ASN Celebrates its 40th Anniversary

ASN celebrates its 40th anniversary and owes its creation to an active group of émigré Ukrainian scholars, under the leadership of an Illinois-based historian named Stepan Horak (1920-1986). Horak founded Nationalities Papers, the ASN journal, in 1972, under the institutional support of the Shevchenko Scientific Society of New York, headed by Jaroslaw Padoch between 1977 and 1991. In its first dozen years, ASN attracted primarily Ukrainian and Baltic scholars. The Ukrainian connection has remained strong throughout and the American Association of Ukrainian Studies remains the only professional association that has continuously held its annual meeting at ASN since the advent of the Convention.

A second key moment in ASN history paralleled the rise of nationalities politics in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. At the initiative of Henry Huttenbach, who became the journal editor in 1987, and of Michael Rywkin, president since 1984, ASN began to hold annual daylong Soviet nationalities workshops at the Harriman Institute in the Gorbachev years, forging a relationship with Columbia that proved to be critical in the long run. The partnership owed a great deal to Alexander J. Motyl, who headed a nationalities program at the Harriman Institute. Another seminal step was reached when Nationalities Papers signed a contract in 1995 with Carfax (later folded under Taylor & Francis], one of the world's largest journal publishers, thereby securing a financial lifeline to ASN, largely thanks to royalties from institutional subscribers.

The third moment was the arrival, in the mid-1990s, of a large cohort of graduate students and young scholars, just a few years removed from their PhD, energized by the research possibilities opened up by glasnost, the collapse of Communism and, the world being what it is, ethnic conflict. The generational shift, in ASN personnel, occurred at the 1994 Slavic Convention - where ASN used to meet annually - with the election of Ian Bremmer to the presidency. The advent of the first Convention, in 1996, resulted from Bremmer's vision and a dozen members of that cohort are still active as officers within ASN, including Dominique Arel, the current president, and Gordon Bardos, who has served as ASN Executive Director since 1999. By the late 1990s, ASN had truly gone international, with the 1998 Convention, for the first time, welcoming more than a hundred scholars travelling from outside North America (there are 271 of them in 2012). David Crowe, President between 1998-2004 and Adviser since, has bridged the generational transition.

We are still experiencing the fourth phase, the moment of impressive growth. The Convention is presenting 70% more papers in 2012 than it did five years ago, even though the proportion of proposals that do not make the cut keeps increasing. Balkans Studies is exploding (figuratively - 27 panels this year). The number of submissions to Nationalities Papers has increased by 50% in the last two years alone. ASN, building on a tradition inaugurated in the late 1980s, has held six summer/fall conferences in Europe since 2001 - the latest one in Moscow in September 2011. The Convention has been holding Doctoral Student Prizes since 2005, a Book Prize since 2010, and is inaugurating a Film Audience Award in 2012. Most revealingly, the Convention is approaching gender parity (48% this year). In that respect, the student awards give us a glimpse of the future: 72% of prizes (26 of 36), since 2005, have gone to female scholars.

- Dominique Arel (with assistance from Michael Rywkin)