Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns: Understanding Russia


Keynote Speaker

  • Andrew Meier ’85

    a graduate of Wesleyan and Oxford, has reported from Russia since the final years of the Soviet Union. A former Moscow correspondent for Time, he is the author of two award-winning works of nonfiction: BLACK EARTH: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall (W.W. Norton, 2003), widely hailed as one of the best books on Russia to appear since the end of the USSR; and THE LOST SPY: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service (W.W. Norton, 2008), a biography of the first-known American to spy for the Soviets, Isaiah “Cy” Oggins. Both were named to a number of “Book of the Year” lists.

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    Meier writes chiefly for the The New York Times Magazine, where he has published profiles of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Eduard Limonov, Ksenia Sobchak, and Valery Gergiev. In addition, he has written widely on Russia for such publications as Harper’sThe Los Angeles TimesNational GeographicThe New RepublicThe New York TimesOutsideThe Washington Post, and Wired. He has reported for PBS documentaries and is a frequent commentator on the BBC, CNN, and NPR.

    Associate professor of writing at The New School in New York City, where he co-founded the undergraduate Journalism + Design program, Meier currently serves on the boards of the Paul Klebnikov Russian Civil Society Fellowship (Harriman Institute, Columbia University), the Leon Levy Center for Biography (Graduate Center, CUNY), and A Little Creative Class. Meier has received numerous fellowships, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Alicia Patterson Foundation, Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers at the New York Public Library, and the Leon Levy Center for Biography.

    At present, Meier is at work on a biography of the Morgenthau family—four generations spanning the presidencies of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy—to be published by Random House.

  • David Abramson ’87

    is senior analyst covering Russia’s relations with Asia for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He previously worked for many years as a Central Asia analyst, focusing primarily on Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Islamic trends in Eurasia. During 2001–2005, Abramson spent four years in the Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, monitoring and promoting religious freedom in the Middle East as an element of U.S. foreign policy, advising on outreach to the Muslim world, and engaging with Muslim-American communities. Abramson also has taught at Georgetown University and published on Islam, foreign assistance in Central Asia, and anthropologists working in national security. 

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    His most recent publication is a chapter on Islam and state policies in Uzbekistan in Islam, Society, and Politics in Central Asia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017). He received his doctorate in cultural anthropology from Indiana University.
  • Lindsay Ceballos ’07

    is assistant professor of Russian and East European studies at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She has published articles on Pushkin, Roman Jakobson, and the Russian Symbolist movement. Her book project, Generation Dostoevsky, argues that Dostoevsky's longstanding reputation as a Christian thinker hinged on selective readings of his social and political thought undertaken by Russian Silver Age poets, critics, and religious thinkers.

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  • Susanne Fusso

    is Marcus L. Taft Professor of Modern Languages and professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies at Wesleyan University. Her specialty is 19th-century Russian prose and poetry. She has also translated two novels by the contemporary poet and prose writer Sergey Gandlevsky. Her most recent book is Editing Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy: Mikhail Katkov and the Great Russian Novel (NIU Press, 2014).

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  • Ian Hague ’83

    is a co-founder of Firebird and a lead manager of Firebird Fund, Firebird New Russia Fund and Firebird Republics Fund. He is a leading expert on Russian politics and investment and has published numerous articles and given dozens of presentations over the years. Hague holds a master’s degree from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and did graduate work at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute. Hague is on the board of the Bank of Georgia and is fluent in Russian.

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  • Katherine Hardin ’90

    is currently working as an Energy Consultant. Previously, Hardin led IHS Russian and Caspian Energy Research and also IHS Global Institutional Investor Energy Research. Kate’s own research focuses on the decarbonization of transportation and also on the Russian and Caspian energy industry. Prior to joining IHS Markit, Kate was an energy consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, advising on power sector privatization throughout Russia and the Caspian region, and she has worked extensively in Russia and the CIS since 1990. Read More

    Hardin served as an alumni expert at the Yale Center for Business and Environment in 2018-2019, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Wesleyan University, she holds an MA from Yale University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.

