February 2014 Events

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"Children of Rus': Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation"

Faith Hillis, Assistant Professor of Russian History, University of Chicago


When: Thursday, February 6, 4:00pm

Where: 206 Ingraham Hall

Sponsors: The Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), The Deptartment of History, The Department of Slavic Languages and Literature


About the Speaker: Faith Hillis is assistant professor of Russian history at the University of Chicago. She is particularly interested in politics, culture, and ideas in the Russian empire over the course of the long nineteenth century. Her first book, Children of Rus’: Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation, was published by Cornell University Press in 2013. She is currently working on a second book-length project, which examines the role that the Russian empire and its subjects played in the construction of the nineteenth-century European political order. Her research has been funded by IREX, Fulbright-Hays, the Mellon Foundation, ACLS, NCEEER, and the Whiting Foundation, among others.


About the Lecture: In the early twentieth century, a powerful Russian nationalist movement coalesced on the tsarist empire's extreme southwestern periphery, in the lands between the Dnieper River and the border with Austria. On many counts, this region would seem unlikely terrain to nourish a Russian nationalist imagination. It was one of the Russian empire's last territorial acquisitions and one of its most ethnically and confessionally diverse corners; today it is located at the heart of the independent nation of Ukraine. Exploring why and how the southwestern borderlands assumed a leading role in defining the essential characteristics of the Russian people and their state, Hillis puts forth a bold new interpretation of state-society relations under tsarism--one that causes us to reconsider the very definition of center and periphery in imperial history.

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Opening Reception:

Chernobyl: Behind the Back of Time


When: Reception - Thursday, February 6, 5:00pm | Exhibit - February 6-April 6, 2014

Where: UW Hillel, 611 Langdon Street

Sponsors: The Mosse Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, Hillel of the University of Wisconsin, the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), the Friends of Chernobyl Centers, US (FOCCUS), the City of Dresden, and the Schusterman Foundation


About the Exhibit: Chernobyl: Behind the Back of Time is an art project about Jewish traces in the region of Chernobyl, about historical layering, and about the questionable nature of language. The exhibition asks questions of history, both before and after Chernobyl, of our use of language, and of our approach to diversity and ideology. In six chapters, the installation explores the region around Chernobyl from a Jewish perspective.


Chernobyl: Behind the Back of Time was made possible through a generous grant from the Anonymous Fund of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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The Metropolitan Opera Live presents

Rusalka - Dvořák


When: Saturday, February 8, 11:55am (Live) | Wednesday, February 12, 6:30pm (Encore)

Where: Eastgate Cinema, Point Cinema-Madison


About the Program: NCM Fathom Events brings the eighth season of the Metropolitan Opera's Peabody and Emmy Award-winning series The Met: Live in HD to cinemas nationwide. The broadcast of Dvořák's Rusalka will be presented live on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 11:55 CT. The great Renée Fleming returns to one of her signature roles, singing the enchanting "Song to the Moon" in Dvořák's soulful fairy-tale opera. Tenor Piotr Beczala co-stars as the Prince, Dolora Zajick is Ježibaba, and dynamic young maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin is on the podium.


For tickets and more information, click here.



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"Gender and Authorship in Medieval Byzantium"

Leonora Neville, John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Professor of Byzantine History, University of Wisconsin-Madison


When: Thursday, February 13, 4:00pm

Where: 206 Ingraham Hall

Sponsors: The Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), The Deptartment of History


About the Speaker: Leonora Neville is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  She studies Byzantine society and culture, focusing particularly on how performances of culturally normative behaviors create and constrict freedom and authority.  She is the author of Authority in Byzantine Provincial Society, 950-1100 (Cambridge 2004) and Heroes and Romans in Twelfth-Century Byzantium: the Material for History of Nikephoros Bryennios (Cambridge 2012).  After receiving her doctorate at Princeton, Neville taught for twelve years at The Catholic University of America before joining UW in 2010. She was awarded the 2007 edition of the international Prize in Memory of Nikolaos Panagiotakis for work on gender in eleventh and twelfth century historiography.  She now serves as the director of the Program in Gender and Women’s History and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the history department.


