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Oral history interview with Mark Von Hagen, 2016

Creator: Von Hagen, Mark, 1954-
Project: Harriman Institute oral history collection.
(see all project interviews)
Phys. Desc. :Transcript: 138 pages
Location: Columbia Center for Oral History
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Biographical Note

Mark Von Hagen has studied Russian language and history at Georgetown, Indiana University-Bloomington, and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He served as Associate Director and Director of Harriman from 1989 to 2001. In 2008 von Hagen was elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (later renamed Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies). Von Hagen has published numerous books on Russia, the Ukraine, and the countries of the former Soviet Union, and has written articles and essays on topics in historiography, civil-military relations, nationality politics and minority history, and cultural history. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Human Rights Watch Eurasia Steering Committee. Von Hagen is currently a professor of Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian history at Arizona State University.

Scope and Contents

In the first session of the interview, Mark Von Hagen narrates how his early interest in Russian language led to an interest in Russian history, then the broader history of Eastern Europe. He discusses his experience of the so-called "imperial turn" in Russian studies, in which Russia and the Soviet Union went from being viewed largely as a nation-state to being viewed as a multinational empire. He reviews his time as Director of the Harriman Institute and his continuing efforts to teach a more complex understanding of Russia/the USSR outside of widely propagated media or propaganda narratives. He then tells a number of stories about his interactions with Soviet and American officials and academics, primarily during the Cold War. Finally, Von Hagen describes his relationship with fellow Harriman alumnus and faculty member emeritus Stephen Cohen. In the second session, Von Hagen discusses human rights, and his own interactions with and impact on the field. He moves on to his more recent academic work on reconciling multiple and disparate Russian/Soviet and Ukrainian narratives of Ukrainian and Soviet history. Von Hagen then tells a number of stories about his experiences with Moscow nightlife in the early 1980s and how his experiences in the Soviet Union were shaped by his identity as a gay man. The session closes with his recommendations for the Harriman Institute's future.

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

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