“SUSU Gave Me Fundamental Knowledge.” Interview with a Faculty of History Graduate

Thousands of specialists in most various professions graduate from South Ural State University every year. Graduate of the Faculty of History Denis Kuznetsov, who works as a senior research fellow at the State Museum of Local History, shares on why he chose the Faculty of History, what the years of studying were like, and what he is grateful to the university for.

− Why in due time you chose SUSU and your speciality?

− In 2007 I was admitted for the state-funded training at the Faculty of History. One can say that it was not I chose SUSU, but SUSU chose me. However, I learned about the university while still at school. In the 11th grade I enrolled into and attended elective courses on History at SUSU, held by Associate Professor of the Department of History Oleg Krivonogov, so I can call him my first true teacher. Why I chose this very speciality? This goes back to the days of my youth, when I clearly realized that understanding of historical processes does not make one a historian, but I really wished to become one. Put simply, I’ve always liked this science, so I enrolled into the History speciality, and keep studying it still.

− What were your years of studying like? Were there any difficulties, and did you have any favourite activities?

− I remember that at one of the first classes during the first year of studies the today’s Dean of the Faculty Igor Sibiryakov said that we would never be able to earn big money working in this speciality, but we will get huge pleasure from the process of learning. Probably, these words can be considered a keynote of my whole time spent studying at SUSU. It was difficult during the first years of studying, and frankly, I just wanted to idle around, and was actually doing it. I barely managed to study and pass exams in non-major disciplines, so like everyone else, I had to do re-sits. But I immensely loved attending classes held by Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor Viktor Balakin, who taught me “think like a historian”. By the way, during the same first year of studies I realized that I was not really into archaeology, though I participated in expeditions several times. Archaeology is more of a way of life, than just a profession, though someone may not agree with me in that.

− When did you come to understand that you did right to choose this speciality?

− Any student sooner or later has an insight, and then s/he either crosses the Rubicon in his/her speciality and becomes part of it, or the doubts win, and s/he chooses something else. I crossed my Rubicon in the very beginning of my path at SUSU, but the full realization happened during the third year of studies, when they started teaching us real and tangible historical disciplines, such as Historiography and Source Studies. Here the issue is not whether you will pass or not pass the exam, it’s whether you are interested in it or not. These disciplines are flesh and blood of the science of History, you can’t become a historian if you do not understand them. You automatically start thinking not in categories of dates and events, but in historical approaches to the stated dates and events, you figure out information in the sources, and reveal cause-and-effect relations. So, take it or leave it, but if you’re really into it, believe that you can master it. That is when I understood that there was no turning back, that I had to go all the way down.

− What do you do now?

− Museum is a wonderful cultural space, here you can fulfill your potential from a completely unexpected angle. You leave your mid-20th century stereotypic idea of a museum once you see how different things are today, see the evolution the museum staff have come through. Of course, in Chelyabinsk it is in large part thanks to Director of the State Museum of Local History Vladimir Bogdanovsky. The things I learned in Alma Mater, did not just come useful, I use them to the maximum every hour every day. SUSU gave me the foundation of knowledge, and the museum keeps building this house brick by brick every day. And it’s not even that important what exactly I do in the current moment of time, be it developing a concept of an exhibition, or holding an excursion, or writing a scientific paper. I carry the fundamentals of knowledge given to me by SUSU everywhere with me.

− What competences does one need have to become a professional in the chosen field?

− Any sensible specialist will tell you that you are not born a professional, you can only become one. Any job, any work is a test for a person’s character, and you can only overcome all difficulties by working. Moreover, you need to study every day, and it’s not just mere words. Imagine a doctor who does not read new literature on his speciality, doesn’t know about new trends in treating patients, doesn’t know how to use modern equipment, but uses the methods and techniques which are twenty or thirty years old. This is terrible! In the same way any other profession requires constant learning. You must not miss novelties, you must not fear them, even if these new things may seem crude or ridiculous, they may become a trend already in the near future. At the same time you need develop critical thinking, so that you could approach these new things with a degree of skepticism. I have had and sill have good teachers, I look up to them so that I do not wander of my course. And in general, doing my job every day and preserving my sense of humour is the main thing for me.

− What did the university teach you? What are you grateful to it for?

− The university gave me fundamental knowledge, the basics, to which I have subsequently added skills required for life. For some people a school might be enough, others need to study in a university, and there are people who can’t reach self-identification in this world during their whole lifetime. For me SUSU is one of the stops, but my train wouldn’t have moved further without it. I am grateful to all my teachers.

Marina Kovyazina
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