CERES graduate Daria Glazkova awarded the Dr. Janet Hyer Essay Prize
What does this prize mean to you?
The prize recognizes Dr. Hyer’s invaluable contributions to CERES as publications editor and program officer for nearly fifteen years, so it means a lot to be recognized with a prize established in memory of a committed researcher. When I was finishing up my Major Research Paper (MRP), I was very stressed and felt like I might need some time, but Professor Robert Austin was so supportive and encouraged me to apply for the prize. I was surprised when I found out – it was summer and I was finishing up my Master’s, the paper, and my internship. I worried I was losing the ability to assess my own work accurately, but Professor Austin was really encouraging, and that encouragement is a big part of my success. It feels amazing receiving the news from CERES – a nice reminder of the CERES community.
What did you write your MRP on?
I wrote my MRP on the process of decommunization in my hometown of Odesa and how it led to derussification, to the change of discourse after the full-scale war broke out. It was a topic that was close to home quite literally, which made it both very interesting because I was deeply invested in my research, but also challenging because a lot of information and research was coming as I was writing.
How did you develop this topic? What inspired you to turn this topic into a major research paper?
Robert Austin helped walk me through what my potential topics could be. I was writing a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant proposal and at that time was feeling a bit lost. I didn’t know how to narrow down my topic, so Professor Austin encouraged me to look at what is close to home, what I have better expertise on, and what I’m really passionate about. The MRP is a two-year project, so it is important to be truly invested and interested in your topic. It requires a lot of dedication and that is why it needs to be something you are really enthusiastic about.
What was the research journey of your MRP like?
The first stage was about distilling my research down to a region and eventually settled on my home city. I then looked into the symbology of the city – the semiotics of urban spaces. I realized the best supervisor for my project was Tanya Richardson from Wilfrid Laurier University. She has great expertise on Odesa and the region, so I was very happy and lucky to have an academic supervisor like her.
When I started working with her, I was looking very generally at urban fabric symbols in the city of Odesa and then we talked more about decommunization and decolonization. She suggested lots of great academic literature and was supportive of me through every stage of this research.
When the full-scale war started, Dr. Richardson reached out to me and said, “I know that it can be very difficult writing about this topic,” and she was understanding while also encouraging me to continue my research when I felt ready to proceed with it.
How did the full-scale invasion affect your research?
The initial thought was “I can’t do this. I’m not finishing this semester.” But the CERES community was super supportive and encouraging. I had all the extensions I needed as well as all the space to talk. When I told Professor Austin that I didn’t feel like I could finish the semester, he was understanding and made me feel that how I was feeling was valid, but at the same time he gently reminded me that I could do it. That was a great help.
Then the next thought I had was that I wouldn’t focus on or include anything that came after the full-scale invasion in my paper. Considering it was already the end of February, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time, as the MRP was due at the end of August. Once I started writing and doing the research, it seemed disingenuous to not talk about what came after the invasion because it has changed Ukraine so fundamentally. It changed Ukrainian people’s understanding of our cultural, regional, and national history.
One of the recent developments is that Odesa got rid of the statue of Empress Catherine II and I wrote quite a lot about the statue when it was still there. At the time it was a developing story and looking back, I am glad I decided to include what came after the invasion. How decommunization has developed into derussification and how Ukrainians realize that just getting rid of the communist symbols was not enough.
How did you collect your research?
Researchers have their own approach to their methodologies. Mine included both a lot of academic literature such as books and articles, as well as news, opinion pieces because, again, it really was and is a developing story, so I had to look into current work as it emerged. I did not record interviews – I think this would have opened Pandora’s box for me, but sometimes you have to make that choice. When you record oral interviews or testimonials, you have to consider your interviewees’ point of view – if they’re representing a political party or school of thought, and how these views will come together in your research. For some topics, you just have to stop yourself and say, “I have enough written material to work with!”
Did you have any guiding questions/principles at the outset of your research? If you did, did they change throughout your research?
Yes! Those definitely changed. When I just started, I had very basic questions, like, “How did this develop?” “How did we get to the point that we are talking about decommunization?” “What does it mean for Odesa?” One of the questions that I was very struck by was how the street names and monuments have changed – back to the subject of urban semiotics. With the help of my supervisor, it became clear to me that it wasn’t enough for a deep research question, so she suggested looking at the bigger picture of what all these research questions were a part of. Then we thought about the change of discourse, and it became almost a comparative research paper of before and after the full-scale invasion.
You mentioned symbology and semiotics. Did you have previous experience with that literature or were these concepts new to you? How did you dive into that sort of analysis?
I had some experience with this because I did my undergrad in Human Geography. I have studied cultural geography and urban spaces, which has always fascinated me. Imagining urban space as a living museum — when you say the name of this space, bus stop or subway station, what are you really referring to? Which part of history are you referring to?
How did your paper come together?
Lots of effort went into the final paper! I should confess that the final stage of the writing process was the most challenging for me. I was quite stressed out because it is nerve-wracking when you spend so much time on a research paper – it’s not just three months or a semester that you spend working like you would on a term paper.
Of course, so much had changed in the course of its creation and then you become your worst — or perhaps your best — judge. You yourself know what is missing, what you could add, how much more material you could work with. It was difficult for me to assess where I should stop and if it was even good! These final stages were the most demanding and the most challenging. Maybe this is a fair warning to those who will be writing the MRP!
What are you up to now?
I am doing an internship with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It is very exciting, and I am very glad to complement the theoretical knowledge I gained at CERES and the Munk School on politics and public policy. Now I can very well pair it with the practical knowledge of how politics and parliament work in Canada. I think it’s both a very logical and interesting professional development.
Daria Glazkova will be donating a portion of the Dr. Janet Hyer Essay Prize to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.