At Tufts University, the four-day EPIIC conference is attracting some of the leading Russia experts to discuss topics related to Moscow’s role in the modern world order, including the future of Russia-U.S. relations.

Thomas Pickering (pictured), former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, will be one of the participants of the 30th EPIIC Symposium “Russia in the 21 century.” Photo: AP

The Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is holding this week the 30th annual EPIIC (Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship) Symposium “Russia in the 21 century.”

The conference is traditionally organized by undergraduates as part of a year-long program called EPIIC. This year it is hosting some leading Russia experts and is open to the general public for free. The symposium is being held from Feb. 26 through Mar. 1 at the Tufts Medford Campus, Massachusetts.

The choice of Russia as the main topic for this year’s conference was made long before the turbulent events in Ukraine and the deterioration of Russia-U.S. relations, says Sherman Teichman, founding director of the Institute for Global Leadership.

“I chose Russia three years ago. People were wondering why. At that time, Russia was a relative backwater in international relations. It was out of people’s consciousness,” Teichman told Russia Direct

He said that to him, “It didn’t make any sense.” There are experts about the former USSR, experts about the transition, but the new generation of Russia analysts seemed to be scarce in the U.S.

The symposium will consist of presentations, panel discussions, topical forums, informal gatherings and workshops. 

"University students from around the world are here - from Russia and Ukraine surely -  also Brazil, China, Iraq, Israel, South Korea - and uniquely cadets and midshipmen from our U.S. military academies," said Teichman.

Some of the topics included in the program are: Russian identity; Russia and Asia; security strategy (military reform and nuclear capability); Russia’s civil society and dissent. Participants will also discuss Russia for U.S. foreign policy and Russia-EU relations.

“The world is concentrating on Russia’s role in the Ukrainian conflict today. And we certainly won’t ignore it at this forum. But we are not putting Russia entirely through the prism of Ukraine,” Teichman emphasized.

He pointed out that there are many other topics that are important to cover these days. 

In particular, he expects that the conference will help answer the following question: How to move Russia-West relations forward?

“The question is how not to escalate [our relations]. We are dropping out of cooperative agreements with Russia, we are not collaborating well on environmental issues, terrorism or the economy. The things that are critical to global order and to ourselves as individual nations,” he said.

The international symposium will host international practitioners, academics, political activists, public intellectuals and journalists. Some of the speakers include: Suzanne Massie, who served as an informal messenger between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the final years of the Cold War; Thomas Pickering, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; Angela Stent of Georgetown University; Robert Legvold of Columbia University; Dmitri Trenin of the Carnegie Moscow Center; and Matthew Rojansky of the Kennan Institute.

One of the panels will be entirely devoted to the relationship between the state and the media in modern Russia and will feature Yevgenia Albats, editor-in-chief of the independent media outlet The New Times; Oksana Boyko, host of Worlds Apart at the Kremlin-funded RT television network; and Karoun Demirjian, Moscow correspondent of The Washington Post.

Some of the panels will be livestreamed on the Internet. More information can be found on the EPIIC website.

“We want to create a place where older and younger generations of Russia experts can interact with each other. We also bring young Russian voices here. How can we move Russia-U.S. relations forward? Partly through debate, and that’s what we are doing here,” Teichman added.

 Look for updates from the 30th annual EPIIC Symposium on the Russia Direct website.