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Eurasia Forum

Lectures and Events

Fall 2016

7 October
Ms. Masha Gessen, New York Times: “Why Putin is Scary." 

Masha Gessen is the author of six books, including, most recently, “Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot.”

Born in Moscow, Ms. Gessen emigrated to the United States as a teenager. She took her first journalism job at the age of 17, at a biweekly Boston newspaper devoted to gay issues. From 1984 until 1992 she covered the AIDS crisis for gay news publications.

In 1991, a magazine assignment brought Ms. Gessen back to the Soviet Union for the first time since her emigration. Throughout the 1990s she covered the transition in the former Soviet Union and the wars in the former Yugoslavia. She was a special correspondent for The New Republic and wrote for many other magazines.

From 1994 Ms. Gessen was based out of Moscow, and later began writing in both Russian and English. She helped to found Itogi, the first weekly magazine in post-Soviet Russia. She served as its chief correspondent until 2001, when she became head of U.S. News & World Report’s Moscow bureau. Three years later she returned to the Russian-language press. She has edited several Russian magazines, including the popular-science monthly Vokrug Sveta, from which she was fired for refusing to send a reporter to cover President Vladimir V. Putin’s piloting, with a hang glider, of Siberian cranes.

Ms. Gessen has reported on a range of topics, including the Russian intelligentsia, medical genetics and mathematics. Her 2011 biography of Mr. Putin, “The Man Without Without a Face,” was an international bestseller.

Ms. Gessen returned to New York City in 2013. She is currently working on a book about the Tsarnaev brothers, the two suspects in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

Spring 2017

27 February

Dr. Joshua Sanborn, Lafayette College: "War, State Failure, and Regime Change: The Russian Revolution Reconsidered."

Selected publications:
Imperial Apocalypse: The Great War and the Destruction of the Russian Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Gender, Sex, and the Shaping of Modern Europe: A History from the French Revolution to the Present Day (co-author with Annette F. Timm), 2nd revised and expanded ed. (London: Bloomsbury, 2016 [2007]).

Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War, and Mass Politics, 1905-1925 (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003).

Mary Louise van Artsdalen Award for outstanding scholarly achievement, Lafayette College (2016); Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award for distinctive and extraordinary teaching, Lafayette College (2007); Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities (2005-2006); Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship (2005).

2 March
Dr. Erick Lohr, American University: "Russia's World War I: Total Mobilization to Total Demobilization" 

Eric Lohr is Chair of the History Department and author of Russian Citizenship: From Empire to Soviet Union (Harvard University Press, 2012) and Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The Campaign Against Enemy Aliens during World War I (Harvard University Press, 2003). He previously taught at Harvard as an assistant professor of History (2000-2003). He is currently writing Russia’s War, 1914-1918: From Total Mobilization to Total Demobilization.


March 21, 2014

Dr. Charles King, Georgetown: "Crisis in Ukraine."

Charles King is Professor of International Affairs and Government at Georgetown University, where he previously served as chairman of the faculty of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the country's premier school of global affairs. 

King's research has focused on nationalism, ethnic politics, transitions from authoritarianism, urban history, and the relationship between history and the social sciences. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams (W. W. Norton, 2011), which received the National Jewish Book Award, and The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus (Oxford University Press, 2008), which was named "History Book of the Year" by the Moscow Times. His new book on the emergence of modern Istanbul will be published by W. W. Norton in 2014. His work has been translated into more than ten languages. 

A frequent speaker and commentator on global affairs, King has published essays in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and other major newspapers; in magazines such as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy; and in web-based media such as The Daily Beast and the Christian Science Monitor. His broadcast appearances have included National Public Radio, CNN, the BBC, and MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." He is a three-time recipient of professor-of-the-year honors from Georgetown students and has received both the School of Foreign Service Dean's Medal and McGuire Medal, the highest awards for service to the school and its students. 

A native of the Ozark hill country, King holds degrees in history and politics from the University of Arkansas and Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar.

April 21,2014

Dr. K. David Harrison, Swarthmore College: "The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Endangered Languages."

Harrison has done extensive fieldwork in Siberia, Mongolia, Bolivia, India, and Native America. In his book, When Languages Die: The Extinction of the World’s Languages and the Erosion of Human Knowledge (Oxford 2007), Harrison provides a vivid picture of the scientific consequences of language loss. He also depicts the human factor, including moving accounts of his encounters with last speakers in remote corners of the globe. Harrison’s work includes not only scientific descriptions of languages, but also storybooks, translations and digital archives for the use of the native speaker communities.

