June 11, 2015 // 4:00pm — 5:30pm
Very few readers notice that the general plot structure of three of the greatest Russian novels of the 20th century – Doctor Zhivago, And Quiet Flows the Don, and Lolita – is the same, because the authors have unwittingly described the same situation. Each story features main heroines, symbolizing Russia, who are defiled by their fathers (or step-fathers) and then run away with lovers and bear dead children. Incest becomes a metaphor of power that depraves the country through criminal methods of governing. In Nabokov's case, the topic of defilement and forbidden passion is always connected with the threat of prison (Invitation to a Beheading, Bend Sinister, preface to Lolita, and Lolita itself: in attempting to become free from obsessive desire, the hero falls deeper and deeper into an abyss of dependence and fear. It is the best metaphor for the 1917 revolution which only deteriorated the conditions of Russian life). Meanwhile, the main hero hopes that the fulfillment of sinful wish would cure him, but it is a great delusion both in moral and social terms. This plot line first appeared in Tolstoy's novel, The Resurrection, which in essence predicted Russian history for more than 100 years.
June 02, 2015 // 4:00pm — 5:00pm
Over the past 18 months, Russia’s relations with the EU and US have deteriorated under the cloud of Western Sanctions and Russian propaganda. Dmitry Polikanov examined developments from Moscow’s perspective and to what extent Russia differentiates between the EU and US in its policy-making decisions. Polikanov also identified possible areas of opportunity for improving relations.
June 01, 2015 // 3:30pm — 4:30pm
Despite the Soviet Union's commitment to atheism and secularization, religion remained a problem without a solution for most of the Soviet period--until, in 1988, it paradoxically returned to public life by invitation of the state itself. How did the regime's engagement with religion and atheism transform the Soviet Union's understanding of spiritual life? Dr. Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock will discuss how this Soviet legacy illuminates the ideological landscape of contemporary Russia.
May 12, 2015 // 11:00am — 12:00pm
During Vladimir Putin's presidency, the Middle East has been a major zone of Russian foreign engagement. As tensions between the West and Russia have grown due to the conflict in Ukraine, the Middle East has emerged once again as a potential playing field for geopolitical competition. Paul du Quenoy discussed how Russia interacts with the people and nations of the Middle East, illuminating Vladimir Putin’s complex and often paradoxical approach to the region since his seizure of Crimea in 2014.
May 11, 2015 // 11:00am — 12:00pm
After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the West’s introduction of economic sanctions, the Kaliningrad region has become a source of tension between Russia, NATO, and the EU. The region has staged tit-for-tat military displays by both Russia and neighboring EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania. But while Russia is eager to project the image of Kaliningrad as a military stronghold and buffer against NATO expansionism, Kaliningrad’s real threat to European stability stems from its vulnerable exclave status and unclear economic relationship with the EU. This talk outlined the region's curious history, focusing on recent years when Kaliningrad has served both as a military outpost and a cultural bridge between Russia and Europe.
May 11, 2015 // 10:00am — 11:00am
This year’s annual parade commemorating victory in World War II is of particular significance, falling on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and at a time of tangible Russian isolation by fellow Europeans. In this Ground Truth Briefing, three experts comment on this historical moment in Western and Russian relations.
May 08, 2015 // 10:30am — 12:00pm
Private philanthropy is a relatively new area of activity in Russia. Russian corporate giving has grown since the early 1990s, with companies beginning to adopt charitable giving and social investment standards from their Western counterparts. More recently, private and family foundations have begun to appear, and middle class giving is also on the rise. Ruben Vardanyan discussed the trends and challenges of philanthropy in Russia; the role of private philanthropy; and infrastructure for the development of private philanthropy.
May 05, 2015 // 10:00am — 11:30am
From 2007 to 2014, Russia enjoyed unprecedented demographic success. The abysmal fertility rates of the 1990s were left behind and Russia experienced some of the the largest fertility improvements anywhere in Europe. With falling mortality rates and economic-growth driven immigration, Russia's decline in population ended, and 2013 actually saw a net increase in Russia's total population. However, the current economic crisis is leading to policies that will likely lead to a reversal of these gains. The speakers presented new data and forecasts for Russia's population, and discussed various related social policies.
April 30, 2015 // 2:00pm — 3:30pm
This discussion featured three Russian experts who have each spent time at the Wilson Center (with support from the U.S. Embassy, Moscow’s “Peer-to-Peer Program”). The panel compared the Russian and American experience and practice of public oversight. The results of their study include both expected and unexpected findings. For example, while U.S.-based organizations that work on government oversight are older and operate in a freer environment, there are areas where Russian groups and individuals are able to access state information faster and more reliably.
April 21, 2015 // 3:30pm — 5:00pm
Russian nationalism has been the victim of what is the essential tragedy of the Russian people: the Russian state tried to become an empire before the Russian people became a nation, and as a result, at no point has the country been a nation state. And while pro-Kremlin radical nationalists are increasingly important in Russian politics, their nationalist agendas have been largely co-opted by the state. The speakers discussed the crisis facing Russian nationalists and what the future may hold for them.
Experts & Staff
- Matthew Rojansky // Director, Kennan Institute
- William E. Pomeranz // Deputy Director, Kennan Institute
- F. Joseph Dresen // Program Associate
- Mary Elizabeth Malinkin // Program Associate
- Izabella Tabarovsky // Manager for Regional Engagement
- Mattison Brady // Program Assistant
- Emma Dorst // Program Assistant
- Blair A. Ruble // Vice President for Programs; Director, Urban Sustainability Laboratory; and Senior Advisor, Kennan Institute
- Kateryna Smagliy // Director, Kennan Institute in Ukraine
- Nina Rozhanovskaya // Coordinator and Academic Liaison in Russia