UTREES is a pleasing acronym for University Theses in Russian, Soviet, and East European Studies, and like the trees with which it is homophonic, this bibliography is both venerable and steadily growing. For the last fifteen years it has been an online database, and has doubled in size since the 2008 printed snapshot, edited by Gregory Walker and J. S. G. Simmons. Yew trees do not reliably have tree rings as a proof of age, which is why there's one in Scotland for which age estimates range from 1500 to 9000 years. But UTREES does get a trustworthy annual update, and this is that time. Gregory, who has continued to curate the database since 2009, writes:
UTREES, the bibliographical database listing British and Irish doctoral theses in Russian and East European studies, began its fifteenth year with an update that added records for another 200 theses. The total has now reached 6,578, almost doubling since the launch of UTREES in 2009. The database is supported by the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) and is free to view at www.utrees.mhra.org.uk.
The 200 new entries come from 61 institutions (including three in the Irish Republic). The range of topics treated remains as varied as ever, extending from organised crime in Romania to an analysis of Russian sign language, and from the music of Slovak Roma to the sexual revolution in Poland. There are eleven theses dealing with Ukraine and – rather surprisingly – twelve with Kazakhstan. Nearly all the entries from British universities provide a link to the British Library’s EThOS database, allowing access to an abstract and/or the full text of the thesis.
Gregory is now retiring as UTREES editor, after a lifetime of distinguished work in Slavonic bibliography: the field of Slavonic studies owes him a debt of gratitude. We are very pleased to announce that Dr Olga Topol of the British Library (contact: Olga.Topol@bl.uk) has succeeded Gregory as UTREES editor. What gives yew trees their longevity is an ability to begin afresh with new basal shoots, and the same can be said for all of the best scholarly projects.
But perhaps the other moral here is that Slavonic studies in the UK and Ireland have also grown apace. When the first theses known to UTREES were being written, around 1910, the cultures of Eastern Europe were still all too often seen from without as remote but romantic - The Prisoner of Zenda, Michael Strogoff, and all that: lands ruled by Habsburgs, Ottomans, or Tsars, with mist-covered mountains, country dancing and folk-tales but no maps. A handful of professors would be vaguely considered experts on all of it. What UTREES shows us today is that British academia is finally starting to grapple with the complexity of what is, after all, the homeland of a quarter of a billion people. 200 studies per year, against so many stories, still seems only a beginning. But progress is progress, one thesis at a time.