  • Nancy Herzog ’90

    is the senior director, Grants Administration, at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). In this capacity, she leads the team responsible for ensuring effective and efficient grants management of NED’s global grantmaking program. She previously served as co-director of NED’s Grantmaking Resource Center and held various positions within the grants department since beginning her work at NED in 1994. Herzog is an active participant and presenter at conferences and related events in the field of grants management. She serves on the board of directors of the Grants Managers Network, a national association representing grants professionals primarily in the private sector.

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    She is also a certified grants management specialist through the National Grants Management Association, a professional association for grants managers working with federal grants.
  • Danielle N. Lussier ’98

    is an associate professor of political science at Grinnell College, where she also serves as chair of the Russian, Central, and East European studies concentration. Her research focuses on democratization, political participation, and religion and politics, with geographic expertise on post-communist Eurasia and Indonesia. She majored in Russian and East European studies at Wesleyan University and earned an MA and PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. Read More
    Lussier is the author of Constraining Elites in Russia and Indonesia: Political Participation and Regime Survival (Cambridge University Press, 2016) and The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in Muslim Societies (with Mohammed Ayoob, University of Michigan Press, forthcoming 2020). Her research has also been published in Journal of Democracy, Religion & Politics, Problems of Post-Communism, Post-Soviet Affairs, and Slavic Review.
  • Lauren McCarthy ’01

    is an Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her Master’s (2004) and PhD (2011) in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her BA from the College of Social Studies at Wesleyan University (2001). Her research focuses on the relationship between law and society in Russia, police and law enforcement institutions, civilian oversight, and the issue of human trafficking. Her book, Trafficking Justice: How Russian Police Use New Laws, from Crime to Courtroom published by Cornell University Press (2015) explores how Russian law enforcement agencies have implemented laws on human trafficking, and was based on her dissertation which won the Edward S. Corwin Award (best dissertation in Public Law) from the American Political Science Association. Read More

    Her articles have been published in a variety of journals and her research has been supported by the Fulbright Institute for International Education and a Kennan Institute Fellowship.

  • Elizabeth A. Papazian ‘91

    is associate professor of Russian and film studies at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Manufacturing Truth: The Documentary Moment in Early Soviet Culture (Northern Illinois University Press, 2009) and co-editor, with Caroline Eades, of The Essay Film: Dialogue, Politics, Utopia (Wallflower Press, 2016).

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  • Elizabeth Plantan ’10

    is a China public-policy postdoctoral fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Plantan researches comparative authoritarian politics and state-society relations in China and Russia, with a focus on environmental activism. She received her MA and PhD in government from Cornell University. In addition, she holds a master’s degree in Russian and East European studies from Indiana University Bloomington. She majored in government and Russian and East European studies at Wesleyan University.

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  • Amy Randall ’89

    is a professor in the Department of History at Santa Clara University, where she is currently researching gender and sexuality in the Soviet Union in the post-Stalin era (from approximately 1955-1970), focusing on changing ideas about fatherhood, reproductive policies, sexual education, and related topics. Her earlier work includes a gendered analysis of Soviet retail trade and consumption in the 1930s. A magna cum laude graduate of Wesleyan, where she majored in Russian and Soviet studies, she holds both a master’s and a doctorate from Princeton University.

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  • Anthony Richter ’84

    is director of special initiatives at the Open Society Foundations. He joined Open Society in 1988 and established more than 20 of the foundations in the Open Society Foundations network throughout Eurasia, the Middle East, and South Asia. He also developed programs such as the Central Eurasia Project, Eurasianet, and Revenue Watch and led Open Society’s work backing the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and other significant culture and arts programming. Read More

    He previously was regional director of the Middle East North Africa and Southwest Asia and headed Open Society’s work in the former Soviet Union. Richter was founding chairman of the Revenue Watch Institute and served on the boards of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and the Open Government Partnership.

