Call for Papers: Shifting Grounds, Changing Models of Nature in the Former Soviet Sphere -- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (ZOOM)

Shifting Grounds: Changing Models of Nature in the Former Soviet Sphere  

2022 Slavic Graduate Student Association Conference  

April 15-16, 2022  


Update: Due to the on-going complications of COVID-19 the SGSA has decided to move the conference online.  


The Slavic Graduate Students Association (SGSA) in conjunction with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, the Russian East European and Eurasian Center, and the History Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign invites submissions of presentation proposals from scholars across disciplines to this year’s conference, titled “Shifting Grounds: Changing Models of Nature in the Former Soviet Sphere.” We invite all professors, graduate students, and professionals to submit papers related to our topic for consideration.   


This interdisciplinary conference is intended to explore the movement of disparate models of nature as they circulate through and coalesce into larger ideas about Post-Soviet and Eurasian existence. Political models of nature found in Soviet ecology hold continued relevance in our current age: any study of Eurasian histories or culture reveals itself as cut through by long environmental and geographic shifts—the plainest example being the pairing of colonization and conquest with large-scale terraforming projects. In the early days of the Soviet Union, an ascent public ecological consciousness allowed for the development of environmental conservation laws as early as 1928. Just a decade later, geologist Vladimir Vernadsky would popularize the concept of the noosphere in natural science, theorizing the mutual relationship between human cognition and earth’s systems as a “sphere of reason” in his seminal work Scientific Thought as a Planetary Phenomenon. Presently, environmental activism is once again resurgent in the FSU. The emergence of grassroots protest groups and interregional “green coalitions,” has heightened public awareness regarding regional inequalities, with emphasis being placed on the continued exploitation of indigenous lands by governmental and corporate interests. As climate change and environmental injustice takes a toll on Northern indigenous populations, how can we synthesize these historical threads and point towards new models of Post-Soviet ecologies?  


We are also excited to announce that our keynote speaker for this conference is Dr. Pey-Yi Chu, associate professor of History, from Pomona College. Dr. Chu specializes in the history of science and the environmental history of Russian and the Soviet Union. In her latest book The Life of Permafrost: A History of Frozen Earth in Russian and Soviet Science, Dr. Chu maps out the history of scientific inquiries of permafrost and how it contributed to modern environmental discourse.   


Relevant topics might include 


● Histories of Soviet terraforming and environmental policies  

● Indigenous ecologies  

● Climate fictions and the production of history  

● Ecological and cultural conflicts of green industrialization  

● National identity in the Anthropocene  

● Histories and legacies of science and technology in the Soviet Union  

● Climate change and human geography in the FSU  

● Environmentally induced labor movement and migration  

● Reconciliation of theory and practice in historical and contemporary ecological conservation  

● Literary representations of nonhuman timescales and ecological collapse  

● Eschatological climate language and its political uses  

● Environmental heritage and fictions of state   


If you would like to participate, please submit an abstract (up to 350 words) and the title of your paper to ( or The deadline for submitting abstracts is February 15th, 2022. Participants will be notified by February 28thThe conference will take place on Zoom on April 15-16.


For any further questions do not hesitate to email us at either or


We look forward to seeing you!