by: Ilona Friesen
For most of us, the day started early at the train station in Erfurt. From there, we were supposed to take the train to Berlin to catch our flight to bring us to our first destination of the study trip, Saint Petersburg. Four of our group members have already spent one week in Moscow and promised to meet us at our accommodation in “St. Pete”. During our landing, we could see that the rivers were still partly frozen. While spring has arrived in Germany already, winter still has its firm grip on Russia. At the airport, we were picked up and heartily greeted by Professor Ettrich and two out of our four Russian peers, Anastasia and Luba, and were brought to our hostel “Best Corner”, which is located in the center of Saint Petersburg. During the cab ride, I enjoyed having the first possibility to practice my Russian with Anastasia, and she explained to me that all of our Russian fellow students study at Saint Petersburg State University.
Saint Petersburg welcomed us with sunny weather, yet still, from my impression the city has a grey flair to it. Without a doubt it has many beautiful buildings, but I think they are only a shadow of the wonderful city it once must have been. We quickly unpacked our stuff in the hostel and were accompanied to the Center for Independent Social Research, where all of our lectures will take place during the next three days. There is no sign at the outside of the building which could give you a hint that CISR is located there, but it is a really nice office, which is very light and open. According to Oksana Karpenko, the Executive Director of CISR, who gave us a short introduction about CISR work and history, the open structure of the rooms in the office represents the working of the organization. Oksana has been a member of CISR since its foundation in the beginning of the 1990s. She pointed out that CISR could conduct independent research because it solely finances itself with international funds and does not receive any state finances. Laboratorium, which is one of the highest ranking academic journals in Russia in the field of Social Sciences, is published by CISR. Her offer to send our own research papers for a possible publication is very compelling to me. The first contact between HSS participants, Russian peers and CISR employees was deepened during dinner in the cozy kitchen of the Center. To summarize, our first day was a little bit chaotic and exhausting, but very interesting and provided many new thoughts and opportunities. I am looking forward to get the HSS started with the first lecture and group work tomorrow.