Galina Levina, Program Director of the Kennan Moscow Project, conducted an interview with Victoria I. Zhuravleva, Doctor of History, Professor, Director of the Program on American Studies at the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH), and former Kennan Institute and Fulbright Scholar.
Translated by Nic Wondra
Galina Levina: Victoria, 2013 is drawing to a close. Was this a successful year for you, fruitful in academic terms?
Victoria Zhuravleva: You know, for me and my family, 13 is a very lucky number. 2013 did not disappoint in terms of my research expectations. Earlier this year, the RSUH Press released my book Understanding Russia in the U.S.: Images and Myths: 1881 - 1914, which I have spent 10 years writing and which would not have been possible without Kennan Institute and Fulbright Program grants. In May, I defended my doctoral dissertation, which, as you might imagine, was an important step in my research and teaching career. Finally, in June, RSUH completed its development of the "Russian-American Studies” database under the framework of the “American Studies in Russia, Russian Studies in the United States” project.
Both Russian and American scholars will certainly be interested to learn more about this international, interdisciplinary project.
It all started in 2008 when, along with my colleague and collaborator Ivan Kurilla, we decided to publish a collection of articles by Russian and American researchers entitled Russia and the United States: Mutual Representations in Textbooks. It was released in 2009 in Volgograd, thanks to the financial support of the Kennan Institute and the personal enthusiasm of its then director Blair Ruble. This was the event that started the project. Then there was an influential international conference on “American Studies in Russia, Russian Studies in the United States: Mutual Representations,” which I organized at RSUH in February 2011 with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Russia, the Kennan Institute, and the Fulbright Program. An extremely fruitful exchange of ideas and opinions among leading Russian and American scholars occurred during this conference. The next stage of the project was the creation of the already-mentioned “Russian-American Studies” database. RSUH oversaw this development in collaboration with the Institute of World History at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the Kennan Institute, sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Education and Sciences. The database includes information on experts, both scholars and teachers, in the field of Russian Studies in the U.S. and American Studies in Russia, from the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century, and contains an annotated list of centers and professional organizations.
What does an American specialist in Russian Studies or a Russian specialist in American Studies need to do to be included in this database?
You may register in the database at http://ra-studies.com and send your information to the administration office. Our contact information can be found on the homepage. The administration edits the data that is automatically downloaded from the Internet. The office administrators include representatives from leading American Studies centers in Russia, as well as the Kennan Moscow Project.
In your opinion, what impact could the database have on the development of American Studies in Russia and Russian Studies in the U.S.?
Most immediately, it will reveal a correlation between the national "agenda" and the study of other countries and peoples, and also demonstrate the influence of institutions and individuals on the evolution of American and Russian Studies. As for more concrete objectives, it will promote Russian-American academic integration (enabling the exchange of information and ideas, the formation of international projects, the possibility to search for reviewers and experts, and the promotion of academic publishing in translation); help identify thematic gaps in the study of the United States in Russia and Russia in the United States; shape the agenda of research projects; and improve the quality of masters and doctoral theses. In addition, and this is especially important for the Russia-based Americanists, the project allows you to create a professional on-line community. In the future, with the translation of all of the information in the database into English, it will become a "two-way street," and will open up additional opportunities for the expansion of contacts between Russian and American Studies specialists in both countries.
Can the database have a positive impact on bilateral relations?
Certainly, since it is designed to foster closer ties between Russian and American researchers and educators, as well as reformat the entire process of studying each other. Without this it is impossible to overcome not only the ultimate legacy of the Cold War, and its reputation for "enemy studies,” but also the crisis of American Studies in post-Soviet Russia and Russian Studies in the United States, caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it, the bipolar international system.
Does the launch of the database mark the completion of the project as a whole?
No, it will continue. Ivan Kurilla and I are planning, with the support of the Kennan Institute, to publish a second volume of essays called American Studies in Russia, Russian Studies in the United States as Academic and Pedagogical Projects: Mutual Representations. I hope that the circle of authors will significantly widen after the presentation of the project, and database in particular, at the round table “Reinventing Area Studies: American Studies in Russia, Russian Studies in the United States in the Context of 21st Century Russian-American Relations” as part of the annual convention of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), which will be held in Boston on November 21-24, 2013. The round table was organized thanks to the support and enthusiasm of the deputy director of the Kennan Institute, William Pomeranz, who will moderate the discussion.
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite all interested colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic to collaborate in the future, as only together can we better understand what we have achieved and what remains to be done in the field of Russian Studies and American Studies. We hope that the history of our studies of each other will be instructive for us today.
Thank you very much, Victoria, for your time. We wish you continued success in your academic endeavors.
Matthew Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute