Oral history interview with Alexander J. Motyl, 2017


Motyl, Alexander J (Interviewee)
McAllister, William (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Alexander J. Motyl, 2017
In the first session, Alexander Motyl reviews his personal history with the Harriman Institute. A particular focus is given to the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He praises Harriman's maintenance of stability in in a period of changes for Russian Studies, citing its continuing ability to attract, educate, and place graduate students. Motyl also describes and situates both intellectual an d funding challenges faced by Harriman in the following years. He discusses the rise of nationality studies following the collapse of the USSR, which he did not view as inimical to Harriman's existing area studies programs. Motyl then discusses the rise of the human rights field, which he views as inextricably linked with the study of the Soviet Union. In the second session, Motyl details his coursework as an undergraduate and graduate student, its interaction with the political context of its time, and his research interests and work as an academic. He discusses how he came to view Russia/the USSR as an empire and the realizations that led him from from pure theory towards empirics. Motyl talks about the decline of prestige associated with area studies following the collapse of the USSR, but he notes that Harriman has been able to maintain its reputation
Collection Name
Harriman Institute oral history collection
College teachers; Area studies; Soviet Union Politics and government 1985-1991; Soviet Union Study and teaching; Russia (Federation) Study and teaching; Motyl, Alexander J; Harriman Institute
oral histories
Physical Description
108 pages
Note (Biographical)
Alexander Moytl is a professor of political science at Rutgers University. He attended Columbia University for his undergraduate degree in political science, and became associated with the then Russian Institute in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a P hD student. After completing his dissertaion, he served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of political science at Columbia, as Director of the Nationalities and Siberian Studies Program at Harriman, and as Associate Director of the Institute from 1992 to the late 1990s. Motyl has written extensively on the Soviet Union, Ukraine, revolutions, nations and nationalism, and empire
Interviewed by William McAllister on July 26 and February 15, 2017
Note (Provenance)
Alexander J. Motyl, Gift, transferred from Columbia Center for Oral History Research 2018
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Persistent URL
Related URLs
Available digital content for this interview.