October 29, 2009

Chicago High School Students to Visit Russia

Dear CEERES Friends,

I am sorely out of practice in blogging, but an email message that I received just the other day that resulted in a nostalgia trip back to Russia in June of 2008 when I started composing entries about our Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad, “Discovering Russia: Challenging Stereotypes and Media Myths.” Breanne Goldman, one of the educators who embarked on this adventure wrote to tell me that she will be returning to Russia in spring 2010 with a group of her students from St. Gregory the Great High School here in Chicago. This news delighted me for a number of reasons, but at the heart of the matter is the simple fact that through this teacher’s efforts, a fortunate group of young people will expand their literal and intellectual horizons by seeing and learning about Russia first-hand.

While CEERES is not directly involved with the upcoming trip to Russia, I feel as though we had a hand in making this trip happen. Being able to send teachers to Russia last summer was a tremendous accomplishment for our young Center, and I know that it is precisely because of the connections that were made during the Fulbright-Hays GPA that this student trip is on the horizon.

Professionally, this is a feather in CEERES’ proverbial cap - seeds from our outreach efforts that are bearing fruit. This spring break trip to Russia represents an outstanding way to increase knowledge of and interest in cultures of the CEERES region. It is our hope that some of these young women and men will be inspired to continue their study of Russia when they return to Chicago. Maybe some will learn Russian. Some might even make Russia or Eastern Europe the focus of their future careers. One thing is clear: all will be somehow touched by their experience in Russia. Each experience and memory is a seed which can grow into increased cultural awareness, international friendships, future visits to Russia, and directions for the future.

Personally, I am excited for Breanne and her students and am so proud of her for pursuing this opportunity, which is nothing less than a Herculean effort, and only possible thanks to support from the St. Gregory the Great community (teachers, students, parents, administrators) and our many Russian collaborators. It is no exaggeration to say that this trip would be impossible without the superb logistical and organizational talents of the staff of the American Home in Vladimir, Russia. My own memories from 2008 and current nostalgia trip assure me that these students are in for an absolute treat.

Please check out the St. Gregory the Great website (http://www.sghsrussia.org/) to learn more about this trip and extend help or best wishes to the group, as you are so inclined.


May 14, 2009

Rock 'n' Roll

I've been advertising it forever in our weekly e-bulletin, so when I spied a review for the Goodman Theatre's production of the play Rock 'n' Roll, I thought that a round-up of various reivews might be of interest to our readers here. Playing until June 7, Rock 'n' Roll takes place in Cambridge and Prague, spans a time period of 20 years, and takes its soundtrack music from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and U2, to name a few. Sounds exciting, no? 

Anyways, there are reviews of the show in the Chicago Tribune, as well as the Chicago Sun-Times. My favorite Chicago blog, Chicagoist, also has a review. 

For ticket information, visit the Goodman Theater website. As I said, the play runs until June 7. 

April 10, 2009

Eggs Eggs Eggs

Easter season means tapping into some of the most visible, historical, and spiritual traditions from the Eastern Orthodox parts of the CEERES region. Perhaps most notable is the tradition of egg decorating. A general synopsis can be found, of course, at Wikipedia "Easter Egg."

For those of us here in Chicago, we can learn about the process, design, and significance of egg decorating first hand at the Ukrainian National Museum, located at 2249 W. Superior St. in, you guessed it, Ukrainian Village. On top of their extensive collection and knowledgeable guides, they also offer periodic classes on how to do it.

I found this video on Reuters about the egg decorating tradition of Germany's Slavic minority group, the Sorbs:

March 12, 2009

News Roundup!

I hope all the U of C students are having a good reading period! 

First off I have some interesting news of a type I usually don't cover: Wired magazine's blog Danger Room has an article talking about how Georgia is blaming the Russian government for a cyber attack which took place three weeks before the crisis this summer. Whether or not you believe them, it's an interesting story. 

There's been a lot of news floating around recently about the 2009 Eurovison Song Contest, being hosted by Russia this year. The most interesting story, in my opinion (more Georgia and Russia, my apologies!) is how Georgia's song was deemed unacceptable due to the political connotations in the lyrics. The BBC also reports on how Russia has chosen a Ukrainian singer to represent it in the contest. They also have a more opinion-type piece on the politics behind the contest (I find it interesting to read the comments, left by people from all over, as well).

While maybe not a current event, the NYT has a good piece on bribery in the Romanian medical system. I thought the most interesting part was how patients would worry that if the doctor didn't accept their bribe, it was because they had an incurable disease. From some of our favorite news sites: Balken Insight has a good page with news about the upcoming election in Macedonia, and Transitions Online has a followup article about the closing of the American air base at Manas. 

And, in things that you might not think is as exciting as I do: One of my favorite websites (The Daily Beast) did an article on stylish first ladies from around the world. Two from the CEERES region that made it are Kateryna Yushchenko, wife of the Ukrainian president, and Mehriban Aliyeva, first lady of Azerbaijan. I think two of ten is doing pretty good! 

March 5, 2009

European Union Film Festival

If you've got some free time, you should definitely check out the upcoming European Union Film Festival. The festival, which will take place at the Gene Siskel Film Center at the Art Institute of Chicago, will run from March 6 to April 2. According to their website, all 27 nations of the EU are represented, there will be a total of 59 films, and all of them are Chicago premieres. 

Apparently, tradition has it that the film festival is opened by a film from the country which currently holds the presidency of the EU. This year, that happens to be the Czech Republic. The film, entitled I'm All Good, will be screened Friday, and will be presented by the Czech Consul General. The director will also be there for an audience discussion. There will also be an exhibit of Czech film posters from the 1960s-1970s on display in the Siskel Film Center's gallery/cafe throughout the festival. 

