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A Unique and Topical Work of Research

Eine Einzigartige, Aktuelle Forschungsarbeit

Paulsen, Nina. "A Unique and Topical Work of Research." Volk auf dem Weg, January 2008, 23.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English
is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


Elena Seifert with her monograph

"The sad state which our literature entered due to the war's consequences might have let it slide into a mere detail of fiction, but instead it was transformed it into a phenomenon. Although Soviet dogma did not actually destroy the literature of the German-Russians, it decidedly mutilated it," states Elena Seifert (34), literature researcher, critic, writer of prose, poetess and author of children's books.

The lecturer at the State University at Karaganda is also the recipient of a series of competitive literary prizes, author of several monographs, several collected volumes and literature almanacs. Recently she completed her latest work, a 491-page dissertation on the topic "Processes of Determining Forms of the Poetry of German-Russians of the 2nd Half of the 20th Century to the early 21st Century" [translated title]. Citing numerous examples, she demonstrates that "...literature is able to mirror an entire ethnic world view in toto, and its various forms can mirror specific fragments of that ethnicity."

"The German-Russians are a phenomenon that has not yet been really fully analyzed by scientific process. The difficulty of grasping its imp rot comes from the ambiguous identification or self-identity of the German-Russians" -- this being the justifiable starting point of her study.

Elena Seifert personally feels drawn toward Russian as well as the German culture. Very early on she was interested in books. Her maternal grandfather and her father, a passionate reader and lover of poetry, had compiled an enviable home library. Thus Elena grew up in an educated environment of a couple made up of a female doctor and an engineer -- as a free spirit who will not be restricted.

At three years of age she learned to read, at seven she was fashioning her first hand-written small book, naturally also illustrated by herself. As a pupil she began to write stories; pamphlets containing her literary impressions would circulate from pupil to pupil

Ever since her studies in philology, Elena Seifert has been involved in a process of research, constantly in search of new challenges. Her latest study became one of those challenges. Even ahead of her doctoral work, this literary researcher was working on getting close to complex topics, again and again attempting to put into words various aspects of German-Russian literature -- in the form of book critiques, portraits of authors and notes on different theoretical questions. Even as a lecturer, one who loves to work with young people, she began to approach the topic of the dissertation by conducting a special course, "German-Russian writers: an ethnic world view and processes of determining forms," for which she collected materials for nearly eight years.

For more than eight years she has busied herself with researching the literature of German-Russians; her ideas emanated from the actual research material and, in the course of analysis, have crystallized even more strongly. She delved into the topic of her dissertation perhaps more intensively than anyone else before her.

Until now, the genres have never been analyzed in the context of an ethnic world view and key nationalist concepts. In this, Elena plugs not only one gap by considering the literature of German-Russians as a sovereign phenomenon with artistic potential.

Ahead of the current work, she published more than 86 pieces of work on the question of genres and a solid 70 articles on the German-Russian problem. Hundreds of people were interviewed during the course of the study, and she received valuable information from dozens of people . The researcher poured through 711 individual and collection volumes of nearly 400 German-Russian authors, and she had another 575 sources at her disposal.

The most important points of her dissertation were presented by Elena Seifert at more than 26 scientific conferences, most recently at the 6th Forum of the German Encounter Centers toward the end of 2007 in Moscow, where she spoke on the topic of "Modern Literature of the German-Russians as a Factor of Self-Identification."

In her dissertation, the researcher has attempted, via analysis of their genre landscape of their poetry, to get close to their mentality. According to Elena Seifert, the literature of the German-Russians presents a multi-faceted and relation-rich landscape of their self-identification and self-organization. Their mentality has deeply impressed the literature of the German-Russians.

The literary critic Herold Berger of Almaty, Kazakhstan calls her study a "unique, topical work of research, which gives strong impulses to the development of literature that, through the vicissitudes of fate, stands at the crossroads of the spirit."

During the Congress of Germans in Almaty in early December of 2007, Dr. Christoph Bergner, official representative of the Federal government for Aussiedler problems and national minorities, decorated several German Kazakhs with certificates of merit for their "outstanding contribution to the maintenance and development of the German ethnic in Kazakhstan." The young Elena Seifert was among them.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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