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The Seminar on Slavic History and Culture was founded in 1968 on the initiative of the renowned scholar of Russian literature and specialist on Dostoevsky, Robert Belknap. It was initially conceived as a broad exploration of history, literature, and arts of the Slavic peoples, to include topics from economic development to religious and philosophic thought. Today, after many years bringing together the Slavic studies community in the New York City area, our Seminar continues to bridge the disciplines of literature, language, and history, with a focus on original research across the range of Russian and East European history, as well as a lively exploration of the contemporary literary and artistic scene. We are pleased to welcome a dynamic group of graduate students who bring their energy and enthusiasm to our meetings.

Professor Catherine Evtuhov

Professor Mark Lipovetsky

Tomi Haxhi

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through February 2022. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

10/22/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Russians, White and Red: A Story of Postwar Displacement and Migration
Sheila Fitzpatrick, Australian Catholic University


In the wake of the Second World War, Europe was full of “displaced persons” (DPs) from Eastern Europe, under the temporary care of international relief organizations. Russians were part of this mass of DPs, but almost invisible because many were passing as Poles or Yugoslavs, fearing forced repatriation to the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and suspicion of wartime collaboration, on the other. What to do with the DPs was one of the first postwar conflicts between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. By 1947, the Western Allies - ignoring Soviet protests - had decided to resettle the DPs outside Europe, North and South America and Australia being the main recipients, along with Palestine/Israel for Jewish DPs. In this paper, I discuss this early Cold War conflict and the “second wave” Russian emigration that emerged from it, using Australia – the second largest recipient of postwar Russian immigrants, after the United States – as a case study.

12/10/2021 Online Meeting
6:00 PM
Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature Re-envisioned
Hilde Hoogenboom, Arizona State University


The study of literature in Russia in the nineteenth century significantly changes our perspective on that surprisingly small slice of the market that is Russian literature. According to my data, foreign novels accounted for around 90% of the market through the middle of the century. How did Russian literature rapidly come into its own within a few decades under this avalanche of European literature? The short answer is that what seems to be a problem was an extraordinary gift. Russians were among the most well-read readers in Europe in a literary market that was thoroughly integrated with European markets. They knew the European novels, many by women writers, and their translations that circulated internationally, constituting the fabric of nineteenth-century literary life. Russians had long been part of the central conversation of European literary, intellectual life. That conversation had begun in the philosophy, pedagogical treatises, and sentimental literature of the eighteenth century and continued in the sentimental realist literature of the nineteenth century. To understand that conversation, we have to reverse stereotypes of sentimental novels. Sentimental novels depict emotions, but they are about the moral drama of the restraint of passions, for the greater good, through duties to others. This was the sentimentalism that interested Adam Smith, Rousseau, and Jane Austen. Central to that conversation in the nineteenth century was George Sand. Sand may be the most studied of European women writers in Russia, but given her outsize international role, she is vastly understudied and not properly understood. Sand helped shape Russia’s novels, which becomes evident when we examine how Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia, Ivan Turgenev, and Fyodor Dostoevsky each in turn transformed her 1842 novel Horace into their early novels. They had inherited a problem that was central for Pushkin in Eugene Onegin and his prose: how to adapt European novels to Russia’s distinctive noble service culture.