Oral history interview with Jack L. Snyder, 2017
Jack Lewis Snyder is currently the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. He received his B.A. in Government from Harvard University in 1973, a certificate from the Harriman Institute (then the Russian Institute) in 1978 and his PhD from Columbia in 1981. He became an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Columbia in 1982, a tenured professor in 1988 and a full professor in 1991. Although his scholarly work has covered a much broader area than the Former Soviet Union, Snyder has been involved with the Harriman Institute throughout his career and served as Acting Director from 2006-2007.
Scope and Contents
The first session of the interview with Jack Snyder cover a broad range of topics, beginning with Snyder's early influences and his impressions of the Soviet Union from his visits there in the late 1960s and 1970s. He describes his views about the Harriman Institute from several perspectives and time periods: as a student at the Russian Institute under his mentor, Marshall Shulman; as a young faculty member learning from the experiences of Seweryn Bialer; as the acting director, and as a senior faculty member. He compares the Russian Institute of yesteryear to the current Harriman Institute in terms of policy influence and scholarship. He also speaks about some of his work, including his critique of area studies experts in the 1980s, his writing on nationality studies and his research project on human rights. In the second session, Snyder begins with a discussion of former students. He then elaborates on Columbia's hiring policies, and the "downward glide" in humanities hiring, both generally and in the Slavic department in particular. Snyder then discusses his current work and the future of Russian studies. This research is grounded in theory and focuses on trends both in Russia and similarly situated countries, such as populist movements. Snyder calls the Harriman Institute's ability to adapt to a changing environment as its greatest achievement. He ends by analyzing missed opportunities and strengths of the Institute.
Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2017.