Above: Andrey Levitskiy (right) receiving his award from Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Oxford (left) (photo: joe singh - snaprockandpop)
Balliol DPhil student Andrey Levitskiy has won an award in Oxford University’s Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards. The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at Keble College, Oxford, on 10 July 2019, hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson. Andrey, who is reading for a DPhil in Medieval and Modern Languages (French and Russian), was recognised in the Early Career Researcher Awards category for his engagement work, which has informed and inspired the public about his research.
The year 2017 was both the centenary of the Russian Revolution and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. This created an ideal moment to offer the public a new insight into how the dramatic political, social and cultural shifts of 1917 galvanised religious change and laid the groundwork for the so-called ‘Russian Reformation’. Andrey says: ‘I pitched a reimagining of this crucial moment in Russian and global history to the BBC as the clash between the traditional and the modern in the country’s religious landscape. I wanted to tell a largely unknown and personal story of the people who championed a new reformative outlook for the Russian church.’
The pitch was successful and Andrey went on to create an hour-long BBC World Service radio documentary, A New Church for the Red State, which he co-presented with the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt. This led to the discovery of letters and diaries and meeting the last living descendants of the founder of this reform movement; their memoirs and unique family archive form the centrepiece of the documentary. The documentary takes listeners on a journey through the streets of Moscow and St Petersburg, where the main story unfolded, to Lambeth Palace with its rich library, uncovering new documents and bringing Andrey’s pioneering research to wider public audiences. It premiered in the UK in October 2017, was repeated in different time zones and reached an audience of 66 million people worldwide. The online version on BBC iPlayer (downloadable here) and the documentary podcast on iTunes reached 19 million people.
The Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards have three categories: Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity, and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome. Professor Alison Woollard, Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research, University of Oxford says: ’These awards highlight the many ways that Oxford’s researchers engage with the public. This includes informing and empowering people by sharing research findings; working in partnership with communities to shape research and enabling citizens to take part in the research by collecting and analysing data through Citizen Science. These winning projects also demonstrate that excellence in engagement results in a “win-win” for both researchers and publics alike.’