by Oleg Ivanov

It is my pleasure to introduce readers to the ninth issue of the UC Undergraduate Journal of Slavic and East/Central European Studies. This issue includes essays from nine promising undergraduate scholars that were selected from the largest batch of submissions the journal has ever received. These essays address a wide array of topics from within the Slavic and East/Central European world, analyzing them in their social, political, legal, linguistic, medical, scientific, and historical contexts.

Several of these essays address political tensions in the Soviet and post-Soviet landscapes, often drawing parallels between the past and the present in this tumultuous part of the world. Ryan Wauson (UCLA) looks at the dramatic rise and fall of Leon Trotsky’s political career in the early years of the Soviet Union to contextualize the similar fate of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky in post-Soviet Russia. Wauson notes the unchanging nature of Russian politics in his analysis of how both of these men attempted to promote liberal values late in their careers in unsuccessful bids to contest the power of their authoritarian rivals, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin, respectively. Daniela Bradvica (UCLA) similarly finds a parallel in the internal tension that led to the downfall of post-communist Yugoslavia and the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just as friction between Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs within the federated political system in Yugoslavia heavily contributed to its demise, she notes similar patterns emerging in the new Balkan nation that portend an analogous fate. Justin Williams (UCI) looks at the Russian concept of Russkii Mir [Russian World], the sociopolitical ideology that asserts that Russia is obligated to promote Russian culture and safeguard ethnic Russians abroad, and its adoption by the Putin administration to explain the country’s current conflict with Ukraine. Initially masquerading as a cultural tool of soft power, the concept, Williams argues, is merely window dressing for Russia’s continued efforts to influence and meddle in the internal affairs of its neighbors. Melanie Dalby (UCLA) analyzes the way that Russia navigates a similar tension that exists between a humanitarian responsibility to protect endangered citizens in foreign nations and its desire to respect national sovereignty. She argues that the Putin government exploits the inherent ambiguity of this situation to serve its national interests, utilizing or condemning either approach whenever it is geopolitically expedient to do so.

Other essays look at legal, linguistic, and cultural developments in this part of the world in the late Soviet and post-Soviet years. Alexi Fehlman (UCI) explores Russian national sentiment surrounding the Dima Yakovlev law, implemented in 2012 to prevent American families from adopting Russian children. Fehlman argues that although popular among Russians, the law was passed by the Russian government not out of concern for the welfare of Russian children, but rather in retaliation for the 2012 Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. government to punish Russian officials for the suspicious death in a Moscow prison of a Russian lawyer who was investigating his government for fraud. Amanda Marshall (UCLA) compares the use of low speech styles by Putin and Ukrainian ex-President Viktor Yanukovych in their capacities as their nations’ leaders. Due to their varying personal backgrounds and different national circumstances, Putin has been able to exploit his linguistic patterns to achieve political success, while Yanukovych’s similar linguistic habits only further alienated him from many of his countrymen. On the cultural plane, Yekaterina Belikov (UCLA) analyzes the history of the Mail Order Bride industry in the Soviet Union and its continuing existence in Russia. Examining technological innovations and changing consumer patterns in the industry, she explains why the industry has grown faster in Russia than elsewhere.

The last two essays in the journal deal with scientific and medical developments in post-Soviet Russia. Karlen Nurijanyan (UCLA) examines the way in which the intervention of international scientific organizations allowed Russian scientists to continue working in their fields while remaining in the country after the fall of the USSR. Though many scientists did seek better opportunities abroad during this period, this intervention largely prevented what could have been a catastrophic brain drain in the early years of post-Soviet Russia. Lastly, Anne Sundelson (UCLA) analyzes the healthcare policies of the Putin administration to explain the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Russia. She contends that Russian cultural stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS prevent the Russian government from adopting the policies necessary to aid its victims and reverse its proliferation.

I would also like to thank the UCLA Office of the Dean of Humanities for their financial support, as well Armani Rosiles at the Center for World Languages and Kaya Mentesoglu in the Information Technology Division of the UCLA International Institute for assisting with the publication of the journal.