Ontmoeting met Hellen Kooijman

Gesprek met Hellen Kooijman – een gevierd vertaalster uit het Bulgaars, met wie de studenten Oost-Europese talen en culturen al enkele jaren samenwerken – rond het thema ‘Samen vertalen: waarom niet’. In de discussie ligt de nadruk op de vertaling van Bulgaars proza, meer bepaald de korte verhalen en romans van Georgi Gospodinov (auteur van ‘De wetten van de melancholie’, vertaald in 2015). Iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in Bulgaars en / of vertalen uit het Bulgaars, is van harte welkom

Binary oppositions in Slavic Languages and Cultures via the Data of an Associative Experiment – POSTPONED

Svitlana Martinek (Lviv)

Starting from Lévi-Strauss (1963), binary oppositions have been considered as a powerful tool to elucidate the fundamental structures of human consciousness, culture, and language. Conversely, in the writings by Jacques Derrida (esp. in 1977), the method of binary opposition was subjected to considerable criticism. The main aim of Derrida’s deconstruction is to transform the traditional binary oppositions of Western discourse and to disclose their asymmetry, changes in the hierarchy of their members, and the transference of a member in the opposition, often in the form of a new and expanded definition. Nowadays the anthropocentric approach in linguistics, which explores the forms of knowledge representation and cognitive mechanisms via language, enables a new opportunity in studying of binary oppositions.

The empirical investigation of binary oppositions US – THEM, LIGHT – DARK, and LEFT – RIGHT in Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian linguacultures are based on the data obtained via the associative experiment conducted with native speakers of these languages and presented in the Associative Thesauri. Associative responses are claimed to be not arbitrary but motivated by hierarchical conceptual structures existing in consciousness of the bearers of the above mentioned cultures and languages.

The responses given by the speakers not only reveal corresponding cognitive domains and their specific traits but also allow ranking them according to their relative prominence for the representatives of particular linguacultures. They unveil both the remnants of ancient semiotic systems in contemporary speakers’ minds and the changes occurring in respective conceptual structures.

Postponed to a later date – (Mis)Managing the Past: Politics of ‘Decommunisation’ in Ukraine, 1990s – 2018


Georgi Kassianov (Kiev)

The paper provides a brief outline of the politics of ‘decommunisation’ undertaken by different mnemonic actors in Ukraine since the end of 1980s. ‘Decommunisation’ is the process of dismantling the legacies of the communist state establishments, culture, and psychology in the post-communist space. Special attention will be paid to the final ‘decommunisation’ effort in 2015 – 2018, after special ‘decommunisation’ laws were passed by the Ukrainian Parliament. The presentation will analyse interests and roles of political actors, societal responses and political outcomes of ‘decommunisation’.

Biaspectual Verbs in Slavic Languages and (specifically) in Russian

Vladimir Plungian (Moscow)

Biaspectual are (rare) Slavic verbs which do not distinguish morphologically perfective and imperfective forms. Each verbal form of a biaspectual verbs can be (in principle!) construed either as perfective or imperfective. However, context usually resolves this ambiguity, so biaspectuality can be considered an instance of grammatical homonymy. The traditional view is that biaspectual verbs constitute a very limited and fixed class of native verbs (plus some loan verbs, not well integrated in the native morphological system).

However, recent studies demonstrate that biaspectual verbs are (much?) more numerous than meets the eye and that the whole picture is by far more complicated, both synchronically and duachronically. As for Russian, biaspectual verbs still remain a relatively stable component of its morphological system. The talk will provide several interesting case studies.

Orphism and Late Communism in Bulgaria

Miglena Nikolchina (Sofia)

Whether Orpheus was a contested historical figure, a mystagogue, or a mythical personification of the poet, the story of his genius, his love, and his tragic death has been connected by ancient sources to Thrace, a region to the south of the Balkan Mountains. This gave Orpheus a special standing in the early construction of Bulgarian national identity, which came into new prominence with the failure of communist ideology and the advancement of Thracian studies in archeology and historiography. The lecture will discuss “Orphism” as the 1980s theoretical counterpart to these developments. It will explore both its political implications in the last decade of the communist regime and its contemporary follow-up in divergent philosophical trends.

