AABS Travel Grant Recipients Share Their Experiences of AABS 2022, Part 2

Jun 27, 2022

The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies is pleased share stories and experiences from its 2022 student travel grant recipients who attended the 28th Biennial Conference on Baltic Studies (May 26–29, 2022, Seattle, Washington).

Applications for AABS 2022 student travel grants were evaluated by the AABS Student Travel Grants Committee consisting of AABS Student Representative Kristo Nurmis, AABS Executive Officer-at-Large Guntis Šmidchens, and AABS Advisor to the Board Joseph Ellis. The grants were awarded to 40+ students and early career scholars to support their travel to Seattle in order to attend AABS 2022.

Rodolfo Basile

Paper title: “Partitive Subjects in Southern Finnic”

My experience at the conference was very rewarding, and receiving an AABS2022 Travel Grant has helped me covering most of the costs. I felt privileged, not only because I got to visit the Pacific Northwest and the beautiful city of Seattle for the first time, but also because I was able to participate in a highly interdisciplinary event and present my work to a multitude of scholars. Thanks to this conference, I got the chance to network with people from all over the world, including the US, the Baltics, Germany, and even Japan. It has also been a chance to meet old friends and spend time with my colleagues from the University of Tartu. This was special to me, it all felt so new and yet so familiar. Even though I am from Southern Italy, I feel a deep connection with Estonia and the Baltics. My first language is a mixture of Italian and Neapolitan, a regional language spoken in the South of the Italic Peninsula. I know what it means to be constantly told to parlare bene “speak well” (= “to speak Italian”), not being able to fully express yourself because of the lower political status of your mother tongue. This situation is, I’m sure, familiar to the Baltic people, whose languages and cultures have for long time been subjugated by other nations. I am happy I have participated in AABS2022, because I feel like I have helped preserving Baltic studies, which are as important as any others. My thanks go to all the participants and organizers for creating a wonderful conference experience.

Rodolfo Basile

Rodolfo Basile is a doctoral candidate at the University of Tartu and the University of Turku. His research interests include Finnish and Estonian grammar, Uralic languages, European languages and linguistic typology. He is also interested in contact linguistics between Estonian, Latvian and the minor Finnic languages spoken in the Baltics.

Samanta Kietytė

Paper title: “Freedom of speech and speech of hate: where is the boundary?”

This was the first time I participated in a conference held by The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, and also the first time I visited USA. I came to Seattle May 26th and stayed in a hotel in Downtown, just few Light Rail stops from the university campus. My presentation was planned on May 28th, Saturday, so I spent Friday attending various panels. It is a huge conference, so it was quite hard to decide to which panels to go. So first I chose to hear some presentations from my field of studies, so I went to a panel called “New perspectives on morphology and syntax in the Baltic region.” There were presentations about indirect imperatives, reflexive verbs, and partitive subjects. Next panel I attended was for linguists too – “Emerging words and lexicons,” where topics of language attrition, equivalents in dictionaries, orthography and typology were discussed. This conference had very wide range of topics, so after lunch I decided to hear something different and attended roundtable discussion “Uses and abuses of history for political goals: Baltic states between Russian and European grand narratives.” 

Saturday was the day I had the opportunity to participate as a presenter. My presentation’s title was “Freedom of speech and speech of hate: where is the boundary?” I talked about so called “hate speech” situation in Lithuania – legal basis, changes in society’s awareness and forensic linguist role examining cases of hate speech. Illustrating with examples from real cases from recent year, I presented what questions can linguists analyze and how to distinguish, which question is for linguists and which is for jurists. Also, the most important factors, such as syntactic and morphological form, linguistic and extralinguistic context, non-verbal expression, were discussed. The most common problems, which arise doing linguistic examination, were mentioned too. I was so pleased that the audience had remarkably interesting questions and it caused discussions even during the break between panels. In Saturday I also listened to other presentations, I would like to mention the most memorable ones: “Democratic Values and Civic Participation from the Perspective of Youth in Latvia (it was interesting to try to compare this phenomena with the one in Lithuania), “Endurance vs Loss int the Narratives of Post-Communist Transformation in Lithuania”, which caused quite intense discussion in the audience, “Counteracting Homophobic Discourses in Internet Comments,” which gave another perspective to hate speech phenomena than mine, and others. 

It was so great that the organizers of conference gave attention to a topic, which is the most important in 2022 – brutal russian (I write it in lower case on purpose) invasion into Ukraine. I think it would not be wrong to say that no one in the world can understand the pain of Ukraine like we, people from Baltic countries, do. So, it was absolutely necessary to have this topic in a conference.

I am so thankful that the travel grant gave me the opportunity to participate in AABS 2022 Conference.

Samanta Kietytė, presenting her research at AABS 2022


Samanta Kietytė is PhD student in the Vilnius University Faculty of Philology.

