Mission of the Harriman Institute
The Harriman Institute at Columbia University is one of the world’s leading academic institutions for the study of Russia, Eurasia, and East Central Europe. Our mission is to serve our community at the university and beyond by supporting research, instruction, and dialogue, sponsoring vibrant and multidisciplinary events that bring together our extraordinary resources of faculty, students, and alumni. We are committed to training the next generation of regional specialists to play leadership roles in setting the academic and scholarly agenda, making policy and challenging accepted truths about how we study our rapidly changing world.
The Institute is home to the M.A. program in Regional Studies: Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe, which provides an interdisciplinary study of the region to young scholars and mid-career professionals. The Institute also administers certificate programs open to students pursuing graduate-level degrees at Columbia University, and our regional specializations for students from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). We also house the undergraduate major in East Central European Regional Studies along with a BA/MA program.
Lectures and Conferences
The Institute sponsors public lectures and conferences. Special projects focus attention on research regions like East Central Europe, Ukraine, Balkans, Central Asia, and Russia. These activities are open to the policy community, the media, alumni, local educators, and the private sector.
The Harriman Institute supports and furthers the research of its faculty and students through lectures, conferences, and regional programs; hosting postdoctoral fellows and visiting scholars; and finally, financial support of projects by Institute faculty and students through a variety of grants and fellowship awards. Fund your next project or trip through Harriman.
National Advisory Council
History of the Harriman Institute
The Harriman Institute, the first academic center in the United States devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Russia and the Soviet Union, was founded in 1946, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, as the Russian Institute. The goals of the new regional institute, as stated in the proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation, were viewed to be twofold: “First, the direct advancement of knowledge in the Russian field through the coordinated research work of faculty and students; and secondly, the training of these students… as American specialists who will subsequently do work of authority and influence in the Russian field.” Although the Institute’s geographical purview has grown to encompass all the states of the former Soviet Union and the post-socialist states, the Institute has remained true to its overall objectives of teaching and research.
In 1982, the Russian Institute became the W. Averell Harriman Institute for the Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, in recognition both of Governor Harriman’s generous endowment of the Institute and his lifetime of distinguished service. As Governor Harriman stated in the announcement of the establishment of the Harriman Institute: “My objective is very clear: I want to stimulate and encourage the advanced study of Soviet affairs. To base policy on ignorance and illusion is very dangerous. Policy should be based on knowledge and understanding.”
In 1992, following the collapse of the USSR, the Institute officially expanded its focus to encompass all the states of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and adopted the name of the Harriman Institute. In 1997, the Harriman and East Central European Institutes united to promote comparative scholarly knowledge and public understanding of the complex and changing polities, economies, societies, and cultures of the area between Germany and the Pacific Ocean. In 2017, the East Central European Center was officially integrated into the Harriman Institute and is now governed by two co-directors.
Throughout the years our faculty and alumni have made important contributions to academia, and have also played leading roles in public policy, law, diplomacy, business, and the arts. Notable among them are former head of the National Security Council, Zbigniew Brzezinski; former Special Advisor to the Secretary of State, Marshall Shulman; former Ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock; former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
The Institute currently houses a diverse multi-disciplinary faculty from Columbia’s School of Arts and Sciences; Barnard College; the Schools of International and Public Affairs, Business, Law, and the Arts; Teacher’s College; and the Union and Jewish Theological Seminaries. We support teaching, research, and public events that bring together our extraordinary faculty, students, and alumni. From “brown bag” lectures, book presentations, art exhibitions and film screenings, to scholarly panels and conferences, the Institute provides a constantly evolving forum for intellectual discussion and innovation.
In addition to offering undergraduate and graduate courses, the Institute administers an MA program in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies, which admits approximately 10 students per year. We are committed to training the next generation of regional specialists, who will continue to shape policy, fill leading academic positions, and challenge the accepted truths about how we study our rapidly changing world.
Learn more Harriman history in our 60th Anniversary book.