Events

The Origins of Russian Research Centers in America in the 1940s: Early Choices between Scholar Integrity and Government Direction

March 06, 2002 // 11:00pm

In a meeting at the Kennan Institute, Viachaslav Kozliakov, Professor of History, Riazan State Pedagogical University, presented the findings of his research regarding the development of Russian research centers in the United States in the 1940s. Kozliakov explained that a number of factors led to the creation of the research centers, which served as precursors to the development of area studies programs throughout the country. David Engerman, Assistant Professor of History at Brandeis University, also noted several underlying elements that influenced the focus of the research centers.

Kozliakov began his discussion by stating that the main goal of his research was to study the evolution of Russian research centers in the United States. He explained how, leading up to World War II, there were only a few American scholars who were engaged in Russian Studies. Kozliakov noted that during the war, government and policy leaders began to realize the importance of Russian Studies programs. He pointed out that the emergence of new scholarly journals, such as Slavonic and East European Review and Russian Review, gained national exposure for scholars in the field. Kozliakov noted that new wartime programs increased the government's demand for specialists in the field.

Kozliakov proposed that many of the Russian Studies professors who were serving in the O.S.S. (the precursor to the CIA) during the war became instrumental in establishing the Russia Studies Institute at Columbia University in 1943. While scholars assume that the Institute was founded under the direction of the O.S.S., he contended that archive records show that professors at Columbia and officials from the Rockefeller Foundation were discussing the prospects of Russian Research and Area Studies programs long before. According to Kozliakov, the Russian Institute at Columbia, later known as the Harriman Institute, provided a valuable resource to the country between 1946-53, training nearly 170 students in fields such as, government, journalism, and academia.

Kozliakov added how Harvard University and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, teamed together to establish the Russian Research Center in 1948. According to Kozliakov, the Russian Research Center, later known as the Davis Center, placed greater emphasis on the development of "social science" and different approaches to the study of the Soviet Union. He pointed out that this emphasis led to the creation of other Russian Studies programs throughout the country.

David Engerman, Assistant Professor of History at Brandeis University, discussed three other issues that shaped the development of the Russian Research Centers at Harvard and Columbia. He explained that the research centers were focused on training non-academic experts, thereby creating linkages between scholarship and policy. The ethnic diversity of the students chosen for the programs also had an influence on the direction of the programs. Engerman stated that prior to WWII, the majority of Russian Studies scholars were white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant males; following the War, large numbers of Jews, Slavs and Catholics emerged in the field. Finally, Engerman noted, the ascendance of social science as a major intellectual project of the 1950s also had an effect on the development of Russian Studies programs.

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