Klemens Grube

Paper title: “Baltic Banking at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives, FinTechs and Uncertainties”

I am extremely grateful to the AABS for the Travel Grant to the 28th Biennial Conference on Baltic Studies. This was the only way that I, as an Early Career Scholar, was able to cover the majority of my travel expenses and thus attend the conference in Seattle without any financial worries. The conference participation was special for me for three reasons:

1. I was able to present my current research findings on FinTechs in the Baltics to a broad audience and have lively discussions with experts about the analysis. These discussions continued after the session during the breaks and receptions, which is very fruitful for my further research.
2. I was able to meet researchers I already knew and discuss joint projects with them. In addition, I was able to meet new scientists. By attending the diverse sessions, I got many impulses for further considerations for my future research and was able to take perspectives that were previously closed to me.
3. As a big college football fan I was able to visit the university and stadium of one of my favorite teams. Therefore, in the photo I am standing next to the bronze statue of Don James, the legendary coach of the Washington Huskies.

Once again, I would like to thank AABS for helping me have a great trip and thus supporting me in my future career path. Thank you so much!

Klemens Grube

Klemens Grube is a postdoc in the field of banking and finance. In 2018 doctorate at the University of Greifswald. He is a frequent guest lecturer at the University of Latvia, Riga and the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University. His current research interests are transformation in banking as well as business history of the 20th century, with a focus on the financial system and territorial history.

Olga Proskurova-Timofejeva

Paper title: “‘He is not a stranger to our pubic:’ Victor Tretyakov as a Russophone ambassador of Latvian culture in interwar Latvia”

As a PhD student at the University of Latvia, I was incredibly excited to present my most recent study to the distinguished audience of academics and subject experts at the 28th Biennial AABS Conference, “Baltic Studies at a Crossroads.” It was an honor to obtain a travel grant so that I could go to the conference in the US, which I would not have been able to otherwise.

The literary life of the Russian diaspora in interwar Latvia is the topic of my PhD study. At the conference, I gave a presentation on Victor Tretyakov, a poet and artist who was born in Kyiv, trained in St. Petersburg, escaped post-revolutionary Russia, and eventually settled in Latvia. In Riga during the interwar period, Tretyakov maintained his creative endeavors and solidified his connections with the Latvian artistic scene. His credo, which found expression in many cultural endeavors, was to introduce both traditional and contemporary Latvian culture to the Russophone diaspora of Latvia. The aim of my paper was to re-actualize Tretyakov’s participation in intercultural exchange practices during the interwar period in Latvia by presenting new biographical materials discovered in the Latvian archives.

My presentation was a part of a session of fantastic talks by colleagues from Lithuania, Latvia, and the US. The post-session discussions were beneficial and aspirational, offering fresh perspectives and new academic connections.

The conference’s wide scope provided me with a great opportunity to stay current on the most recent research in a range of academic fields. I attended many panel discussions every day from early in the morning until late in the afternoon to be inspired by the new perspectives, research approaches, and analytical techniques that the academics brought to the field of Baltic Studies. The networking events in the evening were excellent icebreakers and provided an opportunity for informal communication.

The round-table conversation about work options in the sector with the past PhD students was enlightening, practical, and simultaneously motivating. I owe the panelists my gratitude for sharing their unvarnished experiences.

Being a member of the AABS conference was a great honor and intellectual joy for me. Many thanks for giving me a strong sense of belonging to the group of inspiring academics and to the discipline of Baltic Studies.

Olga Proskurova-Timofejeva

Olga Proskurova-Timofejeva (MA sc. soc. comm., MA philol.) is a PhD student of Literary Studies at University of Latvia. Her research interests include Russophone diaspora’s cultural and literary life in interwar Latvia, childhood culture and children’s literature.

Delaney Skerrett

Paper title: “The Stamp of the Nation: A Comparison of the (Re)Creation of National Identity through Postage Stamps in Estonia and Australia”

