• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Studying Russian Writers on How War Alters Aesthetic Experience

Dr. Angelina Lucento is a Research Fellow at HSE International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences. Her work focusses on art and war. In this interview with HSE English News she explains how family history brought her to research WWII and Russian culture and tells us why Moscow suits her so well for living and working as an international academic in her field.

— What is your background? Where are you from?

— I am from a small town in the southern part of the American state of West Virginia. Coal mining is still the main industry there. My father worked as a miner, and my mother worked with the local school administration.

After university, I studied the history of art and visual culture at Northwestern University, where I received my MA and Ph.D. degrees.

— Why did you decide to come to Moscow to study?

— Ten years ago, I came to Moscow to study Russian language and cultural history. I fell in love with the dynamism, excitement, and cultural opportunities that the city has to offer. New York is often called the city that never sleeps, but I would say that descriptor also applies to Moscow. I have lived in many other European cities, including Paris, and Moscow tops my list of favorite places in the world!

I came because it afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the world’s top researchers on the history of World War II and to access extremely significant and detailed research materials that are available only in Moscow

I was delighted to have the opportunity to join the Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences as a research fellow, and not just because it afforded me the opportunity to return to a city I love. I came because , more importantly, it afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the world’s top researchers on the history of World War II and to access extremely significant and detailed research materials that are available only in Moscow .

— Could you please share what is so exciting and attractive for you in studying history and especially history of World War II?

— The reason for my initial interest in the history of World War II is personal. My father served at the front during World War II. His experiences became integrated into our family’s history and experience. Since I was a child, I have wanted to gain a broader understanding of the social and cultural circumstances that preceded the war. Today this is the primary focus of my research, the cultural and intellectual history of the interwar and wartime periods. I am also equally fascinated by the ways, in which World War II altered world culture, and I plan to pursue future research projects related to that topic.

Being part of an international environment is great. My colleagues at the HSE all bring different perspectives to the table, which have developed out of different cultural traditions and experiences. This makes room for productive dialogue and leads to the formulation of rigorous questions

— What books have you been reading and consider worthy to recommend to others to read about consequences of World War II?

— I think the best books about the war offer the reader firsthand insight into the event. I would recommend two books that have been important for me during my research: Vasily Grossman’s A Writer at War and Nadezhda Udal’stova’s The Life of a Russian Cubist (“Zhizn’ russkoi kubistki”). As an historian of art and visual culture, part of my job is to study what the perspectives of visual artists and other cultural producers reveal about historical events. Udal’stova’s book contains her personal diaries, which span from her years as an avant-garde artist and professor at the Soviet art school VKhUTEMAS through World War II and its aftermath. Udal’tsova often writes about the consequences of war as she experienced it from 1914 through the second half of the twentieth century, and discusses how war alters aesthetic experience and the meaning of art. It is, in my view, a seminal document of twentieth century culture.

— How is life in an international environment going for you? What's difficult and what's exciting and rewarding?

— Being part of an international environment is great. My colleagues at the HSE all bring different perspectives to the table, which have developed out of different cultural traditions and experiences. This makes room for productive dialogue and leads to the formulation of rigorous questions . One challenge has been to develop and practice the vocabulary to discuss my research in Russian at the same level as I can in my native language. I look forward to perfecting these skills throughout the year.

— How did your family react when you told them you were going to Moscow?

— My family was a bit skeptical the first time I traveled to Russia, but the advent of social media, which allows me to post photographs from my everyday life instantly online, has put them at ease. Now some say they would like to visit Moscow during their next vacation!

— What are your further plans?

— This year I plan to finish my book manuscript about the aesthetics of realism in early Soviet art, and to continue to publish articles about art during war.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News Service 

See also:

Financial Front: The USSR State Budget during World War II

After June 1941, the Soviet budget was no longer the same. Marking the end of peaceful life, budget revenues dwindled, and the Treasury was drained of billions of rubles. But because the war required money, the government had to find it from somewhere. Oleg Khlevnyuk, Professor at the HSE University’s School of History, examines the Soviet Union’s wartime and post-war financial policies in his paper.

Slut-Shaming by Lend-Lease

Russian women who associated with Soviet allies during World War II were subjected to unusually harsh persecution. This was especially true in the north of the country that saw the arrival of thousands of U.S. and British sailors. For having contact with these foreigners, Soviet women received the same severe punishment meted out to Nazi collaborators: charges of treason and 10 years in a forced labour camp. HSE Associate Professor Liudmila Novikova studied how and why this policy shaped their destinies.

Studying Cultural History of Ethnic Minorities in the USSR

Isabelle R. Kaplan, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, talks about her research on non-Slavic minorities in the Soviet Union in an interview to the HSE Look.

Scarcity Trauma: Why Russia in the 1990s Was not Nostalgic about Soviet Life

In 2001, ten years after the launch of reforms in Russia, 54% of Russians  believed  the main achievement of the reforms was the availability of consumer goods, rather than freedom of speech or the possibility of travelling  abroad. A decade later, public attitudes had not changed, and the availability of goods on store shelves was still perceived as the number one priority. The massive trauma caused by scarcity was particularly strong. How it was addressed and in what way it influenced public attitudes after the USSR collapse is examined in a study  by HSE professor Oleg Khlevnyuk.

Underground Capitalist in Soviet Russia

Nikolai Pavlenko, a shadow entrepreneur and creator of a successful business in Stalin’s USSR, was executed by firing squad in 1955. Running a successful commercial enterprise right under the dictator’s nose in a strictly planned economy was a striking but not so uncommon case in the Soviet Union at the time, according to HSE professor Oleg Khlevniuk who made a number of unexpected findings having studied newly accessible archival documents. Below, IQ.HSE offers a summary of what his study reveals.

From Chains to Art Therapy: The Evolution of Mental Health Care

Mental health disorders are among the leading worldwide causes of disease and long-term disability. This issue has a long and painful history of gradual de-stigmatization of patients, coinciding with humanization of therapeutic approaches. What are the current trends in Russia regarding this issue and in what ways is it similar to and different from Western countries? IQ.HSE provides an overview of this problem based on research carried out by Svetlana Kolpakova.

Introduction to Daurian Gothic: What It Is and How It Has Emerged in Transbaikalia

Medieval horror, vampires, sorcerers, mysterious monks and the rising dead, alongside real historical figures and stories about the Russian Civil War wrapped in the aura of mysticism – this is perhaps the shortest formula for Daurian Gothic. Alexei Mikhalev, Doctor of Political Science, discusses this phenomenon and its evolution.

Russian and French Scholars Present Research on Soviet History at Graduate Seminar

The International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and its Consequences at HSE University held a Graduate Student Seminar in Soviet History together with Sciences Po (France) on June 17 – 18, 2019. HSE News Service spoke with participants and instructors of the seminar, which examinedthe impact of WWII on the Soviet Union and surrounding regions, as well as aspects of the Soviet system from Stalin up to the 1980s.

In Search of Truth in the Pravda Newspaper

On June 24-25, HSE University held the international academic conference, ‘The 1990s: A Social History of Russia’ organized by International Center for the History and Sociology of World World War II and its Consequences, the Boris Yeltsin Center, the Egor Gaider Foundation, and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. HSE News Service spoke with Roberto Rabbia, one of the international participants, about how he became interested in Soviet history, why he reads Soviet newspapers, and what he has learned from his research.

HSE History Professor Feels at Home in Moscow’s Multicultural Environment

Martin Beisswenger has been a professor in HSE’s School of History since 2013. Recently, HSE News Service sat down with him to learn about his impressions of Moscow, his research projects, the course he is currently teaching and more.