About the Lecture: Prior to the late 19th century, all Greek historians were men, with the lone exception of princess Anne Komnene who wrote a history of the reign of her father Alexios Komnenos (1081-1118) in the middle of the twelfth century.  While her history has been much admired, Anne has gone down in history as vain, bloodthirsty, and ruthlessly ambitious. This lecture approaches Anne’s life and work by asking first what aspects of Greek culture made the writing of history by women so rare.  Once the challenges Anne faced in writing history as a women are clear, we can see how she fashioned her self-presentation in her history as a response to her culture’s prohibition on female authorial activity.  Her struggles—and ultimate inability—to craft a culturally acceptable persona as a female historian explain in turn the tradition of ascribing to her negative traits of ruthlessness and ambition.

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Madison Vilnius Sister Cities, Inc presents

Lithuanian Independence Day


When: Saturday, February 15, 3:00pm

Where: Meeting Room 302, Madison Central Public Library, 201 W Mifflin St.


Featured Speaker: “Lituanica Birds: From Flight to Flames,” Paulius Musteikis, Madison Photographer


2013 marked the 80th anniversary of the flight of “Lituanica”, a small orange plane piloted by Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas, with hopes to cross the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Kaunas, Lithuania. No one had ever covered such a large distance in a small plane such as theirs, and the two pilots quickly became internationally known for their attempt. Sadly, after more than 37 hours of flight, and just 3 hours short of their destination, the plane crashed in what is now Germany.


With their historic endeavor, Darius and Girenas hoped to make Lithuania known to the world and dedicated their flight to strengthen the spirit and confidence of future generations. Thus, they became national heroes.


2013 also marked the 27th consecutive year of “Burning Man”, an annual event held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The Burning Man organization creates a community called, “Black Rock City” to which thousands from all over the world flock during the week before Labor Day. Participants are dedicated and devoted to acts of gift giving, art, self-expression, and self-reliance, with emphasis on the spirit of community. It is a busy time of camaraderie, sharing, and building art installations. On the last night of the event, all of the art is ceremoniously burned.


What’s the connection?


Planning their part in this past summer’s Burning Man event, several Lithuanians wanted to honor Darius and Girenas in Black Rock City. They embarked on a campaign for donations to create an art installation that would be a monument to the memory of Lituanica’s flight. The symbolic sculpture resembled a flock of 365 orange colored wooden birds with wings spread and stood 15 feet tall by 20 feet wide. It was named, “Lituanica Birds”. “Burners” from Lithuania were joined by others from Chicago and Madison to build the sculpture on site, and to take part in its symbolic destruction.


One of the participants was photographer Paulius Musteikis, our own Madison Vilnius Sister Cities member who will share his photographs and experience of helping to actualize the project during that week in the desert.


This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

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"Political Machines at Work: Voter Mobilization and Electoral Subversion in the Russian Workplace"

Ora John Reuter, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


When: Thursday, February 20, 4:00pm

New Location: 214 Ingraham Hall

Sponsors: The Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), The Department of Political Science, The Political Economy Colloquium


About the Speaker: John Reuter is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He also holds an appointment as Senior Researcher at the Center for the Study of Institutions and Development at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Reuter has a PhD in Political Science from Emory University. His research focuses on elections, political parties, democratization, political economy, and Russian politics. He is currently at work on a book manuscript that examines the origins of ruling parties in non-democracies.


About the Lecture: This lecture will explore one pervasive and poorly understood form of electoral subversion in modern autocracies: the use of economic coercion to mobilize workers to the ballot box. In many countries, autocrats pressure employers to mobilize their employees at election time. In turn, employers—i.e. firm managers, supervisors, CEOs, landlords, bosses, directors, and so on—use their leverage over workers to induce them to turn out and/or vote a specific way. Using two original surveys of employers and workers conducted around the 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia, we show that just under one-quarter of Russian employers engaged in some form of political mobilization. We develop a simple framework for identifying which firms engage in voter mobilization and which workers are targeted for mobilization. Firms that are vulnerable to state pressure— financially dependent firms and those in sectors characterized by asset immobility—are among the most common sites of workplace-based electoral subversion in Russia. We also find that workers who are especially dependent on their employer are more likely to be targeted for mobilization. By identifying the conditions under which workplace mobilization occurs we contribute to the long-standing debate about the economic bases of democratization. In addition, we explore an understudied means of subverting elections in contemporary autocracies: the use of economic coercion to mobilize voters.

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Global Hot Spots Lecture Series:

“The Sochi Games: Sport, Politics and Putin's Russia”

David McDonald, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison


When: Friday, February 21, 1:30pm

Where: The Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.

