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World Languages and Literatures

Students of Russian and their professor work on oral history project this summer

June 25, 2014

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    The research team around the book display about Oregon's Russian-speaking immigration (Watzek Library)

On June 9, 2014, a small group of Lewis & Clark students of Russian and their professor began working on an oral history project that will document and showcase the long history of Russian-speaking immigration in Oregon. This project grew out of a smaller-scale student-faculty collaboration in the summer of 2013, when Prof. Tatiana Osipovich and her student David Salkowski created a web site devoted to Russian-speaking communities in Oregon. In the spring of 2014, Prof. Osipovich secured a new Andrew Mellon grant for student-faculty research collaboration that allowed her to hire not one, but five students of Russian for a summer-long project. These students will work under her supervision, significantly expanding on her initial research and building a comprehensive website that they have tentatively titled Russian-Speaking Immigration in Oregon: An Oral and Digital History. Prof. Osipovich’s student assistants are all former students of hers, and most of them have already spent at least one semester studying in Russia. Their names are Anna McClain, ’15, Self-designed Russian major; Maria Egorenko, ’17, International Affairs major/Chinese minor; Martin Dorciak, ’15, Economics major/Russian minor; Elise Loughran, ’16, Foreign Languages major (Russian/French); and Katherine Palomares, ’15, Foreign Languages major, (Russian/Spanish).

Audience at the panel discussion titled Oregon's Russian Speaking Immigration in the 21st CenturyAudience at the panel discussion titled Oregon's Russian Speaking Immigration in the 21st CenturyThe first two weeks of this collaborative project were very intense. Students needed to learn quickly about the history of immigration from Russia and the former Soviet Union to Oregon, which dates back more than a century. They also began their in-depth research into specific immigrant sub-groups assigned to each student (Jewish, Russian Orthodox, Old Believers, Evangelical, and others). Most importantly, students helped Prof. Osipovich organize a panel discussion, titled “Oregon’s Russian-speaking Immigration in the 21st Century”, which took place at Lewis & Clark on June 17. Not only did this panel bring together several leading scholars to share their expertise, it also allowed the student researchers to establish meaningful relationships with these scholars, as well as with Russian-speaking community leaders who also took part in the event. In addition to participating in the panel discussion itself, students had the opportunity to socialize with the visiting scholars before and after the panel. Thanks to these pre- and post-panel activities, the student researchers were able to deepen their ties to these scholars and begin reaching out to the scholars’ contacts in Oregon’s Russian-speaking community.

The third week of the research project has been devoted Hands-on training in audio and video recordingHands-on training in audio and video recordingto learning the art of interviewing and getting hands-on training in audio and video recording and editing, all of which are necessary for conducting oral history interviews in the local Russian-speaking community. The Lewis & Clark Watzek Library has been assisting the student-faculty research team in this technology training, and the Library’s Digital Initiative Unit will eventually aid in web design and the development of a digital archive as the project approaches fruition.

Ultimately, this collaboration will result in the creation of a comprehensive website called Russian-Speaking Immigration in Oregon: An Oral and Digital History. Along with this website, the project will result in a unique digital archive that will collect various related materials, such as copies of official documents, personal stories in written or video form, photographs, scholarly articles and media publications. All of this collected material, digitized and annotated, will be made available to the public.

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