Harrison co-stars in the documentary film The Linguists, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews in February 2008, and appeared at film festivals across the country (Boston, Madison, Dallas).

In 2004 Harrison co-founded the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and documenting and revitalizing small languages. The institute runs language documentation projects around the globe. In 2006 he coined the term “language hotspots,” which has since become a leading promotional metaphor for understanding the language extinction crisis. The hotspots map and list was published in National Geographic magazine in October 2007, and at www.languagehotspots.orgHarrison and National Geographic Fellow Greg Anderson have embarked on a series of National Geographic-sponsored expeditions to visit the hotspots and interview last speakers in places such as Australia, Bolivia, and India. His book The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages appears in fall 2010 by National Geographic Books.

September 15, 2014

Dr. Robert Rubinstein, Syracuse University: "Culture, Interagency Dynamics, and Health in the Middle East."

Robert A. Rubinstein is Professor of Anthropology and International Relations at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University Syracuse University. From July 1994-June 2005 he directed the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts at the Maxwell School. Rubinstein is an anthropologist with expertise in political and medical anthropology and in social science history and research methods. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1977. He received a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1983. Rubinstein has conducted overseas research in urban and rural Egypt, where he lived from 1988-1992, and in Belize and Mexico. In the United States, he has conducted research in Atlanta, Chicago, and Syracuse.

In political anthropology, Rubinstein’s work focuses on cross-cultural aspects of conflict and dispute resolution, including negotiation, mediation and consensus building. He is an originator of the field of the anthropology of peacekeeping. Since 1985, he has conducted empirical research and policy studies in this field. He examines the ways that the success of peace operations depend upon cultural considerations, and how organizational and institutional cultures can facilitate or frustrate coordination in peace operations. Rubinstein has collaborated on policy applications of his work with the International Peace Academy, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the United States Army Peacekeeping Institute.

As a medical anthropologist, Rubinstein focuses on conflict and health, disparities in access to health care and the implications of those disparities for the health of populations, and on the integration of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. He has developed community-based health interventions in Egypt and Atlanta. Rubinstein has collaborated on health policy issues with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Carter Center, the Georgia Department of Physical Health, and the Onondaga County Health Department.

October 31, 2014

Dr. Thomas DeWaal: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “The Caucasus: Security and Insecurity at the Crossroads of Eurasia.” 

Thomas de Waal is a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment, specializing primarily in the South Caucasus region, comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia and their breakaway territories, as well as in the wider Black Sea region. De Waal is an acknowledged expert on the unresolved conflicts of the South Caucasus: Abkhazia, Nagorny Karabakh, and South Ossetia. From 2002 to 2009, he worked as an analyst and project manager on the conflicts in the South Caucasus for the London-based NGOs Conciliation Resources and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

He is author of the authoritative book on the Karabakh conflict, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War (NYU Press, 2003), which has been translated into Armenian, Azeri, and Russian. His latest book is The Caucasus: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010). De Waal has worked extensively as a journalist and writer in the Caucasus and Black Sea region and in Russia. He has twice worked as an analyst and reporter for the BBC World Service in London, from 1991 to 1993 and from 1998 to 1999, and continues to make documentaries for BBC Radio. From 1993 to 1997, he worked in Moscow for the Moscow Times, the Times of London, and the Economist, specializing in Russian politics and the situation in Chechnya. He is the co-author (with Carlotta Gall) of the book Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus (NYU Press, 1997), for which the authors were awarded the James Cameron Prize for Distinguished Reporting. 

November, 6, 2014

Dr. John Pettifer: Oxford University “South East Europe, A Generation after the Cold War-- Realism or Optimism?” 

Professor James Pettifer is a member of the Oxford University History Faculty & St Cross College. He is an associate of the Historisches Seminar Osteuropaische Geschichte in Zurich University, Switzerland. He was born in Hereford, UK in 1949 and educated at Kings School Worcester, Hertford College Oxford and the Free University of West Berlin. He has been a senior member of St Antony's College Oxford and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Balkan Studies, Thessalonica and was an Honorary Fellow of the Department of Greek and Byzantine Studies, Birmingham University, UK. From 2002 to 2006 he was a Visiting Professor in the State University in Tetovo, FYROM/Republic of Macedonia.

In 2007 he was Stanley J. Seeger Research Fellow at Princeton University, New Jersey, USA. From 2000 until its abolition in 2010 he also worked in the Conflict Studies Research Centre of the Defence Academy of the UK.

