| by Mollie Messick MATESOL '21

Collage showing profiles of MSSR 2021 fellows
Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia 2021 Fellows

On August 4, the fifth annual Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia (MSSR) concluded after seven weeks of immersive study that brought together 15 fellows with 58 experts to engage in bilingual analysis and discussion of Russia-West relations.

MSSR 2021 fellows were selected from Russian Studies programs around the world and have lived in China, Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Austria, the United States, and the UK. During the Symposium, fellows explored the geopolitical implications of climate change with former Governor Jerry Brown and Anatol Lieven and discussed nuclear strategy and foreign policy with Rose Gottemoeller, Alexei Arbatov, Dmitri Trenin, and Ambassador John Beyrle. The fellows participated in high-stakes negotiation simulations with the Negotiation Task Force (NTF) at Harvard University’s Davis Center and conversed with Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Kostyuchenko about the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine. From the opening panel featuring Dr. Richard Haass, this cohort excelled in the Symposium’s central mission to generate a more nuanced understanding of Russia and to promote a more pragmatic Russia-related discourse. Fellows participated in over 140 hours of coursework conducted in Russian and English.

In addition to practicing TV interview skills with Matthew Rojansky and Jill Dougherty, analyzing the history of empires with Dominic Lieven of Cambridge University, and studying diplomacy with former U.S. ambassadors to Russia, the 2021 fellows have also joined an extensive alumni network. This summer, MSSR alumna Hanna Notte (2017) returned to present on Russian interests and strategies in the Middle East, while alumna Taylor Valley (2017) led the Harvard NTF workshops with Dr. Arvid Bell.  

“It has been amazing being able to chat candidly with so many renowned individuals,” wrote MSSR fellow John Stanko, who is working toward his Ph.D. at Indiana University.

MSSR offers fellows a unique opportunity to engage with journalists and literary writers along with the top scholars in the field.

“It has been a privilege to hear from journalists who have ventured into war zones from the Caucasus to Donbas and witnessed first-hand the real, devastating effects these conflicts have had on local communities,” wrote MSSR fellow Yanliang Pan, a graduate student at Georgetown University. “Their accounts, in addition to revealing the true nature of these conflicts, also remind us of the urgency of their resolution.”

Videos of the MSSR 2021 lectures are available on the Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies (MIR) YouTube channel.

The Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia is generously supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York.