In introducing the history of Eastern Studies in Poland – which the modern day Centre for East European Studies UW is rooted in – it is necessary to name at least two of the most important Sovietological institutions during the inter-war period – East European Institute in Wilno (1930-1939) and Eastern Institute in Warsaw(1926-1939).
Inspiration for the Centre can also be found in the Sovietological research carried out after World War II, focused entirely within Polish émigré communities. It is especially worth noting the “Reduta” Eastern Institute in London as well as the émigré Institute of Literature in Maisons Laffitte in France, created and managed by Jerzy Giedroyc.
The foundation on which the Centre for East European Studies later built on was the underground East European Institute, established in autumn 1983 (Jan Malicki, as well as Jerzy Chmielewski, Stefan Rakowski i Jerzy Kumaniecki). Unfortunately, owing to the great difficulty in creating a regular academic-analytical institution underground – and especially due to the arrest of its creator – the initiative was forced to cease it activity for a number of years.
The organisational and intellectual roots of the Centre for East European Studies stem from the underground journal Obóz (‘Camp’, as in ‘communist bloc’) established in 1981 and edited throughout the 1980s by Jerzy Targalski, together with a small, sometimes changing group, which included Andrzej Ananicz, Kazimierz Stembrowicz, Marek Pernal, Wojciech Maziarski, Jan Malicki, Robert Bogdański, and later, also Leszek Hensel, Krzysztof Dębnicki, Jolanta Sierakowska-Dyndo, Grażyna Gyłybow and Iwanyczo Gyłybow. From its inception, Obóz, as stated in its sub-heading, focused on the “problems of nations in the communist bloc.”
After 1989, it was decided that Obóz and its activities should be extended to include academic coursework, thus continuing the efforts of the underground Institute of Eastern Europe.
In 1990, thanks to the kindness of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the University of Warsaw, the Seminar for Ethnic Problems of the Soviet Union and Central & Eastern Europe was established under the academic supervision of Professor Tadeusz Majda, an expert in Turkish issues. This new entity was initiated by Andrzej Ananicz, Jan Malicki, and supported by Tadeusz Majda. Somewhat later, after the fall of the USSR, it was decided to change the name of the institute to the Centre for East European and Central Asian Studies. It was then modified to its current name – the Centre for East European Studies.
Initially, the Centre only organized annual seminar and open lectures. Despite a difficult first few years, the Centre’s contribution to Eastern issues was recognized by numerous renowned lecturers, who generously offered their expertise to the Centre without recompense. One of them was Prof. Marek Śliwiński, who was the first to regularly come to lecture at the Centre while still employed as a lecturer at the University of Geneva.
The East European Summer School is the Centre’s oldest initiative. It was established in 1991 and started offering courses as part of a three-week international visiting scholarship programme in 1992. Each July, the Summer School offers academic sessions designed for young researchers from former Soviet republics, Central Europe, but also from Western Europe and America. The programme focuses on the region’s history and its contemporary affairs.
The crowning achievement of the work of the Centre’s staff was the introduction of master-level “Eastern Studies” in 1998. Soon the “Postgraduate Eastern Studies” were created and in the academic year 2012/2013 the Centre started the bachlor-level “Eastern Studies”
A significant part of the Centre’s activity is dedicated to academic conferences dealing with the most important issues in the region – the most important are “Warsaw East European Conference”, “St. Grigol Peradze Caucasus Sessions” and “Promethean Conference”. The Centre – either independently or in cooperation with others – publishes: “Obóz”, “Przegląd Wschodni”, “Pro Georgia”, “Nowy Prometeusz”, “Warsaw East European Review”, “Rocznik Centrum Studiów Białoruskich”, “Bielaruski Istaricznyj Ahliad” and “Polskii Studii”. It also edits the Internet publication “BIS” – the Centre’s information bulletin dedicated to “Eastern issues”. In addition, the Centre coordinates numerous scholarship programs, among others: Konstanty Kalinowski Scholarship Program as well as the Scholarship Program for Young Scholars. As of 2006, the Caucasian Bureau has been functioning at Tbilisi State University within the framework of the Centre, intended to support Caucasian-Polish academic collaboration. In 2015, a Kyiv Bureau was established at Kyiv Mohyl Academy. In 2011, the Centre launched an M.A. degree “East European Studies” program in Ukraine, with the participation of students from Kyiv Mohyl Academy, Prykarpattya National University in IvanoFrankivsk and National University “Ostroh Academy”