Monday, June 05, 2017

[488] Federal grant money helps MTSU professor investigate ‘Siberian Seven’ in Russia

MURFREESBORO — An MTSU scholar will go to Russia this summer to conduct research into one of the strangest incidents of the Cold War.

Emily Baran, an assistant professor of history in the College of Liberal Arts, will leave the United States on Saturday, June 10, to investigate the “Siberian Seven,” a group of Pentecostal Christians who sought refuge in the basement of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1978 to avoid persecution by the Soviet regime.

Baran’s two-month stay in Russia is funded by a $6,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. While she already has perused newspapers and other publications in this country, including the papers of the Rev. Billy Graham, Baran will use the trip to visit the State Archive of the Russian Federation.

“It’s a challenge for … historians to get themselves over to the archives where they need to do their research, and this kind of funding is just absolutely essential to doing significant work on topics in the Soviet Union,” Baran said.

In June 1978, eight Pentecostals from two Siberian families made a mad dash for the American Embassy in Moscow in a last-ditch effort to gain religious freedom. One was tackled by Soviet guards, beaten and sent back to Siberia. However, the other seven made it into the building.

This put both countries in a no-win situation. The U.S. could not get the Pentecostals out of the USSR without exit visas, which the Soviets largely refused to grant until the final years of the Soviet Union’s existence.

For the Soviets, the standoff brought increasing world attention to their continuing crackdown on the practice of any religion, especially Christianity. While religious organizations could seek registration with the government, the restrictions that came with registration were so limiting that they were tantamount to banning religion altogether.

“You couldn’t hold religious services in public,” said Baran. “They had to be in a designated house of prayer. You couldn’t perform charity work. You couldn’t proselytize. You couldn’t hold special youth group or children’s activities.”

In 1982, following a hunger strike, one of the “seven” had to be hospitalized. After she recovered, she was returned to her home, but the publicity surrounding her plight finally put pressure on the Soviets to negotiate in good faith. Ultimately, the seven and several dozen other Pentecostals were allowed to leave the USSR in June 1983.

“It touches on a lot of bigger issues, in particular, this transnational movement by Christians in the West, in Europe and the United States, and Soviet Christians to try to work together on issues of human rights and religious freedom behind the Iron Curtain,” Baran said.

While the implications for world and religious history are important to Baran, it is equally important to her to make sure those who endured the ordeal are paramount in her work.

“I think their story is just so compelling on a human level that I want to be able to tell it in a way that doesn’t lose that, that retains a very personal dimension,” she said.

Baran earned her bachelor’s degree from Macalester College in 2003 and her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of North Carolina in 2006 and 2011, respectively. Her areas of expertise include the Soviet Union, the post-Soviet world, religious history, human rights and church-state relations.

[487] Widening project to close portion of Middle Tenn. Blvd. near MTSU for three weeks

Section between East Main and Bell streets to close beginning June 12

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The ongoing widening of Middle Tennessee Boulevard along the MTSU campus will require the section between East Main and Bell streets to be closed for about three weeks beginning Monday, June 12.

The closure is scheduled to last 21 days, with a planned reopening on Monday, July 3, according to the contractor.

Pedestrian traffic at Bell Street and East Main Street will not be affected, but if any work needs to happen in the Bell Street crosswalk, the contractor will have staff available to assist pedestrians. 

The Bell Street entrance to MTSU will be closed to traffic entering campus but will be open for traffic leaving. The Faulkinberry Drive entrance to the campus will remain open.

Although part of Middle Tennessee Boulevard will remain open, drivers are encouraged to use detour routes during this time.

The 30-month, $15.7 million widening project will upgrade the .8-mile section of the thoroughfare between East Main and Greenland Drive. The city of Murfreesboro is overseeing the work, which is expected to be completed by fall 2018.

The enhancement will also include bike lanes, improved sidewalks and lighting, new traffic signals, decorative crosswalks and underground utilities.

The city is sharing project updates through an interactive online map at as well as via the Twitter account, @MTBlvd.

[486] ‘MTSU On the Record’ learns math skills from the ‘unknown student’

MURFREESBORO — The next edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program will examine a clever way to help reduce math anxiety.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Angela Barlow, director of the Mathematics and Science Education Doctoral Program at MTSU, will air from 9:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, June 6, and from 6 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 11, on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and

In “Learning from the Unknown Student,” a report Barlow wrote for the academic journal “Teaching Children Mathematics,” the professor describes how to create a fictional student to introduce problem-solving methods into the classroom.

The “unknown student” could be a real former student, a totally fictional student or a composite of several former students. By telling the class that this “unknown student” tried to solve a problem in a certain way, students can feel free to try it without fear of embarrassment or reprisal.

“What we’ve learned is that when we … show students what to do, then the students just accept that and don’t critically think about it,” said Barlow. “That doesn’t effectively support their learning.”

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to

For more information, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.