Princeton University Student Visits USTU

On June 19 a student of the Department of Slavic Languages ​​and Literatures of Princeton University (USA), Jake Robertson arrived at Ukhta State Technical University to collect materials for his thesis.

The American student has already visited Russia and undertook language internship in Moscow and St. Petersburg. A year later, Robertson will defend his thesis "Theatre of the Gulag." The student chose this topic during his first year at the Princeton University. The researcher’s interest in history of camp theater brought him to the Komi Republic.

A week of stay in Ukhta was intense and, according to Jake, very fruitful. Events of the first two days included a city tour, visit to the central city library, named classrooms and USTU History Museum, as well as meetings with Georgy Korshunov, Vice-Rector for External Affairs and stage director, Vera Goy.

As acknowledged by the student, he was especially impressed by communication with Evgenia Zelenskaya, director of the museum of the University, and Vera Kvachantiradze, deputy director of the Central Library of Municipal Urban District "Ukhta", who is currently working on the topic of the history of culture in the "Pearl of the North."

Following the visit to the exhibition halls of LLC Gazprom Transgaz Ukhta and Ukhta Historical Local Lore Museum, a meeting with head of the Department of History and Culture, Andrey Kustyshev took place. It turned out that the Ukhta PhD in History and the student from the United States have a mutual friend, Alan Barenberg, professor at Texas Tech University.

Andrey Kustyshev said: “We met in the special funds of the Gulag archives, which were declassified in 1993. Alan studied the history of Vorkuta. Jake Robertson can be considered as a young representative of the school of foreign Gulag researchers, which brought together both professors and students. The history of Gulag theaters, in my view, is a separate page in Gulag history. With the passage of the circumstances people of art ended up behind the barbed wire. One of the conditions of survival in extremely difficult conditions depended on whether a person had a profession required in the camp. In this regard, humanitarians were in unfavourable position. Theatre was a chance to survive.”

During communication at the department, largely thanks to the editor of "Politechnic", Nina Dukhovskaya, the issue of meeting with the PhD in History, Anna Kaneva, the author of substantial scientific researches of the history of Ukhta and the Komi region was quickly resolved. A book “Gulag Theater in Ukhta” issued from Anna Kaneva’s pen, too. Jake Robertson appreciated the informative conversation with the ethnographer and the research assistance. The book, which on documentary basis presented pages of Ukhta Theater in years of Stalinist repression, was published in 2001 in the framework of publishing programme of Ukhta State Technical University with the assistance of its Rector Nikolay Tskhadaya.  To Robertson’s joy employees of library and information center of the university presented him two copies of the book by Anna Kaneva.

From his childhood Jake has performed on the stage and admitted that the theater is his passion. A meeting with stage director of the university theater studio "Freski", Olga Makarova-Shepkina and the theater studio’s actors is scheduled prior to the student’s departure.

From Ukhta Robertson will head for Inta and Vorkuta.