This past spring, I had the honor of being awarded the Dr. Miriam G. Schwartz Slavic Award. This is an academic merit-based scholarship given to students that demonstrate active participation in the classroom and a strong commitment to learning and understanding the Russian language and culture. Due to this scholarship, I was able to dedicate time this summer to studying Russian language, literature, film, and culture. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to expand my Russian knowledge outside the classroom. My studies this summer will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of Russian both in the classroom and out. The knowledge I gained this summer has also already helped me examine issues critically outside in the classroom, specifically in my other areas of study: Geography and International Studies.
Up to this point, I have studied two years of Russian and have a solid base of the fundamentals of the language. This summer, I built upon this foundation by exploring additional vocabulary and intricacies of Russian grammar by reading valuable texts and online resources. I actually had the opportunity to use new words I learned this summer in my work setting. I work in the Special Collections department in the Thompson Library on Ohio State’s campus. Ohio State has an extensive collection of archival material, including some from Russia. We received a new acquisition with material from the 1991 Soviet coup d’état attempt, which is also known as the 1991 August Putsch or August Coup. This coup attempted was enacted by Communist Party hard-liner members who opposed Gorbachev’s reform program and the decentralization of power to republics. Most of the collection materials we received were newspaper articles and copies of decrees by hardliner party members. I assisted the project by translating dates on these newspapers and decrees so that they could be archived correctly for easy access for researchers in the future. I also used my language skills to help differentiate government documents from those of party hardliners. One word that I learned in my summer studies turned out to be particularly useful was the noun “указ,” which means “decree.” This scholarship allowed me to hone my language skills and, in turn, I discovered ways that I can apply the use of Russian in the real world. Before this summer, I thought that the only ways of using my Russian knowledge job-wise was either through government or business. However, my experience this summer opened my eyes to the possibility of using what I learned in the classroom in archival work. Now I know that I can use Russian to understand items of the past to make better sense of Russia and the world today through a career in archiving.
Along with studying the Russian language this summer, I also explored more aspects of Russian culture like film and literature that aid in giving me a more comprehensive understanding of Russia as a whole. I find film to be a particularly exciting way to get to know another culture because film is an intersection of art, language, and culture. Film is also a way to understand history, as films are created in a particular place and time. And so, different material was permitted to be filmed at different times in Russian history so that what one can see in a film and what is noticeably absent is a big clue to portray values of the people and government. My knowledge of Russian film is rather limited at the moment, as I have only seen a handful of films in a course called Russian Culture, through film screenings Ohio State’s Slavic Department hosts, and my own viewings outside of class. I am fortunate to be able to study Russian film this semester with the help of the scholarship money I received.