Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




“Going Back in Time, Rub Your Eyes”: What Can Literature Do in the Time of War?
Reserve Your Seat (CUID Only)


Important Note

This event is in-person for CUID card holders only. In-person attendees must be in compliance with Columbia University’s health protocols for returning to campus. Pre-registration, valid CUID card and valid green pass are required for admittance.


Please join us for a hybrid literary symposium featuring 2022 Harriman Writer in Residence Maria Stepanova, organized by Mark Lipovetsky (Harriman Institute) and Irina Paperno (University of California-Berkeley), consisting of two panel discussions (in-person only) and a poetry reading (in person & virtual).

In-person attendees should register using the “Reserve Your Seat” button above. To attend the poetry reading virtually, register using the links in the program below.



All times in EDT (New York)


Panel I: Uses and Misuses of Historical Memory in Post-Soviet Culture and Politics


Excavation and reconstruction of traumatic historical memory have been at the center of cultural debates in post-Soviet space since the 1990s. This process has resulted in a number of powerful literary and cinematic works based on their authors’ deep engagement with tragic history of the Soviet period. At the same time, manipulations with historical memory have been widely used by the Putin regime for ultra-nationalist state rhetoric serving as the justifications for the invasion in Ukraine and other political crimes. We ask participants of the roundtable, poets and scholars, to reflect on this paradox and the ways to confront political instrumentalization of historical memory.

  • Polina Barskova, Poet; University of California, Berkeley
  • Yuliya Ilchuk, Stanford University (via Zoom)
  • Sophie Pinkham, Writer
  • Irina Shevelenko, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Maria Stepanova, Poet, 2022 Harriman Writer in Residence, editor-in-chief and founder of

Moderator: Mark Lipovetsky, Columbia University


Panel II: Publishing East European Writers in the West

2:00-4:00 pm

This roundtable brings together professionals (editors, publishers, translators) involved in publishing and promoting literature from Eastern Europe. We ask them to reflect on selecting, contextualizing and representing contemporary Eastern European writers for Western readers. How do books—especially contemporary poetry—from Eastern Europe reach readers in Western Europe and America? What does it mean to publish authors from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus at the time of the war? How can we best represent powerful literary voices from Ukraine? Can literature help to fight hate?

  • Polina Barskova, Poet, University of California, Berkeley
  • Edwin Frank, Poet; Editor, NYRB Classics Series
  • Ostap Kin, Translator; Archivist/Librarian, Zimmerli Art Museum
  • Katharina Raabe, Editor; Suhrkamp Verlag
  • Maria Stepanova, Poet, 2022 Harriman Writer in Residence, editor-in-chief and founder of
  • Matvei Yankelevich, Poet, Translator, Editor; World Poetry Books

Moderator: Irina Paperno (University of California, Berkeley)


4:00–5:30 pm — Reception


Poetry Reading

5:30–7:30 pm

  • Polina Barskova/Ostap Kin – translations from Ukranian Poetry
  • Maria Stepanova

Register Watch on YouTube



Polina Barskova is a Russian poet and American literary scholar who translated and edited poets from present-day Ukraine and from Leningrad in World War II. Her recent publications in English include: Air Raid, trans. by Valzhyna Mort (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021); Living Pictures, trans. by Catherine Ciepiela (NYRB, forthcoming in September 2022). She has edited (among other editions) Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016).

Edwin Frank is an American poet and editor. He is the author of Snake Train: Poems 1984–2013 and the editorial director of the NYRB Classics series. His editorial work is presented in The Red Thread: Twenty Years of NYRB Classics: A Selection, edited and with a foreword by Edwin Frank (2019). He has been actively seeking and publishing both known and neglected authors from Russia and Eastern Europe.

Yuliya Ilchuk teaches at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University. She earned her B.A. in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language from National Pedagogical University in Kyiv (Ukraine), M.A. in Comparative Literature from Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and Ph.D in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Southern California. She is the author of Nikolai Gogol: Performing Hybrid Identity (University of Toronto Press, 2021). Studies of hybridity have also informed her recent research projects on othering, protest culture, and memory on the move as socio-cultural responses to the war in Eastern Ukraine. In Ilchuk’s most recent book project, tentatively titled Future in the Past: Memory, Culture, and Identity in Post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine, she works on the comparative analysis of the memory culture in Russia and Ukraine.

Ostap Kin is a translator from Ukrainian and literary scholar; he is Archivist/ Librarian/ Research Center Coordinator at Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University. He is the editor of New York Elegies: Ukrainian Poems on the City (2019); translator, with John Hennessy, of Serhiy Zhadan’s selected poems A New Orthography (2020); with Vitaly Chernetsky, of Yuri Andrukhovych’s Songs for a Dead Rooster (2018); with Ali Kinsella, of Vasyl Lozynsky’s The Maidan After Hours (2017), and more. His translations of a collection of Ukrainian poets’ responses to Babyn Yar is forthcoming from Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

Mark Lipovetsky teaches at the Department of Slavic Languages, Columbia University. Among his publications are books on Russian postmodernism, New Drama, Dmitry Prigov, and numerous articles on post-Soviet literature and culture. Lipovetsky is also one of four co-authors of the Oxford History of Russian Literature (2018).

Irina Paperno teaches in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. Her publications include Stories of the Soviet Experience: Diaries, Memoirs, Dreams (2009), which appeared in the Russian translation in 2021.  

Sophie Pinkham received a PhD in Slavic languages and literature from Columbia. She is the author of Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine. Her articles on Russian and Ukrainian culture and politics frequently appear in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications.

Katharina Raabe is the East European Editor at the Suhrkamp Verlag in Berlin where her primary focus is on promoting East European writers in German-speaking countries and around the world. The contemporary authors from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus she has recently published include (among others) Serhiy Zhadan, Yuri Andrukhovych, Valzhyna Mort, Maria Stepanova, and Polina Barskova. She has also published books about Euromaidan, Srebrenica, Kosovo, and Chechnya.

Irina Shevelenko teaches at the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She authors such books as Literaturnyi put’ Tsvetaevoi: Ideologiia, poetika, identichnost’ avtora v kontekste epokhi [Tsvetaeva’s literary path: Ideology, poetics, and identity of the author in the context of the epoch] (2002, revised ed. 2015) and Modernizm kak arkhaizm: Natsionalizm i poiski modernistskoi estetiki v Rossii [Modernism as archaism: Nationalism and the quest for a modernist aesthetic in Russia] (2017). Shevelenko edited, compiled, and introduced a volume of English translations of poetry and essays by Maria Stepanova, The Voice Over (Columbia University Press, 2021).

Maria Stepanova is a Russian poet and prose writer; the founder and editor of Colta, she published poets and prose writers from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and other lands. In 2021, several of her books appeared in English: In Memory of Memory (New Directions, 2021), War of the Beasts and the Animals (Bloodaxe Books, 2021) (both trans. by Sasha Dugdale) and The Voice Over: Poems and Essays, ed. by Irina Shevelenko (Columbia University Press, 2021).

Matvei Yankelevich is an American poet, editor, translator. A founding member of the Ugly Duckling Presse, a nonprofit publisher for poetry, translation, experimental nonfiction, and more, he curated its Eastern European Poets Series. His translations include Alexander Vvedensky’s An Invitation for Me to Think (NYRB Poets, 2013; with Eugene Ostashevsky). He is currently with World Poetry Books, a publisher dedicated to the discovery, translation, and promotion of poetry written in languages other than English.


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