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HSE Opens International Laboratory 'Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective'

General map of the Russian Empire from the first official Russian atlas (1745)

General map of the Russian Empire from the first official Russian atlas (1745)
© Essentials/ iStock

HSE’s new International Laboratory of ‘Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective’ will study the social and political history of Russia’s regions from the 18th to the late 20th century.

According to Professor Ekaterina Boltunova, Laboratory Head and Professor in the Faculty of Humanities, the long-term plan of research involves studying all of Russia in all periods. However, priority will be given to the study of the regions that make up the territory of the modern Russian Federation (especially the large geographical areas of Central Russia, the Volga region, the Urals, Siberia and the Far East). Working groups will be formed for each of these trajectories, and each group will include several faculty members of the Laboratory and one or two interns—an HSE student or graduate student. ‘It is important for us to comprehensively analyze what was happening in Russia’s different regions during the periods of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, how certain political practices began and took hold, how social engineering was conducted, how the identity of each particular region was shaped, as well as how each region conceives of itself in terms of collective memory. We want to examine interactions at the level of ‘region-to-region’, consider issues of border territories, and much more,’ Professor Boltunova says.

The Laboratory’s purview will cover three major historical periods: the Russian Empire, the USSR, and modern Russia.

In some cases, such as Siberia, for example, the time frame will be modified to cover the Tsardom of Moscovy. But in the study of other materials, we cannot ignore the events of recent decades

HSE specialists, as well as representatives of the Anglo-American and European schools of regional studies, will lead the working groups. The laboratory will be headed by Willard Sunderland, a professor at the University of Cincinnati (USA) and a leading researcher at the Faculty of Humanities at HSE.

The laboratory plans to broaden academic cooperation—and not just between faculties and institutes of HSE. The International Laboratory 'Russia’s Regions in Historical Perspective'

Is intended to be a serious platform for collaboration between HSE and regional universities. Over the last month, two agreements on research cooperation have been signed with Smolensk State University and the Institute of History, Archeology and Ethnography of the Peoples of the Far East, Far-Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences. Negotiations are underway with Petrozavodsk State University, Pskov State University, the Ural Federal University, Perm State National Research University, and Saratov State National Research University. ‘We plan to actively involve regional colleagues in the research activities of our Laboratory and University. This means different types of mobility programmes (internships for teachers and graduate students from partner universities, etc.), as well as joint research events,’ Professor Boltunova says.

The activity of the Laboratory will also involve active cooperation with universities in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Currently, its partners include the University of Cincinnati (USA), Indiana University (USA), the University of Regensburg (Germany), and the University of Hokkaido (Japan).

We see ourselves as an open platform that will provide researchers of Russia’s regional histories the opportunity to interact with each other regardless of what country or university they are from

The plans for the near future include creating an open resource portal ‘Regions of Russia in Historical Perspective’ with content that provides insight on the ways in which Russian regions developed over three centuries. For research and the development of the online portal, the Laboratory received a grant from the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation. The corpus of textual, visual, and audio materials contained on the site will allow researchers in the regions, as well as all users of the network, to familiarize themselves with the content and working historical and lexicographical commentaries (and this will include the ability to search by keywords) as well as source study commentaries. Recorded lectures by historians and cultural scholars of Russia’s regions will also be made available on the database.

Education and research are not the only things that are of central focus of the Laboratory. Lab members will also participate in developing concepts of cultural-historical development and the positioning of cities and regions of Russia—including within the context of the current state programmes for developing a comfortable urban environment.

The Laboratory launched a research seminar to bring together specialists in the history of Russia’s regions. The first guest lecturer was Professor Norihiro Naganawa (University of Hokkaido, Japan).

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