Yale Expands Baltic Studies Program, Plans Major Conference for June 2024
The European Studies Council at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale continues to expand its Baltic Studies Program, an interdisciplinary forum for the study of the Baltic Sea countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
“Over this past year, the Baltic Studies Program has substantially grown, both in the number of programs and in the kinds of initiatives and efforts we are engaged in,” said Professor Bradley Woodworth, who leads the Baltic Studies Program. “Next June, Yale will host 500 scholars on campus as we hold the world’s premier Baltic Studies conference. The Baltic Studies Program is also seeing Yale’s influence expand in individuals’ lives as we bring students from the region to study with us and now seek to have senior Baltic scholars teach and conduct research here.”
The Yale Baltic Studies Program was created within the European Studies Council at the MacMillan Center in 2009 through the generosity of three Yale alumni: Joseph P. Kazickas ’51 PhD, Juris Padegs ’54 BA ’57 LLB, and Kristaps J. Keggi ’ 55 BA, ’59 MD. Kazickas was from Lithuania, and Padegs and Keggi were from Latvia; all three fled the region with their families during World War II. These Yale graduates sought to create the opportunity not only for their home countries to be studied at Yale, but for citizens of the Baltic countries to come to Yale to further their own training.
Today, Yale’s Baltic Studies Program is known for its post-doctoral fellowships that are granted each year to several scholars from the region. In fall 2023, for the first time in the program’s history, Yale is hosting post-doctoral fellows from all three Baltic countries concurrently: Iveta Leitane from Latvia, Leena Käosaar from Estonia, and Viktoras Bachmetjevas from Lithuania. Furthermore, a previous Kazickas Post-Doctoral Fellow, Arvydas Grišinas from Lithuania, has returned to Yale as a Fulbright Fellow.
Last year, the program expanded scholarship at the master’s degree level. It currently supports one Baltic student in the European and Russian Studies MA program for the duration of their two years at Yale. The inaugural Baltic MA Fellow, Maksimas Milta, graduated in May 2023; the program’s second Baltic student, Vita Raskevičiūtė, matriculated this fall after completing a BA at the University of Pennsylvania.
In addition to its usual slate of events, the Baltic Studies Program has two large-scale events planned for the coming academic year. On October 12-13, 2023, the program will hold a two-day symposium in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of Vilnius. “Vilnius 700” will examine the history, peoples, and culture of this historically multiethnic, multi-confessional and polylingual city, today the capital of the Republic of Lithuania, through academic panel discussions and cultural performances. The program will include Yale Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literatures Tomas Venclova and keynote speaker Kristina Sabaliauskaitė, one of Lithuania’s most prominent – and beloved – contemporary writers. Planning is also well underway for AABS 2024, the biannual conference of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS), the world’s largest scholarly association for study of the Baltic region, which will be held on Yale’s campus June 13-16.
This past summer, European Studies Program Director Asia Neupane and Senior Program Manager Carly Koebel traveled with Woodworth to Lithuania and Estonia to develop these relationships and programs. On June 14, 2023, the Yale Baltic Studies Program held a reception in Vilnius, Lithuania at the Kazickas residence for past Yale Kazickas post-doctoral associates. Woodworth, Neupane, and Koebel also attended the biannual Conference of Baltic Studies in Europe (CBSE), hosted by Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas and met with the AABS board to plan for the 2024 conference at Yale.
Back in Connecticut, the Baltic Studies Program has also had increasing collaboration with Balnet – a New England network of Baltic supporters run by Dr. Dalia Giedrimienė of St. Joseph University in West Hartford. For example, on August 9, a group of medical students and researchers from the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences in Kaunas, Lithuania, brought to Connecticut by Dr. Giedrimienė visited Yale and were hosted by Bradley Woodworth. The group met with Yale School of Medicine Deputy Dean Robert Rohrbaugh and Nickia Corley, Director of the Office of Global Health Education to discuss collaborations between Yale Medical School and medical schools in Lithuania. They also toured the Medical School Library and Sterling Memorial Library.
On August 12, Woodworth met with Dr. Giedrimienė and the Honorable Audra Plepytė, Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to the United States, at St. Joseph University to continue discussions about furthering educational opportunities of Lithuanians in Connecticut and of Americans in Lithuania. On August 20, Woodworth—who also is an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Haven— spoke at an anniversary commemoration of the Baltic Way, a peaceful political protest held on August 23, 1989, in which the people of the Baltic states held hands, forming an unbroken chain from Tallinn to Vilnius, to demonstrate for independence from the Soviet Union.
“The Baltic Program is a vibrant unit within our Council, and its national and international profile has steadily increased under the energetic leadership of Professor Woodworth,” said European Studies Council Chair Edyta Bojanowska. “I am incredibly proud that Yale contributes in-depth academic knowledge about this vital region, whose geopolitical significance in European affairs has only increased following Russia’s neoimperial aggression in Ukraine.”
“I am deeply grateful to the initial program donors and their families and to Yale University for the opportunity to manage the Baltic Studies Program,” said Woodworth. “Professors Edyta Bojanowska and Steven Wilkinson have been especially supportive, as have the terrific staff—in particular Asia Neupane and Carly Koebel—who help me with our programming. The Baltic region has been a central part of my life since my first brief visit to Soviet-era Rīga, Latvia in 1988 and then my first longer stay in the region, in Estonia, from the spring of 1990 to the collapse of the USSR in the fall of 1991. Most of all, I am grateful to be a part of bringing outstanding Baltic scholars to Yale to work—coming to know them and help them succeed here in New Haven has been profoundly rewarding.”