    He has written for The New York Times, World Policy Journal, and other publications. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A Russian language and literature major at Wesleyan, he earned a graduate degree in Slavic languages and literature from Columbia University. His languages include Arabic, French, Persian, and Russian.

  • Peter Rutland

    Peter Rutland has taught at Wesleyan since 1989. He has a BA from Oxford University and a DPhil from York University. He was a visiting Fulbright professor at the European University in St. Petersburg in 2000 and at Sophia University in Tokyo in 2003, and a Leverhulme Trust visiting professor at the University of Manchester in 2016. He works on Russian political economy, and nationalism. From 2013-18 he was editor-in-chief of Nationalities Papers. He has just finished editing a book, Nation Building in the Post-Soviet States, and his next project is a study of visual images in nationalist narratives.

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  • Victoria Smolkin

    is associate professor of history and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies at Wesleyan University. A scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and Russia and the former Soviet Union, her work focuses on the intersections of politics with religion and ideology, including atheism, secularism, and nationalism. Smolkin’s recent book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press, 2018; in paperback. 2019), explores the meaning of atheism for Soviet religious culture, ideology, and politics. A Russian translation is forthcoming from New Literary Observer in spring 2020. She is currently at work on two projects: The Crusade Against Godlessness: Religion, Communism, and the Cold War Order and The Wall of Memory: Life, Death, and the Impossibility of History.

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  • Lydia Tomkiw ’11

    is a financial and international affairs journalist based in New York City. She has reported on Ukraine for several years covering the most recent presidential election, the fight against corruption, the country's battle against fake news, and the war, focusing on veteran issues including PTSD and disability rights as well as the crowd-sourced war effort. Her writing has appeared in publications including The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, International Business Times, Saveur, and the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. Read More

    She is also the assistant editor for Nationalities Papers, an academic journal focused on nationalism, migration, diasporas, and ethnic conflict in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. She holds a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University and a master's degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (2015).

  • Roman Utkin

    specializes in 20th-century Russian and Soviet poetry, prose, and visual culture. He enjoys teaching and writing on queer theory, exile, comparative modernisms, performance studies, and cinema. His current book project, Russian Berlin, examines the patterns of migration and cultural flows between Eastern and Central Europe and shows how refugees from Soviet Russia formed a unique diasporic community in Weimar Berlin. A native speaker of both Tatar and Russian, Utkin serves on the board of the Committee on Advocacy for Diversity and Inclusion within the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Read More

    He is also a founding member of Q*ASEEES, the Society for the Promotion of LGBTQ Studies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Utkin was educated in Russia and the United States, earning an undergraduate degree in philology at Kazan State University (2007) and a PhD in Slavic languages and literatures at Yale University (2015). Prior to joining the Wesleyan faculty, he taught at Davidson College.

  • Ilya Vinkovetsky ’88

    is associate professor of history at Simon Fraser University. His specialty is the history of the Russian Empire in the 19th century in the global context. His publications include Russian America: An Overseas Colony of a Continental Empire (Oxford University Press, 2011; paperback, 2014) and "Strategists and Ideologues: Russians and the Making of Bulgaria's Tarnovo Constitution, 1878-1879,” in The Journal of Modern History, vol. 90, no. 4 (December 2018): 751-791. He is currently working on the history of Russian transportation before the railroad age and the Chinese-Russian tea trade.

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  • Emily Wang ’08

    is an assistant professor of Russian at the University of Notre Dame. Previously, she taught at the University of Southern California and The College of New Jersey. A Russian major at Wesleyan, she earned her MA and PhD in Slavic languages and literatures from Princeton University. Her research, which has appeared in SEEJRussian Review, and Slavic Review, examines 19th- and 20th-century Russian poetry within historical and political context. In her current book project, Civic Sentimentalism: Pushkin and the Decembrists, she shows how literature helped create political and emotional communities during the reign of Alexander I.

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