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Graduate Students

Judy Brown

MAW PhD candidate
Cambridge team
Department of Slavonic Studies
University of Cambridge

Memory at War in the Crimea:
history, place and memory in the city of Sevastopol

Judy Brown is researching the cultural dynamics of memory in and of the city of Sevastopol in order to elucidate the memory politics of intergroup and international relations in the region. Sevastopol is an ideal site for this kind of study. Firstly, it has a rich cultural and historical heritage from both Imperial and Soviet times and into the post-Soviet era; this has produced artefacts of memory that overlap, diverge, compete and contest among themselves. Secondly, the Crimea's particularity as an Autonomous Republic of Ukraine with a majority Russian-speaking population has led at times to uneasy interethnic relations, which was compounded by the return of the Crimean Tatars from Uzbek exile after 1991. Thirdly, Sevastopol has remained at the centre of analysis of geopolitical studies of the Crimea, as Ukraine and Russia make various attempts to resolve the question of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Although international relations experts have analysed these relationships, and historians and urban scholars have written about the importance of the past in today's Sevastopol, no one has yet researched the dynamic 'memory war' within and about the city. Judy's dissertation will address this gap in the existing literature. Her mixed-mode methodology includes on-site fieldwork (spatial ethnography and interviews), sustained press overview and 'netnographic' research of blogs, online fora and video-sharing websites.
Blog: Memory and The Crimea



Molly Flynn

PhD candidate
Cambridge team
Department of Slavonic Studies
University of Cambridge

Staging Memory:
The Performance of Cultural Memory in Contemporary Russia

Theatre in Russia has played an integral part in the process of creating and re-creating historical narratives. From Yevreinov’s Storming of the Winter Palace through Socialist Realism to the work of Yuri Lyubimov at the Taganka in the late Soviet years, Russian theatre has long been a venue for collective remembering as well a space for the collective creation of memory. As Marvin Carlson has written in The Haunted Stage, ‘One of the universals of performance, both East and West, is its ghostliness, its sense of return, the uncanny but inescapable impression imposed upon its spectators that ‘we are seeing what we saw before.’ My project, Staging Memory: The Performance of Cultural Memory in Contemporary Russia is an investigation of the ways that history and memory are haunting the work of a number of contemporary theatre artists who have come to prominence working hard to reflect, represent, and interpret a cultural landscape so immured in its distorted notion of history that it seems all but to conceal the reality of the culture’s present. I will be working across the disciplines of performance studies, theatre history, and memory studies in an attempt to situate the unique place of contemporary Russian theatre within the landscape of the culture’s relationship to history. My primary sources are the proliferation of texts and performances of Russia’s New Drama and documentary theatre movements, but I will also be considering other types of performance such as commemoration and re-enactment as further examples of the way cultural memory is performed in Russia today.

Rolf Fredheim

MAW PhD candidate
Cambridge team
Department of Slavonic Studies
University of Cambridge

'Memory Wars' as an Opposition Strategy
in Poland, Russia and Ukraine

The 'Gulag', 'Holodomor', Katyń' are traumatic events that play a part in post-Communist identity in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland respectively. The nature of the role played, and the implications that ought to be drawn from this, is frequently vociferously contested in political discourse. In this project I aim to investigate the circumstances in which these emotive signifiers are invoked as part of domestic political discourse. The literature on memory tends to highlight international disputes as an expression of a state’s interests as a whole; this study will explore whether such disputes are not rather a consequence of domestic debates spilling over into the international sphere.
Might international memory squabbles be a consequence of post-communist elites seeking ideological differentiation in an artificially ‘flat’ domestic party landscape? In Poland, for instance, the Law and Order party (PiS) have, especially when in opposition, invoked Katyń in 'anti-communist' arguments justifying a hard foreign-political stance on Russia, as well as labelling the incumbent regime as 'unpatriotic'. Early findings suggest this strategy was employed significantly more intensively in the run up to elections than in their aftermath, which would suggest the argument is at the very least strategically deployed. Using quantitative methods combined with discourse analysis I aim to test to what degree events such as Katyń are invoked for political expediency.
Blog: quantifying memory

Simon Lewis

PhD candidate
Cambridge team
Department of Slavonic Studies
University of Cambridge

A Wild Hunt:
Memory and Mourning in Belarus

My provisional title is taken from one of the classic novellas of modern Belarusian literature, Uladzimir Karatkevich's Dzikae Palyavann'e Karalya Stakha ("King Stakh's Wild Hunt"). The Wild Hunt is a ghostly, primordial force which terrorises a noble family in southern Belarus, some time in the 19th century. The Hunt, it turns out, is composed of former local residents who were unjustly killed -- they are the unmourned dead. The metaphor is apt because it carries a sense of the long heritage of catastrophe which defines Belarusian history, as well as the ghosts of the past which still haunt it; translated into English (and stripped of the mystical King Stakh), the term also conveys something of the wild and frenzied hunt for history being carried out in Belarus today. In the novella, it is an intellectual, Belaretski, who solves the mystery of the ghosts –- he is also a hunter, a hunter for truth, who saves the last heiress and takes her away; likewise, in today's Belarus, the educated elite are, in various ways, dealing with the ghosts of the past. Karatkevich's story of haunting and hunting is also a parable of the return of the repressed and mourning for the dead. It is still very relevant to a country filled with tragedy which is being formed through the memory of those tragedies.
Blog: Spectres of History in Independent Belarus
(or: Exploring memory, and a few other things, in a country younger than myself)



Tom Rowley

PhD candidate
Cambridge team
Department of Slavonic Studies
University of Cambridge

Remembering the Dissidents in Contemporary Russia and Ukraine

In 1996, seven years after Andrei Sakharov's death, the Russian critic and historian Leonid Batkin lamented cryptically that 'Time in Russia has fallen behind Sakharov.' He continued, stating that 'We have forgotten about Andrei Dmitrievich. Completely!' Yet Batkin, true to form, was not alarmed by a potential public amnesia about the man himself, but the moral vision Sakharov had come to embody. In May 2011, a rather prestigious conference in Moscow saw various representatives of the world's human rights community assemble to discuss that moral vision in honour of the 90th anniversary of Sakharov's birth. Batkin's idealist distinction informs my initial research into memories of the Soviet dissidents in contemporary Russia and Ukraine. Thus I chart the development of that nebulous referential cluster which comprises anti-sovetskaia deiatel'nost', burzhuaznyi natsionalizm, dissidentstvo, inakomyslie, and pravozashchita in a variety of incarnations sited on the scales of positive-negative, ironic-respectful.
Blog: Cultural Memories of Soviet Dissent



Tanya Zaharchenko

MAW PhD candidate
Cambridge team
Department of Slavonic Studies
University of Cambridge

Where the Currents Meet:
Frontiers of Memory in the Post-Soviet Fiction
of East Ukraine

Tanya’s research on Ukraine’s border with Russia advances the premise that comprehensive memory studies are incomplete without a layer of insight from literary analysis. Her dissertation introduces and discusses the concept of borderline literature in the context of contemporary memory and border theories, with a particular emphasis on national identity/ies in Ukraine. Focusing on the under-explored and culturally hybrid Eastern borderlands of the country, she is working with local writers and their novels to formulate an understanding of how Ukraine’s challenging post-Soviet legacy is handled though imaginative writing. This project’s interdisciplinary methodology relies on three focal lenses: the approaches of literary analysis, the theoretical foundations of memory and border studies, and fieldwork interviews with writers and poets.
Blog: Between Memory and Identity: A PhD Route



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