Editor's Note: The original version of this article misquoted Dr. Erika Monahan. In the original version, she was quoted saying, “It is deeply disturbing that statues of Stalin have been resurrected in Moscow,” but the quote has been corrected to read, “It is deeply disturbing that statues of Stalin have been resurrected (around Russia).” The Daily Lobo apologizes for any confusion.
Russia has filled the headlines over the past few months for many reasons, most notably allegations that their government colluded with Donald Trump’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 election.
With this in mind, as well as the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which ushered in the start of the Soviet Union, the University of New Mexico Department of History organized a series of lectures concerning past and current events of Russian history.
The event was organized in large part by Dr. Erika Monahan, professor of Russian history at UNM. She said planning for the series began as far back as April.
“I (wanted) to put together a series with people from different fields,” she said.
The series included seven lectures over four days, with topics ranging from the annexation of Crimea to how business is conducted in a post-Soviet Russia. Attendance for the lectures ranged from 50 to 110 people each.
Funding for the event, which went toward paying for the expenses of the guest speakers, was generated from nine different campus departments, including the School of Law and the National Security Studies Program.
The first lecture featured Sabra Ayres, a Moscow correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. She discussed her time covering the 2014 revolution that took place in Kiev’s Maidan Square and the rippling effects it had for both Russia and Ukraine.
Ayres also discussed her story about the Russian Orthodox Church attempting to quash a film depicting an historically factual affair between Czar Nicholas II and a ballerina named Matilda.
Another lecture featured Sean Guillory, who hosts Sean’s Russia Blog podcast, where he discusses all things concerning Russia. His lecture was titled “Taking the PhD Beyond Academia,” a relevant topic considering the scarce amount of tenure-track positions for PhD recipients, especially in the humanities.
One lecture, done by Tricia Starks of the University of Arkansas, focused on the healthcare system in Russia, which may become extremely consequential for the European power.
“Right now the population (of Russia) is around 145 million,” Starks said. “By 2050, it’ll be around 105 million.”
Many lecturers said the massive decrease in population is due to young Russians immigrating to other countries with better opportunities, for both business and school. These ideas tied in with the lecture by Daniel Wolfe, an American entrepreneur living in Moscow.
Wolfe expressed concerns about the Russian government’s control of economic life, citing that nearly 70 percent of companies in Russia are state-owned.
Monahan also said she felt worried for the state of Russia and its increasing authoritarian nature.
“It is deeply disturbing that statues of Stalin have been resurrected (around Russia),” Monahan said. “There’s been a return to patriarchy. You see it in commercials.”
Despite this, Monahan said she remains optimistic for Russia’s future.
“Putin, unlike Trump, recognizes the folly of demonizing Muslims and other minorities,” she said. “Russia will need to embrace immigration.”
Due to the success of the lecture series, Monahan said she has tentative plans for more lectures in late January. She is currently in the process of inviting possible speakers for those events.
Kyle Land is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Kyleoftheland.