Culture Connection: A 10-Part Speaker Series

About the Moderator and Series Curator, Michael Beckelhimer: 
Michael Beckelhimer received a BA in Russian at American University, and an MA in Russian at Harvard. He lived in Moscow and Tallinn before, during, and after the fall of the Soviet Union. While there he studied journalism at Moscow State University and wrote freelance feature articles for English-language publications. He lives in LA and travels to Russia regularly to research and shoot various independent film projects. His first feature documentary film, “Pushkin Is Our Everything,” premiered in London in June 2014.


Series Timeline:

Wednesday, January 24, 20:00 MSK: “Teaching Russian Culture, and New Ways of Approaching Pushkin”

Speaker: Michael Kunichika

Bio: Michael Kunichika is a Professor of Russian and the Director of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture at Amherst College. His research interests include Russian modernism, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between painting and literature; Russian cinema and visual culture; literary theory, rhetoric, and Russian archeology. After growing from Berkeley, Michael Kunichika taught at New York University and Harvard before arriving at Amherst. In 2015-16, he was a Visiting Fellow at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. His first book, “Our Native Antiquity”: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Culture of Russian Modernism was published by the Academic Studies Press in 2015.

Wednesday, January 31, 20:00 MSK: “The West in Late Soviet Culture; Teaching Russian History”

Speaker: Stephen Norris

Bio:Stephen Norris’s research focuses on modern Russian history with an emphasis on visual culture since the 19th Century. As a teacher, Norris has received the Miami University Student Government Outstanding Professor Award (2006) and in 2017 was named the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Educator. He teaches a number of classes, including Introduction to Russian and Eurasian Studies, A History of the Russian Empire, Soviet History, History at the Movies, History through Literature, and World History since 1945.

Wednesday, February 7, 18:00 MSK: “Environmental Studies in the US and Russia”

Speaker: Kate Pride Brown

Bio:Kate Pride Brown is an environmental and political sociologist whose research focuses on a range of issues, including environmental activism in Russia and conservation policy in the United States. She received her doctorate from Vanderbilt University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment. Her book, Saving the Sacred Sea: The Power of Civil Society in an Age of Authoritarianism and Globalization (Oxford University Press, 2018), examines the conflict between local and transnational environmentalists, multinational corporations, and the Russian government over the future of Lake Baikal , the largest, deepest and oldest freshwater lake on Earth. Among other honors, she has received a Fulbright Fellowship, a Critical Language Scholarship from the US Department of State, and funding from the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.

Wednesday, February 14, 20:00 MSK: “Translating Contemporary Russian Writers”

Speaker: Carol Apollonio

Bio:Carol Apollonio is a specialist in Russian literature, Russian and Japanese translation, and language pedagogy. Her most recent books are Simply Chekhov (2020), a translation of Alisa Ganieva’s Russian-Dagestani novel Bride and Groom (2018), and Chekhov’s Letters (2018), co-edited with Radislav Lapushin. In the fall of 2019, she traveled across Siberia and wrote about the experience on her blog “Chekhov’s Footprints” ( is currently the President of the International Dostoevsky Society.

Thursday, February 22, 20:00 MSK: “How to Keep Students Interested in Russian Studies, and ‘Decolonization’”

Speaker: Frederick White

Bio: Dr. Frederick H. White is a Professor of Russian and Integrated Studies at Utah Valley University. He has published six books and more than thirty academic articles on Russian literature, film, and culture. He is one of the leading specialists on the writer Leonid Andreev and has published in the areas of Russian Modernism, psychiatry, and literature in the Russian fin de siècle, the economics of culture, and post-Soviet cinema, with a specific interest in the filmmaker Aleksei Balabanov.

Thursday, February 29, 20:00 MSK: “Goncharov and Aksakov: East to Siberia, West to London” 

Speaker: Ingrid Kleespies

Bio: Ingrid Kleespies is an Associate Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Florida. She received her B.A. in Slavic Studies from Harvard University and M.A. and Ph.D. in Slavic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.  Her areas of interest include Russian Romanticism, Russian intellectual history, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian literature and culture, and literature of travel and empire more generally.  Her book, A Nation Astray: Nomadism and National Identity in Russian Literature, considers the key role played by the image of the nomad in the pressing literary debates over Russian identity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in particular in seminal works by writers such as Karamzin, Pushkin, Chaadaev, Goncharov, and Dostoevsky.  She is co-editor (with Lyudmila Parts) of Goncharov in the Twenty-First Century, a collection of scholarly essays dedicated to a fresh look at Ivan Goncharov’s life and work through a variety of contemporary critical perspectives.  She is currently working on a book entitled The Necessary Man: Petr Chaadaev and the Invention of Russian Literature that investigates the outsize (if unsung) place of Russia’s “first philosopher” Petr Chaadaev in the nineteenth-century Russian literary canon.  In other recent work, she examines Russian and early Soviet mythologies surrounding Siberia and the eastern “frontier.”

Thursday, March 7, 18:00 MSK: “Visual Arts and Documentary Films on Nabokov, Brodsky, and Akhmatova” 

Speaker: Yuri Leving

Bio: Yuri Leving lives in Princeton, New Jersey. He discovered his passion for photography at the age of 6, when he stumbled upon a pack of antique postal cards and photographic curiosities from his great-grandfather’s collection in a family drawer. These sepia pictures from the turn of the twentieth century featured bearded women, three-breasted beauties, circus wrestlers and Soviet actors… plus there was an old camera lens made of copper (Leving’s great-grandfather worked as a retoucher at a photographic studio). Since then Leving morphed from an avid reader and spectator to documentary filmmaker and writer. When Yuri is not teaching literature and cinema at Princeton University, he travels around the world shooting everything that comes into his viewfinder.

Wednesday, March 13, 18:00 MSK: “New Translation of The Brothers Karamazov” 

Speaker: Michael Katz

Bio: Michael R. Katz is C. V. Starr Professor Emeritus of Russian and East European Studies at Middlebury College. He has published translations of more than fifteen Russian novels, including The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and Notes from Underground. He lives in Cornwall, Vermont.

*Next speakers to be confirmed*




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