Ahead of its 70th anniversary in 2016, the Harriman Institute at Columbia University, in collaboration with the Columbia Center for Oral History Research, and the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE), embarked on an oral history project that would document the Institute's substantive role in area studies and academia and its influence on the making of U.S. foreign policy towards the Soviet Union, Russia, and Eurasia. The project undertook in-depth interviews with 26 individuals, including directors, professors, staff, and senior affiliates of the Harriman Institute.
The goal of this project was not to document a conventional year-by-year history of the Harriman Institute. Rather, we aimed to understand three things: The Harriman Institute's changing imprint as a source of policy advice and influence in government; the Institute's capacity to promote and sustain the relevance of area studies as a tool for training new generations of decision-makers, regional experts, and diplomats; and its role in shaping academic fields such as nationality studies and human rights. The resulting project is a powerful analytical and public record of achievements, challenges, limitations, and lessons learned.