“Tales and Visions of Elena Guro: A Woman in the Russian Avant-Garde”
Friday, April 21-Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Amherst Center for Russian Culture hosted an international symposium on the work of avant-garde writer and artist Elena Guro (1877-1913), the first of its kind in the US. Guro was the earliest of the “Russian Amazons,” the women who emerged as leading artists of the avant-garde in the pre-revolutionary period. She also wrote experimental stories, poems and plays, making her the rare woman who contributed to the European avant-garde of the time.

The opening event took place in the Rotherwas Room of the Mead Art Museum on Friday, April 21. During the reception, composer and musician John McDonald performed original piano pieces by Mikhail Matiushin, Guro’s husband and a leading figure in the Petersburg avant-garde. The scores are rarities from the archives of the Russian Center and have never been performed together. The symposium, “Tales and Visions of Elena Guro,” took place on Saturday, April 22, in the Russian Center and featured panels on her achievements in writing and art.

Watch videos from this event.

“The KGB: Ruthless Sword, Imperfect Shield,” a talk by Amir Weiner
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017

Based on hitherto untapped KGB archives and first-ever interviews with KGB officers, this talk by Professor Amir Weiner from Stanford University explored the history of the Soviet state security apparatus from its inception to present day and seeks to explore key questions: Who was the KGB? Who were its agents, informants and officers? How did they obtain information, and what did they know or want to know about their population? How did KGB officers, many of whom understood that they engaged in unethical activities even by the norms of the Soviet state, justify their actions, such as blackmail, coercion or intimidation? How did the KGB cope with the challenges of the post-Stalin era, particularly the end to mass terror, the spillover of unrest from the restless satellites and the loss of a monopoly over information? How did the KGB adjust to the decline in the party-state authority and the rise of dissent, restless youth and secessionist national movements and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union? Finally, and most importantly, when and how did the KGB’s obsessive gathering of information overwhelm and undermine the organization itself, and ultimately, the Soviet state?

Amir Weiner is a professor of history at Stanford University. He is the author of Making Sense of WarLandscaping the Human Garden and numerous articles and edited volumes on the impact of World War II on the Soviet polity, the social history of WWII and Soviet frontier politics. His forthcoming book, The KGB: Ruthless Sword, Imperfect Shield, will be published by Yale University Press in 2018. He is currently working on a collective autobiography of KGB officers titled Coffee with the KGB: Conversations with Soviet Security Officers.

Presentation by Latvian Russophone poet Semyon Khanin
Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017

Semyon Khanin, visiting from Riga, Latvia, is a Russian poet with three books of poetry to his name, a translator of Latvian poetry into Russian, and the editor of numerous poetry collections of Russian and Latvian poets. He compiled an anthology of Latvian/Russian poetry titled Poems in Russian Written by Latvian Poets(2011), the first of its kind. His books have been translated into Latvian, Czech, Ukrainian, Serbian and Italian. He is one of the key members of the multimedia poetry project Orbita, a creative group of poets and artists whose works aim at creating a dialogue between various cultures and genres (which include literature, music, video, and photography, among others). His poems in English translation appeared in the anthology Hit Parade: The Orbita group (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015).


“Non-Fiction as a Substitute for Fiction in a Post-Totalitarian Society: The Case of Svetlana Alexievich,” a talk by Professor Ilya Kukulin
Friday, Feb. 12, 2016

Kukulin spoke about Svetlana Alexievica, who recently won the Nobel Prize in Literature for her non-fiction. Alexievica draws from historical fact and oral histories to address such subjects as the Soviet war in Afghanistanand the Chernobyl disaster. Kukulin’s most recent book, on Soviet montage, was awarded the Andrei Bely Prize last year, the oldest independent literary prize awarded in Russia.

Mikhail Bychkov: “Making Theater in Today's Russia”
Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016

Mikhail Bychkov, widely known in the Russian performing arts community as the founder of the Voronezh Chamber Theater and the International Platonov Festival, was chosen this year as chair of the jury for the Golden Mask National Theater Prize, Russia’s equivalent of the Tony Awards, in recognition of his contributions to Russian theater. His presentation will focus on the place of Russian theater in the cultural transformation that has taken place over the past quarter of a century. Bychkov's perspective is especially valuable because he has played a leading role in shaping and developing theater in Russia’s regions, which is where the visionary theater-makers of the New Russian Drama movement have come from, and which are now viewed, in Moscow and Petersburg, as incubators of the most far-reaching cultural experimentation.


