I arrived in CREES in September 2003 initially on a three year contract to cover for Judy Batt, but have been here ever since, serving most recently as Director of CREES from 2012-14. In that post, it was a pleasure and an honour to initiate and lead the 50th anniversary celebrations (including arranging the 50+ faces of CREES!), particularly the special annual conference which so many CREESniki attended.
When I arrived in 1964, the Social Sciences buildings were very new. I returned in 1999, when my daughter was visiting potential universities, and it looked very down-at-heel. One of the great advantages of CREES was having our own library, which served as both a study area and a social centre - a common room of sorts - where students from all the years mixed and chatted.
I am one of a small group of CREES undergraduates. I studied for a BA in Russian and Russian Studies so my time in CREES was combined with language and literature in the Russian Department. I floated between the Ashley Building and the Muirhead Tower with just a few stop offs in the Mermaid Bar in between.
The Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES) turned 50 years old in 2013. To celebrate this landmark and to showcase the expertise and contributions of CREES staff and alumni, the Centre organized a series of special seminars and an expanded annual conference.
CREES 50th Anniversary Seminar Series. Speakers: Joshua Tucker (New York University), Julian Cooper (CREES/POLSIS) and David White (CREES/POLSIS).
I arrived at CREES after studying economics in Dortmund and a Master's degree at SSEES in London. Being a German student of the 1980s, I was inspired by both the peace movement and Gorbachev's policy of konversiya. After four years of studying under the close supervision of Julian Cooper, I left with a PhD and an enthusiasm for Russian military aircraft.
I joined CREES in October 2004 to start my PhD on post-conflict Serbia. This was a very interesting time for the Western Balkan region and pursuing a research project on the topic at a place like CREES was very rewarding. PhD students received excellent supervision and research training, but above all we felt we were a part of a lively intellectual community.
After taking an MA and PhD at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London, I defected to the Midlands to teach Russian History at CREES in 1999. After taking over responsibility for first the Masters programme, and then the PhD programme at CREES, I grew increasingly envious of the students and ex-students (including many of my colleagues) who were able to include the fantastic Russian language programmes in their studies and hence reached a far better level of Russian than I have ever managed.
Having spent the last 20 years at CREES, arriving there in 1993 to do a part-time M.Sc, I have witnessed people come and go, academic structures evolve, buildings go up, décor date and hairs grey. But one thing has endured: the relentless commitment of my colleagues, past and present, to this complex and still misunderstood part of the world.
I came to CREES in 1966 to work on the OECD project on "Science Policy in the USSR" with Ron Amann under the leadership of Bob Davies.
I arrived at CREES in 2005 with the intention of just taking a career break to indulge my interest in Russia and Eastern Europe for a year on the Masters programme. Little did I know at the time I would end up staying for eight years and developing an expertise on Belarusian politics and society!
I arrived at CREES in the autumn of 1997 and left at the beginning of 2003 with an MA and a PhD in Russian and East European Studies. I am currently director of the arms transfers programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Between us we have a total of 51 years of service in CREES, which seems quite fitting for celebrating CREES's 50th Anniversary. Over this time we have interacted with so many people – students, staff and visitors to CREES – and this has made it a fascinating experience. These experiences have not only shaped CREES, but our lives too.
Judging by some of the other comments here, John Barber should have been paid for his recruitment services to CREES! I am just one of many steered towards Birmingham by his advice. I already had a casual curiosity towards Russia, but it was only after travelling there in 1992 and taking John's fascinating course at Cambridge that it really became a major interest.
When I came to study at Birmingham the B.Com (Russian Studies) seemed an interesting proposition with the attraction of learning a new language and studying what in 1955 was the 'other half'' of the world.
From 1969 until 1971 I was a research student at CREES and from 1974 to 1976 a temporary lecturer in Political Science and research fellow on the social history element of the Soviet industrialisation project. In between I spent two periods in the Soviet Union as a British Council exchange student at the universities of Tbilisi and Moscow.
I was actually only at CREES for one year, academic year 1971-72, when I was a temporary lecturer in economics while someone was away on sabbatical in the US. During my year, I took advantage of the brilliant Russian for Social Scientists course at CREES, then run by Dave Adshead.
I joined CREES in 1983 as a postgraduate student in history, and remain at CREES today as an Honorary Research Fellow. 2013 for me, then, marks both CREES's 50th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of my contact with the Centre.
Peter Rodgers, CREES Master's student, 1998-1999, ESRC PhD Student, 2001-2005. Current position: Lecturer in Strategy and International Business, Management School, University of Sheffield.
