The 2019 ESEH Research Grants Awarded

The 2019 ESEH Research Grants Awarded

Anna Varfolomeeva and Katreen Kleemann received the ESEH research grants in 2019



Anna Varfolomeeva is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy at the Central European University.  

Her project “The narratives of hardship and glory: gender dimensions of stoneworking in Northwestern Russia” analyzes gendered historical narratives on stoneworking industry in Karelia in Soviet and post-Soviet period. It will result in an in-depth study which questions the established view on mining as a highly masculinized industry. The project is based on two months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Republic of Karelia in summer 2019 which includes interviews with current and former mining workers in Prionezhskii district of Karelia as well as the analysis of local newspaper materials of Soviet and post-Soviet period. The project addresses the current gap in academic studies of gender, environment and technology in historical narratives and illustrates the importance of gender research within the field of environmental history. It also contributes to a larger field of environmental history of European and Russian North.



Katrin Kleemann is a doctoral candidate at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at LMU Munich in Germany; she studies environmental history and geology. Katrin receives a fellowship from the Andrea von Braun Foundation, which supports interdisciplinary research. More information on Katrin and her project can be found on her university’s website, her personal website, and her Twitter feed.

Her project is titled “A Mist Connection: The Icelandic Laki Fissure Eruption of 1783”.

“When Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 and brought international air traffic to a halt, it became a well-known fact that Iceland is home to active volcanoes. The Laki fissure is not well known outside of Iceland. It is not a cone-shaped volcano, but a 27 km long fissure located in the remote Icelandic highlands. The Laki fissure eruption lasted eight months and produced the largest amount of lava of any eruption in the last millennium.

The Laki fissure eruption is special as the released gases were transported towards mainland Europe via the jet stream, where they became visible as well as smellable as a sulfuric dry fog, which was also referred to as haze or mist. In Europe, the summer of 1783 was characterized by several other natural phenomena—only some of which were related to the eruption—such as blood-red sunrises and sunsets, an unusual number of thunderstorms, the appearance of comets, and earthquakes to name but a few. News about an Icelandic volcanic eruption, however, reached Europe only after the fog had vanished again. Thus, the contemporaries in the summer of 1783 were left alone to speculate about the cause of the unusual weather. Europe was in the midst of the Enlightenment during this time, and many theories were developed, but an Icelandic volcanic eruption was only one theory among many.

My project will go far beyond the actual Laki fissure in Iceland to reconstruct and analyze the rich cultural understanding of the contemporaries in the German Territories, Britain, and North America. I plan to analyze the impacts the Laki fissure eruption had on the northern hemisphere, if and to what extent these were interpreted differently in different regions, and which explanation strategies and coping mechanisms were developed.

Until now the eruption has mainly been studied by volcanologists and geologists, it has not yet been studied extensively by historians. This project is primarily a contribution to the field of environmental history. The historical analysis, the incorporation of different fields, including an interdisciplinary approach of environmental history and geology, make this project unique.”

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