Sponsors: Wisconsin Alumni Association®, PLATO (Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization), the UW-Madison Division of International Studies


This lecture is free and open to the public.


Registration requested: to register, click here.


Questions? Contact WAA at (608) 262-2551 or

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International Festival 2014

featuring the UW-Madison Russian Folk Orchestra


When: Saturday, February 22, 11:00am-5:00pm

Where: The Overture Center for the Arts


About the Festival: Experience a rich tapestry of cultures woven by Dane County artists. Featurng arts, crafts, food, and performances representing more than 25 cultures, International Festival is a delight of sights, sounds and flavors!


This event is free and open to the public.

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"Petty Corruption and Bureaucratic Fragmentation in Post-Transitional Ukraine"

Marina Zaloznaya, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Iowa


When: Thursday, February 27, 4:00pm

Where: 206 Ingraham Hall

Sponsors: The Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), The Department of Sociology


About the Speaker: Marina Zaloznaya is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Iowa. Prior to joining Iowa’s faculty, Dr. Zaloznaya received her PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University, a Master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College. In her work, Dr. Zaloznaya applies ethnographic and comparative-historical methodologies to the topics of corruption, white-collar crime, and economic deviance. Currently, she is working on a book manuscript that focuses on macro-political roots of informal economic behavior of ordinary citizens in post-Soviet Ukraine and Belarus. Dr. Zaloznaya’s work has been featured in leading sociological, criminological, and socio-legal journals, including Law & Social Inquiry, Crime, Law, and Social Change, Comparative Sociology, Population and Development Review, and others. Dr. Zaloznaya teaches classes in sociology of white-collar crime, law & society, and global criminology.


About the Lecture: Despite the global recognition of social and economic costs of corruption, sociological understanding of its political causes remains very limited. Focusing on post-Soviet Ukraine, this talk explains the variation in the ordinary citizens' participation in petty bureaucratic corruption in light of the country's political trajectory in the post-transitional era. On the micro-level, Zaloznaya argues that Ukrainians’ decisions to carry out informal economic exchanges are influenced by organizational cultures of local bureaucracies. On the meso-level, she suggests that Ukrainian bureaucracies are fragmented into corruption-favorable and corruption-unfavorable sectors, which operate according to distinct institutional logics and cater to different clients. On the macro-level, Zaloznaya shows that this bureaucratic fragmentation is a product of the country's recent oscillation between the pro-Western and pro-Russian courses of political and economic development. The talk is based on several years of fieldwork, analysis of online discussion forums, local media, and a survey of Ukrainian university students.

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Marching into Darkness: the German Army and the Holocaust in Belarus

Waitman W. Beorn, Louis and Francis Blumkin Professor of Holocaust and Genocide History, University of Nebraska-Omaha


When: Friday, February 28, 11:45am

Where: The Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.

Sponsors: The George L. Mosse Program


This is a registration-only event. Please RSVP by Monday, February 24th at


About the Speaker: Dr. Beorn received his PhD from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. For the past seven years, he has instructed cadets from the U.S. service academies in ethical military decision-making in the American Service Academy Program sponsored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Auschwitz Jewish Center. In addition, he often works as a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, particularly with its department of Civic and Defense Initiatives. His scholarship has been used by the museum in its educational and outreach programs. Lastly, he is very proud to have been included in an interdisciplinary group of remarkable scholars who are engaged in exploring how geography and history can work together to both ask and answer new questions of the Holocaust.


A 2000 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Dr. Beorn served as a tank platoon leader before deploying to Iraq in 2003 as a scout platoon leader and later Assistant Squadron Operations officer. As a veteran, he is particularly honored to serve now as the Blumkin Professor of Holocaust Genocide Studies, a position endowed in recognition of the WWII service of Louis Blumkin who was also a liberator of several Nazi concentration camps.


About the Lecture: Dr. Beorn's book Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus explores the participation of the German Army in the Holocaust in the occupied Soviet Union. He explains both how the Wehrmacht became so deeply complicit in the Nazi genocidal project as well as what that involvement actually looked like on the ground in the East. It is a desire to understand and explain how seemingly ordinary individuals can become killers that drives Dr. Beorn’s research in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. His focus on the local level of genocide stems from his belief that issues of ideology and policy become increasingly complex and nuanced at that scale. This contention has led him to also focus on issues of sexual and financial exploitation, friendship, and rescue. Dr. Beorn is currently working on a major project focused on the Janowska concentration in Lviv in modern-day Ukraine.

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