Notes, Spring 2023

Dear students, colleagues and friends,

It is always a pleasure to greet a new year, as it offers new hope for opportunities and relationships at the university and across the world. But we are living in a complicated era. People across the Slavic landscape now divide time into before and after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and CSEEES shares that view. These director’s notes come after a year of turmoil, turmoil that alas does not seem to have an end in sight. This past year we have done our best to address current events while also maintaining our focus on the entire region, and I am glad to be able to share with you some of the highlights of the summer and the autumn 2022 semester despite the horrors of the ongoing war.

The war has changed things for a lot of people, including those who had hoped to travel to the region this year. As a result, study abroad in Central Europe was cancelled this summer, but CSEEES was able to offer two Polish Studies Initiative (PSI) grants: one to our MA student Joe Ernst who spent time in Kraków volunteering with an LGBTQ+ NGO, and one to CSEEES postdoc Dr. Julia Keblinska, who pursued her research on book art in Łódź. Second-year MA student Shannon Curley also received a grant through the Office of International Affairs to research tourism in the Balkans in July. Finally, the Slovene Research Initiative (SRI) had been on hold during the pandemic, but this autumn Nena Couch travelled to Ljubljana for research, and in spring 2023 we expect visits from Matija Zorn and Oto Luthar. We are excited to again welcome the scholarly exchanges we so enjoyed before COVID.

As the new academic year began, we welcomed two new students, Alex Yavornitzky and Will Berlage, to the center’s MA program. We continued our Ukraine Wednesdays lectures in an effort to help the Ohio State community and the public at large learn about how Russia’s war in Ukraine has impacted the country and the Ukrainian diaspora. Particularly inspiring was a zoom conversation with Catherine Likhuta, the Ukrainian-Australian composer and pianist who was in residence at the Ohio State School of Music in November, along with her host, OSU music professor Miriam Burns. If you missed Catherine, you are in luck; she is planning to return to share her music with our community again in autumn 2023. In all, across 2022 we hosted twelve “Ukraine Wednesdays” for an audience of over 400 people.

In September, we began the fifth iteration of our collaborative Global Fellowship Program which has been leading K-14 educators in a series of discussions about youth subcultures across the globe and their connections to larger social and political movements. In December, eighteen teachers from across the United States and Canada participated in our annual teacher training workshop with SEELC professor Philip Gleissner that went in depth into LGBTQ+ issues in Eastern Europe—a topic that is even more important to understand given anti-gay propaganda laws now proliferating in Russia. We were also pleased to welcome a new instructor, Teresa Temu, to the Russian language program at Columbus North International School. 

2022 saw increased activity in our programming for the U.S. State Department-funded Serbian Academic Alliance (SEA). We welcomed a group of political science scholars and students from Serbia to Ohio for ten days in November to witness the U.S. midterm elections. The Serbian MA students were able to experience Ohio State and meet with our BCS language class and other students. It was certainly a treat to host them and their professors. We are working with the Mershon Center for International Security Studies in this partnership, and colleagues from Ohio State have given virtual as well as in-person talks in Belgrade. We are thrilled as well to have completed the paperwork to have a study abroad program at University of Belgrade open to Ohio State students. We hope in Spring 2024 to send our first cohort to study political science in Serbia for a semester.

We also co-sponsored the Association for Eastern Christianity conference in November. How we missed in-person conferences during the pandemic! We are currently putting together the program for the Midwest Slavic Conference which we will host in March (for the twentieth year in a row), with the theme of displacement and diaspora. How appropriate to also celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Society for Slovene Studies with our colleagues and friends.

In September we brought photographer Sasha Maslov’s Ukrainian Railroad Ladies exhibit to Ohio State’s Mansfield campus, where art students and locals were able to interact with these amazing images in the Pearl Conard Gallery. We are happy to have befriended Sasha Maslov, who gave an amazing Ukraine Wednesday talk on Zoom about his new photographs that document the ongoing war. You may have seen his images in the New York Times, Washington Post, or elsewhere. This month we opened a new exhibit of Maslov’s images entitled Scorched Earth, Broken Lives, at the Farmer Family Gallery on the OSU Lima campus.

With the successful Title VI grant announced in August, renewing our National Resource Center status for another four years and granting us FLAS fellowship funding, the Center is in an excellent position to continue our work both on campus and beyond. Thanks to the continued support of the Ohio State Graduate School and Office of International Affairs, as well as our wonderful affiliate faculty, students and donors, we feel prepared to continue to analyze and share our understanding of the Slavic, East European and Eurasian regions. We are grateful for your interest and look forward to seeing you at events during the spring 2023 semester!

With all best wishes,

Angela Brintlinger