Fulbright scholar studies Mississippi on foot

Two women have set out on foot traveling across the land of catfish and sweet tea for six weeks.

Beginning Oct. 13 at the Alabama border on the Natchez Trace, Hanna Miller and Katya Korableva will make their way to the Gulf, over a 300-mile journey. They traveled through Brookhaven Friday on their journey.

“We are interviewing Mississippi about their perceptions of Russia and how they define themselves within their own pre-existing stereotypes,” said Miller.

Miller is a Fulbright Scholarship recipient who grew up in Mississippi and studied abroad in Russia. She rode across the country on the train asking Russians about their perceptions of Mississippi and how they would like to be perceived by others. The walk across Mississippi is the second leg of the work she began there.

Miller is joined on her trip by Korableva, a Russian teacher whom she met on her journey abroad. When Miller told Korableva about her plans in Mississippi, she jumped at the chance to be a part of the adventure. The two met three years ago in Russia while Miller was studying abroad.

Korableva said the two continued running into each other after school and began to develop common interests about how their cultures reflected each other.

“I think a common theme between Russia and Mississippi is that things in our past are our predecessors and take precedent in people’s perceptions,” said Miller. “When we ask Americans or even foreigners about Mississippi there are some hard parts in our past that come up from the Civil War to the 1960s. So much of the Russian identity is the Soviet Union, but right now there are so many lovely and interesting things going on in that country that are worth while.”

Their project is called Mississippi Heard, and they are looking to get commentary from a variety of people across the state. They are camping and staying in the homes of volunteers. The women are using social media and word of mouth to find people who are willing to host them and willing to be interviewed by them.

“Mississippi is so Related. As soon as we stay with one person, lets say we had good experience with us, they call all their relatives down south or classmates, everyone they know. Sometimes there are some options,” said Korableva.

In Brookhaven, the two stayed with Mary B and Pete Corkin, who are related to a woman they stayed with in Tupelo, who is associated with Miller’s university.

During the start of their expedition, neither one of the women had spent time traveling with a campaign. Both said this experience is very different than their usual travels, and they have become so close many of the people they encounter think they are sisters.

“We really like the idea of pilgrimage and just exploring the process. Being Russian I don’t drive. I’m not a big fan of cars, so this seemed like an interesting idea to walk in the place where no one walks,” said Korableva. “I truly love that there is a way to research something very closely and very seriously outside of school. Just doing it for yourself without an institution behind you.”

Right now, they are planning for their journey through the state to end Nov. 22 in Gulfport. The two are hoping to plan a celebration and invite all the people they have met on their journey, but nothing is official at the moment.

To follow Miller and Korableva’s journey visit ms-modern.com, facebook.com/mississippiheard or nounrussian.blogspot.com. To be interviewed for Mississippi Heard email Mississippiheard@gmail.com.