Daria Khlevnyuk

PhD Student of Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook

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

In my family, history was a constant topic of discussions: both the discipline and family roots. I knew pretty well how my family survived the turbulent 20th century, and early on I was fascinated that not everyone shared my understanding of the recent past. When I started studying sociology in the university, this fascination transformed into a more general interest on how representations of the past affect societies and, vice versa, how recent political and cultural developments influence our understanding of the past. Hence, I specialized in cultural sociology and memory studies. My first attempt at the field was as a research fellow in my professors’, Natalia Samutina and Boris Stepanov, study of Moscow’s Tsaritsyno Palace reconstruction and debates around its authenticity.

How have your interests changed since then?

My graduate studies coincided with growing number of memory battles around Stalin and repressions in Russia and other post-Soviet countries; the conflict in Ukraine fueled commemorations of the Second World War. All in all, it seemed that the memory of the 20th century, and Stalin’s period in particular, in Russia was an unresolved cultural (and socio-political) trauma that will affect the society for the years to come. I was curious about the social mechanics and practices surrounding memory wars.

What research project are you pursuing with the Dissertation Grant?

These wars, as I soon discovered, were not simply between two sides, where each side had a unified message. On the contrary, a memory war turned out to be a memory mess, where differences among representatives of seemingly similar positions are sometimes more pronounced than between them and their rivals. Consequently, my dissertation deals with commemoration of Stalin’s repressions in different regions of Russia, specifically, museums and their curators. My questions are simple: do they differ, how, and why? Thanks to the Dissertation Grant, I am conducting my fieldwork now. I traveled to infamous Kolyma, where a common hike transforms into an archaeological dig: remnants of camps are literally under one’s feet. I went to Solovki in the White Sea where the Church is attempting to shift the narrative about repressions towards the new martyrs mythology, practically limiting commemoration of victims to those who were prosecuted for faith. I talked to museum curators in Karelia who compare fates of people they study and recent unlawful arrest of their colleague, Yury Dmitriev, known for finding mass graves of GULAG prisoners.

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

For me, ASEEES is an opportunity to interact with a community of scholars from different disciplines who work on the same region.

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

I am a usual urbanite who likes the buzz of a big city, theaters and cinemas, parks and pedestrian walks, variety of street food and bars. On the other hand, there is not much that can compare with an evening spent cooking some good food, pouring a glass of beer, and sitting down in front of the home theater screen with my loved ones.