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Helen Mirren, Katya Galitzine and other guests at the joint UCL SSEES Library and British Library panel discussion

Wojciech AJanik9 June 2017

On Monday 5th June a panel discussion “Émigrés from Revolution” took place at the British Library. It was a joint event between UCL SSEES Library and the British Library and was inspired by our collections.

Martin Sixsmith provided the introduction

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Martin Sixsmith, Katya Galitzine and Helen Mirren taking questions from the audience

The year 2017 marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution. One of the main events “in the library world”, to focus on the centenary is a major exhibition at the British Library: “Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths”. The exhibition is accompanied by various events, panels and seminars. That provided a great opportunity for UCL Library Services to co-organise, with the British Library, a public event, which would highlight our collections. To make it more lively and interesting we wanted it to be presented by the descendants of emigrants from the Russian Revolution, so that they could reflect, after one hundred years, on how the history of their grandparents has influenced and still influences them and their families. It provided us with the opportunity to showcase some of our archival holdings, especially as many of the descendants had very successful careers. We are lucky enough to have in our archives documents that were donated by world famous actress, Dame Helen Mirren. Her grandfather, Colonel Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov, initially came to the UK with the aim of buying arms for the Russian Army during World War One. Another example is the memoir of Prince Paul Ivan Lieven, that belonged to the grandfather of well-known historian, Professor Dominic Lieven. We were very lucky once again as both Dame Helen Mirren and Professor Dominic Lieven accepted invitations to the event. Princess Katya Galitzine, whose grandparents escaped via Yalta on a British warship sent to rescue Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna also accepted the invitation. However, there is also another “library link” as Katya is a co-Founder of The Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library.

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Nicolas Pasternak Slater [L] and Dominic Lieven [R]

Our fourth guest was successful translator Nicolas Pasternak Slater, the son of Boris Pasternak’s sister Lydia, and the grandson of painter Leonid Pasternak and Rosa Isidorovna Kaufman, an accomplished pianist. Martin Sixsmith, former BBC foreign correspondent based in Moscow at the end of the Soviet Union, moderated the discussion, while Professor Simon Dixon from UCL SSEES provided an introduction to the event and highlighted UCL SSEES Library’s archive collections.

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From left to right: Nicolas Pasternak Slater, Dominic Lieven, Martin Sixsmith, Katya Galitzine, Helen Mirren

The event was a success. The panel was excellent and the attendance was very good. It was a very good way to promote our collections. It also enabled us to foster good working relationships with colleagues from the British Library, especially Jon Fawcett, Head of Events, and Katya Rogatchevskaya, Lead Curator of East European Collections. The cooperation was very successful so it may also lead to another joint event in the future. Of course for us it is not the end. UCL SSEES will hold a major conference later this year to commemorate the centenary of the Revolution and we need to focus on that and build on the success of the event. We would like to digitise selected items from our collection, so that they can accompany the main UCL SSEES Conference. During the panel I had a chance to talk to Helen Mirren and her sister Kate and managed to obtain permission to digitise the documents of Colonel Pyotr Mironov. Professor Lieven has also given permission for the memoir of Prince Paul Ivan Lieven to be digitised. Together with colleagues from Digital Curation, Mat Mahon and Amy Howe, we are working on digitising some other collections from our archives.

Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov Collection [MRN]

Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov Collection [MRN] held at UCL SSEES Library

Our aim is that by the time of the conference we can create a high-quality, professional and academic resource. During 2017 there will be many events dedicated to the Revolution. However it is noteworthy to say that UCL SSEES is one of the best well-known and recognised institutions in the world for its expert knowledge on Russia. Therefore, December’s conference organised by UCL SSEES will attract a lot of attention. This provides UCL SSEES Library with the momentum we need to maximize to our benefit, so that we can effectively publicize our work and our unique collections to the world audience.

