PULLMAN – Russians are reacquainting themselves with some of their history, thanks to a WSU professor’s research and book that have inspired a popular museum exhibit in the city of Vladivostok.
“Eleanor L. Pray’s Letters from Vladivostok, 1894-1930,” by Birgitta Ingemanson, professor in foreign languages and cultures, recently was published in Russian in a 450-page hardback edition. It includes more than 100 photos from Pray’s albums.
Pray was an American who lived in Vladivostok through war and revolution and into the Soviet period. She helped her family run “Smith’s American Store,” and her husband was store manager and later a consul official.
The regional history museum in Vladivostok has put together an exhibit that includes photos, sound recordings from Russian life, readings and hand-written excerpts from Pray’s letters.
“The exhibit recreates an audial, visual and, especially, an emotional portrait of old Vladivostok,” Ingemanson said. It will be open to the public until March.
The book and exhibit offer insights into a period of history when Soviet rule shut down most independent merchants, and many documents were destroyed. Ingemanson’s work is helping uncover some of the history of the city’s early bourgeoisie of Russian, German, Scandinavian and American merchants, consuls and officers.
“Both the exhibit and book have received overwhelmingly favorable reviews in the Russian media,” Ingemanson said. Both were featured in late November in the annual International Book Fair in Moscow.
“It is very unusual that Russian publishing-houses other than those from Moscow and St. Petersburg would be represented at the fair,” she said. Her book is published by Rubezh in the Russian Far East.
Ingemanson’s research focuses on the history of Vladivostok, 1890s-1930, especially on the life of the foreign merchants. She serves at WSU as the Marianna Merritt and Donald S. Matteson Distinguished Professor of Foreign Languages and Cultures.
See a 2003 article about Ingemanson and Pray from Washington State Magazine ONLINE