He is a well known author of internationally recognized works on the region, such as 'The New Macedonian Question', 'The Turkish Labyrinth', 'Blue Guide to Albania and Kosovo', 'Kosovo Express', 'Blue Guide Bulgaria', and (with Miranda Vickers), 'Albania-from Anarchy to a Balkan Identity'. Their book 'the Albanian Question- Reshaping the Balkans' was published by I.B Tauris in the USA and UK in 2007. His recent book was published in 2012,'The Kosova Liberation Army Underground War to Balkan Insurgency 1948-2001'. Another recent publication was an edited volume 'Albania and the Balkans; Essays in honour of Sir Reginald Hibbert'. Forthcoming in 2015 will be an edited books of papers (with Tom Buchanan) from an Oxford History Faculty conference held in 2012 on the Balkan Wars 1912-1913.

January 27, 2015

Dr. Laurie Rush, United States Army: “Monuments Officers, Lessons Learned for the 21st Century Military.” 

Laurie W. Rush, Ph.D., RPA, FAAR is an Anthropologist and Archaeologist who for the past 14 years has managed the Cultural Resources program at Fort Drum, NY, and since 2006 has directed the ‘In Theater Heritage Training for Deploying Personnel’ project for the DoD Legacy Resource Management Program, which falls within the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment. Dr. Rush received a B.A. summa cum laude from Indiana University at Bloomington and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University, where she also served as a fellow of the University and of the National Science Foundation. In 1983, she moved to northern New York State in 1983, set up the archaeology curation facility at Fort Drum from 1992 to 1994, which evolved into the Fort Drum Cultural Resources program.

9 April, 2015

Dr. Andrew Novo, National Defense University: “NATO Beyond Banalities: Past, Present, Future.”

Andrew R. Novo is assistant professor of international security studies. He studied classics at Princeton University before getting a master’s degree in international relations and a PhD in modern history from St. Antony’s College, the University of Oxford. Dr. Novo has also taught at Georgetown and lectured at the University of Cyprus and the United States Military Academy at West Point. His research interests include ancient and modern Mediterranean history, grand strategy, American foreign policy, and military history. He has published two books, When Small Countries Crash (2011) detailing financial crises in small economies and Queen of Cities (2010), a historical novel on the fall of Constantinople.


Fall 2015

18 September, 2015

Dr. Ronald Suny, University of Michigan: "'They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else.' Explaining the Armenian Genocide One Hundred Years Later."

Professor Ronald Suny gave a lecture to eighty midshipmen and faculty on 18 of September that contextualized the hundred year anniversary of the Armenia Genocide into the larger historical framework of World War One and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Genocide remains a hotly contested topic both in the Republics of Armenia and Turkey, especially among so-called Turkish 'Genocide Deniers'. Midshipmen were able to see how events that occurred one hundred years ago help shape the current political environment in the region. The lecture maintained an unbiased view of historical events and extended the discussion to concepts of what constitutes genocide, national identity, and historical memory.

Professor Suny was generous with his time by attending Professor Thomas Sanders', Department of History, Russian History and Society in Film course where he discussed his unpublished article: Breaking Eggs, Making Omelets: Explaining Terror in Lenin and Stalin’s Revolutions.

Both events were well received by faculty and midshipmen who had the opportunity to interact with one of the foremost experts of Soviet and Former Soviet History and Politics in the world.

Ronald Grigor Suny is professor emeritus of political science and history at the University of Chicago. The grandson of the composer and ethnomusicologist Grikor Mirzoyan Suni and a graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University, he taught at Oberlin College (1968–1981), as visiting professor of history at the University of California, Irvine (1987), and Stanford University (1995–1996). He was the first holder of the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan (1981–1995), where he founded and directed the Armenian Studies Program.

Professor Suny's intellectual interests have centered on the non-Russian nationalities of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, particularly those of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). The "national question" was an area of study that was woefully neglected for many decades until peoples of the periphery mobilized themselves in the Gorbachev years. His aim has been to consider the history of imperial Russia and the USSR without leaving out the non-Russian half of the population, to see how multi-nationality, processes of imperialism and nation-making shaped the state and society of that vast country. This in turn has led to work on the nature of empires and nations, studies in the historiography and methodology of studying social and cultural history, and a commitment to bridging the often-unbridgeable gap between the traditional concerns of historians and the methods and models of other social scientists.

8 October, 2015

Dr. John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction: "Afghanistan Reconstruction: Protecting American Taxpayers' $100 Billion Investment from Waste, Fraud, and Abuse."

