2013 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum

Section 1


Early Russian itineraries : movement and the space of the russian empire

Oven Tile, Moscow region, mid-18th c., The Hero Begins his JourneyFriday June 14th, 2013 - Sunday June 16th, 2013

Levis Center, 919 West Illinois Street, Urbana, Illinois 61801

Click here for a Conference Program

The Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign is pleased to present the 2013 Ralph and Ruth Fisher Forum. To be held in Urbana, Illinois on Friday June 14th through Sunday June 16th, 2013. This year’s conference, “Early Russian Itineraries” will focus on the production of Russian space by bringing to the fore the movement and circulation of material objects, peoples and ideas within and across the empire. The chronological focus of this event will be on the long eighteenth century (1650-1825).

Though absolute properties of Russian geography—most notably, the constraints placed on human action by Russia’s size, climate, and position in global state systems—are frequently invoked in accounts of Russia’s history, relatively few studies have attempted to think through the communicative processes involved in the making of Russia as space. As a result, to borrow the words of the 19th century human geographer Paul Vidal de la Blache, “one pictures the earth as ‘the stage upon which man’s [sic] activities take place,’ without reflecting that the stage itself is alive.” This is perhaps especially true of the medieval and early modern formation of the Russian empire, whose communicative geography and system of human-made relations remain understudied. This is particularly to be regretted, because without an understanding of movement, we lack a clear picture of the making of Russian imperial space: the genesis, reach, and footprint of imperial culture, politics, and society. “We produce and reproduce space through our movements,” Richard White has argued: this conference seeks to situate our stories about the making imperial Russian life within such an expanded, process-oriented understanding of space.

This conference will seek to grapple with the most basic questions of physical movement and will make attempts to illuminate simple empirical questions such as: What exactly was being moved? Where did it go? How was it moved, how often and by whom? To what extent were new or existing patterns of movement bound up with the emergence of empire in Russian life? What influence did these patterns have on Russia’s political, social or cultural positions in the world? To what extent can such spatial analysis help us rethink issues of continuity, change and difference in Russian history, across both international and chronological divides? Sustained comparative and interdisciplinary dimensions will be pursued in panel discussions; situating Russia’s movement systems within broader histories and cultures of movement. Additionally, an objective of this conference is to create new frameworks for scholarship on medieval and early imperial Russian history.

This event is sponsored by the Russian, East European and Eurasian Center at the University of Illinois with partial support provided by the Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers Program.

Conference CoSponsors

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Ralph and Ruth Fisher Endowment
College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Hewlett Foundation
International Programs and Studies
Center for Advanced Study
Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities
Department of History
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures


Rachel Koroloff, Illinois
John Randolph, Illinois

List of Participants

Greg Afinogenov, Harvard University
Brian Boeck, DePaul University
Elena Boeck, DePaul University
Rodney Bohac, Kent State University
Eugene Clay, Arizona State University
Ines Garcia de la Puente, Universität, St. Gallen
Sara Dickinson, Università di Genova
Clare Griffin, University College London
Evgeny Grishin, University of Kansas
Kristina Kuentzel-Witt, Universität Hamburg
Alexander Martin, University of Notre Dame
Lindsey Martin, Stanford University
Erika Monahan, University of New Mexico
Kelly O’Neill, Harvard University
Patryk Reid, Illinois
Matthew Romaniello, University of Hawaii at Mānoa
Valeria Sobol, Illinois
Mark Soderstrom, Aurora University
Susan Smith-Peter, College of Staten Island
Mark Steinberg, Illinois
Willard Sunderland, University of Cincinnati
Isolde Thyrêt, Kent State
Ilya Vinkovetsky, Simon Fraser

Contact Information

Please contact co-organizers Rachel Koroloff (rkorolo2@illinois.edu) or Dr. John Randolph (jwr@illinois.edu), with any questions about this event.

Dr. John Randolph (Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Rachel Koroloff (Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)