|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
"The sad state which our literature entered due
to the war's consequences might have let it slide
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.
Elena Seifert with her monograph
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
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
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.