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Senior Silvia Veltcheva (Racine, Wis.) is studying the economic struggles and transformations of Bulgaria and Russia.

An International Affairs major, Veltcheva is undertaking the yearlong study in pursuit of departmental honors with the help of adviser Katalin Fabian, assistant professor of government and law.

Fabian has shared her research through numerous articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings. In 2002, she published articles in European Journal of Women’s Studies, Hungarian Studies Review 2002, and a Collegium Budapest-Institute for Advanced Study web site; wrote book reviews published by Canadian-American Slavic Review and Voluntas; and presented papers at Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Toronto, and a conference held by International Studies Association, New Orleans. She has received many honors, awards, and prizes, including grants from the Ford Foundation, the Institute for the Study of World Politics, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and the Institute for International Peace Studies.

Veltcheva explains that after the end of the Cold War, Eastern Europe underwent a huge economic upheaval. She is exploring the attempted move from planned economies to market economies in Bulgaria and Russia.

“I am examining the obstacles that these two countries encountered on the road to democracy, and I am concentrating on issues of privatization and political changes in their respective governments,” she says.

“Silvia had a class with me on Russia and Eastern Europe. That’s where her interest in this topic began,” says Fabian. “She is also of Bulgarian heritage and came to this country in her teens. She has personal knowledge of the issue, speaks the language, and is emotionally involved in the topic. I think now she is learning how to look at this subject from a scholarly angle.”

After writing a research paper on a similar topic, Veltcheva decided to delve further and take on an honors thesis.

“I didn’t previously have the time to look at these problems in depth, and I decided that a thesis would be the perfect opportunity for me to delve into the history of such difficult and very dangerous transformations,” she says. “What really fascinates me about this topic is the enormity of the transition process in these countries, which have existed under the rule of Communism for over 45 years (or, in the case of Russia, 70). The skill and brevity with which those reformist economists and politicians maneuvered their respective states through transitions, at the constant threat of a revolution, are beyond our imagination. What makes this move even more dangerous on the part of Russia is the need to control its nuclear arsenal in the face of civil unrest.”

Veltcheva credits her adviser with helping her to narrow her topic and filter the huge amount of information and sources.

“She is very involved with my thesis and is highly demanding. She really encourages me to be independent,” she says.

“Lafayette definitely encourages such projects, and the reference librarians are always ready to help with finding research materials,” she adds.

Veltcheva is commissioner and secretary for the International Affairs Club, which recently participated in a European Union simulation in Washington, D.C. She serves on the board and is sports coordinator of International Students Association and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most respected undergraduate honors organization in the United States. She studied abroad in Athens, Greece, and through Lafayette’s Alumni Externship program, shadowed Michael Moskow ’59, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank. She learned about the bank and how it operates and met many of the organization’s key players.

Categorized in: Academic News