by Kristina Markman

I would like to extend a warm welcome to readers of the eighth issue of the UC Undergraduate Journal of Slavic and East/Central European Studies. This year’s publication features seven papers by up-and-coming young scholars from around the country whose research bridges disciplinary boundaries and challenges conventional paradigms. 

Several papers explore the dynamic relationship between text and context. Alexandr Lenk (UCSB) provides an alternative reading of a ninth-century literary treatise by Chernorizets Hrabar, a Bulgarian monk and writer whose work has received very little critical attention in Western scholarship. He argues that Hrabar composed the treatise not only to praise the versatility of the new Glagolitic alphabet but also to showcase the intellectual vitality of the Slavic academic community in Bulgaria. Using political cartoons, Sarah Barnard (Johns Hopkins University) traces the evolution of relations between the British and Russian Empires from the late nineteenth century until World War I. Paying close attention to the impact of certain key events such as the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 upon visual print media, she examines the role of caricaturists in creating widely recognized symbols of nationhood and their influence on public culture. Finally, Caroline Bilsky (College of Wooster) looks at the image of the grandmother or babushka in late-Soviet literature. Combining methods of anthropology, literary criticism, and historical analysis, she considers Russian cultural views on aging and the effect of weak familial bonds on women’s self-perception.

Two papers provide revisionist studies of relations between Russia and the West during critical moments of change in the twentieth century. By examining a series of agreements made between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, Hristiana Petkova (UCLA) determines that all three leaders were in fact diplomatic realists with similar visions of a new world order. However, miscommunication precluded the formation of this order and led inevitably to the Cold War. Daniel Higuchi (UCLA) considers the nature of relations between NATO and the Russian Federation since the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. He suggests that NATO’s seeming concern for Russian international policy interests during diplomatic talks and later disregard of Russian security concerns during actual military and political maneuvers in Eastern Europe has created a precedent that is difficult for Russian leaders to ignore. As a result, the rift between Russia and the West continues to grow.

The final two papers warn against the destructive consequences of lumping cultures together under one label and superimposing one’s cultural ideas on other cultures. Bennett Clifford (Wake Forest University) examines the increase in insurgency violence in the Republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria since the end of the Second Chechen War in 2009. He attributes this phenomenon not only to Moscow’s policy of direct presidential appointment in the republics, but to Russia’s blanket political approach to the situation in the North Caucasus. Lastly, Yelena Muratova (UCLA) explores the development of LGBT identity in Russia, arguing that it has been shaped by completely different cultural and political forces than LGBT identity in the West, particularly the United States. She therefore concludes that Western efforts to “help” members of the LGBT community in Russia will continue to fail as long as cultural differences are overlooked.

The publication of this issue has been made possible thanks to the financial support of the UCLA Office of the Dean of Humanities, to whom we express our gratitude. We also thank Syd Heller in the Information Technology Division of the UCLA International Institute.