I’m Courtney Doucette. I’m from Racine, Wisconsin, where my family currently resides, though I moved around the Midwest close to fifteen times while growing up. I also spent my junior year of high school abroad in Okinawa, Japan as a Rotary Exchange student. I recently graduated from Lawrence University (Appleton, WI), where I majored in history and Russian.
I knew when I started college that I would major in history, but my second major is still a bit of a surprise to me. I began studying Russian freshman year with hopes of reading Dostoyevsky in the original. After one trimester of case endings, aspect and motion verbs, I realized that introductory Russian would not get me through the original Crime and Punishment. But I was not discouraged, and I continued studying Russian for other reasons. First, I was simply intrigued by the language – grammar and all. Then I found a practical application for my language skills in Russian history classes.
This year my interest in Russian history has brought me to St. Petersburg, where I’ll study how Russians are rewriting history since the fall of the Soviet Union. By examining textbooks and observing history classes, I hope to shed light on the relationship between historical narratives and Russian politics. I’m also interested in how Russians relate to history as a body of knowledge after the story of the past is changed, and I’ll explore this question in conversations everywhere from public transportation to my host family’s kitchen. I’ll carry out this research while working towards a master’s degree at the European University.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of my Fulbright project is that it brings together my academic interests in Russian and history and builds on a deep personal interest in how history informs us of our surroundings. After moving around so many times as a child and living in Okinawa, I came to believe that one can understand one’s surroundings better through history. I am still basically convicted of this principle, but I suspect that a year in Russia -- a year of simultaneously watching the historical writing process in full swing and people’s reactions to that process -- will challenge me to articulate and develop why and how I think history provides a valuable source of knowledge.