Olive Coles

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20222023 Forum on Heritage

Olive Coles

Russian and East European Studies; Political Science

CAS, 2023

Olive is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences double majoring in Russian and East European Studies and Political Science. Originally from London, U.K., Olive seeks to explore processes of transition and collapse - examining particularly Soviet concepts of national identity as emblematic of collective past. After spending her past summer in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, she believes that it is within the aftermath of Soviet collapse that can be traced a fragmentation of national selfhood tangible in its effect. Olive is passionate about art history, and seeks to explore the intersection of culture and political development within a wider interpretation of identity. Beyond her studies, she loves to read, run and travel.

Finding the Words: Searching for ‘Truth’ in the Shadows of Soviet Past

Putin’s 2022 ‘special operation’ in Ukraine has worn a number of shifting, and ever-evolving, faces. For the Russian people, this is the ‘war that must not be called a war’: a conflict forbidden in recognition, acknowledgment, and definition, beyond the confines of Putin’s state-condoned vocabulary. Today, themes of death, suffering, and the grotesque, manifest powerfully within Russian culture - aspects of national identity historically obscured and appropriated by the state. This project will explore the proliferation of such languages as instruments of non-violent protest, focusing upon the power of poetic language to challenge, and redefine, political ‘truth.’