Senior Honors Theses Presentations Spring 2022

Ian Reinke – Ainsley Morse Advisor
Remnants of an Uneasy Linguistic Legacy:
Language Politics in Post-Independence Ukraine and Moldova

When the Russian Federation launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, one argument aimed at justifying this dramatic escalation of the war was the idea that Russia was fulfilling its responsibility to protect ethnic Russians and Russophone populations from discrimination. Rooted in the doctrine of the "Russian World," this narrative has been continually employed in the post-Soviet period when defending Russia's interventionist actions in its geopolitical neighborhood.  In this thesis, I examine how this doctrine and the uneasy remnants of earlier Russification policies have shaped the development of language politics in post-independence Ukraine and Moldova. I analyze the interconnectedness of arguments centered around "Russian World" with the ongoing political strife and separatist conflicts in the two countries. Through considering several major events in each nation's post-independence period, I conclude that both case studies reveal much about how language politics in Eastern Europe are continually affected by the ghosts of the region's linguistic past, and propose how these case studies can more broadly contribute to understanding how formerly subjugated nations in post-Soviet Eurasia are grappling with the linguistic legacy of colonization and imperialism.  

Savanna Eller – Sergei Kan Advisor
Russian Orthodoxy in Alaska: History and Contemporary Perspectives

This thesis examines the existence of Russian Orthodox Christianity in Alaska both as a cultural artifact of hundreds of years of history and as a living spiritual practice shaped by its adherents both past and present. In many ways the strongest remaining cultural vestige of the Russian era (1741-1867), Alaskan Russian Orthodoxy provides a unique window into the lasting effects of Russia's influence in North America. I evaluate the conversion of Alaska during the Russian period, considering both the practical reasons Alaskan Natives chose to become Russian Orthodox and the spiritual compatibilities that helped the religion become, over time, complementary to indigenous cosmologies. I also consider in what ways Russian Orthodoxy as a religious organization severed from imperial influence persisted and, in some cases, grew in popularity through the twentieth century. Finally, I include narratives from several Alaskan people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who identify as Russian Orthodox and have during their lives deeply considered what that means to them.

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