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Contemporary Thinkers

The Contemporary Thinkers program brings speakers for public lectures and meetings with students and faculty.  The speakers are drawn from a range of fields and professions, including media representatives, writers and playwrights, academics, government and business leaders. For the program’s inaugural event, Yale hosted Sergey I. Kislyak, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.

We bring speakers who can address current Russian domestic and foreign policy, given the recent strains in U.S.-Russia relations.  But the goal is much broader than confronting the current difficulties in political relations between the two countries.  It is to foster among Americans a deeper appreciation of the richness of Russian culture and to provide a setting for the exchange of views and experiences in a wide range of endeavors to stimulate creativity. Taken together, the speakers provide avenues into various aspects of contemporary Russia and tap into Yale’s diversity, as represented by the college, graduate school, and professional schools.

2018-2019 Program

The Program on Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies and the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism presented distinguished journalist and broadcaster Vladimir Pozner. He spoke on “How the United States created Vladimir Putin” with an introduction by Professor Douglas Rogers, Director of REEES, and Professor Constantine Muravnik, Slavic Languages and Literatures. 


Drawing on decades of experience, Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitisthe EU Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, delivered a lecture on his areas of expertise entitled, “European Memories: From Soviet Gulag to European Commission.” In his role as EU Commissioner, Dr. Andriukaitis focuses on modernizing and simplifying EU food safety policy, ensuring the Commission is prepared to support the EU’s capacity to deal with crisis situations in food safety or pandemics, and helping address the challenge of increased calls on national health services, among other responsibilities.


The Program on Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies presented Dr. Valeriy Solovey, to speak on the subjet, “How Russia Lives, Survives, and Is Governed.” Dr. Solovey is the chair of the Public Relations Department at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). In the past year, he has also worked as a consultant for the Growth Party (Partiia rosta) candidate Boris Titov in the 2018 Russian presidential elections.


Leonid Volkov, chief of staff for Alexey Navalny, the leader of the Russian opposition, reflected on the state-of-the-art and nearest future of Russian politics in his talk entitled “Russian Politics and the Strategy of the Russian Opposition.” He discussed the challenges faced by President Putin after his successful reelection in March 2018, Putin’s view of Navalny, and the strategy of the Russian opposition going forward.


In December 2018, Ostap Yednak presented, “Transformation in Ukraine After the Revolution: an Insider’s View.” He is a member of The Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine and of the People’s Power Party. 



To launch the Spring 2019 semester series of Contemporary Thinkers, Ivan Safranchuk, Senior Fellow at The Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) discussed with Professor Thomas Graham the current political relatoinship between Russia and the United States, based on Professor Safranchuk’s recent publication, “U.S.-Russian Relations: Torn Between Practical and Ideological Agendas.”


In February 2019, Igor Zevelev, Professor of National Security Studies at George Marshall European Center for Security Studies, presented a lecture, “Russian National Identity and Foreign Policy.” Professor Zevelev was the Director of the Russia Office at the MacArthur Foundation in 2008-2016. His current research interests are in the fields of national identity discourses, nationalism, foreign policy, and Russian-American relations.



Later in February, Dominic Martin, postdoctoral research associate and lecturer in Russian Studies at the European Studies Council, presented a talk based on his long-term fieldwork in Russia. Entitled “Closed City Christians: An Old Orthodox Monastery in Pacific Russia’s Submarine City,” Domin Martin’s talk discussed how a small town in Russia’s Far East became Russia’s center of both Old Orthodox religion and nuclear submarine decommissioning.


In March 2019, the REEES Program and the School of Management presented Rawi Abdelal, the Herbert F. Johnson Professor of International Management at Harvard Business School and the Director of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, who spoke on “Everybody Knows: Russia, U.S. Elections, and Geopolitics.”

Andrei Semenov, a Visiting Lecturer with the REEES Program, presented a public lecture entitled “Challenges from Below: Dynamics of Contention in Putin’s Russia,” in which he addressed discussed the numerous streams of contention—from ethnic and nationalist to labor and environmental—present in modern day Russia.

In April, REEES Program, the Department of the History of Art, and the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures presented Igor Tsukanov, Chairman of the Tsukanov Family Foundation (“TFF”), a UK-based charity supporting education, culture, and the arts in Russia and around the world. Mr. Tsukanov discussed “Defining Russian Post-War Art: A Collector’s Perspective.”



Later that same month, the Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies Program presented a public address by His Excellency Elin Suleymanov, the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States.



2017-2018 Program

Oleg Kalinskiy on “Russia and the US in the Current Environment: From Division to Common Interests and Agenda”

Fedor Voitolovskiy on “US-Russia Relations Perspective: Limits for Confrontation and Cooperation”

Mikhail Rostovsky, political journalist from Moscow on “A View From a Parallel Political Universe: A talk with a Russian Journalist”

Fred Strebeigh, Yale Senior Lecturer, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and English on “Defending Russian Nature Today” 

2016-2017 Program

Maxim Kiselev on “Crisis in Russia: How People Cope With Stress, and How It Is Reflected in Their Electoral Behavior.” 

2015-2016 Program

Viktor Shenderovich on “Putin: Symptom or Curse? Russia as an Empire and Civilization”

Sophie Shevardnadze on “Russia Today: Russians Look at their Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy”

Ambassador Sergei I. Kislyak on the state of U.S.-Russian Relations. 

Semen Ekhstut, ”The Daily Life of the Russian Intelligentsia from the Great Reforms to the Silver Age: The Two ‘Thaws’ in Russian History”

Ivan Safranchuk, “The Future of Eurasia”