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Graduate students and professors from universities around the Midwest gathered in Ann Arbor for a workshop on Russian history, October 25-26 1996. The workshop meets twice annually for graduate students and faculty to discuss work in progress in a collegial and informal setting. Participants discussed eight pre-circulated papers on a wide range of historical topics. The papers addressed the Imperial Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet periods and included research on non-Russian areas (Georgia and the East Finnic region), demon-possession and religious dissent, the Soviet press, military colonization in the Far East, the coal miners' movement, and the diary as a genre in the late eighteenth century.
The workshop does not usually attempt to impose any unified theme or specific focus, thereby allowing for broader participation of those involved. Nonetheless, the sessions in Ann Arbor were notable for their concern with several particular themes, including religious belief and practice, Russian forms of colonization and imperial rule, and the specificities and tensions in Russia's transition to modernity. Discussions also problematized historical sources, such as petitions, diaries, and bureaucratic correspondence, and grappled with the ways in which history could inform a deeper understanding of current social and political problems — most directly with regard to a paper on the coal miners' movement since 1989. The workshop's participants, numbering over 50, represented several of the Big Ten schools, the Universities of Chicago and Toronto, Kent State University, and a number of smaller colleges and universities. The spring workshop has been provisionally scheduled at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.
Paul Werth recently received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan.