Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I Love My Field in 10 Wikipedia Entries

I am a Russian and East European Studies major. It is a major so insignificant that it does not have its own department here at Yale, unlike our more winsome sister "Slavic Languages and Literatures" (yes, that is just fancy talk for "Russian Lit").

I do not regret my decision, however, because despite my major's total lack of dedicated faculty and resources, it allows me to study the history and politics of a much broader region-- from the North Caucasus to the Balkans, from the Czech Republic to Azerbaijan, from the Christianization of Kievan Rus' in 988 to last spring's bombings in Dagestan.

But let me assure you, it's not all ancient hatred and mass death! My years of study have left me convinced that in addition to being one of the most depressing fields of study, mine is also one of the funniest. I present to you ten Wikipedia pages, chosen completely arbitrarily, the skimming of which I hope will give you a taste of what it's like to be a REES major (some of them were written in less-than-fluent English; I have left them unedited).

"During the first semi-final of the 2009 contest, the introductory 'postcard' leading into the Armenian performance depicted, amongst other monuments, We Are Our Mountains, a statue located in Stepanakert, capital city of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which is a de-jure part of Azerbaijan. After an official complaint by Azerbaijan, the video clip was edited out for the broadcast of the final. However, in retaliation the presenter of the Armenian votes, Sirusho, held up a clipboard with the monument's picture on it as she read off the votes, and in the background a screen in Yerevan's main square could be seen to display the monument. Azerbaijan's 'postcard' depicted the Maqbaratoshoara and Segonbad monuments, symbols of the cities of Tabriz and Urumieh, in Iran's Azerbaijan region. Armenian media complained that while Eurovision forbade display of an Armenian monument located in Nagorno-Karabakh after the Azerbaijani protest, it allowed Azerbaijan's inclusion of the Iranian monuments."
"We Are Our Mountains", Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh
"First appearance of the 'Hey, Slavs' on territory of Yugoslavia was in times of Illyrian movement. Dragutin Rakovac translated the song, and named it "Hey, Illyrians" (Croatian: Hej, Iliri). Until Second World War, the translation did not suffer many changes, except Illyrians became Slavs.

In 1941 the Second World War engulfed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Axis powers invaded in early April, and the Yugoslav royal army disintegrated and capitulated in just two and a half weeks. Since the old Yugoslav anthem included references to the king and kingdom, the anti-royalist Partisan resistance led by Josip Broz Tito and his Communist party decided to avoid it and opted for 'Hey, Slavs' instead.
The old anthem was officially abandoned after the liberation in 1945, but no new anthem was officially adopted. There were several attempts to promote other, more specifically Yugoslav songs as the national anthem, but none gained much public support and 'Hey, Slavs' continued to be used unofficially.
After the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991-92, when only Serbia and Montenegro remained in the federation, 'Hey, Slavs' continued to be used as the anthem of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That country was renamed to the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 and was expected to adopt a new anthem, but since no agreement over national symbols could be reached, 'Hey, Slavs' remained the anthem of the state union."

"The compromise solution, as set out in the two resolutions, was very carefully worded in an effort to meet the objections and concerns of both sides. The wording of the resolutions rested on four key principles:
  • The appellation 'former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' was purely a provisional term to be used only until the dispute was resolved.
  • The term was a reference, not a name; as a neutral party in the dispute, the United Nations had not sought to determine the name of the state. The President of the Security Council subsequently issued a statement declaring on behalf of the Council that the term 'merely reflected the historic fact that it had been in the past a republic of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.' The purpose of the term was also emphasized by the fact that the expression begins with the uncapitalised words 'the former Yugoslav', acting as a descriptive term, rather than 'the Former Yugoslav', which would act as a proper noun. By also being a reference rather than a name, it met Greek concerns that the term 'Macedonia' should not be used in the republic's internationally recognised name.
  • The use of the term was purely 'for all purposes within the United Nations'; it was not being mandated for any other party.
  • The term did not imply that the Republic of Macedonia had any connection with the existing Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, as opposed to the historical and now-defunct Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
One additional concern that had to be taken care of was the seating of the Republic of Macedonia in the General Assembly. Greece rejected seating the Republic's representative under M [as in 'Macedonia (former Yugoslav Republic of)'], and the Republic rejected sitting under F (as in 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', which turned the reference into a proper noun rather than a description). Instead, it was seated under T as 'the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia' and placed next to Thailand."

"Some argue that Kosovo establishes a valuable precedent for other people who wish to secede.
  • Daniel Turp, a member of the pro-Quebec sovereignty Parti Québécois who sits in the National Assembly of Quebec, said 'Recognition [of Kosovo] sets the stage for Ottawa to eventually recognize an independent Quebec'.
  • László Tőkés, an ethnic Hungarian who is a member of the European Parliament for Romania, said Kosovo is a 'model for the Romanian region of Transylvania'.
  • Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian negotiating team, said that if the United States and the majority of the European Union 'have embraced the independence of Kosovo, why shouldn’t this happen with Palestine as well?'
  • Igor Smirnov, the leader of Transnistria, a predominantly Russian separatist republic in what is internationally recognised to be eastern Moldova, said 'For us, the Kosovo precedent is an important ... factor.'"
Proposed flag for the Union State
"Since the formation of the Union of Russia and Belarus in 1997, there has not been official recognition of a state flag or coat of arms. There have been several drafts for flags and coats of arms.

