Angelo Segrillo

Professor of Contemporary History, University of São Paulo

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

As a young person, I first developed my interest in the Russian language and culture via literature. Reading Dostoevsky and Tolstoy whetted my appetite to better know the Russian people and their culture. I was also intrigued by the Soviet Union. With time, I developed plans to learn the language and travel there to find out what the Soviets were about. After graduating from Missouri State University, I took advantage of the opening brought about by Perestroika and traveled to the USSR to pursue my master’s degree at Moscow’s Pushkin Institute.

What support have you received throughout your career (from ASEEES/other societies/federal support/etc.) that has allowed you to advance your scholarship?

I was lucky to have been able to get academic scholarships to finance my higher education. After graduating from high school in my home country, Brazil, I received a Fulbright scholarship that allowed me to study at and graduate in Philosophy from Missouri State University in the US. During the political opening of Perestroika, I was able to secure a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in Russian language and literature at the Pushkin Institute in Moscow. I completed my doctorate in History at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil also with a government scholarship.

What is your current research/work project?

My two books The Decline of the Soviet Union: An Analysis of the Causes and Russia: Europe or Asia? The Question of Russia’s Identity in the Discussions Between Westernizers, Slavophiles and Eurasianists and an Analysis of the Consequences in Present-Day Russia were recently released in English by the University of São Paulo. The Decline of the Soviet Union was based on the first Brazilian doctoral thesis about the USSR using research in the then recently declassified Soviet archives and Russia: Europe or Asia? was considered by Russian political scientist Yurii Korgunyuk “probably the most detailed Western account of the formation of the three Russian schools of thought (Westernism, Slavophilism and Eurasianism) as a whole.” 

My current research is broader than my usual focus on Russian history. Worried about the current trends toward authoritarianism and/or deterioration of the quality of democracy in many countries, I am undertaking a more global study of these tendencies in collaboration with colleagues from the field of political science.

What does your ASEEES membership mean to you? How has your involvement with ASEEES helped to further your career?

ASEEES membership means a lot to me. In Brazil, the field of study of Russian history is not very developed. Therefore the academic exchanges I can have with specialists in Russia from the ASEEES community allows me to keep abreast with the state-of-the-art in the field; not only with American specialists, but with specialists from all over the world because ASEEES has a global reach. I make sure to make available to my students and colleagues my large collection of print versions of Slavic Review, Newsnet and other invaluable ASEEES resources. I try as much as possible to share the resources I get from ASEEES and I feel it is very appreciated in our community here, especially by students who often do not have the financial condition to have these connections themselves.

What do you believe is the most important impact ASEEES has on the field?

Maybe I am biased as an ASEEES member, but to me ASEEES is the most influential Western academic organization about Russian history, which is my area of specialization. More broadly, ASEEES is not only a Russia-centered organization, not even a specifically Slavic studies organization, but rather has a Eurasian profile. I think this was a conscious step taken by the organization and it allowed a more embracing view of that region of the world. For example, when I teach history of the Soviet Union this broader, Eurasian view comes in handy because I touch subjects ranging from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, without which a narrow focus on Moscow would be incomplete and sometimes even incoherent.

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

When at home, I tend to philosophize – I guess I am still inspired by those Russian writers I mentioned above. Outside of my home, I like to practice sports. I used to run and play soccer regularly. After suffering from back problems, I now concentrate on brisk walking and swimming. Occasionally I venture into writing poetry.