Mr. John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, met with faculty and midshipmen on 8 October to discuss the challenges he faces in providing accountability to the American public for our reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan since 9/11. Attendees were reminded that the week of his visit to the USNA marked the 14th anniversary of America’s longest war, with many more challenges ahead.

Our guest gave a succinct chronology of the assessment efforts made by the United States government since 2008 in order to make informed decisions regarding strategic planning for the development of Afghan National Security Forces.  Over the past fourteen years the American taxpayer has spent 110 billion dollars towards Afghan reconstruction.  65 billion of that amount has been relegated to a mission of “build, train and equip” primarily managed through CSTC-A. Mr. Sopko pointed out to midshipmen that 110 billion dollars represents more money than what was spent on the Marshall Plan, the Allied effort to rebuild Germany after World War II. Despite the professionalism and brave efforts of U.S. presence in Afghanistan, we have faced many obstacles that hinder our ability to leave the Afghan government to their own devices.

The primary take-away from the lecture was that we have built a reconstruction apparatus that is unsustainable by the Afghan government. Many opine that it will take decades for Afghan ministries to be able to perform basic functions of governance. The implications the current state-of-play in Afghanistan holds for midshipmen is significant as it will decide the scale of our future military involvement in Afghanistan, promising a profound impact on their future careers as Naval and Marine Corps officers.

16 October, 2015

Dr. Elizabeth Wood, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "The Russian Marlboro Man: Vladimir Putin and the Crisis in Ukraine and Crimea." 

On 16 October Dr. Elizabeth Wood of MIT delivered a lecture to midshipmen and faculty on the crisis in the Ukraine and Crimea through the lens of Vladimir Putin. Putting the current situation into historical context, Dr. Wood provided great insight into Putin's world-view and his justifications for Russia's adventures abroad. Elizabeth Wood is the author of two books, Performing Justice: Agitation Trials in Early Soviet Russia (Cornell University Press, 2005) and The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Indiana University Press, 1997).  She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1991 in the field of Soviet History. Her current work centers on the performance of power under Vladimir Putin in Russia today.

Within MIT, Professor Wood serves as co-director of the MISTI Russia Program, Coordinator of Russian Studies, and adviser to the Russian Language Program. She holds a secondary appointment in MIT's Global Studies and Languages Section. She has served recently (2011-13) as the co-chair of the Graduate Consortium in Women’s Studies. She is the faculty sponsor of a UROP on studies of Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia. Professor Wood also contributes occasionally to the Russian History blog.

Spring 2016

24 February, 2016

Mr. Steven Lee Myers, New York Times: "Who is Vladimir Putin." 

STEVEN LEE MYERS has worked at The New York Times for twenty-six years, seven of them in Russia during the period when Putin consolidated his power. He spent two years as bureau chief in Baghdad, covering the winding down of the American war in Iraq, and now covers national security issues. He lives in Washington, D.C.

6-7 April, 2016

Dr. Jesse Byock, University of California, Los Angeles: “Viking Archaeology and Old Norse Language: Researching the Viking Past.” 

Jesse Byock teaches Viking history and archaeology, early Icelandic society, medieval feuds, and Old Norse saga literature. The saga literature is a key source of social-historical and legal information about northern European medieval culture and the major source of mythical and heroic lore. His latest books Viking Language teaches Old Norse, runes, and Icelandic Sagas and The Saga of the Volsungs (Legends from the Ancient North) and were published winter 2012 and 2013.

An archaeologist, Professor Byock directs the Mosfell Archaeological Project and is a Professor at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology focusing on Viking Archaeology. He has published widely on the society, archaeology, literature, and history of medieval Scandinavia with writings translated into numerous languages.

The Mosfell Archaeological Project is an interdisciplinary research project employing the tools of history, archaeology, anthropology, forensics, environmental sciences, and saga studies. The work is constructing a picture of human habitation and environmental change in the region of Mosfell in southwestern Iceland. The Mosfell Valley (Mosfellsdalur), the surrounding highlands, and the lowland coastal areas are a valley system,  that is, as an interlocking series of natural and man-made pieces, that beginning in the ninth-century settlement or landnám period, developed into a functioning Viking Age Icelandic community. Focusing on this valley system, the task is to unearth the prehistory and early history of the region; to gather the data that provides an in-depth understanding of how this countryside or sveit evolved from its earliest origins. The Mosfell Archaeological Project has implications for the larger study of Viking Age and later medieval Iceland, as well as perhaps for the north Atlantic world.

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