The UW Baltic Studies Program celebrated its 25th Anniversary on April 26, 2019.
To celebrate, Baltic program alumni and past instructors flew in from California, Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Estonia and Latvia, joining current students, faculty, administrators, and community supporters at the Husky Union Building for an intensive day of history-making.
Up to now, nobody had written down the program’s history. The event aimed to fill this gap by crowd-sourcing memories: A series of forty speakers were allotted 5 minutes each each to speak, and their presentations were recorded for deposit into the UW Archives. They began at 8:30 and ended after 5:00, pausing only for short coffee breaks and lunch.
Morning sessions featured alumni stories: memories, photos, and video clips recalling Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian language classes at the UW from 1994 to 2019. Some reported on their exchanges and travel to the Baltic, others talked about their jobs and careers after UW, and many spoke of wonderful encounters with Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
Afternoon sessions reviewed the Baltic Program’s history: Administrative and academic steps taken to establish Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian language instruction; how these courses developed from 1994 to 2019, and new courses established to engage Baltic culture, history, politics and society; how Baltic Studies was integrated into the general curriculum of the Scandinavian Department, when courses on Scandinavian mythology, literature, cinema, history and politics were expanded to include Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian content.
UW faculty and administrators reported on conferences, international exchanges to and from the Baltic, translation projects, and Baltic collections at the UW libraries. Graduate students and faculty from the UW School of Music recalled four concert tours to the Baltic. Finally, Scandinavian Department Advisory board members and local of the local Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian community representatives recalled their fundraising to create the $3,000,000 endowment that will support UW Baltic Studies in perpetuity.
On the following day, Baltic Studies took concrete form at the annual REECAS-NW conference, which was this year hosted by the UW. The conference featured a series of five Baltic Studies panels: Linguistics, Music, Literary Translation, History, and Politics, with papers presented by Baltic program alumni, and past and present Baltic faculty.
UW Baltic Studies launched its 26th year in Fall 2019. Students are again enrolling classes to study Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian languages. They are writing essays and theses on Baltic topics, and planning research trips to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In this anniversary year it was pleasant to stop for a moment and look back to remember where we’ve been over these past 25 years.... and it is equally exciting to look forward, imagining the journey ahead. There’s a great Norwegian expression for that, “Takk for sist” (“thanks for last time”), to which Balts might answer, “Nägemiseni“ or “Iki pasimatymo” or “Uz redzēšanos” (“until we see again”), at the Baltic Program’s 50-year Anniversary in 2044!