Dylan Schneider ’06: “Bringing Slavic Absurdism to the Operatic Stage”
Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015

Dylan Schneider received his Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Chicago in 2013, having studied with composers Shulamith Ran and Marta Ptaszynska. Strip-Tease is the 27-minute opera Dr. Schneider created for his dissertation, and he is now working on a companion piece based on the short story by Andrei Sinyavsky who for many years as a Russian dissident published his prose under the pseudonym Abram Terz. Dr. Schneider discussed both the Polish and Russian texts and the operas for which they serve as librettos against the larger background of Slavic absurdism during the 1960s through 1980s which they reflect. A screening of Strip-Tease and a reception followed.

“Who, What Am I? Tolstoy Struggles to Narrate the Self”
Monday, May 4, 2015

A leading cultural historian of 19th- and 20th-century Russia, Irina Paperno has, throughout her scholarly career, focused on the multifaceted relationship between life as it is lived and as it is represented and given meaning to by the written word. Her books have transformed the field’s understanding of the place of the literary text and the individual life on the broader stage of Russian culture and provoked a reassessment of longstanding assumptions about the Russian literary canon and its relationship to Russian and Soviet history.

Paperno’s latest monograph, just out from Cornell University Press, develops her interests in the history of private life and the intellectual sources of the concepts of self. It offers an account of Leo Tolstoy's lifelong attempt to find adequate ways to represent the self, to probe its limits and, ultimately, to arrive at an identity not based on the bodily self and its accumulated life experience. As it guides the readers through Tolstoy’s voluminous, highly personal nonfiction writings, the book reflects on the problems of self and narrative as well as provides an intellectual and psychological biography of the writer. Irina Paperno will discuss her book in the broader context of interpreting the large, diverse corpus of nonfiction writings by Russian writers. Sponsored by the Amherst Center for Russian Culture, the Department of Russian at Amherst College and the Eastman Lecture Fund.


Out of Steppe: Borodin’s Prince Igor and Operatic Russia’s Seductive “Other”
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014

Renowned opera critic David Shengold ’81 presented an illustrated talk entitled with musical examples.

U.S.-Russia Relations: From Reset to Rethink
Monday, April 7, 2014

The Amherst College Center for Russian Culture presented a talk by Dr. Andrew Kuchins ’81, a senior fellow and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. He is an internationally known expert on Russian foreign and domestic policies who publishes widely and is frequently called on by business, government, media, and academic leaders for comment and consulting on Russian and Eurasian affairs.


Russian-English Poetry Reading by Maria Stepanova
Monday, April 1, 2013

A winner of Russia’s top literary prize, Moscow poet Maria Stepanova read her original poetry along with new English translations. Stepanova is one of the most visible figures in post-Soviet culture, a founder and editor of today’s most influential online journal. As one of the most important poets working today, she addresses contemporary themes through skillfully distorted forms and language. The reading was followed by a question-and-answer session in English.


A Symposium on Emigre Encounters: Exiles and Their Legacies
Friday, March 30-Saturday, March 31, 2012

The symposium began Friday with “Exiles on Screen: Russians in Hollywood,” a discussion by Professor Olga Matich (University of California, Berkeley), followed by a screening of “The Last Command” (1928). The following day began with opening remarks by Sergey Glebov (Amherst College/Smith College), followed by:

Session I: Émigré Cultures
Chair: Boris Wolfson (Amherst College)
Catherine Ciepiela (Amherst College): Tsvetaeva and Anti-Colonial Paris
Lazar Fleishman (Stanford University): Lev Gomolitskii and Russian Poets in Inter-War Poland
Klara Moricz (Amherst College): Modernist Identities: Artur Lourie and Igor Stravinsky
Sergey Glebov (Amherst/Smith College): Russian Saids: Critiques of Colonialism in the Russian Emigration
Discussant: Polina Barskova (Hampshire College)

Session II: Émigré Scholarship and Culture
Chair: Bryn Geffert (Amherst College)
Laurie Manchester (Arizona State University): Missionizing Diaspora: Colonial Fantasies Among First Wave Émigrés
Alla Zeide (Independent Scholar): Mikhail Karpovich and George Vernadsky: Two Names in One Breath
Olga Matich (University of California, Berkeley): The Case of Vasilii Shul'gin
Discussant: Vera Shevzov (Smith College)

