Volume Fifteen, 2022-2023

The UC Undergraduate Journal of Slavic and East/Central European Studies


Roman Koropeckyj (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Managing Editor
Lydia Roberts (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Editorial Assistants
Manon Snyder (Political Science and Environmental Science, UCLA)
Grace Vertanessian (French, UCLA)
Special Editorial Assistant
Edna Salčin (International Development Studies, UCLA)

Online Editor
Susan Bauckus (Center for World Languages, UCLA)

Undergraduate Advisor
Yelena Furman (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian
Languages & Cultures, UCLA)

Editorial Board
Kevin M. Gatter (Political Science, UCLA)
Cooper Lynn (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian
Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Elena Makarova (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian
Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
David Miller (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian
Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Polina Varfolomeeva (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian
Languages & Cultures, UCLA)


Lydia Roberts Managing Editor

View Introduction

Foreign Foundations of Russian Nationhood: The Development of the Expansionist Nation in Lermontov's A Hero of our Time

Gemma Taylor, University of California, Los Angeles

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    This paper examines the depiction of the Caucasus in Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of our Time. With Edward Said’s Orientalism and Homi K. Bhabha’s The Location of Culture as a framework for presenting A Hero of our Time as a post-colonial text, this paper analyzes how the novel uses nature to project a supportive view of Russian imperialism. Following the tradition established in Pushkin’s poem Prisoner of the Caucasus, Lermontov advances the portrayal of the Caucasus as an entity distinct from Russia. Lermontov presents an orientalist view of the Caucasus by describing a land whose nature changes its inhabitants, removing their “Russianness.” By analyzing Lermontov’s (often mixed and contradictory) intentions and considering the political, cultural, and social climate of Russia during the novel’s creation, this paper explores how A Hero of our Time contributes to a Russian expansionist narrative.

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Imperial Perspectives and the Ethnic Other: The Russian “Prisoner Myth” in Sergei Bodrov's Prisoner of the Mountains (1996) and Aleksandr Rogozhkin's Checkpoint (1999)

Elodie Phillips University of St. Andrews

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    The ‘Prisoner myth’ is based on Alexander Pushkin’s Prisoner of the Caucasus, a poem written and widely adapted in the nineteenth century. The story, depicting a Russian soldier taken prisoner by a Caucasian captor, has long been used as an artistic framework for exoticized interpretations of the Caucasus as well as narrating Russian writers’ own anti-government sentiments. After introducing the Prisoner myth, this essay examines how it was adapted by Russian filmmakers in the wake of the First Chechen War (1994–1996). Analyzing the myth as a “cultural memory,” the paper examines its treatment in film between the first and second Chechen Wars and analyzes two films that reactivated the prisoner myth in the same period: Sergei Bodrov’s Prisoner of the Mountains (1996) and Aleksandr Rogozhkin’s Checkpoint (1999). The nature of Russian opposition to the first Chechen campaign in the 1990s led to films that were interestingly anti-government but not deeply critical of imperial mentalities. During the second campaign, there was a noticeable shift away from ambiguity in Russian attitudes as the public expressed either indifference to or active encouragement for Putin’s Chechen interventions. By repeating the myth in its anti-government function without other significant reflections or transformations, these filmmakers failed to challenge the state’s mechanisms of power, especially as assessments of the state and ethnic Russian identity in the Prisoner myth are based on stereotyped depictions of Caucasians as Others.

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Soviet Russia's Search for Its Soul: Andrei Platonov, Korenizatsiia, and the Legacy of Empire

Jarrett Hill University of Florida

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    This article examines Andrei Platonov’s 1935 novella Soul [Джан] as a commentary on korenizatsiia, the Soviet Union’s regional development policy. The novella was written at the time when Stalin argued that this policy was no longer necessary and that “modernity” had been achieved across the USSR. In Soul, Platonov contradicts this claim, arguing that non-Russian regions had not yet achieved socialism and therefore korenizatsiia was still necessary. Two broad case studies support this analysis: first, an exploration of the modern-vs.-medieval binary that structured the post-colonial relations between ethnic Russians (who made up the majority of the centralized Soviet leadership) and the non-Russian populations of the Socialist Republics subjected to korenizatsiia in the 1920s. In the novella, Platonov bridges this divide with the “hybrid” Turkman-Russian identity of its main character. Second, this paper outlines when and how Platonov hews closest to the party line in Soul, particularly by mirroring the uncertainties of Soviet religious policy in majority Muslim areas, presenting Central Asian women as agents of change, and largely condemning “traditional” Islamic regional practices. As these examples demonstrate, Soul reveals how korenizatsiia actually reflected Russian values instead of the regional values it claimed to represent. This commentary provides insights into the shifting self-image of Soviet Russia in the 1930s and the ongoing discourse of whether Soviet Russia was genuinely an anti-imperialist state.

