From the Director

This academic year is an important one at the Harriman Institute. Not only are we celebrating our 70th anniversary, but we are also marking the 25th year since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The post-Soviet era has seen many phases and turns, from post-Cold War triumphalism and the onset of the “transition,” to the return of the post-Communist states to Europe, and attempts to come to terms with post-Socialism and the onset of Communist-era nostalgia. The rise of a more assertive Russia, the conflict in Ukraine, and the current deepening crisis in Russian-Western relations has further added to uncertainty about the future and generated competing narratives about the meaning and stability of the so-called post-Cold War order and the challenges associated with statehood and community-building.

To reflect on these developments, we have launched a 70th anniversary seminar series that brings together a number of distinguished members of the Harriman community—faculty, alumni and close friends. The series will focus on key issues in the emerging “post-post” Cold War period, the state of the region, the growing range of experiences encapsulated in the post-Communist world, and our scholarly approaches to their evolution. (Visit this page for a full events listing.)

We are also in the midst of what promises to be an insightful and exciting endeavor: last fall, in collaboration with Columbia’s Center for Oral History, we laid the groundwork for conducting an oral history of the Harriman Institute—a series of interviews with some of the Institute’s key actors that will allow us to reconstruct and examine the evolution of the Institute’s history over time. How has the institute evolved over the years? What role has regional studies played in the development of the academy and the policymaking communities? And where are we now? These are just some of the questions we are attempting to answer with the project. 

I encourage you to stop by our office and pick up a copy of the Summer 2016 issue of Harriman Magazine, which includes two special features on human rights and freedom of expression: a profile of our 2016 alumna of the year, Rachel Denber ('86), deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, who has been conducting courageous field research and advocacy in the post-Soviet region since '91; and a lengthy interview with Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE's (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Representative on Freedom of the Media, who discusses the contemporary challenges to freedom of expression and media freedom across the OSCE states. You can pick up a copy of the new issue in our office or download the PDF here.
Our semester is action-packed. Please visit our website for news and details of upcoming events. If you missed an event, you might find a video of it on our YouTube channel. If you aren’t doing so already, please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up with news about our faculty, students and alumni and stay updated on our events, fellowship opportunities and other programs.
We look forward to seeing you around the Harriman Institute!      

Alexander Cooley