SSEES Library Green Group meets Global Citizenship Programme

AgneseRiva14 June 2016

On Thursday 2 June, the SSEES Library Green Group (aka Green Comrades) organised a screening of “Swamp Dialogues”, a documentary focusing on the people who live in the protected area of Romania’s Danube Delta, Europe’s second largest river delta (view trailer here). It is part of our Green Impact excellence project and was arranged in the context of UCL’s annual Green Impact competition, in collaboration with the UCL Global Citizenship programme, which offers a strand dedicated to the Danube. pic2

The screening was introduced by Eszter Tarsoly, Senior Teaching Fellow in Hungarian Language at SSEES and Course Leader on the UCL Global Citizenship Programme. It was followed by a discussion about the relationship between people living in protected areas and their environment, led by Sahil Nijhawan and Rafael Chiaravalloti, both PhD students at the UCL Department of Anthropology. The event was attended by about 60-70 people, and was rounded off by a Danubian food and drinks reception. It was well received as the positive feedback from students indicates.

“Genuine, funny and eye-opening, this film raised many questions about the Danube and those who have lived and worked there for generations.” (Rebecca Huseyin – for more feedback click here)

This academic year SSEES Library’s Green Group decided to participate in the Green Impact 2015-2016 competition with an Excellence Project for the first time. The team felt that a project is not only more engaging and inspiring to work on but also allows us to highlight the valuable resources the Library has to offer to our users and demonstrate the skills and knowledge of our Library staff.

There has been a growing interest in studying environmental concerns in the post-Soviet era. With SSEES Library’s geographical area focus in mind, we decided to hold a series of film screenings on environmental issues in Eastern Europe to support this new field of study and foster interest in the topic among different academic communities within UCL and the broader public. We identified a number of documentaries that address topics including human-environment interaction, energy sustainability and pollution in an Eastern European context.

Area expertise on the region has been a key factor in developing all the different aspects of our project. We conducted extensive research in relation to films as due to copyright issues we could screen only films which had not been commercially released. This made the task more challenging but also allowed us to present material never shown before in the UK. Our team’s diverse language and research skills helped us to browse websites to find initiatives dedicated to our topic and discover independent films. We relied mainly on green film festivals organised in East European countries, but we also browsed other sites in several languages and directly contacted directors and associations. Aiming to reach as many people as possible, we gained consent from the copyright holders to show the films to the public.

Liaising with other departments also contributed in an essential way to the success of the event. Our close relationship with the SSEES academic department allowed us to be included in the Global Citizenship Programme, and the initiative was praised by the team leader Eszter Tarsoly who thanked us for bringing such a special contribution to the module. Eszter’s introduction was insightful and concise and provided invaluable background information to better understand the film. Due to the nature of this documentary, we also decided to contact the Anthropology department where people welcomed our initiative and allowed us to find two students working on similar topics to lead a discussion after the film. Their talk was extremely thought-provoking and inspiring. pic1 The cooperation among these different realities proved to be enormously beneficial to all of us: our green group found amazing support for our event in terms of guests and visibility, the PhD students welcomed the opportunity to share their knowledge and develop their communication skills, and the Global Citizenship Programme was able to broaden its offer for its participants.

To complement the screening, we set up a temporary themed book display in SSEES Library, presenting library materials related to the Danube region and environmental issues in Central Eastern Europe generally.

During the summer vacation we will also prepare a Libguide dedicated to various resources on environmental issues in Easter Europe which will be available on our website.

In conclusion, we would like to highlight diversity as a key characteristic of our work environment that made the conception and realization of this project possible. We are a varied team comprising of people of different nationalities and with different interests, and each of us carries a bag of knowledge from different past experiences. This allowed us to contribute in different ways to the project and build up a complete, well rounded event.

Further screenings are planned for the new academic year 2016-2017, so look out for posters and announcements if you are interested in environmental issues in a cross-cultural context.

SSEES Library Green Group (Antje Brauer-Maxaeia, Agniya Dremach, Zuzana Pincikova, Agnese Riva, Suzana Tamamovic, Andrea Zsubori)