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Russian Emigres in Berlin 1920-1940: On the Way to Creating an Independent “Russia Abroad”

Online Lecture and Panel Discussion on Saturday June 15

Presented by Dr. Roman Utkin and Dr. Anatol Shmelev

One hundred years ago, our ancestors in the First Wave of Russian emigration left Russian territory, fleeing the 1917 Revolution and the Civil War that followed it. But they never abandoned being Russian or continuing to develop Russian thought and creativity in the pursuit of an independent and free “Russia Abroad”, believing in their continuing relevance to the future of Russia and their eventual return to their liberated country.

Today, a new generation of Russian Émigrés have arrived to the familiar exit points of 100 years ago, facing hauntingly similar concerns of deracination, irrelevance, loss, the same choices of assimilation or a life “from suitcases” and the creation of a new identity, spatially displaced yet united by circumstance, language and possibly, a purpose. It is the intent of our lecture series to examine the 1st wave’s century-old journey, of choices made and roles played in the fate of the Soviet State against which our ancestors just fought and lost a civil war.

On Saturday, June 15th, at 1 PM EDT, we will pick up our émigré history series from its first stop in Constantinople on the path to exile, and examine another formative early destination: Berlin, an intensely active and surprisingly diverse center of émigré life that flourished during its close-to-20-year lifespan gradually enveloped and extinguished by Germany’s descent into fascism and World War 2, conceived and executed on the same streets walked on by our grandparents.
Our dear friend Dr. Anatol Shmelev of the Hoover Institute will return to re-introduce the series and set the context.  We will then welcome our new presenter, Dr. Roman Utkin, the author of the recently-published Charlottengrad: Russian Culture in Weimar Berlin, covering precisely the period we seek to explore.

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Dr. Roman Utkin is an Associate Professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University. He is a scholar of 20th-century Russian poetry, prose, and visual culture and received his PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Yale University. His just-published book, Charlottengrad: Russian Culture in Weimar Berlin (University of Wisconsin Press, 2023), provides a detailed study of the wide variety of personal and political positions Russian émigrés in Berlin took towards the Soviet Union and Weimar culture. Charlottengrad delves into the vibrant enclave of Russian émigrés who settled in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, exploring this diasporic community’s literary, artistic, social and political activities, and analyzing the hybrid identities and transnational exchanges that defined a unique historical moment of Russia-abroad.

Dr. Anatol Shmelev, the Robert Conquest Curator for Russia and Eurasia and Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and project archivist for the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty collection.  Anatol Shmelev studied history at UCLA and UC Berkeley (M.A., 1989) and received his Ph.D. from the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1996, with a dissertation on the foreign policy of the Siberian government during the Russian Civil War.
His books include Tracking a Diaspora (The Haworth Press, 2006); a bibliography of Russian émigré military literature (Norman Ross, 2007); The Foreign Policy of Admiral Kolchak’s Government, 1918–1919 (European University Press, St. Petersburg, 2017); and his latest one, In the Wake of Empire: Anti-Bolshevik Russia in International Affairs, 1917–1920 (the Hoover Institution Press, 2021).

Nisa Ödül Topcu, our lectures administrator, has an MBA from Justus Liebig Universität and a bachelor’s degree from Middle East Technical University, Department of Economics, Turkey. She currently lives and works in Germany.  Nisa Topcu was an intern at the Russian History Museum (Jordanville, New York State) in 2021-2022, focusing her research interests on Russian émigré and late 19th/early 20th c. Russian history.

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