Tomsk State University
Department of History

634051 Russia, Tomsk, 34, Lenin Ave., room 30

Tel.: 007 3822 529 796

Reviews of the school ‘Migration and the ethnicization of the urban space’

During three days, from June 17th to June 19th, 2015, the school themed ‘Migration and the ethnicization of the urban space’ was held at Tomsk. It was attended by experts on migration, diaspora and urbanism as well as by undergraduate and postgraduate students and young researchers from Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Tomsk, Irkutsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and from abroad – Germany, Poland, and Kazakhstan.

School experts Elena Trubina and Leonid Blyakher as well as school participant Yana Guzey have shared their impressions on Facebook.  

Elena Trubina, Professor of Department of Social Philosophy at the Institute of Social and Political Sciences (Yekaterinburg Federal University), Doctor of History:

‘It is indeed great when resources, experience and charisma are brought together for a perfect academic event! I mean the summer school ‘Migration and the ethnicization of the urban space’ held at Tomsk on June 17–19 by Irina Nam (Professor of Tomsk State University), Victor Dyatlov and Konstantin Grigorichev (Professors of Irkutsk State University) and supported by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Konstantin Ponomaryov).

The youth could participate in the school on the condition that they would submit an academic paper of theirs which had to be pre-reviewed by both school participants and experts. Each text was discussed for approximately one hour and I should admit I have never participated in such a detailed public discussion of papers per se. Yes, we all send our papers to other participants of (good) conferences but then what we discuss is usually the slides of presentations and the main points. Yes, we often find it hard listening to the ritual speeches of opponents during the defense of dissertations. But when you have 8–9 people (participants plus experts) publicly explaining to you what is missing in your ‘soup’ – you really have to be strong to endure and respond adequately especially when it is your first academic text that is being discussed! If the participants from Irkutsk had already been through this at the young author school events organized by Victor Dyatlov (who also has got a useful book about this), the Tomsk participants have been involved in the development of a new specialty at their university, namely of social anthropology (they have received a ‘mega-grant’ for this purpose) and so the additional difficulty for them was related to the need to present in their papers the results of significant ethnographic or archival work.    

The papers dealt with labour migrants of Kazan and participants of a beauty contest ‘Mister and Miss Asia’, with the Germans of Tomsk and the Polish in the closed city of Zheleznogorsk. Leading researchers have been coming to Tomsk to deliver lectures under the socio-anthropological project for two years now and in his presentation titled ‘Student parcel as an actant in the network of migrant students from Kazakhstan’, 3rd year student Anton Sadyrin called the lecture course by Otto Habeck, Professor from Hamburg, the main source of inspiration.            

The participants themselves, with a great sense of responsibility, created the atmosphere of good will: their critical points were often accompanied by warm encouraging words of support for their fellows and the comments like ‘why did you treat the historiography so carelessly, it is an indication of your overall academic culture, you know’ were addressed to one another by persons in their early twenties, and the quality of group reviews grew from presentation to presentation.

The number of participants was around twenty whereas that of experts equated to around ten and this seems to be the right balance. I was pleased to see how enthusiastically participants talked to German experts Claudia Keller (who writes about schools in Zimbabwe) and Kocra Lossina Assoua (German specialist on development who plans to go back to his native Côte d'Ivoire in order to launch a think tank there).  

I miss the tired night conversations in good company – I had a chance to enjoy them here – and will remember the incredible adventures of Ivan Peshkov in Buryatia and Manchuria, the warmth of Victor Dyatlov’s stories about his mother, the ironic singing by Leonid Blyakher, the paternal vigilance of Alexey Alexeenko, and Konstantin Grigorichev’s preferences in music. And I want to express my love and infinite respect for Irina Nam: few of us have spent years and billions of neurons trying to launch at the university a new specialty supported by a strong horizontal network of those who not only appreciate but also love each other. Those of the participants who will chose to stay in the field already got the idea of enthusiastic discussions being the best thing to do in this field of knowledge’.     

Leonid Blyakher, Chair of Department of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at the Pacific State University of Khabarovsk, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor:

‘The Tomsk school on the ethnicization of the urban space has been fantastic! I liked the format of the event with detailed reviews (made thoroughly and in advance) of each presented paper, with quite adequate although sometimes forthright comments, and a lot of personal discoveries (for myself). When I find myself in a stationary position, I will definitely write more about this. And there is a lot to write about. Although I am still very tired to reflect on this (due to many flights), I can say it is been a while since I last got back home with so many new ideas in my mind as I have this time. Special thanks to Irina Nam and Victor Dyatlov who organized the event. To Konstantin Grigorichev who assisted them and to Elena Trubina who turned out to be not only a brilliant researcher and moderator of the discussions but also an extremely nice person. In one word, everything was tasty’.          

Yana Guzey, Fellow of Laboratory of Historical and Political Demography at the Irkutsk State University, PhD in History:

‘Gingerbread-like, amazing Tomsk… As if it came from a good old fairytale! Neatly carved facades of small houses… A magnificent sunset over the river Tom… The embankment where Anton Pavlovich Tchekhov himself once walked… Tiny cheburyata served with tartar sauce in a cozy café in the city center… Jazz music playing quietly in a pub where red wine is poured in glasses made of transparent glass… A magical house of Vladimir Zakharov with his amazingly touching living puppets… And of course, the heart of the city, the pride of many Tomsk residents – incredibly welcoming Tomsk State University with its great concert halls, museums and study rooms… This is Tomsk – a wonderful world which, it seems, can only exist in the mind of a talented writer. And it is so pleasurable to realize that such wonderful towns are in fact real and quite tangible. These few days spent in Tomsk and its region, where at a friendly round table presentations of renowned researchers were given together with presentations of those who have just finished the second year of study at the university, I believe, will long be coming back to us as incredibly pleasant memories! To see and give a hug to those whom you have not seen for so long, to meet and chat with those whom you didn’t know before – how great that is. And how amazing it is to see that science carries on regardless! How incredibly pleasant it is to know that in this era of rapid progress when pragmatic sceptics have almost proved the irrelevance of the humanities, there are great ideas and projects still being generated, brilliant research being conducted and most interesting articles and books being written! Vivat my dear ones, scholars, experts, research fellows and students – our school is one more indication of the fact that science lives and will live on! Still we have won. And this was clearly proved by the sound of clicking camera shutters and gently scrooping voice recorders in the hands of Tomsk journalists!’

The project "Man in a Changing World. Identity and Social Adaptation: Past and Present" is funded by the Russian Government
(grant #14.В25.31.0009)
© Laboratory for Social and Anthropoligical Research, 2013

The website is translated into English by LSAR Fellow Elena M. Karageorgii, e-mail: visits: 138235

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