Serbian Literature Between Aesthetics and Politics: Milorad Pavić’s Dictionary of the Khazars

Milica Mustur (Belgrado)

The “lexicon novel” Dictionary of the Khazars (Hazarski rečnik, 1984) by the Serbian writer Milorad Pavić and its translation into most of European languages mark the last great moment  in the history of Western European reception of Serbian literature. The remarkable success of the novel within a great readership went along with wide recognition by professional critics, who declared Pavić one of the leaders of postmodern literature and his Dictionary of the Khazars “the first novel of the 21st century”.

Those qualifications derived both from the novel’s plot and its – at the time – somewhat peculiar formal features. The Dictionary tells the story of the strange historical fate of the Khazars, respectively their disappearance from history after converting to a new religion under circumstances that allow only speculation. The novel formally imitates the structure of a lexicon, where narration is placed within encyclopedical entries. Furthermore, it is divided into three “books”, all of which are representing the sources on the Khazarian question from the viewpoint of one of the three Abrahamic religions – Chistianity, Judaism and Islam – all declaring to represent the truth by claiming the religious conversion of the Khazars for themselves.

Dealing with questions about the nature and the epistemological status of truth, Dictionary of the Khazars has been, among others, celebrated as a masterpiece of postmodern historical metafiction as well as a literary manifesto of religious tolerance. However, during the Civil War in Jugoslavia, Milorad Pavić’s work underwent a radical change in reception under direct influence of Western politics towards Serbia on literary criticism. Formerly praised as an author of religious tolerance, Pavić was all of a sudden morally stigmatized as a Serbian nationalist as one of his later novels was purposely misinterpreted as a symbolic representation of Serbian nationalist aspirations. Along with the mentioned novel, the once highly praised Dictionary of the Khazars and his author were expelled from the Western European literary consciousness.

Two main questions arise from the topic described: Can the shadow of politics hanging over the Western reception of Serbian literature ever be removed? Could the Dictionary of the Khazars with its fascinating and provocative focus on truth again become relevant in the context of a Western European cultural tradition, strongly determined by the discourse on truth and epistemology?

Romantic Space of Savagery, Violence and Freedom: Southern Siberia in the European Imagination of the 19th and early 20th Centuries

Pavel Alekseev (Gorno-Altaisk)

In the 19th and early 20th century, southern Siberia became an attractive place for European travelers interested in discovering and exploring this mountain system on the Russian-Chinese frontier. After the Parisian publication in 1842 of Peter Chikhachev’s book «Voyage scientifique dans l’Altaï oriental», this space gained a reputation as «a Museum of wildness in the open air» – nature, aborigines and even Russian officials and colonists of southern Siberia were described by Europeans as typically Eastern. This space was both a space of primeval innocence and poverty, and of barbarous cruelty and cunning.

On the one hand, southern Siberia was a part of the Russian Empire – it was incorporated into Imperial practices, christianized and served as an Outpost of Russia in the region. On the other hand, this land was the habitat of peoples at the lowest stage of civilization. Wild rites, cruel customs and naive worldview of the «children of the mountains» subjected to double oppression (by tribal leaders and by Russian officials) constitute the main feature of the image of Altai, which until the 21st century determines the semiotic status of this Russian mounain frontier.

At the same time, southern Siberia was interesting not in itself, but as a complex barrier on the way to the East: to China, the Kazakh and Mongolian steppes. Based on the book of Chikhachev and travelogues of such English travelers of the mid-19th – early 20th century as Thomas and Lucy Atkinson, Harald Swayne and Prince San Donato, we will see how the Altai mountains were included in the European discourses of Orientalism.