Two proposals have been made for the flag of the Union. In all cases, they are modifications to the flag of the Soviet Union, but representing the state (not communism). In both cases, two red stars are placed in the canton of the flag (to represent the two states of the Union).

A proposed coat of arms is a modification of the double-headed eagle holding the coats of arms of Russia and Belarus. In both cases, the ideal of a single flag and coat of arms is being held back (similar to a single anthem) until the Union is to expand."

"With renewal of the sense of Wendish culture since the 1970s, the Texas Wendish Heritage Society preserves the history and culture of this group with their museum located in Serbin, Texas. The 3000+ artifacts, documents and original log buildings of Johann Killian and his congregation serve as the chief voice of this bygone era. A Wendish Fest occurs annually every fourth Sunday in September to celebrate their cultural background. They continue to decorate eggs in their cultural fashion and their egg noodles are never far from the table."

"In 1929, following disagreements between the Zagreb and Belgrade sub-federations, the Football Association of Yugoslavia was dissolved. It was then re-established in May 1930 in Belgrade, this time with the Serbian-language name Fudbalski savez Jugoslavije. The Belgrade-based association then continued organizing the national league until 1939, when the Banovina of Croatia was created as an administrative region within Kingdom of Yugoslavia. On 6 August 1939 the Croatian Football Federation (Hrvatski nogometni savez or CFF) was established as a football governing body in the newly created province, and Croatian and Slovenian clubs soon began leaving the Yugoslav League to join the CFF-run Croatian-Slovenian Football League in protest of the alleged centralization of sports around Belgrade. The split was eventually rectified with the promise of an increase in the number of Croatian and Slovenian clubs in the league, and because of this a shortened ten-round league was payed in the 1939–40 Yugoslav First League season. In 1940 CFF also played a part in organizing the first ever Croatia national football team matches which played four international friendlies between April and December 1940. However the federation was not yet recognized by FIFA as Croatia was at the time still a province of Yugoslavia."

"Not to be confused with Russian True Orthodox Church.

The True Russian Orthodox Church is a Russian religious group founded by Pyotr Kuznetsov. It is an apparent sect or dissenting faction of the Russian Orthodox Church. Its members reject processed food and consider bar codes satanic symbols."

"The town was founded by 300 families of the Russian sect New Israel, who were seeking religious freedom, which they did not have under the Czar. Their leader, Basilio Lubkov had been imprisoned in Russia as a religious dissident. The settlers introduced the sunflower as well as some advanced agricultural techniques to Uruguay. They constructed a flour mill and the first sunflower oil producing plant in the country.

During the Uruguayan military dictatorship (1973–84) the Russian inhabitants were persecuted, as the military saw each one as a possible communist sympathizer. Many residents stopped speaking Russian, and most Russian books were destroyed. The cultural centre Máximo Gorki--where music, dance and other cultural activities were held--was closed, and traditional dance costumes were burnt. In 1984, the town became known throughout Uruguay for the execution of Vladimir Roslik, a Russian-Uruguayan medical doctor who was tortured and later killed by the Uruguayan military. For some he is a hero and a symbol of internal struggle in Uruguay.

With the restoration of democracy by 1989, the cultural centre Máximo Gorki has again been revived as a focal point for cultural activities in the town. It is home of the traditional dance group Kalinka, who have won many prizes in Uruguayan dance competitions."

"Koschei is also known as Koschei the Immortal or Koschei the Deathless, as well as Tzar Koschei.
Koschei cannot be killed by conventional means targeting his body. His soul is hidden separate from his body inside a needle, which is in an egg, which is in a duck, which is in a hare, which is in an iron chest (sometimes the chest is crystal and/or gold), which is buried under a green oak tree, which is on the island of Buyan, in the ocean. As long as his soul is safe, he cannot die. If the chest is dug up and opened, the hare will bolt away. If it is killed, the duck will emerge and try to fly off. Anyone possessing the egg has Koschei in their power. He begins to weaken, becomes sick and immediately loses the use of his magic. If the egg is tossed about, he likewise is flung around against his will. If the egg or needle is broken (in some tales this must be done by specifically breaking it against Koschei's forehead), Koschei will die."
(Surprise! Russians have their own memes. This is Winged Doom, also known as Omsk Bird, Omsk Crow, and lots of other stuff. They even have their own meme encyclopedia type thing! Man internet, you crazy.)


  1. Some people think drinking is the preferred Slav pasttime. They are wrong. It's schism-ing. Two examples off the top of my head:

    Not going to bother getting into church organization. If I'm ever locked in a room with a 15x15 parchment and an eight-ball maybe I could map out half the splits and schisms since 1054.