It was wonderful to be with my Baltic studies family again this year in Seattle! I have attended every AABS conference since 2008 in Washington DC, when I was living in Estonia. Since returning to Australia, the journey to AABS conferences has been a bit longer, but I am very happy to continue to represent Australia in Baltic studies and maintain my contact with colleagues in the field and, indeed, maintain my own studies and research in the area. Since doing my PhD on Estonian language policy, I have become a psychologist and so my main area of work no longer relates specifically to Baltic issues. Nevertheless, I am continuing to study (doing a Masters of Culture, Health, and Medicine through the Australian National University) and am very grateful to have received funding to support my attendance at the Seattle conference on that basis. Furthermore, my continued studies allow me to maintain scholarly activities related to the Baltic states, particularly Estonia. For example, at the conference, I presented about the (re)creation of national identity through postage stamps in Australia and Estonia, and this topic came about from a course in my current studies where I wrote a paper about the representation of medicine in postage stamps during the pandemic in Australia. In particular, I analyzed who counts as a so-called “front line hero” in a recent stamp issue in Australia honoring those that have served the front-line throughout the COVID-19 crisis.  As a psychologist, I was interested to see that, of the health professionals who were depicted in this stamp issue, psychologists were not included, despite the fact that psychologists continued to work throughout the pandemic. Postage stamps, thus, say something about who or what is, or should be, valued more in society. This led me to look further into what “matters” in representation in national stamp issues and compare Australia and Estonia. The results of my research so far show that ethno-national themes are more prominent in Estonia and other national-related themes such as nature are more salient in Australia. I was extremely pleased to be able to talk about this at the Seattle conference and get feedback from other attendees and I look forward to furthering my research in the area.

I am very grateful to the AABS for providing me with funding to help me attend the Seattle conference. Not only has this allowed me to continue my connection with the field, it also brings Australian and Australasian Baltic studies closer to mainline activities in the US. I am the president of the Australasian chapter of the AABS and maintaining a presence at US conferences is extremely important to me. It allows me to report to local Australian scholars on what is happening in the AABS in the US, encourage Australian/Australasian scholars to participate in future US (and European) conferences, as well as brings Baltic scholars from around the world to our conferences in Australia. Thank you for your support!

Delaney Skerrett

Delaney Skerrett has a PhD in applied linguistics from The University of Queensland. The thesis focused on contemporary language policy issues in Estonia. His other degrees include a Master of Arts majoring in Baltic Studies from the University of Tartu and a Master of Professional Psychology from the Australian Catholic University. He is currently a registered psychologist in private practice and is studying medical anthropology through the Australian National University.

Siobhán Hearne

Paper title: “Broadcasting Communist Morality in the Brezhnev Era: Sex Education and Mass Media in Latvia”

I am incredibly grateful to AABS for awarding me an early career scholar travel grant in order to participate in the 28th Biennial AABS Conference at the University of Washington. I was particularly excited to attend this event as it was my first ever AABS conference, and it did not disappoint. Across three days, I attended panels on a wide range of themes and learned about new research in gender studies, history, linguistics, literature, and sociology. The breadth and diversity of the programme was truly impressive, and I benefitted enormously from engaging with colleagues both within and outside my own discipline. As well as intellectual stimulation, the conference also provided many opportunities to catch up with colleagues from across Europe and North America.

At the conference, I presented on two panels. The first ‘Beyond Stagnation: Perspectives from the Brezhnev-Era Baltic Republics’ examined the social, cultural, and political history of the Baltic republics in the 1960s-1980s, with the aim of moving beyond discussions of economic stagnation to provide a richer and more nuanced picture of the late Soviet Union. My colleague Michael Loader and I decided to put together this panel after attending the Conference for Baltic Studies in Europe at Uppsala University in September 2021. We invited Airi Uuna from the University of Tallinn to join us after listening to her wonderful paper on Soviet Estonian advertising at CBSE. On this panel, I presented a paper entitled ‘Broadcasting Communist Morality in the Brezhnev Era: Sex Education and Mass Media in Latvia’, in which I argued that the Brezhnev era was categorised by significant shifts in sex policy, particularly as medical experts in Latvia looked to technologies of mass communication to communicate ideas about sex and sexual health that would directly serve state goals. I was pleased that our panel was very well attended, which made for a lively discussion session following the presentations.

The second panel I participated in was to mark the publication of Defining Latvia: Recent Explorations in History, Culture, and Politics (Central European University Press, 2022), a volume that I co-edited with Michael Loader and Matthew Kott. It was wonderful to come together with three of the other contributors to the volume (Michael Loader, Harry Merritt, and Daunis Auers) to launch the book in-person at AABS 2022, especially because the publication of the volume was generously supported by an AABS book subvention grant. Thanks to a lively audience, our book panel was marked by a rich and lengthy discussion about the volume and future avenues for research. 

I would like to thank the conference organisers for all their hard work in putting together such a wonderful event. I am incredibly grateful to AABS for providing this funding for students and early career researchers, without which I would not have been able to attend AABS 2022.

Siobhán Hearne at AABS 2022 in Seattle, Washington

Siobhán Hearne is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham University in the UK. Her research focuses broadly on gender and sexuality in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, with a particular focus on the Baltic provinces and republics. Her first book, Policing Prostitution: Regulating the Lower Classes in the Late Russian Empire, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. She is also one of the editors of Defining Latvia: Recent Explorations in History, Culture, and Politics (CEU Press, 2022).

AABS 2022

The 28th Biennial AABS Conference “Baltic Studies at a Crossroads” May 27–29, 2022, Seattle, WA