2016 Midwest Slavic Conference

The 2016 Midwest Slavic Conference (MWSC) took place at Ohio State, April 8-10. The Conference was organized by CSEES and the Midwest Slavic Association. There were more than 80 panelists who presented their original research at the MWSC; more than 20 were affiliated with Ohio State; 13 panelists came from other Ohio universities; 45 came from Midwestern universities outside of Ohio and four participants traveled from abroad to participate. Panelists included 25 undergraduate students, 30 graduate students, 20 faculty members and six independent scholars.

Serhii Plokhii, the Mykhailo S. Hrushevs'kyi Professor of Ukrainian History and director of the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University, opened the conference with a keynote address, “The Future of the Past: The Ukraine Crisis in Historical Perspective.” Plokhii examined the current conflict in Ukraine, claiming that in order to understand what is happening between Russia and Ukraine, we must examine the history of the territory. He contextualized the current conflict in Ukraine by delving into past battles that have engulfed Ukrainian lands. Ukraine’s geographic position on the threshold of Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East has positioned it as an important gateway between the East and West. Plokhii illustrated the importance of the Ukrainian land throughout the centuries to various empires, and how these entities shaped and impacted the country. He argued that today’s conflict between Russia and Ukraine is the tragic outcome of history repeating itself and Ukraine finding itself at the center of yet another battle of historic proportions. Following the keynote address there was a dinner reception in the Faculty Club, which provided excellent opportunities for conference attendees to meet and network.

The conference kicked off in earnest on Saturday morning with a roundtable discussion on Ukraine in which Professor Plokhii participated along with Marianna Klochko, associate professor of sociology, Ohio State, and James Sperling, professor of political science, University of Akron. Following the roundtable discussion, there were 15 panels held throughout the day. Panels covered topics in the social sciences, humanities and linguistics. Ohio State Professor Emeritus George Kalbouss gave the luncheon lecture, which commemorated the 50 year anniversary of the Center for Slavic and East European Studies at Ohio State and discussed the importance of continuing Slavic and East European studies in the 21st century. On Saturday evening, the students attended a mixer at the Varsity Inn, giving them the opportunity to become better acquainted outside of the classroom.

On Sunday, the conference continued with 11 panels, ranging in topic from identity politics, to Russian literature and history and environmental policy in the Balkans. The MWSC gave participants the opportunity to present their research and receive feedback from and network with scholars in the field.