Federal Defunding of Russian and Eurasian Studies

I hate to interrupt the fascinating blog conversation on Communism on Tomorrow Street, but I feel it imperative to help spread this distressing news. The U.S. State Department’s Title VIII program has long supported studies of Russia and Eurasia, primarily though not exclusively by providing financial support for language studies and field research.

News today is that the budget for Title VIII has been cut in its entirety for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Carl Schreck of RIA Novosti covers the impact in some depth.

It’s really difficult to describe what a blow this is to my personal research agenda as a scholar and to the long-term state of the field. Title VIII funding via IREX supported the research trip to Russia and Kazakhstan that resulted in my own doctoral dissertation and first book, Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society. I spent four months last winter again in Russia and Kazakhstan with support from the Title VIII program via ACTR to complete the research for my current book project, The Wives’ Gulag: The Akmolinsk Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland. (I suppose I should count myself lucky that I managed to complete research for the second book just before the program was zeroed out.)

So, I have personally benefited from the Title VIII program, but it has been much more than that. A tremendous proportion of the books written by Americans in the field of Russian and Eurasian studies have depended on research underwritten by the Title VIII program. It would be truly frightening to go through my bookshelf and yank out all of the books supported by Title VIII and imagine the incredible loss of knowledge that the defunding of this program represents. The Russian History Blog itself is a secondary product of Title VIII, as much of the research we share, the books we discuss, the ideas we explore have resulted from the language and research training supported by Title VIII.

One can only hope that the program will be refunded in the future, but the political climate in Washington, DC, these days, so hostile to government spending in support of the production of knowledge, leaves one pessimistic.

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