Friday, June 17, 2016

Events at the Kennan Institute

My eight week summer residence at the Kennan Institute is flying by so fast. I am about halfway done with my fellowship and it has been a busy summer thus far. In addition to doing my own research and writing my book manuscript, I am working with a research assistant who is helping me with data collection, and I attend lots and lots of events! After living in Atlanta for two years where East European events were few and far between (I even started a lecture series at Clayton State because there were so few events on my region) it has been nice to have so many different types of events to choose from. Every week there is at least one event of interest to me if not more! The funny thing is people say that the summer is the light time of year for events but I have even had to start picking and choosing what to go to in order to balance my writing time with events. Here are some of the events I have attended at Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. 

The first talk I attended on my first day at the Kennan Institute was entitled "Belarus in Transition"
with Larissa G. Titarenko Professor, Belarus State University; Former Fellow, Wilson Center and Valery Yevarouski Fulbright Research Scholar, Kennan Institute; Head, The Centre for the Historiophilosophical and Comparative Researches, Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Belarus. Most of the talk focused more on the historical angle of the Belarus rather than possibilities for a transition to democracy. But Titarenko also spoke of the role that Belarus has played as a mediator in the negotiations in the Minsk protocol between Ukraine and Russia and provided a space for multilateral negotiations. Also she reminded us that Belarus has not recognized Russian annexation of Crimea an important caveat to remember. We don't hear about Belarus that often other than news of Lukashenko's dictatorship so it was refreshing to hear about perspectives from the country concerning things more than just regime type.

Next, I attended a talk on "The Role of Media in Russian Democracy" by Nataliya Rostova a George F. Kennan Expert and well known journalist in the region. This talked looked at media coverage during the Yeltsin years and the beginning of the slow decline to authoritarianism and media censorship. The room was packed and it was surprising to see how many people wanted to talk about democracy or the lack thereof in Russia today. Many people had questions looking for linkages between Yeltsin and the current regime under Putin.

Ukraine has been a popular these the past few of weeks at the Kennan Institute and it all began with the talk "Engaging the Arts for a Vibrant, International Ukraine" which I thought was going to be about art but instead focused on cultural and educational exchanges or cultural diplomacy. The speakers Kateryna Smagliy, Director, Kennan Institute in Ukraine, Victor Sydorenko Artist; Director, Modern Art Research Institute, National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, Olha Ivanova, Counselor on Cultural Issues, Embassy of Ukraine to the US, and Hanna Hopko, member of parliament and head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine discussed how to develop Ukraine's "soft power" in light of existing economic constraints and informational challenges within the country. The talk focused on the situation in Ukraine and promoting national interests and connections with the United States.
After that talk Sydorenko's art exhibit "Memory of Unconsciousness"opened in the atrium of the Wilson Center  and Ambassador Valeriy Chaly, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the USA opened up the exhibition with a few words about the strong relationship between Ukraine and the United States.
Me and Hanna Hopko, member of parliament and head of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine who is also a member of the Equal Opportunities Women's Caucus I have been writing about lately in parliament for a paper on municipal level gender quotas. I spoke with her about it and she said that they need quotas on the national level in the Rada next! I could not agree more!
Finally, there was an event cosponsored by the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, and the Kennan Institute entitled "Making Democracy Work: The Politics of Reform in Ukraine." Here Hanna Hopko was joined by two other MPs from the Rada Natalya Katser-Buchkovska and Ostap Yednak. They all spoke about the significant list of reforms that they were working on in Ukraine and the barriers faced by reformers in Ukraine.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Life as a Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute

Me outside of the Reagan Building.

I just finished my second week as a Research Scholar at the Kennan Institute, part of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Many people have asked what I am doing there this summer so I thought I would devote this post to discussing what I am doing this summer at the Institute!

The Woodrow Wilson Center is the official memorial to President Woodrow Wilson the only president who was a political scientist (he received his PhD in political science and worked as a professor before he was president). The Wilson Center is the "nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform actionable ideas for Congress, the Administration and the broader policy community." The center brings in scholars and experts from around the world to research topics of national and international importance. According to the website "in the spirit of President Wilson, we build a bridge between the worlds of academia and public policy, to inform and develop solutions to the nation’s problems and challenges." They do this through organized talks and publications on different topics related to policy where they seek to engage and educate the public. There are different regional programs from every region of the world and thematic programs on subjects such as global sustainability, maternal health, history, science, and technology.

Woodrow Wilson Plaza and the Ronald Reagan Building in the background.
The Wilson Center is housed in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center which is the biggest building in DC and the second largest building in the United States after the pentagon. It was the first and only federal building dedicated to both government and private use, mandated by Congress to bring together the country’s best public and private resources to create a national forum for the advancement of trade. Designated as the official World Trade Center, Washington, DC,

The Wilson Center entrance to the Ronald Reagan Building.
My research fellowship is based in the Kennan Institute which is the regional program for Post-Soviet area studies. It is named after George Kennan a nineteenth-century explorer of Russia and Siberia. George F. Kennan an ambassador, scholar, and one of the foremost experts on the Soviet Union living long enough to see both its formation and its demise (he lived until 101 years of age) worked to establish the center in honor of his cousin twice removed. George F. Kennan was ambassador the the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and one of his first diplomatic posts was to Latvia in 1931. The Kennan collection at the Wilson Center's library is one of the most comprehensive libraries on the Soviet Union in the world.

The Kennan Institute was founded in 1974 with a mission "to build and sustain deep mutual understanding, cooperation, and exchange among intellectual and opinion leaders in the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the surrounding states—a bedrock for regional and global peace, prosperity and security."

I was awarded a Title VIII-Supported Summer Research Scholarships at the Institute for the summer which is a residential fellowship based in DC where I am working on a subject of policy importance-my book on human trafficking policy adoption and implementation. For more information on that please see my previous blog post. I will be writing about my research and all of the interesting events I will be attending in DC throughout the summer. Stay tuned!