Roundtable Discussion: Émigré Legacies: Archives, Collections, Collectors
John Bowlt (USC), Stanley Rabinowitz (Amherst College)
Fr. Vladimir von Tsurikov (Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, Jordanville, NY/Foundation for Russian Culture)

“Remembering The Rite of Spring,” a lecture by Stephen Walsh
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012

Stravinsky’s views on all his most famous works changed over the years, but The Rite of Spring was a particular case, partly because he had difficulty getting the notation of the score as he wanted it, partly because he lost interest in the ethnic aspects of the subject, partly because of issues to do with the way the work was, or should be, performed. Walsh, a critic and musicologist who is currently Professor in Music at Cardiff University, Wales, gave a talk tracing these changes down the years, drawing some conclusions about Stravinsky's creative methods and his attitudes to his own past work.

“The Birth of Fiction from the Spirit of Music: My Novel Leningrad, from Literary Text to Screen Version,” a lecture by Igor Vishnevetsky
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

Vishnevetsky is an Associate Professor of Russian Literature at the American Studio of the Moscow Art Theater and of English at the Russian State University for the Humanities.


A Late Afternoon of Russian Music
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vocal and instrumental selections from Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev performed by Julia Moorman ’11, mezzo-soprano; Michiko Theurer ’11, violin; Dana Kaufman ’12, piano; Roger Creed ’13, piano; Lori Milbiev UM ’11, piano; Bor Liang UM ’11, tenor; and The Amherst Madrigal Singers. Followed by a reception.

Poetry reading by Eugene Ostashevsky
Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eugene Ostashevsky is a Russian-born American poet. He has published two collections of poems, Iterature and The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza, which showcase his playful erudition. He has edited and translated for the first English-language anthology of writings by the Russian absurdists of the 1920s-30s (titled Oberiu), and also translates contemporary Russian poets. He is currently working on a book about the relationship between a pirate and a parrot. He teaches literature at New York University and is associated with Ugly Duckling Presse in Brooklyn, New York.

Poetry reading by Anna Glazova
Monday, April 11, 2011

Anna Glazova is a poet who teaches at Cornell University and writes on questions of tradition, translation, and quotation in poetry and fiction. She has published several studies of Celan's translations of Mandelstam's poetry and has translated into Russian works by two prominent figures of European modernism, Robert Walser and Unica Zürn. Her first book of poetry, Pust' i voda (2003), was shortlisted for Andrei Bely prize. Poems from her second book, Pyetlya. Nyevpolovinu (2008) appeared in English translation in a volume entitled Twice under the Sun (2008). Glazova read her poetry in Russian with English translations.

“The Battle of the Moderns over the Ancients: Russian Modernism and the Revival of the Pagan Gods,” a lecture by Professor Michael Kunichika, Slavic Department, New York University
Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011


Joseph Brodsky: A Symposium at Amherst College
Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010

- Joseph Brodsky: Contexts and Reception, a panel presentation by Catherine Ciepiela (Amherst College), Mikhail Gronas (Dartmouth College), Andrew Kahn (Oxford University), Maria Khotimsky (Harvard University), and Yaskov Klots (Yale University)
- Beyond Ideology: Russian Art of the 1950s-1970s from the Collection of Thomas P. Whitney, an event held at Amherst College's Mead Art Museum
- Brodsky in Camera, a converstaion between photographers Mikhail Milchik (Saint Petersburg) and Jerome Liebling (Amherst College)
- Reading Brodsky Together, a close reading of a poem by Brodsky by Polina Barskova (Hampshire College).

David Shengold ’81 to Talk About Musorgsky's “Boris Godunov”
Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010

Opera critic David Shengold ’81 discussed Musorgsky’s opera “Boris Godunov,” performed by the Met in a much-anticipated new production the following fall. The simulacast of the opera took place the following Saturday, Oct. 23.

Poetry Reading by Arkady Dragomoshchenko & Tatiana Shcherbina
Monday, Nov. 1, 2010

The Amherst Center for Russian Culture will host a reading by two prominent Russian Poets, Arkady Dragomoshchenko of Petersburg and Tatiana Shcherbina of Moscow. Dragomoshchenko is the leader of the so-called language poetry in Russia, and he has colloborated with the American language poet Lyn Hejinian. Shcherbina became well known as an underground poet in the 80s, and she is also recognized as a translator of French poetry. The poets will read in Russian, accompanied by English translations.