Letter from the Director
by Jim Augerot
Although I have been associated with the REECAS program and the Ellison Center since their inception, I am just beginning to work my way into the rather roomy shoes of my well known predecessor, Steve Hanson, who was so successful in this position that the University has seen fit to put him in charge of all international programs as the new Vice Provost for Global Affairs.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the first edition of the Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies Newsletter in its new electronic format. After 34 years of producing a printed newsletter, we are now transitioning to an online-only version that is “greener,” more interactive and easier to share with friends and colleagues. We hope you enjoy our new look, and encourage you to let us know what you think.
With this issue we welcome new and returning students, faculty and friends back for the start of an academic year that is flavored by reflections on the historic events that occurred in our region 20 years ago. We will be marking the anniversary of 1989 throughout the 2009-10 academic year, and invite you to join us for lectures, films, discussions and other special events. Professor Steve Pfaff's article in this issue of the newsletter, “From Revolution to Reunification: Looking Backward on the East German Wende,” is an excellent exploration of some of those events.
Before the academic year got underway, the Ellison Center co-sponsored a two-day workshop with the Center for West European Studies, the EU Center for Excellence and the Goethe-Institut on “The Fall of the Berlin Wall and Europe's Evolution since 1989.” CWES and REECAS faculty engaged with more than 40 Washington State educators who joined us in discussions, actively participated in an EU simulation and produced lesson plans for their classrooms.
We kicked off the academic year with a visit from Dr. Thomas Graham, a former senior director at the National Security Council for Russia and adviser to President George W. Bush, now with Kissinger Associates, Inc.. Dr. Graham shared his insights on US-Russian relations and current domestic politics in Russia with an intimate group of interested students and faculty. This was followed the next week by the visit of acclaimed historian Stephen Kotkin, who discussed his most recent book, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment.
We were also honored to welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and editor and Emmy Award-winning producer and correspondent Hedrick Smith, who is the author of the books The Russians and The New Russians, among others. Mr. Smith spoke to students about his time as Moscow Bureau Chief in the 1970 and his coverage of the events of 1989. In January, we will sponsor a free screening of “Goodbye Lenin,” a modern classic addressing the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. We will continue this theme with the 16th Annual REECAS Northwest Conference to be held Saturday, April 17, 2009 at Western Washington University. We are excited to be partnering with our colleagues to the north and look forward to seeing both friends and new faces in Bellingham this spring. You can find the call for papers for the conference in this newsletter.
A year of Jackson School Centennial celebrations culminated in May with a day of career workshops, returning alumni and the Centennial Gala at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Governor Christine Gregoire gave the keynote address to a room packed with alumni, faculty, staff and friends. To commemorate the event, the Jackson School released a history of the school featuring long-unseen photographs and highlights from the first 100 years. Throughout the year, our Center contributed to the centennial celebrations with events looking at the Russian Far East, including Mikhail Alexeev's talk on Russia's role in the Arctic and Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer's Treadgold Memorial Lecture “Warning of Global Warming? The Intertwined Nature of Ecological, Cultural and Political Change in the Far East of Siberia.”
A highlight of our East European studies program was the campus visit of President Valdis Zatlers of Latvia in late spring. The president spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty and representatives of the heritage community on “Latvia: Ally and Partner in Europe.” Another exciting event was a two-day symposium co-sponsored with CWES titled “Europe's Near Abroad: EU External Relations and the Future of the Black Sea Region.” The symposium brought internationally acclaimed authors, academics and analysts to campus to discuss the EU's relations with Ukraine, Georgia, Russia and more. The symposium kicked off with a public lecture on the history of the Caucasus by Georgetown University professor Charles King.
In Central Asian studies, the Ellison Center hosted a visit by Her Excellency Zamira Sydykova, Ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic to the US. The Center also received a grant from the US Department of State to look into water usage in the region and forge new links between water experts in Seattle and Central Asia.
In Ellison Center news, historian Glennys Young's excellent nine-year stewardship of the Treadgold Papers has come to an end. On behalf of the Center, I would like to thank Glennys for her fine service. We are grateful for her dedication and contribution to this series and the memory of Donald Treadgold. While we will miss her expertise, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Laada Bilaniuk from the UW Department of Anthropology as the new Treadgold Editor. We look forward to a successful continuation of this tradition.
I am also pleased to welcome as a new Affiliate Member of REECAS Dr. Zbigniew Bochniarz, whose teaching and research focus on the microeconomics of competition, strategies for sustainable development, and the economic, environmental and social aspects of sustainability during the transformation processes in post-communist countries. Bochniarz holds a PhD and Master's in Economics from the Warsaw School of Economics in Poland. He also holds an honorary doctorate from the Miskolc University in Hungary.
Meanwhile, we have welcomed nine new MA students to the program, and they are an fascinating and varied group with interests in museology, natural resources, international relations, ethnicity and history. The areas of our region are also well represented in the interests of our new students, including Russia (3), the Balkans (3), Ukraine (1), Central Asia (2). Our second year students returned to campus after completing language programs, internships and research trips in Russia, Croatia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and other locales.
We are also pleased to report that more than 30 UW students visited Russia and Georgia on Exploration Seminars this fall. Professor Valentina Zaitseva (Slavic Languages and Literatures) took a group to Sochi to explore the theory and practice of interpersonal and cross-cultural communication in the Russian context. Professor Christopher Campbell (Urban Design and Planning) led a return trip on the Trans-Siberian railroad to explore the changing world of the Russian city through the lens of architecture and urban design. And Professor James West (Slavic Languages and Literatures) and Mary Childs (Comparative Literature) traveled with a group to Georgia to explore Georgian history and culture as keys to understanding its current state of crisis and transition.
Once again we are proud to host a new Russell Fellow this fall. Ketevan Iremashvili, a PhD student in insurance law and clinical director at Tbilisi State University's Faculty of Law, is here researching clinical legal education with the goal of further developing the clinical programs at her university and raising general awareness of legal clinics in Georgia. We look forward to additional fellows arriving in January.
Outreach to K-14 educators continues to be a crucial component of the Ellison Center's efforts, and we have worked closely over the past year with the College of Education to fine-tune workshop design and evaluation models based on comments and feedback from educators who have attended our workshops. This year's Summer Seminar for Educators “Liquid Planet: Exploring Global Water Issues” was the culmination of these efforts and represents a workshop model that enhances workshop participants' ability to deliver International Studies-based content more readily to their student populations, and builds their capacity to do so skillfully, knowledgeably and confidently. Working independently and in groups, workshop participants produced over 20 lesson plans on global water issues for the classroom. Lesson plans included a high school math lesson on the shrinking of the Aral Sea and comparisons between dams constructed in Central Asia and China. The lesson plans were transcribed by the centers and made available to all participants.
It has been yet another productive year for the Ellison Center and we look forward to many more exciting events in the coming year. I want to heartily thank Associate Director Marta Mikkelsen, Outreach Assistant Director Allison Dvaladze, Program Coordinator Carrie O'Donoghue, Newsletter Editor Julia Hon, and Web and Database Assistant Seth Mahoney for actually running the Ellison Center, and doing so with distinction, this first nine months of my tenure as Director.
James Augerot is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at UW and Director of the Ellison Center.