Kate Estevez, Contributing Photographer

Yale’s Baltic Studies program is growing in response to changing geopolitical currents.

The interdisciplinary program focuses on the histories, cultures and politics of the three Baltic nations: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Created within the MacMillan Center’s European Studies Council in 2009, the program sponsors workshops, symposia and lectures across the University.

This year, the Baltic Studies program is introducing new initiatives, scholarship opportunities and events. In June, the program will host a conference on campus held by the world’s largest scholarly association of the Baltic region, the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies.

“The basic reason driving the expansion is the fact that the Baltic region is becoming a crucial site for the study of a number of issues facing contemporary Europe, from geopolitics, migration and cybersecurity to the questions of historical trauma and political memory,” Edyta Bojanowska, professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the chair of the European Studies Council, wrote to the News.

She explained that the growth of the program is supported by three alumni donors: Kristaps Keggi, Juris Padegs and the family of the late Joseph Kazickas.

Bojanowska said that the donors are dedicated to “increasing visibility” and “institutional prominence” for Baltic Studies in the United States.

“It’s one of the few programs of its kind and it brings in great visitors from politics, academia and the cultural world each year who enrich our community, as well as signature events like the conference on Vilnius’ anniversary,” Steven Wilkinson, director of the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and Vice Provost for Global Strategy, wrote to the News.

The conference, called Vilnius 700, is a two-day symposium that will be hosted by the Baltic Studies program and the European Studies Council on Oct. 12 and 13. It is a celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. 

The conference will feature panel discussions by Lithuanian scholars and leaders on topics related to history, education, arts and immigration in the country. A guided tour of Vilnius-related archives at the Beinecke library and a musical recitation will be included as well. 

Coordinator of Baltic Studies Bradley Woodworth told the News that in addition to Vilnius 700, he is looking forward to the Baltic Studies conference with the AABS in June.

He explained that the conflict in Ukraine has had an important effect on Baltic Studies discussions, including the kind of topics that will be discussed at the upcoming conference.

“The conference in June is a collaborative effort between Yale and the Association [for the Advancement of Baltic Studies],” he told the News. “We’re stressing security issues very much. The Baltic countries, per capita, spend more money supporting Ukraine than any other countries.”

Woodworth said that the program hosted a symposium last year that focused on ethnic conflict within the Baltic region in collaboration with a leading Lithuanian historian and regional scholars. He added that for the future of the program, he wants to continue to bring in scholars and leaders from the region by organizing an annual symposium.

The program also grants post-doctoral fellowships to scholars from the Baltic region annually. This year, fellows from all three countries are visiting for the first time in the history of the program.

“I am also thrilled by our newest initiative, [which] began last year and allows us to fund for two years one student from the Baltic countries toward the MA degree in European and Russian Studies at Yale,” Bojanowska added.

European Studies Program Director Asia Neupane also expressed her excitement for the upcoming Baltic Studies events and initiatives.

She mentioned that the program’s collaboration with the AABS is growing. 

“We have a few additional activities planned as part of the expansion of Baltic Studies in the coming years,” Neupane said, “including potential internal collaborations with other schools and departments at Yale as well as external research and academic partners in Connecticut as well as in the Baltics. We are excited to move forward on some of these ideas to further our reach and impact in the region as well as here at Yale.”

The three Baltic States have a combined population of over six million people.

Esma Okutan is the graduate schools reporter for the News. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, she is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards studying economics.