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Natalie Kononenko was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany in 1946. She came to the United States in 1951. She grew up in New Jersey and attended University at Cornell, moving on to Radcliffe College and then on to Harvard University for graduate work. She received her PhD from Harvard University in Slavic and Near Eastern Languages, Literatures, and Folklore. She performed her PhD research in Eastern Turkey. She taught Russian Language and Slavic Folklore, and served as Assistant Dean and Chair of the Slavic Department at the University of Virginia. She led some of the first student groups to the USSR in the 1970-1980s. In 1987 she was one of the first US scholars to be allowed outside of Moscow. She lived three months in a hotel room in Kyiv doing archival research at the University and at the Academy of Sciences. This research lead to the publication of "Ukrainian Minstrels: And the Blind Shall Sing," Armonk, New York and London, England: M.E. Sharpe, 1998. After the break-up of the USSR Natalie started to do folklore research in rural Ukraine. From 1998 she visited many villages in Central Ukraine and recorded over 200 hours of interviews. This research lead to a soundfile database (see http://www.artsrn.ualberta.ca/UkraineAudio/). It has also produced many articles and will be used in a book on Ukrainian ritual.
In 2004 she was recruited as Professor and Kule Chair in Ukrainian Ethnography, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta. In 2007 she published "Slavic Folklore: A Handbook," Westport and London: Greenwood Press. She served as editor of Folklorica, the Journal of the Slavic and East European Folklore Association for 5 years. This journal was internationally recognized and was instrumental in re-establishing the dialogue between folklore scholars in the former Soviet Union and their colleagues in the West.
Dr. Kononenko teaches folklore and applied folklore classes at the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, for example, Folklore and Internet, Folklore and Film, Folklore and Animation, as well as research seminar where advanced students work in their communities to produce big documentation projects such as videos of important festivals. She is involved in two big research projects. The Sanctuary project, where Natalie works together with John-Paul Himka and Frances Swyripa, documents Byzantine rite sacral heritage on the Canadian prairies. The second project is broadly based on the use of technology in education.