"We were in the old building near the Chamberlin Tower for my first year, and we were the first occupants in the brand new Muirhead Tower in the following academic year 1964-5. I remember Miss Kouttaisoff and Prof Davies very well."
"My memories of my studies at Birmingham University have somewhat faded but I recall spending 3 happy and productive years from 1961 to 1964 in the Department of Russian Studies of the Faculty of Commerce.
Listen to our alumni, honorary and associate staff share their views on the recent 50th anniversary annual conference at the Cumberland Lodge.
The Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES) is 50 years old this year. To mark the occasion the department held an expanded annual conference at Cumberland Lodge.
I arrived at CREES as a postgraduate in autumn 1966. The first person I met in the old Baykov Library on the first floor of the Ashley Building was fellow-postgrad Greg Andrusz. I recall thinking how refreshing it was that CREES had people working on such topics as the sociology of housing in the USSR – the first of many surprises induced by the breadth of the CREES engagement with its subject area.
I came to CREES in 1979, quite unexpectedly, when Chris Davis (another American) was going on leave for some reason or other and there was a need for someone to teach the Social Work students in Soviet social policy.
The CREES 50th Anniversary Conference was an intellectual, social, and cultural experience. It is an event that I recommend all future "Creesniks" take advantage of, and one that I hope to partake of again, in upcoming years.
The academic performance and reputation of CREES is thoroughly evidenced (something to thank the over-regulated British academic system for…?). Less easy to measure or brand is the feeling in CREES, passed down through generations of scholars attached to it, of belonging to a warm and caring family.
There is no space to record the full extent of my debt to CREES which goes back to the late 1960s. Therefore I shall give only one specific example.
This event brought together two of the world's most respected specialists on the Russian economy to discuss the most important issues relating to economic policy and performance in Russia today.
My dates at CREES were 1963-66 as undergraduate, 1968-71 post grad. Am now retired, or at least not being paid a salary. Also Professor Emeritus of Politics at the Open University, and Visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of Sussex.
When CREES was established on October 1, 1963, Britain and British universities were very different from today. Both the Conservative and Labour parties assumed that coal, electricity and the railways had been nationalised for ever; most capital investment was in the hands of the state. There were far less students than today, but it was taken for granted that the student population would rise rapidly, that higher education was free of charge, and that children of parents who were not well-off would receive a maintenance grant.
I joined CREES in the autumn of 1968 as a Masters student. This was a turbulent time, with a student occupation of the Great Hall for over a week in my first term, an action in which several students of the Centre were actively involved, in particular the late Pete Gowan, who went on to become a nationally known political activist of the International Marxist Group.
At the invitation of Dr Deema Kaneff, Prof. D. Segert from the University of Vienna came to CREES to present a talk in the 50th Anniversary Seminar Series on 'Eastern Europe after 1989 - a laboratory for the sustainability of democracy?'
Initially a graduate student on the MSocSci, I converted to a PhD (supervised by R. W. Davies and awarded in July 1984). I am now Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent.
The academic and peer support networks at CREES were incredible and I look back at my CREES years with enormous gratitude to all those who shared their time, expertise, experience and very amusing anecdotes.
Former Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Iveta Radicova, delivered a lecture, "The EU Crisis What Next" as part of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES)'s 50th Anniversary Seminar Series and was held in conjunction with the Graduate Centre for Europe, the European Research Institute and the School of Government and Society.
Professor Sarah Birch from the University of Essex joined CREES scholars Dr Kataryna Wolczuk and Dr Matthew Frear to discuss electoral practice and malpractice in former Soviet republics.
My attachment to CREES was somewhat unusual: I was formally at Aston University (1978-81), but it quickly became clear that the expertise I needed for my research on Soviet and East European foreign trade was at CREES, and Phil Hanson very kindly agreed to supervise my PhD, on foreign trade in centrally planned economies; that made all the difference.
I studied and worked at CREES from 1999 until 2006, first as a PhD student and then as an ESRC postdoctoral fellow. Following a year as a lecturer with King's College London at the Royal Air Force College I am now a lecturer in International Security at the University of Nottingham's School of Politics & International Relations.
CREES was an extraordinarily vibrant place to study. The interchange between all the different members of the centre, staff and students alike, was one aspect. But also having a focal point like the Baykov library coupled with regular seminars and the annual conference exposed you to a bewildering array of ideas and research.
In the latest event in the CREES 50th anniversary series, in the annual European Politics and Society and Economics (EPSE) seminar, Honorary Director General of the European Commission Graham Avery and Lara Scarpitta of the EU Delegation in Ankara provided students and staff an insight into the challenges and prospects of EU enlargement.