This fall Courtney Doucette, ’04, will begin her academic year studying at the European University of St. Petersburg, Russia as a Fulbright Fellow. Doucette, a history and Russian major, will be studying to receive the university’s one-year International Master’s in Russian Studies, which includes course work in history, sociology, art, and anthropology. While it is not typical for Fulbright Fellows to earn a degree during their time abroad, all Fulbright Fellows are required to undertake an independent research project. Doucette will be researching a new historical trend in post-Soviet Russia, the reinterpretation of Soviet-era history. According to Doucette’s Fulbright proposal, since Marx argued that history “was inevitably moving closer to a Communist utopia,” the Soviet government “like most totalitarian regimes, intentionally lied about what went on in the Soviet Union.” Furthermore, Doucette wrote, “Since there is now strong evidence that suggests events of the Soviet era played out differently than the Party claimed, and since a new political regime whose power is to some extent based on its ability to disprove the Communist Party’s view of history has come to power, there is a need to radically reinterpret and rewrite history in Russia.”
Doucette will be taking a two-pronged approach to her independent research of Russian historical revision. First, she will analyze primary documents in order to ascertain the effect the Soviet government had on Russian history books and how the post-Soviet Russian government has rewritten this history. Second, Doucette will learn about the more personal impact of Russian historical revision by interacting with the population of St. Petersburg. She plans on observing at primary and secondary schools in order to understand how young Russians learn and understand history. Doucette will also learn about the historical perspective of older Russians by working with St. Petersburg’s non-profit organization Memorial, which, according to Doucette’s proposal, “records the experiences of victims of Stalinism.”
While she came to Lawrence already decided on majoring in history, Doucette said in an interview with The Lawrentian, “My interest in Russian history has been very serendipitous.” She entered Lawrence planning to focus on American history, and, since she was interested in learning Russian, Doucette also took some Russian language courses. Her newfound interest in Russian language and culture led Doucette to help found the Russian and East European Club at Lawrence, enroll in intensive summer language courses at Indiana University and Middlebury College, and, during her junior year, study for a semester in Krasnodar, Russia. “In the end, I found that my interest in history and my interest in Russian could come together,” Doucette said, “which they do in [the Fulbright] project,” adding, “I get so much out of traveling. I decided that after four years of books, I’d go out into the world again – and the Fulbright is the means for me to do that – to go out and learn about another culture and learn another language.”
Following her year as a Fulbright Fellow, Doucette plans on enrolling in a Ph.D. program in Russian history and eventually “teach Russian history at the collegiate level.