THE EVENTS of the Second World War and its aftermath brought the Soviet Union to the forefront of international affairs and turned American attention to that part of the world. In the succeeding years the desire of Americans to know more about Russia and the Soviet system has increased, and the study of Russia in the United States has expanded at a rapid rate. In 1956, as the first decade of postwar growth in this field drew to a close, those concerned with the state of Russian studies became convinced that a review of the record and some organized reconsideration of problems and opportunities would be beneficial. As a result, a general survey and appraisal of the position of Russian studies in the United States was initiated in the spring of 1957 under the auspices of the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies, a body of scholars engaged in teaching and research relating to Russia and Eastern Europe appointed jointly by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Science Research Council.
This appraisal was in charge of a Subcommittee on the Review of Russian Studies,1 which set for itself the following objectives: in the light of the experience of the decade since the war and in view of changing educational and world conditions, to survey and assess the achievements and problems of Russian studies in the United States; and to suggest fruitful lines for its development in the next decade. Six major aspects of Russian studies were examined: research; library resources; the professional organization of those concerned with the study of Russia; and graduate, undergraduate, and secondary education relating to Russia. Eleven papers by individual scholars dealing with research on Russia in various disciplines, originally prepared at the request of the Subcommittee on the Review of Russian Studies, have been published.2 Library resources and needs were analyzed in a separate but complementary survey undertaken by the Committee on Slavic and East European Studies of the Association of Research Libraries.3 Problems of professional organization in Russian studies were examined and discussed, and proposals in this regard are now under consideration by the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies and others interested in this question. The present volume gives the results of the appraisal of the role of Russian studies in graduate, undergraduate, and secondary education in the United States.
When this appraisal was undertaken, two important and relatively new factors affecting Russian studies were the opening of the Soviet Union to brief visits by tourists and scholars, and widespread public concern to know more about Russia. During the past two years, contacts with the Soviet Union and public interest in the area have grown rapidly and have become major influences on the future of Russian studies in the United States. An American-Soviet cultural exchange agreement was signed early in 1958, and seventeen Soviet and twenty-two American graduate students were exchanged in the academic year 1958-59. The launching of the Soviet satellites in the fall of 1957 led to increased national concern with study of the Soviet area and contributed in part to the passage of the National Defense Education Act, with its provisions for strengthening foreign area and language training, including Russian.
One of the central purposes of this appraisal was to stimulate widespread thought and discussion concerning the problems and prospects of the study of Russia in American education in the years ahead. In keeping with this purpose, a number of conferences were held. The first such conference dealt with graduate education on Russia and met in New York City on December 6-7, 1957. At this conference the members of the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies, along with other scholars and administrators concerned with Russian studies, discussed an early draft of Chapter 1. This draft was based on an intensive study of the record and problems in this field, following visits to the leading institutions concerned with the study of Russia. A revised draft was discussed at another conference held in Berkeley, California, on March 29-30, 1958. This meeting was attended by some seventy scholars and administrators from a dozen institutions on the West Coast of the United States and Canada.
Since it was manifestly impossible to examine the way in which the study of Russia was carried on in all colleges and secondary schools, two different selective studies were made at these levels. In examining undergraduate education, the state of Indiana was chosen as a roughly representative state, and a pilot study was made of the attention devoted to Russia and other non-Western areas in undergraduate education in Indiana. Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as Russia, were included in order to ascertain how the position of Russian studies compared with that of these other areas frequently neglected in American education.
In the late spring of 1958 every college and university in Indiana was visited. A draft report based on the results of this intensive survey, as well as several working papers on such specific problems as curriculum, language instruction, and extracurricular activity, was then discussed at a conference in Bloomington, Indiana, on September 18-20, 1958. This conference was sponsored jointly by the American Council of Learned Societies, Indiana University, and the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies, and was attended by over sixty representatives of the colleges and universities of Indiana and by representatives of other institutions and scholarly organizations. Great interest in the development of non-Western studies in undergraduate education was evidenced, and many fruitful ideas were presented and discussed. The final paper on undergraduate education, included as Chapter 2 of this volume, is based on the Indiana survey and the Bloomington conference.
A slightly different procedure was adopted for the appraisal of the role of Russian studies in secondary education. In this field, a pilot study did not seem to be the best approach. Instead, approximately twenty teachers, principals, administrators, textbook editors, and other leaders in secondary education were invited to meet with a small number of scholars in Russian studies to examine the problems involved in developing the study of Russia in secondary schools. This conference was held in Washington, D. C., on October 17-19, 1958, under the sponsorship of the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies. It discussed several working papers dealing with problems of content and curriculum in Russian studies in secondary education, and with instruction in the Russian language and teacher education. Chapter 3 of this volume is a distillation of the findings of this conference.
