Health Update

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

Wanted to give you all a quick update:

As some of you already know, I am back in Arizona. I already had planned on coming back to Phoenix last weekend for my friends’ wedding (Brett and Rachel). However, due to health problems, I was forced to stay in order to seek medical treatment. I have had to indefinitely postpone my graduate studies and gave up my apartment in St. Petersburg, Russia. I hope to return one day, but at this point I’m not certain what my future holds. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

My Apartment in SPb

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have been in my apartment for 2 weeks now (and Russia for a MONTH!), and I am really liking it. I thought it was high time that I post some pictures and talk about my accommodations for the school year.

First of all, no talk of my apartment is complete without thanking the people who made it possible:

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(clockwise, from left) Anne & Brad; Sasha & me; John, Katie & William
Photo Credits: myself; Brad Nabors / Facebook

  • Anne & Brad Nabors – For letting me stay with them in their home for 2 weeks, feeding me dinner, giving me advice, and helping me out with money when my bank wouldn’t let me take out enough. And an extra special thanks to Anne for taking a day to help me search through apartment listings, call agents (and then subsequently be hounded by them), and ultimately to find the place that I moved into.
  • Sasha Lyansberg – For helping me look for a place, finding an agent, and sending me countless options. Additionally, for coming to look at the apartment with me, acting as my translator and my lawyer, providing translations of all the rental documents, and dealing with both of the agents when I couldn’t understand them!
  • Katie, John & William Nabors – For sharing their space with me and providing some fun and craziness! Special thanks to William for letting me steal his room (but not his toys!) and for the cool fedora!
View down my street from my window

View down my street from my window

My apartment is on Большая Конюшенная улица (Bolshaya Konyushennaya ulitsa), which is kind of a ritzy shopping street perpendicular to Nevsky Prospekt, the main street in St. Petersburg. For reference, I look out at a Dior store and Louis Vuitton store. So I think there is some value to my address!

The map below shows the locations of my home (A), the university (B), as well as Hope Church (C).

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It is a small apartment that has been converted from a communal apartment (communalka) into a European-style studio. My landlord is a Belgian man who splits his time between Brussels and Moscow. I have yet to meet him in person, as he does not come to Piter very often; thus far we have only communicated via telephone and e-mail. The apartment is on the fourth floor, and there is no elevator (unfortunately), but it has a great view of the Church on Spilled Blood from the hallway window.

Church on Spilled Blood from my hallway

Church on Spilled Blood, as seen from my hallway

Here is a slideshow of pictures of the inside of the apartment. Enjoy!

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First Weeks of Classes at EUSP

Posted: September 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’ve officially been back in Russia for 3 weeks and 2 days now. I have been in my apartment for a week, and this is the third week of classes. I wanted to tell everyone a bit more about the school and the classes that I’m taking.

IMG_5785I am attending the European University at St. Petersburg, which is a small, private graduate university. The location is in a former palace (but seriously, what in St. Petersburg ISN’T in a former palace?!) that was built for a mistress of one of the tsars. It is housed in a really cool, old building, and it is kind of like a labyrinth inside. There are only around 100 students, about 40 of whom are split up amongst the 3 international programs majors. My program is IMARES (International MA of Russian & Eurasian Studies), which has 12 students in it (I think…possibly 11). The other international master’s degree programs focus on arts & culture and energy politics.

European University at St. Petersburg

European University at St. Petersburg

As I’d previously mentioned, I’m planning on exploring radical Islam in Chechnya and the Caucasus for my thesis. While I don’t need to be worried about it until next semester, advanced planning definitely helps! To that end, I’m taking the following classes:

  • Violence & Security in Eurasia: Conflicts, Terrorism, Extremism

  • Comparative Political & Economic Development after Communism

  • Central Asian States: Making, Breaking & Remaking

  • Islam & Nationalism in Eurasia

Additionally, we have a methodology course on how to write a master’s thesis and a workshop course that meets periodically with special guest speakers. I think that my course selection will really inform my thesis, and I’ve already been getting some great ideas just from sitting in class. It seems like these courses were tailor-made with my interests in mind, and I really like that! I can’t wait to see what I will learn and to get writing! Stay tuned for my next post, which will be about my new apartment….but mostly pictures!

As many of you may know, St. Petersburg hosted the annual G-20 Summit on Thursday and Friday the 5th and 6th of September (yes, I’m very behind on my blog….finding an apartment and getting situated was stressful!).

In preparation for the G-20, SPb was on high alert, with around 4,000 extra police officers brought in from around the country. You could definitely feel their presence, as there was essentially a police officer on every corner, in addition to the OMOH, which are a special paramilitary unit of riot police.

