May 23, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 16

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    Soviets’ global training efforts focus of May 24-26 conference

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    An upcoming conference titled “The Soviet Global Impact: 1945-1991” will examine a period in which the Soviet Union undertook a massive multibillion dollar effort to educate and train people throughout the world.

    The Soviet effort had a significant and lasting influence, said conference organizer Richard Hellie, Director of the University’s Center for Eastern European and Russian/Eurasian Studies.

    “Institutions in many countries of the world look as though they were ‘Made in the USSR’––and, in fact, they were,” said Hellie, Professor in History and the College. “Students trained in the USSR took their training home with them and created Soviet-like institutions, be it academies of sciences, ministries of education, libraries or population-enhancement programs.”

    The conference, which will take place from Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26, was created, in large part, to reverse a trend in scholarship, Hellie said.

    “For centuries, scholars have taken an intense interest in how outside cultures (Iranian, Gothic, Khazar, Viking, Turkic, Byzantine, Mongol and Western) have influenced the Russians and Ukrainians,” said Hellie.

    “But there has been very little discussion of East Slavic influence on other peoples and cultures.”

    The conference, which will be conducted in Russian and English, will examine the Soviets relation to non-Soviet states and people and will attempt to understand the actual and perceived impact of the Soviet effort.

    Scholars from around the world will provide a wide variety of perspectives on Soviet influence, presenting more than 30 papers at the conference.

    Hellie’s paper recounts his personal experience working in book publishing for the Soviets in Chicago from 1959 to 1961. A paper by Chinese scholar Hua-Yu Li will focus on Stalin’s impact on Mao and the Chinese communist party.

    Others will focus on the Soviet influence on cultural traditions in Yugoslavia, the “sovietization” of Bulgarian science and the USSR’s influence on the world economy.

    “Although the Soviet Union no longer exists, its influence will linger for decades to come,” said Hellie. “Now is the time to study it, while memories are fresh.”

    All of the conference sessions will be held in the Social Science Research Building, 1126 E. 59th St.

    More information is available at the center’s Web site at: http://ceeres.uchicago.edu/news.html or by contacting Elizabeth Ginzburg at eginzbur@harper.uchicago.edu.