A free public exhibit from New York City’s Blavatnik Archive has landed at Miami University’s King Library thanks to the leadership of Hillel at Miami University and partnerships with The Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and the Miami University Libraries.
Guests can experience the exhibit, which primarily tells the stories of Russian Jews who fought in the Soviet armed forces during World War II, in King Library’s main lobby until Friday, Nov. 17. It features more than 20 visual panels and an interactive kiosk. Rare postcards from the Blavatnik Archive are on display in King Library 321.
“The Blavatnik Exhibit highlights the little-known stories of Jewish service in the Soviet military and the key roles Jews played in the Russian Revolution,” said Joel Miller, director of development for Hillel at Miami University.
Developed and funded by the Blavatnik Archive Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving and disseminating resources that contribute to the study of 20th century Jewish and world history, the exhibit has traveled across the country, including stops at Harvard University, the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia.
Founded in 2005, the Blavatnik Archive is committed to sharing its holdings as widely as possible for both research and public education. Its holdings include 90,000 physical and native digital assets, including nearly 1,200 oral testimonies from Russian Jews who fought in the Soviet armed forces and partisan units during WWII.
Alex Blavatnik, a 1986 Miami alumnus, serves as executive director.
“History, heritage and education are deeply meaningful cornerstones for me,” Blavatnik said. “I am proud to share this unique story of the Soviet Jewish soldiers who fought on the Eastern Front during WWII with Miami University, my alma mater.”
The exhibit’s visit to Miami started with an initial discussion between Blavatnik, Joel Miller and Marcy Miller, executive director of Hillel at Miami University. From there, a fortuitous encounter aligned Hillel’s efforts with that of the The Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies
“The Havighurst Center’s involvement in this exhibit was serendipitous,” said Stephen Norris, Ph.D., interim director of the Havighurst Center. “Joel came to Harrison Hall to scout out the foyer as a possible site for the exhibit and came across our center. It quickly emerged that the center’s mission overlapped with that of the Blavatnik Archive’s and a natural partnership developed.”
In early November, the Havighurst Center, University Libraries and Hillel host a symposium on Nov. 3 and a lecture on Nov. 7, both in King Library 320.
“War, Revolution and Jewish Life in Russia: A Symposium” takes place from 3-5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, and welcomes three prominent scholars in Russian and Jewish studies. An optional Russian-themed Shabbat service and dinner follows, hosted by Hillel at Miami University. Services begin at 6 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Hillel Building, 11 East Walnut Street. The event is free and open to all but reservations are required.
“Conspiracy Theories and Revolution in Post-Soviet Russia” takes place on the 100-year anniversary of the Bolshevik coup led by Vladimir Lenin. The special lecture, which begins at 4 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 7, features Illya Yablokov, teaching fellow in Russian Studies at the University of Leeds.
“It’s hard to overstate the significance of the 1917 revolutions in Russia and how they shaped world history for the rest of the century,” Norris said. “The events of 1917 provided the first case of decolonization and also brought about the first Marxist party to achieve power and attempt socialism.
“Our goal is not to celebrate the centenary of 1917 but to use this anniversary as a means to think about how it shaped our contemporary world.”
King Library and the first floor area hosting the Blavatnik exhibit are open 24/7 through the fall semester, excluding holiday weekends. The Walter Havighurst Special Collections are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.