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Yulia Pyankova, M.A.

Yulia Pyankova, M.A.

PhD Candidate in History


Universität Regensburg
Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies
Landshuter Straße 4
93047 Regensburg

Doctoral Project

Kill the Will: Remembering Democratic Voices in Putin’s Russia.

This project analyses performative commemorations of political murders developed in a harsh environment of social and political life in modern Russia. There were seventeen years of building Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime between the deaths of democratic politicians Galina Starovoytova (1998) and Boris Nemtsov (2015). The killing of independent journalist Anna Politkovskaya (2006) was a milestone in restricting civil rights and freedom of speech in a society that was only awakened after years behind the Iron Curtain. These figures became symbols of Russian consciousness and fighting for freedom. Each death divided the society thinking about what had or had not been done to protect and support them. This split reflected opposite ways of commemoration and solidarity: identifying and disidentifying with the victim (Michael Rothberg, The implicated Subject. Beyond Victims and Penetrators, 2019). Using this approach to analyse commemorative practices by Russian and foreign actors: from memorial plaques and tombstones to static or reappearing street memorials; from stage performances to annual meetings at memorial sites dedicated to victims of political repressions; from funeral reports to documentaries and awards named after the deceased. They transform the communicative memory of the victims’ lives and murders into cultural memory, aiming to preserve their heritage and establish profound bounds between the dead and the future generations. Exploring how memory is preserved in rituals, art, daily performativity, or the appropriation and renaming of original topography of sites of memory (e.g., the bridge where Boris Nemtsov was killed has its mobile memorial and is unofficially named after him; a flowerbed in front of Novaya Gazeta newspaper office transformed into “Anna’s garden”). Physical space can be restricted but memory keeps living in online archives: personal websites serving as ambivalent storages that have mobility but can be put under access constraints. This complex entanglement of actions and memoryscapes not only contemplates atrocities of unsolved crimes and demands justice but also constitutes a community saying: we exist, we remember, we remind.

Curriculum Vitae

Yulia Pyankova studied Art History and Liberal Arts at Saint Petersburg State University, Bard College in the US and Germany (2013-17). During her study, Yulia has been working as an online tutor in English and academic writing (in Russian). She received additional qualifications in gender studies and teaching Russian as a foreign language. In addition, she is interested in creative writing and enrolled as an editorial assistant intern in one of the New York-based art magazines. Since April 2022, Yulia has been a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of East and Southeast European Studies. Her Ph.D. thesis encompasses different research interests, including memory and trauma studies, art history, and cultural sociology.

Positions, Assignments and Membership

Member of the Study Group "Ethnographic Methods and Research Ethics"