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Russian Holistic Investment in Latin America: A Counter to the Security Interests of the United States

Natalie Navarrete University of Georgia

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    Poor memories of US involvement in Latin America during the Cold War continue to strain regional relationships, with China as well as Russia threatening US hegemony in the region. In the past, the US relied on its Latin American allies, or at least on the assurance that the region would be, on net, non-threatening to American policy. Today, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Brazil outwardly express disdain for American actions regionally and internationally, while Mexico and Colombia are shifting their political goals and allegiances more generally. Using descriptive statistics and linear regression analysis, this paper investigates the different investment strategies that Russia uses to support its own interests and undermine US security interests in the region. The paper looks at the correlation between the type and number of investments certain countries receive from Russia and the likelihood that these countries will vote against US interests in large international organizations. By looking beyond economic initiatives to the constellation of cultural investments, historical ties, and media activity that Russia has employed in Latin America since 2014, this analysis affords a better understanding of how Russia is able to maintain its regional authority and influence the politics of international organizations like the UN Security Council.

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Post-Soviet Armenian Elections: A Political History of Manipulation, Regime Change, and Democratization

Joseph Matveyenko University of California, Los Angeles

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    This paper examines the Republic of Armenia’s elections from 2007–2018 using statistical methods and a dataset created from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reports to analyze the changes in election integrity following the Armenian Velvet Revolution of 2018. It contends that the pattern of electoral manipulation illustrates the role of political actors in the aforementioned manipulation. After an explanation of the author’s methodology and a brief history of post-Soviet Armenian politics, the paper surveys more than a decade of legislative and presidential elections held from 2007–2018, as well as the 2015 constitutional referendum that forced major changes in Armenian voting practices. According to election data, the results of elections held in 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017 showed signs of manipulation. However, the election held in 2018, following the Velvet Revolution, marked the first free election of post-Soviet Armenia. This statistical analysis independently confirms the assertions of election monitors, whose enthusiastic reports about election integrity in the 2018 are considered critically. By examining the data from the election results, this paper explores how election fraud was committed and sustained in the decades leading up to the Velvet Revolution, as well as the implications of Armenia’s newfound democracy.

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The Conflict between Law and Tradition: The Case of Irig's Serbs during the 1795–1796 Plague

Danilo Bosnić, Vuk Mandić, and Djordje Milić University of Banja Luka, Faculty of Philosophy

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    At the end of the eighteenth century, one of the last plague outbreaks in Europe spread across the region of Srem—today part of Serbia’s Vojvodina province, then part of the southern frontier of the Habsburg Empire. Irig, a small and prosperous town with a majority Serb population, was most affected by this outbreak. The region’s Serbs had a history of distrust of the central government in Vienna, a longstanding conflict caused by cultural and religious differences between Serb peasants and the ruling class. Locals concerned with preserving their community’s traditions were threatened by the government’s disruptive anti-epidemic measures. In this paper, we outline the economic and demographic changes resulting from the 1795–1796 plague and document the effects of these changes in Irig and Srem on the area’s Serb minority. We focus on community traditions that encouraged the spread of plague; how social and religious practices stymied anti-plague efforts, and the countermeasures against these customs. We present some of the laws that the government and church tried to implement in their joint effort to combat the disease and outline the efforts of Austrian physicians to implement modern medical standards in the region, emphasizing the cooperation between leaders of the Serb minority and representatives of the Habsburg government during the time of plague. Likewise, we present the significant role that the metropolitan of Karlovci and other orthodox clerics played in preventing plague outbreaks and fighting archaic local customs.

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Book Review. Mark B. Smith. Property of Communists: The Urban Housing Problem from Stalin to Khrushchev.

Reviewed by Michael Plevin Oberlin College

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