NEW YORK—Asserting scholarly research and education in the arts, humanities and social sciences are not luxuries in difficult times but vitally necessary for emerging nations as they articulate new civic and cultural identities, Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian announced a $2.5 commitment over the next two years to further strengthen centers for advanced study focusing on Western Eurasia and the South Caucasus.
A single Western Eurasia center covers Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova. There are three South Caucasus centers in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. The center for Armenia is based at Yerevan State University.
The grants announced today represent a significant renewal of support for the four advanced study centers originally launched by Carnegie Corporation in 2003, bringing the foundation’s total investment in these centers to $14 million.
“The intellectual and academic resources in these centers of excellence are helping to advance the transformation of the region’s higher education institutions into modern and more comprehensive research universities,” said Gregorian. “The women and men supported by the centers—the intelligentsia—are the region’s engine of reform. Hence, we must continue to invest in them as they contribute to economic development, political and legal reform, and the formation of post-Soviet civil society.”
Though started in 2003, the center for Western Eurasia and the three South Caucasus centers grew from work initiated by Carnegie Corporation to prevent degradation of the academic sector in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Nine Centers for Advanced Study and Education (CASEs) were established in Russia, in partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. Over the past 10 years, the CASEs enabled several thousand Russian academics to engage in research, publication and international exchanges. These university-based centers have helped to build up the capacities of the region’s intellectuals and have contributed to stanching brain drain.
“Carnegie Corporation has worked with regional academics, educators and officials to create access to scholarly resources and programs aimed at enhancing the post-Soviet transformation of these societies. Continued investment will help solidify the processes that strengthen the role of academia in paving the way toward the countries’ future,” said Deana Arsenian, Vice President, International Program, and Program Director, Higher Education in Eurasia at Carnegie Corporation.
South Caucasus Centers Supporting Scholars, Providing Resources
A $2 million grant to the Eurasia Foundation will continue to fund the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC), a network of resource and training centers established in the capital cities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The centers, which partner with local universities, offer scholars and practitioners stable opportunities for integrated research, training and collaboration in the region. Academics supported through the centers have helped to strengthen social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus.
Over the past seven years, more than 100 promising young scholars have received research support from one of the three Caucasus-based centers through fellowship programs. And, the network of regional centers has sponsored workshops, conferences and seminars in social science research methods as well as on policy-relevant topics in fields such as sociology, legal studies, economics, demography, political science, public policy, and environmental studies. The CRRC centers have assembled public access libraries and IT labs, created print and electronic publishing resources and have also offered training in quantitative research methods and statistical analysis.
“Eurasia Foundation’s partnership with Carnegie Corporation over several years has enabled us to create something entirely new in the Caucasus—an international-caliber academic network covering the entire region,” said William Horton Beebe-Center, President, Eurasia Foundation. “The regional network advances the skills of participating students and researchers, connects them with international colleagues in the neighborhood and beyond, offers scholars viable career paths in their native country, and provides a fact-based foundation for policymakers throughout the region to steer their countries in directions that improve the lives of ordinary citizens.”
One of the Caucasus Research Resource Center’s core programs has been the large-scale data collection and analyses of local and regional developments known as the Data Initiative. A response to the dearth of reliable, up-to-date and accessible data on social, political and economic issues, the Data Initiative collects household and other data on issues such as poverty, employment, education, migration, and crime across the Caucasus region.
Border Region Center Focuses on Social Transformation
A $500,000 grant to the American Councils for International Education will continue support for a cross-regional center covering Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. The center, initially established at the European Humanities University (EHU) in Minsk, Belarus, now operates at the “university in exile” in Vilnius, Lithuania, following the closure in 2004 by the Belarus government of EHU’s Minsk campus.
Scholars supported by the EHU-based center have worked to explore the social transformations in the border regions of Western Eurasia. An informal network of scholars from across the region, with support from the center, have worked together to publish academic monographs and innovative serials such as Perekrestki (Crossroads), with special attention to long-neglected (or proscribed) themes and new methodologies in religious studies, folklore, philosophy, history, and cultural studies.
“The Belarus CASE has successfully taken root in the intellectual space of Western Eurasia and is providing unique research opportunities as the only independent social science center in Belarus. It has become the hub for a network of both established and younger scholars from Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine,” commented Dan Davidson, President of the American Councils for International Education.
“The center has offered research and travel support to more than 100 scholars, including scholars working on a study of comparative national identities; developing university curricula in border studies; and an analysis of the role of the Russian minority in Moldova,” said Carnegie Corporation’s Deana Arsenian. “The center’s research is methodologically rigorous and, even from afar, is closely linked to the reform of research and education in numerous regional higher educational institutions. Situated in Lithuania, a country outside of those on which its work focuses—Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine—allows the center to operate with a degree of intellectual freedom it might not otherwise have. Yet the center’s exile status also keeps it keenly focused on its goal of eventual return to Belarus.”
Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to do “real and permanent good in this world.” The foundation has a long history of supporting work focusing on Eurasia including the establishment in 1948 of the Russian Research Center at Harvard University to foster a comprehensive understanding and multidisciplinary study of Russia and the Soviet Union. Prior to the existence of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Center provided a way for the United States to become informed about the U.S.S.R. in its role
as a new world power.