Awards for scholars and graduate students showcase ASU's strength in Russian, Eurasian and East European studies

Melikian Center scholars

Garine Palandjian and Jacob Lassin have earned NCEEER grants for their studies.

Four Melikian Center affiliates have recently received grants from the National Center for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER) to conduct research.

NCEEER was established in 1978 to ensure the long-term funding of peer-reviewed research on the region. The organization seeks to bridge the gap between academic research and public policy by supporting projects that address pressing global issues.

Garine Palandjian, a Melikian Center-affiliated graduate student at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, earned a grant to complete her dissertation on Armenian borders as sites of collaboration for educators. Her goal, she said, is “to shift the current scholarship on the Armenia-Azerbaijan and Armenia-Turkey relations by bringing into conversation the marginalized voices of educators.”

Palandjian's focus, drawing from the lived and imagined experiences of Armenian teachers seeking to expand their students’ horizons, is to trace how the ideas and the realities of the border itself shape classroom practices, textbook content and pedagogical theory in (post-)conflict Armenia. Through her work — grounded in ethnographic fieldwork and in-person interviews conducted before COVID-19 cut her stay in Armenia short — Palandjian hopes to contribute to the broader goals of democratic reformers in Armenia.

“Educators’ memories of bordering practices and experiences,” she said, “are vital resources with which to rethink national borders and identities in Armenian education.”

Palandjian's adviser, Professor Iveta Silova, sees a close fit between the dissertation’s and NCEEER’s priorities.

“Garine’s research,” said Silova, "is a valuable contribution to the fields of educational policy and peacemaking, especially in light of recent conflicts in the region.”

Palandjian has already explored innovative ways to share her data and preliminary findings: In fall 2020, she curated an in-person and digital exhibit at the ASU Harry Wood Gallery, which is now hosted on her person­­­­al website.

Jacob Lassin, a postdoctoral research scholar at the Melikian Center, was awarded an NCEEER grant to conduct research in Russia and Ukraine for his book manuscript, "Sacred Sites: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Literary Canon Online."

Lassin’s research explores how Russian Orthodox websites use Russia's literary tradition to harness popular support for the church's and the government's traditionalist agenda, and thus defuse or demobilize potential opposition among middle class professionals. Lassin recently discussed his work as part of the Melikian Center’s series of research video profiles; the grant will support further research and writing on the Russian Orthodox Church’s investments in digital community building.

Finally, professors Lenka Bustikova (principal investigator) and David Siroky (co-principal investigator) have won a joint NCEEER award for their research on political extremism in Eastern Europe. The new project is titled “Uncivil Society and Radical Right Voting,” and focuses on understudied dimensions of political participation and democratic competition that are shaping the political future of the region.

According to Siroky and Bustikova, “Uncivil society associations pose a serious threat because, at their extreme spectrum, their intimidation tactics and use of unauthorized violence challenges the democratic order and the state’s monopoly on the use of force. This project offers a systematic study of how, why and when citizens interact with and engage in uncivil society, radical right parties and radicalizing mainstream parties.”

The work builds on both scholars' prior work, including Bustikova’s "Extreme Reactions: Radical Right Mobilization in Eastern Europe", recently awarded the 2020 Davis Center Book Prize by the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies.

Written by Kristen Ho

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