Welcome to CESS 2018 at Pitt!

Welcome to the Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS) 19th Annual Conference at the University of Pittsburgh. Thank you for travelling so far to join us! It’s wonderful to have you here at our University and in our city. We hope you enjoy the beauty of Pittsburgh and find time to explore its many wonderful offerings.

At the University of Pittsburgh, we have a broad vision of what constitutes Central Eurasia—a region that spans from China to Turkey and from India to Russia. Our approach does not fit into any single “area studies” paradigm, but instead seeks to break down barriers and old silos that have served to separate scholars from the region. We worked hard to ensure that our vision is captured in this year’s conference. For this reason and others, you will find #CESS2018 to be an unforgettable experience.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Orzala Nemat, Director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), which was recently named by Prospect Magazine (UK) as the world’s top social think tank. This is no small achievement for an organization created just a little over a decade ago. It is a real thrill to share with you the incredible work AREU has produced over the past 15 years. They are the go-to source for policymakers and scholars who are working on governance, economic, and security issues in Afghanistan. The keynote address will be held following the opening ceremony on Friday, October 26 at 5:15 p.m. in 121 David Lawrence Hall.

We hope you stay and mingle with your friends and colleagues after the awards ceremony and keynote address at our opening reception that will take place at 7 p.m. in Posvar Galleria. This year’s reception will feature the marvelous Turkmen dutar music of internet sensation “Dutar Baghshy” Odeyev.

There will be three important events held on Saturday, October 27. At 12:45 p.m. in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, there will be a special recording of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Majlis Podcast. The topic will be the future of reforms in Uzbekistan, featuring a dynamic discussion hosted by Muhammad Tahir (RFE/RL) and commentary by Luca Anceshi (University of Glasgow), Rauf Salahodjaev (Center for Markets, Governance, and Development, Tashkent), and me.

Saturday evening will feature two important film screenings. The first is the premier of Ingushetia, the Speech of the Voiceless, to be held in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium at 6 p.m. This will be followed by a screening at 7:45 p.m. of the documentary Not in Our Name, which tackles the challenging topic of Central Asian citizens who have fought in Syria. The discussion will be led by the intrepid Asel Murzakulova, Deputy Editor and Producer of the film. She is currently a senior research associate at the University of Central Asia in Bishkek and founder of Mongu, a media project hosted by AKI Press and devoted to new research related to social issues in Central Asia.

We are blessed to have had an inspiring and dedicated team supporting CESS this year. Organizing this conference was a group effort and could not have been done without the incredible dedication of Acting Associate Director Zsuzsánna Magdó and Administrative and Program Assistant Kiersten Walmsley at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. I also want to acknowledge the tireless work of Emma Sabzalieva, who paid attention to every detail of conference planning. And none of us would be here without the work of Tim Blauvelt, chair of the CESS conference committee.

Finally, please join me in thanking the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, the Asian Studies Center, the University Center for International Studies, the Office of the Provost’s Year of PittGlobal initiative, the Humanities Center, University of Pittsburgh Press, Confucius Institute, World History Center, the School of Education, and the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development for their generous financial support of this conference.

Thank you for again for visiting us. Enjoy the days ahead!

Warmest wishes,

Jen Murtazashvili
Director, International Development Program
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh