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Harriman Institute oral history collection, 2016-2017

Project: Harriman Institute oral history collection,
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcripts: 2,036 pages Digital transcripts and sound recordings: 93.4 Gigabytes, 378 digital files
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
Full CLIO record >>

Biographical Note

Harriman Institute was founded at Columbia University as the Russian Institute in 1946. It was the first academic center in the United States devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Russia and the Soviet Union, receiving support of the Rockefeller Foundation at first. In 1982, the Russian Institute was renamed the W. Averell Harriman Institute for the Advanced Study of the Soviet Union to honor Governor Harriman's career of public service and his endowment of the Institute. In 1992, the Institute officially expanded its focus to encompass all the states of the former Soviet Union and Eastern, and its name was changed to the Harriman Institute. In advance of its 70th anniversary, the Harriman Institute enlisted the Columbia Center for Oral History Research at INCITE to help document the history of the Institute. From 2016-2017, twenty-six individuals with connections to Harriman were interviewed, including Institute directors, professors, staff, and senior affiliates. Interviewers focused on three categories of inquiry: the Institute's role as a source of policy advice and influence; its role in promoting area studies; and its role in the rise of nationality studies and the study of human rights.

Scope and Contents

The twenty-six interviews of the Harriman Institute oral history collection document the history of the Institute, the changes in its intellectual currents over seventy years, and the state of academic study and policy around Russia at the time that the interviews were taken. Narrators include professors, Institute directors, former students, foreign policy officials with the United States government, and leaders at non-governmental organizations. The project looked into the Institute's impact on policy, area studies, nationality studies, and the study of human rights. Many narrators were involved in both academia and foreign policy, and the interviews offer a diverse range of opinions on the relationship between the two. At the time of the project, there was debate about the future of area studies, the growth of nationality studies, and the generalized study of human rights. Narrators offer a range of analysis on the strengths, weaknesses, and differences in using these frameworks to study countries of the former Soviet Union. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 is discussed in great detail: its impact on foreign policy, its impact on Russian studies, and its impact on area studies. Narrators also give detailed analyses of United States-Russian relations at the time of the interviews. Narrators also reflect on their own studies, influences, careers, and research. Many discuss traveling to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Some narrators were at Columbia during the 1968 student unrest, and speak about its events and impacts. The collection's narrators are Deana Arsenian, Peter A. Charow, Stephen F. Cohen, Alexander Cooley, Rachel Denber, Padma Desai, Richard Ericson, Timothy M. Frye, Charles Gati, Toby Trister Gati, Loren R. Graham, Susan Heuman, Edward Kasinec, Jeri Laber, Robert Legvold, Kimberly Marten, Jack Foust Matlock, Jr., Alexander J. Motyl, Stephen Sestanovich, Colette Shulman, Jack L. Snyder, Ronald G. Suny, Elizabeth Valkenier, Mark Von Hagen, Grace Kennan Warnecke, and Richard Wortman. Interviews are comprised of digital audio recordings, digital transcripts, and paper-based transcripts.


Access Conditions

Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2016-2019.

Using this collection

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