Regular police "Politsiya"

Regular police “Politsiya”
Photo Credit: Virginia Mayo / AP

Riot police "OMOH"

Riot police “OMOH”
Photo Credit: Dringo / Dreamstime.com

These guys are NOT to be trifled with. They’re not even wearing their armor here and they look intimidating. They’re out in force at all of the Zenit matches, and it is interesting to see so many of them. But back to the point…

The main perk for us, as students at European University, was that the President of the European Council would be coming to speak to us at the university. Since 2009 this position has been held by the former Belgian prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy. The European Council is comprised of President Van Rompuy, the heads of state/government of the member states of the European Union, and the President of the European Commission.

President Van Rompuy gave a speech about Russia’s relationship with Europe and the European Union, evoking shared memories and history. He frequently used references to Russian literature in his speech, which was appreciated. He also encouraged the idea of Russia and the EU growing closer to one another, as one happy “European family”. Following the speech, President Van Rompuy took questions from the audience.

Tweet from President Van Rompuy about his visit to EUSP

Tweet from President Van Rompuy about his visit to EUSP

I’m also including a copy of his speech below. I think it was cool that we were able to have this opportunity to hear from a world leader, and look forward to whatever future opportunities come our way! Stay tuned for more posts as I continue to catch up on my blog!

Herman Van Rompuy – 5 September 2013 – Speech

Also, On Syria

Posted: September 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

Originally posted on rationalactorsdotcom:

by Adam McAnally

The United States has little to no strategic interest in Syria, outside their alliances with more powerful and unfriendly nations like Russia and Iran. It is adjacent to one of our strongest allies in Israel. Syria has minimal economic activity, high unemployment, and dwindling natural resources, including compounding pressure on their water supply due to increased demand through heavy agriculture use and increased supply constraints due to pollution.

Dispersion of chlorine gas during WWI

Dispersion of chlorine gas during WWI

This middle eastern country’s long term trajectory is not healthy and putting ourselves into a long term operation there is unwise.

That said, chemical weapons are an indiscriminatory weapon of mass destruction and their use cannot be tolerated. Their use could be a slippery slope, as Assad is not the only despot in the world and there are many others who are watching to see if the west will punish this type…

View original 175 more words

On Syria

Posted: August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Ryan R. Adkins:

Great editorial from my colleague Bryan Baker about the situation in Syria and any potential intervention by the United States.

Originally posted on rationalactorsdotcom:

Bombed out vehicles in Aleppo during the Syrian Civil War

These views are my own and in no way represent the opinions of the United States government or the US Army.

by Bryan Baker

I remember sitting in my dorm room in February of 2011 watching the protests in Tahrir Square with a feeling of jubilation and wonder that I would now characterize as naïve. Tunisia and Libya had overthrow totalitarian regimes and Egypt was about to do the same. It was like watching a mini American Revolution on television. The pundits were going crazy. President Obama’s strategy in the region was working. All along the people of the Middle East had been liberal democrats in disguise, just waiting for an opportunity to form secular, pro-American governments. The only barrier to this ultimate goal was the totalitarian regimes that the US and other developed countries had so long supported. Once…

View original 1,210 more words

Enjoying Sunny St. Petersburg!

Posted: August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The view from Brad & Anne’s apartment of Kazan Cathedral and Dom Knigi, as well as the Griboedova Canal

Hello all! It is Saturday afternoon, and it is sunny and 64 F (17.78 C) outside. It feels amazing, especially after how hot it was the week or so before I left Phoenix (it got up to 109 F…which is 42.78 C).

I am staying with the wonderful Brad & Anne and their kids at their apartment on Nevksy & Griboedeva Canal until I find a place to live. It is definitely a blessing, saving me a lot of money on hostels!

Thus far I have mostly just been trying to adjust to the time difference and sleep off all of my jet lag so that I am well-rested for school next week. I have orientation on Monday afternoon, and then classes begin the following day. I will be pursuing my master’s degree in Russian & Eurasian Studies at European University at St. Petersburg. My thesis topic is not solid as of the moment, but my intention is to explore the radicalization of Muslim society in Chechnya and the Caucasus over a 20 year period from traditional Sufi Islam to radical Wahhabism, and its place in the international jihadi movement. This is a dangerous area, but I think that the study of it will really benefit my career.

Aside from sleeping, I have been reconnecting with old friends from when I lived here before and making new ones. I have been exploring the city on foot with my friend Will, who was in the CIEE program with me last spring, and my new friend Katherine, with whom we have a mutual friend in Melissa.

Will, Katherine & I enjoying the city

Will, Katherine & I enjoying the city

On Thursday afternoon alone, we walked approximately 8 miles, going everywhere from the Hermitage, to the Field of Mars, to Peter & Paul Fortress (final resting place of the Romanov family & other tsars) to Petrovskiy Stadium (home of Zenit)! My left knee is holding up fairly well after my arthroscopic surgery, but all of this walking is going to be rough. Hopefully once I start running more often, my legs will get stronger.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Peter & Paul Cathedral inside the fortress

Peter & Paul Cathedral inside the fortress

Well, I wanted to just give all of you a quick update and show you some pictures while the weather is nice! I am looking forward to returning to Hope Church tomorrow morning for service, and for getting things going with school on Monday. Have a nice weekend!