Events Calendar

Russian Policy in Syria and the Middle East: Determination, Delight, and Disappointment @ Lindner Family Commons (Suite 602)
Dec 7 @ 9:00 AM – 2:15 PM

9:00 Coffee and pastries

9:30-11:30am. Panel 1. Russia’s Engagement Strategies in the Middle East

Nikolas Gvosdev (Naval War College/Foreign Policy Research Institute; Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs)

Russian Strategic Goals in the Middle East

Ekaterina Stepanova (National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow)

Russia’s Policy on the Middle East Conflicts: Regionalization and what it Means for the West

Mark Katz (George Mason University)

Not Getting Any Easier:  Putin’s Middle East Balancing Act

Anna Borshchevskaya (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Putin’s Russia in the Middle East: is there an Endgame?

11:30-12:00pm Lunch

12:00-2:15pm. Panel 2. Russia’s Military Involvement in Syria and its Impact

Michael Kofman (CNA Analysis and Solutions)

Russian Military Operations in Syria and their Implications for Russian Armed Forces

Gregory Simons (Uppsala University)

Russia in the Middle East: Emergence of a new Geopolitical Shatter Belt?

Antonio Giustozzi (King’s College London)

Putin’s Masterpiece: Russia’s Military and Diplomatic Role in Syria through Syrian and Iranian Eyes

Maria Omelicheva (National Defense University)

Russia in Syria: Reshaping the Global Order or Fighting Terrorism?

Igor Delanoe (French-Russian analytical center Observo, French-Russian Chamber of Commerce, Moscow)

How does Moscow Intend to Support Syria’s Reconstruction?


This workshop is part of the “Islam in Russia, Russia in the Islamic World,”
generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation



Dark Shadows Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan with author Joanna Lillis @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Feb 7 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Traversing dust-blown deserts and majestic mountains, taking in glitzy cities and dystopian landscapes, Dark Shadows conjures up Kazakhstan as a living, breathing place, full of extraordinary people living extraordinary lives. Strategically located in the heart of Central Asia, sandwiched between Vladimir Putin’s Russia, its former colonial ruler, and Xi Jinping’s China, this vast oil-rich state is carving out its place in the world as it contends with its own complex past and present. Journalist Joanna Lillis paints a vibrant picture of this emerging nation through vivid reportage based on 13 years of on-the-ground coverage, and travels across the length and breadth of this enigmatic country that lies along the ancient Silk Road and at the geopolitical and cultural crossroads where East meets West. Featuring tales of murder and abduction, intrigue and betrayal, extortion and corruption, this book explores how a president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, transformed himself into a potentate and the economically-struggling state he inherited at the fall of the USSR into a swaggering 21st-century monocracy. A colourful cast of characters brings the politics to life: from strutting oligarch to sleeping villagers, from principled politicians to striking oilmen, from crusading journalists to courageous campaigners.

Joanna Lillis is a Kazakhstan-based journalist reporting on Central Asia whose work has featured in outlets including The Economist, the Guardianand the Independent, the Eurasianetwebsite, and Foreign Policy andPOLITICO magazines. Prior to settling in Kazakhstan in 2005, she lived in Russia and Uzbekistan between 1995 and 2005, and worked for BBC Monitoring, the BBC World Service’s global media tracking service. While completing a BA in Modern Languages at the University of Leeds, she studied Russian in the Soviet republics of Belorussia and Ukraine before the collapse of the USSR, and she has an MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Bradford.

Vulnerability and Resilience of Young People in Kyrgyzstan: Radicalization, Violence, and Extremism @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Feb 21 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Vulnerability and Resilience of Young People in Kyrgyzstan: Radicalization, Violence, and Extremism @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412

with Dr. Emil Nasritdinov

This nation-wide research project explores what makes young people in Kyrgyzstan more vulnerable or more resilient to radicalization, violence, and extremism. This was done using an extensive toolkit of research methods and a wide range of quantitative and qualitative research tools. Analysis was conducted in five domains of young people’s lives connected to radicalization: 1) grievances, 2) politics, 3) religion, 4) socialization, and 5) psychology. The results of our research shows that radicalization in Kyrgyzstan is a very complex phenomenon connected to many aspects of young people’s lives: each domain produces a unique connection to radicalization, and there are many connections across domains.

Dr. Emil Nasritdinov is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at the American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan. He holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of Melbourne, Australia. His main areas of research and teaching expertise are migration, religion, and urban life. He is currently a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at GWU’s IERES.



Lifting the Resource Curse in the South Caspian @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Feb 26 @ 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM

with Sonia Zilberman

The South Caspian’s rich oil and gas reserves attract a wide array of multinational companies and financiers. Poor governance of extractive industries in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan fuels violations of human rights and environmental degradation. However, innovative solutions at the local, national, and international levels can influence social and environmental accountability. In this presentation, Sonia Zilberman of Crude Accountability will discuss how multi-stakeholder, data driven methodology can shape the dialogue on environmental justice and human rights in the extractive industries; showing how innovative approaches strengthen industry governance in the Caspian region.

Sonia Zilberman is the Director for South Caspian Energy and Environment at Crude Accountability, a US-based NGO that partners with communities in the Caspian region. Prior to joining Crude Accountability, she worked at CIVICUS-World Alliance for Citizen Participation; and previously worked at The Bank Information Center, promoting Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the context of extractive industries in Russia. She has also held positions with The Nature Conservancy, and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Sonia holds an MA in International Development Studies, and BAs in International Affairs from GWU. 

The Hungry Steppe Famine, Violence, and the Making of Soviet Kazakhstan @ Voesar Conference Room, Suite 412
Feb 28 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

with author Sarah Cameron

The Hungry Steppe examines one of the most heinous crimes of the Stalinist regime, the Kazakh famine of 1 930–33. More than 1 .5 million people perished in this famine, a quarter of Kazakhstan’s population, and the crisis transformed a territory the size of continental Europe. Yet the story of this famine has remained mostly hidden from view. Drawing upon state and Communist party documents, as well as oral history and memoir accounts in Russian and in Kazakh, Sarah Cameron reveals this brutal story and its devastating consequences for Kazakh society. Through the most violent of means the Kazakh famine created Soviet Kazakhstan, stable territory with clearly delineated boundaries, forging a new Kazakh national identity. However this state-driven modernization project was uneven, neither Kazakhstan nor Kazakhs themselves were integrated into the Soviet system in the way s Moscow had hoped. The experience of the famine scarred the republic for the remainder of the Soviet era and shaped its transformation into an independent nation in 1991.


Sarah Cameron is assistant professor of history at the University of Mary land, College Park, where she offers courses on Soviet history and the history of modern Central Asia. She received her PhD from Yale University, where her dissertation won the John Addison Porter Prize for the best dissertation in the Arts and Sciences and the Turner Prize for the most outstanding dissertation in European History. At present, she is at work on a new book-length project examining the transformation of the Aral Sea basin over the Soviet era.