Volume Sixteen, 2023-2024

The UC Undergraduate Journal of Slavic and East/Central European Studies


Roman Koropeckyj (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Managing Editor
Cooper Lynn (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Editorial Assistants
Kelly Nguyen (English, UCLA)
Manon Snyder (Political Science and Environmental Science, UCLA)

Online Editor
Susan Bauckus (Center for World Languages, UCLA)

Undergraduate Advisor
Yelena Furman (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)

Ryan Fogle (UCLA International Institute)

Editorial Board
Samyuktha Comandur (Political Science, UCLA)
Michael Z. Dean (Political Science, UCLA)
Rachel Forgash (Political Science, UCLA)
Elena Makarova (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)
Polina Varfolomeeva (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages & Cultures, UCLA)


Cooper Lynn Managing Editor

View Introduction

Activism or Slacktivism? Digitally Networked Youth Participation In the “Free Navalny” Protests of Jan. 2021

Georgia Boote, University of Birmingham, UK

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    The age of online social media has given rise to a new form of protest among a predominantly young userbase. Following the imprisonment of Putin critic Aleksei Navalny, thousands of protestors crowded the streets in January, 2021, while a large online engagement called for Navalny’s release by way of memes, petitions, posts, and reposts. Digitally networked activism, sometimes derisively called “slacktivism,” refers to online protests like these, which lack the immediate impact of in-person protests and generally do not affect the number of participants. However, it is disingenuous to dismiss this form of protest as a “revolution of children”: the highly sophisticated use of online content, which spoke to a deeply personalized approach to supporting the cause of Navalny’s freedom and resisting Putin’s autocracy, reveals a strong sense of agency in an otherwise oppressive political climate. This paper uses multimodal discourse analysis to examine online activity in support of Navalny, primarily on the video sharing app TikTok, to argue for online activism’s legitimacy as a form of political expression.

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Post-Communist Responses to LGBT Activism: A Comparative Case Study of Russia and the Czech Republic

Alexis Hill, University of California, Los Angeles

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    Since the collapse of communism, East European states have seen a surge in political activism, including around LGBT issues. While activism of this kind was difficult or impossible under totalitarian regimes, loosened restrictions on civil liberties have allowed citizens to take a more active role in policymaking. In Russia and the Czech Republic, special interest groups have formed to lobby for LGBT-friendly legislation, protest unfair and homophobic policies, and organizeannual Pride parades. However, the response to LGBT activists in each country has varied. In the Czech Republic, LGBT activists have met a largely tolerant and progressive society and have effected positive change both in terms of public image and through legislation; in Russia, their efforts have, with few exceptions, had little impact.. This paper compares the results of LGBT activism in post-communist Czechia and post-Soviet Russia -. Examining the history of public and government attitudes toward LGBT people in command economies and the effect of LGBT activism after the transitions to market economies, it reveals the factors influencing genuine political progress for the LGBT community in the Czech Republic and those that have prevented change in Russia.

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Resisting Identity Suppression through the Act of Writing in Zamyatin's We and Orwell's 1984

Anastasia Izmailova, University of California, Los Angeles  

  • View abstract
    This essay examines the parallels between Evgeniy Zamyatin’s novel We and George Orwell’s 1984. It argues that the former is an anti-utopian novel while the latter is a dystopian one. These novels are forms of speculative fiction that imagine the future of totalitarianism based on the two authors’ lived experiences. Both novels feature motifs of surveillance, technology used for ill, and repression of individuality. Each protagonist uses journal writing to understand and question his respective regime, which eventually turns into a form of rebellion. However, We’s ultimate commentary is on the crushing power of the state, whereas in 1984 political repression presents the true antagonist, which is revealed to be human weakness. In this way, We has a hopeful ending, whereas in 1984 mankind is doomed on account of its corrupt nature.

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Vladislav Surkov: The (In)visible Hand of Russian Politics and Culture

William Ledesma, Vanderbilt University

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    Vladislav Surkov, novelist, poet, aide to Vladimir Putin, and recognized éminence grise in Russian politics and culture, has played a shockingly large role in shaping Russia’s post-Soviet narrative and building Putin’s political system. His personal history, however, remains obscure, and his artistic output is understudied. This article compares his role in Putin’s administration with his literary output, as a way of examining his broad involvement in defining the Russian post-Soviet period. Considering a wide selection of Surkov’s output, which includes poetry, prose, philosophy, and drama, as well as secondary literature on Surkov, helps to unravel the man of mystery in the Kremlin and his political program. This analysis of Surkov, his role, and his impact on the Putin regime contributes to a growing body of literature on the writer’s relevance to both Russian history and Russia’s twenty-first century political mechanics. In doing so, it contributes to scholarly considerations of Surkov’s status inside and, since his exit in 2020, outside of the Putin regime. Additionally, it provides insight into Surkov’s intellectual and artistic work, including his concepts of Russian utopia and sovereign democracy, the novel Almost Zero, its stage adaptation, and his post-Kremlin poetry offer particularly insights into his political thought.

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Angola Then and Now: Investigating Soviet and Russian Intervention in Africa*

Juliette Oliver, University of California, Los Angeles

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    This paper examines the difference in motivations between the Soviet Union and modern-day Russia for interacting with African countries by looking at the case study of Angola. As a country that gained independence late in comparison to its counterparts, Angola’s early statehood was marked by power struggles between parties of varying political ideologies. The paper analyzes how the Soviet Union gave early support to the communist party, the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), in hopes of putting them in power and furthering communism’s international goals. The Soviet Union’s assistance of the MPLA by way of educational scholarships and military aid helped support the party against the American- and South African-backed National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA), which recognized the USSR’s desire to build relations with the emerging state as an attempt to spread Marxist ideology and tried to thwart it. The paper demonstrates that, as economic strain hit the Soviet Union and the Cold War abated, tensions relaxed between the US and the Soviet Union, and support for the MPLA subsequently ceased. Since then, a strengthening economy and government, in conjunction with increasing competition with the West, has led Russia to look to Africa once again, although this time for economic gain.

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The Evolution of Russia's Nuclear Weapons Doctrine

Kyle Tucker, Indiana University

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    Since the 1990s, Russia has pursued a nuclear doctrine that defies conventional logic. In the post-Soviet period, Russia has assigned ever more roles to its nuclear arsenal, notably deterrence of a conventional military conflict. This broadened scope has led many to speculate that Russia follows an “escalate to de-escalate” nuclear doctrine, in which the threat of nuclear conflict ensures national security. This article examines the evolution of this posturing in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries through the lens of “complex deterrence.” In contrast to classical deterrence theory, complex deterrence accounts for many of the salient aspects of contemporary nuclear conflict, including asymmetric military prowess and unconven- tional military tactics such as cyberwarfare and disinformation. Analyzing how nuclear weapons play into Russia’s program of complex deterrence offers insight into how it has employed and may continue to employ its nuclear arsenal in the war in Ukraine. Ultimately, the broad scope and historically deterrent nature of Russia’s nuclear doctrine suggests that the use of strategic nuclear weapons remains unlikely; however, the unpredictable and dangerous methods Russia has used to maintain its influence as a “great power” have the potential to undermine and destabilize global security, rather than help assure it. 

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