Countries that overlap with our region and the EU which will also have films in the festival include Greece, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland and Lithuania, as well as a few others.  For the full schedule, including what other movies, visit the Siskel Center website and click on "European Union Film Festival." 

February 26, 2009

CEERES-region languages on Google Translate

I just read on the Official Google Blog that they recently added seven new languages to Google Translate making the grand total of languages available now 41! The exciting thing about this is four of these new seven languages are CEERES-region languages: Albanian, Hungarian, Estonian and Turkish

Anyways, Google Translate already has a bunch of other language spoken in our region available as well, including Russian, Ukranian, Polish, Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian, to name a few. Just thought this might be interesting to some of our blog readers! 

February 17, 2009

News Roundup!

Sorry, it's been a while and I've missed a bunch of news!

I think the biggest piece of news is the closing of the US air base in Kyrgyzstan. It was obviously covered in many news sources. Some more recent news though, says that the Kyrgyz Parliament is to vote on a bill to close the base this week, as opposed to in March, which is when it had been expected. The BBC has an article about the base with a helpful map of other bases in the region. There's also a few articles speculating where the US might go next, as well, from Eurasianet and Transitions Online.

I've never really profiled other media than articles, but I've dug up some interesting video. While I haven't watched all of these, they look pretty good. The BBC has video of a reporter's trip there, discussing how Georgia is still trying to rebuild after the conflict with Russia. Also, a lot longer but possibly very interesting, I dug up this video of a lecture the Foreign Policy Association held with the former Prime Minister of Italy, on Russia from a European perspective.

Also exciting is the fact that Kosovo marked it's first independence day this week. Balkan Insight has a good article on the mixed feelings that the independence caused.

In brief: The Eurasia Daily Moniter has an article on Armenia and Turkey's relations, Russia is cutting the budget for the 2014 Olympics by 15% and an interesting article on the Obama administration's views of security threats in Central Asia.

February 4, 2009

Russia and Georgia in Harmony (at least this weekend)

For all of the reported bad blood between Russians and Georgians, both at the political and social levels, there are still many perfectly peaceful and complementary relationships between the two groups. Not the least of which is a shared history of rich cultures, distinct yet informing one another.

This weekend during The University of Chicago Folk Festival, Chicago residents will get a chance to see Russian and Georgian choirs perform back-to-back on Sunday, Feb. 8 (Ida Noyes Hall, West Lounge, 1212 East 59th Street Chicago).

Golosa, a Russian folk choir based at the University of Chicago, will present a program of secular songs from pre-Soviet Russia, with an emphasis on the tradition of the Semeiskie Old Believers in southern Siberia. These songs involve improvisation, close harmonies, and occasionally folk instruments and are quite unlike most of the Russian music that reaches us in the United States today. This concert/workshop will take place in the West Lounge in Ida Noyes on Saturday, 12:00-1:00 pm. Alioni, performing from 1-2:30pm, is Chicago's new Georgian folk singing ensemble directed by Clayton Parr, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at DePaul. It has recently recorded for Hal Leonard Publishing, with special guest Carl Linich.

January 29, 2009

News Roundup

At the World Economic Forum, where Putin gave the opening address, there was much blame placed on the United States for the current financial crisis. While Putin wasn't as "harsh" as he has been in the past few months, he commented on how "investment banks, the pride of Wall Street, have virtually ceased to exsist." Also in economic related news, Romania is in talks with the EU for a 6 billion Euro "rescue loan" to help the country buffer itself from the economic downturn and Siberia's currancy has lost a quarter of it's value in 4 months

In a follow-up from the last news roundup, about a week ago, Russia started to pump gas through Ukraine again, and the New York Times has a good piece about Putin's understanding of the use of energy as a political tool. While only slightly related, the Eurasian Daily Moniter has some good commentary about border disputes and Russia, focusing on Ukraine. 

In the Caucasus we have a Russian soldier who either deserted or was captured by Georgia, depending on who you ask. This piece on Azerbaijan's position between Russia and the West is also interesting, and the reports that Russia has given free arms to Armenia (denied by both countries) shows what a power Russia continues to be in the region. 

On the BBC: Polish WWII hero was not murdered, and the sad reality of selling babies in Tajikistan.

January 23, 2009

More on Russia and Georgia

In my feed reader this morning was this piece from the New York Times on the Human Rights Watch report on the Russian and Georgian conflict in August. The 200 page report accuses both Russia and Georgia of using unnecessary force where civilians were involved and says that it seems Ossetian militias were attempting to ethnically cleanse Georgian villages in South Ossetia. 

I searched a little and found that Human Rights Watch has its own summary of the report, and the report is also available to download in English or Russian in its entirety. 

January 15, 2009

News Roundup

I sure hope everybody in Chicago is staying warm! I read an interesting blog post about what people in Estonia are doing to beat the winter blues. In Tallinn, the capital city, they're holding a light festival running for almost a month, where they're going to create as much natural light as possible by creating burning scupltures and seting up light displays all over the city. The website of the festival has pictures of some of the exhibits. 

It would be remiss of me to not to mention the Russia and Ukraine gas conflict. Today is the apparently the tenth day of the "dispute," which is causing most of Europe to be without it's Russian gas supplies. The dispute is over the price that Ukraine is going to pay for the gas. The BBC has an interesting article spotlighting what Europeans think of the whole situation. The Eurasia Daily Moniter has a good analysis with local news reports. 

Also recently, Albania completed the SAA ratification process, which is the final step in the application process to be in the EU, Belarus currancy has been devauled 20.5% against the dollar, and Turkmenistan has upped it's oil production 6% from last year.