Those engaged in Russian studies in the postwar years have faced a number of problems. For almost a decade one of the severest handicaps for the study of Russia was the lack of contact with or access to the Soviet Union as a result of restrictions on travel and exchange of persons and materials imposed by the Soviet government. In addition, for several years in the middle of this period, American acquisition of Soviet publications was curtailed by customs restrictions of the United States government. These factors, in addition to Soviet reluctance to make available much fundamental data, hampered research efforts; scholars had to base their studies on scant materials and on information indirectly acquired or constructed. At the same time, the inaccessibility of the Soviet Union removed an important dimension of graduate education in Russian studies and forced heavy reliance on intensive methods of area training. Though there could be no real substitute for first-hand experience in Russia, this handicap was compensated for, by dint of imagination and hard work, as effectively as the circumstances permitted.
The partial opening of the Soviet Union to travel by Americans and the development of exchanges with some groups in Soviet life present important challenges and opportunities for Russian studies in the United States.4 Such contacts should benefit graduate education and research on Russia particularly, although all aspects of Russian studies will derive advantage from this new phase in Soviet-American relations. It is already clear that more accurate information concerning the Soviet Union and a clearer comprehension of differences and similarities in the Soviet and American ways of life will be among the results.
Another major problem was the scarcity in 1946 of the basic resources necessary for the development of Russian studies—scholars and teachers, research materials, and books and teaching aids. To extend the personnel resources of the field, maximum use was made of the relatively few specialists already trained, with many scholars having to double as advisers, planners, administrators, and government consultants. At the same time a new generation of scholars and teachers was rapidly trained. In some disciplines, such as sociology and geography, where only a few individuals had been concerned with problems of the Russian area, a small but significant number of additional scholars were educated, fresh approaches were devised, and new research was published. In these and such other disciplines as education, philosophy, fine arts, and the history and sociology of science, however, there are still only a handful of American scholars studying Russian developments.
Library and research materials were collected through the combined efforts of the Library of Congress and university libraries, with the assistance of the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies. In addition, such special projects as the Harvard Refugee Interview Project and the Research Program on the U.S.S.R. of the East European Fund drew upon the knowledge of former Soviet citizens and scholars to add significantly to our store of information concerning Soviet society. A number of excellent studies of various aspects of Russian and Soviet society were written, basic treatises and new textbooks were published, and projects to provide teaching aids of various kinds were completed or are now under way. Several important translation programs were undertaken, and the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, sponsored by the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies, took its place as an invaluable aid to students, teachers, scholars, journalists, and many others interested in following Soviet affairs. As a result of these measures, materials on Russia in English are now available in much greater quantity than they were ten years ago. The various efforts such as those described above, as well as the significant advances in graduate education, benefited very greatly, both in financial support and in initiative and planning, from the early and continuing interest of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
A measure of the considerable success with which the field of Russian studies overcame the difficulties facing it in the postwar decade is its accomplishments in graduate education on Russia and its achievements in research. In 1946 both the universities and the government urgently needed highly skilled personnel and mature scholarship concerning the Soviet Union. The main effort in Russian studies during the postwar years was therefore concentrated on meeting these immediate needs, and relatively little emphasis was placed on a possible role for Russian studies in undergraduate and secondary education in the United States.
Similarly, no particular effort was made to transmit to the informed public the findings of the scholarly world concerning Russia, although several universities sponsored brief institutes or special summer programs on Russia and a number of individual scholars participated generously in forums, radio and television programs, and lecture series designed for this purpose. In addition, a few practicing journalists received Russian area training, and a small number of students educated in Russian studies embarked on careers in the communications field or in organizations dedicated to improving public understanding of international and foreign affairs.
The papers that follow should be read with this background in mind. They reflect the intention of those concerned with Russian studies to maintain and strengthen graduate education and research on Russia, as well as their increasing interest in presenting the findings of American and other Western scholarship with regard to Tsarist and Soviet Russia to undergraduates and secondary-school students and to the American public in general.
1. The members of the Subcommittee on the Review of Russian Studies were Cyril E. Black (Princeton University), chairman; Robert F. Byrnes (Indiana University); Charles Jelavich (University of California at Berkeley); Henry L. Roberts (Columbia University); Marshall D. Shulman (Harvard University); Donald W. Treadgold (University of Washington); and Melville J. Ruggles (Council on Library Resources). The Review was administered by John M. Thompson (Social Science Research Council). A summary of its findings has been published in “An Appraisal of Russian Studies in the United States,” American Slavic and East European Review, XVIII (October, 1959), 417-41.
2. American Research on Russia, edited by Harold H. Fisher, with an introduction by Philip E. Mosely (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959).
3. The results of this study are being published in Melville J. Ruggles and Vaclav Mostecky, Russian and East European Publications in Libraries of the United States (Bloomington: Indiana University Publications, Slavic and East European Series, Vol. XX, 1959).
4. A paper on this subject, originally prepared as an address to a conference on research sponsored by the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies in conjunction with the tenth anniversary celebration of the Russian Research Center of Harvard University, January, 1958, has been published: Henry L. Roberts, “Exchanging Scholars with the Soviet Union,” Columbia University Forum, I (Spring, 1958), 28-32.