I think I am probably unique in being a complete 'CREES product'! I joined CREES as an undergraduate in 1974, after completing the Prelim year in the Russian Dept, and went straight on after graduation in 1977 to work on a PhD on 'Economic Reform and Political Change in Czechslovakia and Hungary', supervised by Ron Amman and Phil Hanson.
I left CREES for the first time in 1979 to take up a lectureship in Soviet Politics at the University of Leicester, but returned to CREES in 1990 as lecturer in East European Politics at the most interesting time for that region. It was great to be able to fill that gap in CREES's expertise just then. Later, I took five year's leave of absence in 2003-2008 on a research fellowship at the EU Institute for Security Studies in Paris, then returned to CREES on a part-time basis, leaving for the last time in 2010. Thus CREES was the major influence shaping my life until very recently.
Memories go back to undergraduate days: Bob Davies agonising over 'excess deaths' in the 1930s; Ron's pioneering course on 'Science and society'; stern lectures on Russian Marxism from Julian; Phil coaxing the unfamiliar logic of basic economics into my resistant brain...The Ashley building had a special magic, something like a beehive or dovecote where extraordinary knowledge was gathered in and ideas were hatched, all in a gently humming atmosphere of common purpose and, especially, good humour. As my PhD supervisors, Ron and Phil left the deepest impression: for me, they were absolutely the model for academic excellence combined with integrity and decency.
The biggest delight of my time as a lecturer in CREES was working with Kasia Wolczuk, especially on the 'Fuzzy Statehood' project which took us on some far-flung travels, where we discovered (among many other things) the 'Centre of Europe' up a hill not far from Uzhgorod in Transcarpathia!
After almost forty years of obsessing in the quintessentially CREES way about Russia, the Soviet Union (and its breakup), then Hungary and the Soviet bloc (and its breakup), the breakup of Czechoslovakia and, more recently, the still not quite finished breakup of the former Yugoslavia, it was high time for a complete change of perspective. I seized the opportunity to start again on the road I did not take at the age of 18, and have been going to art school in north Wales for the past year. While the art is going really well, I can't help wondering from time to time whether I'll be witnessing yet another state breaking up in the not too distant future...