Kroatië, 2018 – Nebojša Slijepčević

Tijdens de Joegoslavische oorlogen wordt in Zagreb een Servisch tienermeisje vermoord. Een kwarteeuw later kiest een Kroatische theaterregisseur ervoor een toneelstuk over deze etnische moord te maken. De repetities maken bijzonder veel los bij iedereen die meewerkt en in het bijzonder bij de twaalfjarige Nina: zij vertelt dat ze in huilen uitbarstte toen ze ontdekte dat ze niet van Kroatische, maar Servische afkomst is (een “srbenka”). De wreedheden van de Joegoslavische oorlogen vonden al meer dan twintig jaar geleden plaats, maar blijven het leven mee bepalen, zelfs dat van jonge kinderen die zelf niets met de wrede oorlogen te maken hadden en hebben. Ze worden zich al heel vroeg bewust van hun etniciteit en proberen hun afkomst te verbergen. Deze confronterende documentaire won de prijs voor Beste documentaire op de filmfestivals van Sarajevo (2017) en Cannes (2018) .

Uitgesteld tot latere datum – Родени от пепелта | Born from the Ashes & Сънувам старци | I Dream of Mummers


Bulgarije, 2000 & 2011 – Adela Peeva

Born from the Ashes (2000) en I Dream of Mummers (2011) zijn twee documentaires van de prominente Bulgaarse regisseur Adela Peeva. In heel Europa geniet ze bekendheid om haar bekroonde documentaire Whose Is This Song? (Чия е тази песен?, 2003).

Born from the Ashes is een documentaire film over één welbepaalde Romagemeenschap die in de dorpen in de buurt van het Bulgaarse bergstadje Tvurditsa wonen. De documentaire zoomt in op de moeilijkheden die de mensen in deze gemeenschap moeten overwinnen en de offers die ze brengen terwijl ze enerzijds proberen hun identiteit te behouden en anderzijds pogen zich te schikken naar de voorwaarden van de huidige maatschappij. In Bulgarije leven er 800.000 Roma, of 10 procent de totale bevolking van het land. In hun gesloten gemeenschappen, vaak zelfs getto’s, leven zij vaak in armoede, met een hoge graad van kindersterfte en alcoholisme. Het aantal Roma in de Bulgaarse gevangenissen ligt bijzonder hoog. De film werd bekroond op het Italiaanse Trento Film Festival.

I Dream of Mummers is een documentaire over vriendschap en tradities. Detsjo en oom Ivan, twee oude mannen, wonen in het kleine dorpje Soesjitsa in het zuiden van Bulgarije. Ze zijn al zo lang als ze zich kunnen herinneren vrienden en verkleden zich al meer dan 50 jaar lang in de late zomer als ‘koekeri’ om deel te nemen aan de traditionele ‘koekeri’-dans op het dorpsplein. In het dorp van Detsjo en oom Ivan heeft deze Bulgaarse traditie haar authenticiteit bijna volledig behouden en is ze nog steeds te zien zoals ze eeuwen geleden al werd uitgevoerd. De documentaire heeft veel internationale prijzen gewonnen, waaronder de Audience Film Prize op het Twelfth Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic Film (Londen, 2011) en de Award for Best Film on Intangible Heritage op het Twintigste internationaal festival van de etnologische film (Belgrado, 2011).

Kratki izlet | A Brief Excursion

Kroatië, 2017 – Igor Bezinović

Stola’s vriendin Laura heeft het voor de derde en nu echt laatste keer uitgemaakt. Zijn zomer is een lange, lome aaneenschakeling van bandjes kijken, overmatig drankgebruik, seks in de bosjes en gesprekken over alles en niks. Maar op een dag komt hij Roko tegen, een oude bekende, die op zoek is naar middeleeuwse fresco’s in een nabijgelegen klooster. Roko overtuigt Stola en een willekeurige groep feestgangers om met hem mee te gaan op zijn zoektocht. Wanneer hun bus op een afgelegen plek defect raakt, verandert hun korte excursie in een allegorische reis naar het onbekende.

Deze film won heel wat prijzen , onder andere de ‘Best Director Award’ en ‘Young Critics Jury Award’ op het Russische Andrey Tarkovsky International Film Festival van 2017; en ‘Best Film’ in de ‘Brave Balkan Competition’ op het Servische Auteur Film Festival van 2017.