50th Anniversary of the Slavic Center

Retrospectives

Former Director, Irene Delic, Editor of Slavic and East European Journal

As one who participated in the history of the The Ohio State University’s Slavic and East European Center— I was its director 1995-2001— I take the opportunity to congratulate the center on its unprecedented growth under the leadership of Professors Halina Stephan and Yana Hashamova and to wish them continued success with its current director, Professor Joseph Brandesky.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank Professor Allan K. Wildman, who was center director 1992-1995, and who encouraged me to apply for the directorship of the center as well as William K. Wolf, PhD, my assistant director whose help was invaluable in guiding me. His dedication and acumen are legendary. I also thank Maryann Walther-Keisel, office coordinator of the center since 1987 and still working there, for all her always reliable work and her keen sense of what would “work.”

I would like to share with you, what to me were the highlights of my directorship: Bill and Maryann with my full support (all of us great movie lovers), laid the solid foundation for the library of VCRs, videos and films that has grown to be one of the leading Library of Visual Materials in the country. And I remember the remarkable visitors: Evgeny Evtushenko; Vassily Aksyonov; Andrey Voznesensky; and Tatyana Tolstaya. We also had as our guest the son of Nikita Khrushchev, Sergei N. Khrushchev, something that seemed miraculous at the time. He spoke of his father with respect and with detachment.

These were the heady 1990s and early 2000s of course and our numerous audiences, guests and faculty of the Center all felt that momentous and wonderful changes were taking place. Evtushenko’s charming interaction with the reader of his poems, graduate student Kristin Peterson; Tolstaya’s denunciation of the ‘vulgar” replica of the Cathedral of Christ Our Savior, which she expressed with passion having first shaken loose her “mane” of hair, tied in a pony-tail before her talk; Aksyonov’s delightful banter mingled with complex memories he shared with us--such details seemed to speak of a new atmosphere of thawed-out relations and genuine camaraderie that had nothing in common with enforced comradeship. Those were the days.

The center remains true to itself even if some of the areas it researches and explores do not, and once more, I wish it to prosper in the future and continue its steady and unprecedented growth. There is no contradiction in this statement: the center has indeed expanded its sphere of influence, by leaps and bounds, and those leaps and bounds occur with complete regularity. All the best for many more regular leaps!

 

Former Director, Yana Hashamova

I was thrilled when then Associate Provost for International Affairs Dieter Wanner offered me the director's position. CSEES is a real jewel and my experience directing it for seven years was truly enjoyable! And, even facing the diamond's rough edges from time to time, my work was very fulfilling and I learned from it all! With best wishes for another 50 years!

 

Professor Emeritus George E. Hudson, Political Science (Wittenberg University) and Lecturer (Ohio State University)

One of my earliest memories of the center occurred in 1973 when I met Leon Twarog for the first time at a center function. He was a famous Soviet specialist and I, a 29 year old assistant professor at Wittenberg University. I did not expect him to befriend me immediately and actually to take me seriously in my ideas about my specialty, Soviet military policy. From that moment on, the center became a place that welcomed me and provided opportunities for me and for my students to get needed professional exposure. Thanks to the Slavic Center, many of my Wittenberg students and, more recently, my Ohio State students had opportunities to present their papers on panels and to witness the presentation of cutting-edge research in the areas of their interest. When I think of Ohio State’s Center for Slavic and East European Studies from the perspective of 43 years interacting with it, the words that come to mind are openness and excellence.

 

Professor Emeritus Myroslava Mudrak, History of Art

When I think of the Ohio State Slavic Center, I think of the late Professor Leon Twarog. His ambitious and visionary program of creating a community of discipline-based scholar-teachers who shared a concern —intellectually, professionally, and morally— for the plight of Eastern Europe, not only enriched the lives of many faculty and students at The Ohio State University over the past 50 years, but the larger Slavic ethnic community of greater Columbus and Ohio. I specifically mention Professor Twarog, because it was he who created the teaching position in the Department of History of Art that allowed me to spend 30 fruitful years  introducing the Russian and Soviet avant-gardes, as well as East European modernism and Ukrainian art to a wider student body. Along with that came fellowship with colleagues across the university that the center was instrumental in facilitating through its active programming. In that regard, I take this occasion to also remember the contributions of the late Professors Michael Curran and Alan Wildman, who were dedicated to making the Slavic Center an integral part of the liberal arts experience at Ohio State. Their hard work, along with the commitment of all  the center’s gifted directors and loyal staff over the past half century, have made it nothing less than a precious jewel in the crown of the university. May we be witnesses to 50 more productive years!

 

Professor Timothy Pogacar, Russian (Bowling Green State University) 

Colleagues at BGSU and I have greatly enjoyed Center events over the years, and have benefited from outreach activities. How glad Irina Stakhanova and I were on 23 February 2013, the first time BGSU hosted the college Olympiada of Spoken Russian, to see energetic Jordan Peters arrive to ensure the day was a success. And how fortunate we were to receive George Kalbouss, 22–23 March 2002, when he led the resurrection of the Midwest Slavic Conference at BGSU.  Whenever we’ve needed materials, Maryann Walther-Keisel has been ready to help. We’ve greatly appreciated Center staff and associated faculty members’ support.

 

CSEES MA Alumna (2011) Emma Pratt

My time at CSEES, particularly my study of Georgian language and area studies, has contributed to my success as an English teacher, editor and consultant in Tbilisi. The understanding of Georgian language, culture, history and politics that I gained through my research and coursework allowed me to hit the ground running. In particular, my knowledge of the structure of the Georgian language allows me to be a better teacher, as I understand why my students make the mistakes they make. My experience studying languages at Ohio State helps me to understand their struggles to learn English, and makes me empathize with them more.

 

Former Assistant Director, Jason Vuic

Wow! Fifty years! What an incredible accomplishment, not only for the staff at CSEES, but for the students, faculty and administrators across colleges and departments who have made Slavic, East European and Central Asian studies such a vibrant and renowned community at Ohio State.

From the early days of the center, when, I've been told, a steadfast first director Leon Twarog had to assure Ohio State higher-ups that no, the books he'd ordered from a Moscow publisher would not, in fact, promote communism on campus--CSEES has worked tirelessly to do what it’s been chartered to do: assist Ohio State in training skilled area-studies experts and rare foreign language speakers for careers in a variety fields, from non-governmental and relief-agency work, to foreign intelligence and the military, to academia, diplomacy, business and law. Although I was the CSEES assistant director for only a brief time (2002-2006), I'm proud of what we accomplished there and wish the center, its faculty and staff, and most importantly all Ohio State Slavic and East European area studies graduates the best of luck in the future. Go Buckeyes!

 

CSEES MA Alumnus (2010), PhD Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures (2015) Dusty Wilmes

My experience with Ohio State's Slavic Center was excellent. The great thing about the Center--in addition to its generous funding opportunities through FLAS, etc.-- is that it provides such a flexible structure for tailoring curriculum to one's own goals. For me, this meant working hard to improve my Russian (studying in Saint Petersburg and taking Russian language, literature, and linguistics courses) and taking a wide range of social science courses. The end result was a strong command of Russian and a good interdisciplinary knowledge of the Eurasian/post-Soviet region. These skills proved to be very valuable during my PhD in Slavic Studies and in my current work as an Assistant Professor of Russian Studies. I am also grateful for the advising I received from Dr. Hashamova at the Center and the very helpful staff over the years -- Maryann, Lance, and Eileen. The Center's Slavic Film Library was also an invaluable resource for me and for a number of others on campus!

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