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Dr. Kirsti Ekonen has specialized in Russian literature, culture and gender studies. She is the author of the Russian language book on the women writers of Russian Symbolism Tvorets, subekt, zhenshchina (Moscow NLO, 2011) and she is the co-editor and one of the authors of the first Finnish language history of Russian literature Venäläisen kirjallisuuden historia (Gaudeamus – Helsinki University Press, 2011). The book Women and Transformation in Russia, co-edited by her, will be published by Routledge in 2013.
Currently Ekonen is writing the history of the Slavonic Library at the University of Helsinki. The origins of the Library go back to the connection of Finland into the Russian Empire in 1809. Ekonen will place the history of the Library in a large cultural and political context; the history of the organization and the collections of the Library will provide a new angle to discuss the relations between Finland and Russia. The research will take into account even the microhistorical aspects: the biographies, writings and networks of people working in relation to the Slavonic Library will provide detailed information about the two centuries of the Library.One of the persons related to the history of the Slavonic Library was baron Sergei Korff, who worked a short period as a head of the Library. After his death in 1924 the widow Alletta Van Reypen Korff donated Korff's personal book collection to Helsinki University library.
In the Imagined Interregnum research project Ekonen will examine the last year of Sergei Korff's Finnish period. Korff worked at Helsinki Alexandr University from 1905 and in 1907 he became a professor of Russian law and Russian constitutional law. He knew many languages and was internationally active scientist and specialist, he took also initiative for creating a program for professor exchange between Finland and United States. He taught Finnish students in Swedish. In Russian newspapers and journals he wrote positively about Finland during the years of oppression.
After 1917 revolution Korff moved from academy to politics; he became the adjutant of the Russian general governor in the Grand Duchy of Finland. He participated in the negotiations between Finnish politicians and the Provisional Government about the status of Grand Duchy after Nicholas II abdicated. After October 1917 revolution he was forced to flee from Finland. After the European period and a period participating in world politics (like Paris peace conference) he moved to United States. He became a professor of Georgetown and Coulumbia universities, one of the founders of American Soviet studies. During these years he maintained contacts with Finland, for example he corresponded with the former head of the Helsinki University Library Wilhelm Bolin, who sent him information about Sovien Russia and Finland. The correspondence provides material for discussing the Imagined Interregnum, especially the ways how Russian-based scholars established academic and other contacts and how their academic and political aims were intertwined.
Ekonen's work on Korff's Finish years is implemented in close collaboration with the other project member, professor Jevgeni Petrov from St Petersburg State University, who is the biographer of Sergei Korff.