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What Does a Small Nation Know? Armenians and the Wages of Nationalism

PAI Distinguished Lecture Series

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Hayk Nahapet (Mkrtum Hovnatanian 1779–1846; cropped), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The UCLA Promise Armenian Institute presents the third in its Distinguished Lecture Series, "What Does a Small Nation Know? Armenians and the Wages of Nationalism" by Professor Ronald Grigor Suny of the University of Michigan. This lecture is co-sponsored by the UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), the Ararat-Eskijian Museum, and the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies. Dr. Sossie Kasbarian of the University of Stirling, Scotland will serve as the discussant for this lecture, followed by Q&A.

Friday, February 12, 2021
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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Nations are imagined but in different styles. In the 20th century Armenians have imagined their nation in conflicting ways, as territorial, diasporic, independent, Soviet, ethnonational, cosmopolitan, and even imperial. Many believe that without a strong, coherent, and united sense of nation, a nation can disappear and knows it (to paraphrase Milan Kundera). Others have argued that it is precisely in the divided sense of nation, the ongoing dialogue about what constitutes the nation, that Armenia is most vital and least likely to be forced to subscribe to the imperatives set by nationalists posing as patriots.

Professor Ronald Grigor Suny explores the benefits and the wages of nationalism, its costs to a small nation, and how it has contributed to the tragic moment the country faces today. 

Registration for this event is required and free. Please click here to register. 

Ronald G. Suny


Ronald Grigor Suny is the William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. The grandson of the composer and ethnomusicologist Grikor Mirzaian Suni and a graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University, he taught at Oberlin College (1968-1981), as visiting professor of history at the University of California, Irvine (1987), and Stanford University (1995-1996). He also served as Senior Researcher at the National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg (2014-2016). He was the first holder of the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan (1981-1995), where he founded and directed the Armenian Studies Program.  

He is the author of The Baku Commune, 1917-1918: Class and Nationality in the Russian Revolution (Princeton University Press, 1972); Armenia in the Twentieth Century (Scholars Press, 1983); The Making of the Georgian Nation (Indiana University Press, 1988, 1994); Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History (Indiana University Press, 1993); The Revenge of the Past: Nationalism, Revolution, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union (Stanford University Press, 1993); The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (Oxford University Press, 1998, 2011);“They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2015) [Winner of the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences]; co-author with Valerie Kivelson of Russia’s Empires (Oxford University Press, 2017); and author of Red Flag Unfurled: Historians, the Russian Revolution, and the Soviet Experiment (London and New York: Verso Books, 2017); Red Flag Wounded: Stalinism and the Fate of the Soviet Experiment (London and New York: Verso Books, 2020); and Stalin: Passage to Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020). He is also the editor of Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change: Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (Michigan Slavic Publications, 1983; University of Michigan Press, 1996) The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents (Oxford University Press, 2003, 2013), and The Cambridge History of Russia, III: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and co-editor of Party, State, and Society in the Russian Civil War: Explorations in Social History (Indiana University Press, 1989); The Russian Revolution and Bolshevik Victory: Visions and Revisions (D. C. Heath, 1990); Making Workers Soviet: Power, Culture, and Identity (Cornell University Press, 1994); Becoming National (Oxford University Press, 1996); Intellectuals and the Articulation of the Nation (University of Michigan Press, 1999); A State of Nations: Empire and Nation-making in the Age of Lenin and Stalin (Oxford University Press, 2001); and A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). He is currently working on Forging the Nation: The Making and Faking of Nationalisms.  

Professor Suny has served as chairman of the Society for Armenian Studies and on the editorial boards of Slavic ReviewInternational Labor and Working-Class HistoryInternational Journal of Middle East StudiesThe Armenian ReviewJournal of the Society for Armenian StudiesArmenian Forum, and Ab Imperio. He was elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies for the year 2006. He has appeared numerous times on the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, CBS Evening News, CNN, RTTV, Voice of America, and National Public Radio, and has written for the New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Los Angeles TimesThe NationNew Left ReviewDissent, and other newspapers and journals.  

He has twice been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (2001-2002, 2005-2006) and has received both the National Endowment for the Humanities Grant and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. In 2005 the Middle East Studies Association awarded Professor Suny and his co-organizer, Professor Fatma Műge Göçek of the University of Michigan, its academic freedom prize for their work in bringing Armenian and Turkish scholars together to further study of the Armenian Genocide. In 2013 Professor Suny was awarded the ASEEES 2013 Distinguished Contributions to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Award and the Berlin Prize, an appointment as Anna-Marie Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin (January-May 2014).

Professor Suny’s intellectual interests have centered on the non-Russian nationalities of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, particularly those of the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). The “national question” was an area of study that was woefully neglected for many decades until peoples of the periphery mobilized themselves in the Gorbachev years. His aim has been to consider the history of imperial Russia and the USSR without leaving out the non-Russian half of the population, to see how multi-nationality, processes of imperialism and nation-making shaped the state and society of that vast country. This in turn has led to work on the nature of empires and nations, studies in the historiography and methodology of studying social and cultural history, and a commitment to bridging the often-unbridgeable gap between the traditional concerns of historians and the methods and models of other social scientists. He is currently researching and writing a monograph, Forging the Nation: The Making and Faking of Nationalisms.

Ron Suny was married to pianist Armena Marderosian (1949-2012), had a son Grikor Martiros Suni (1978-1980), and has two daughters, the biologist Dr. Sevan Siranoush Suni and anthropologist Dr. Anoush Tamar Suni. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Sossie Kasbarian


Sossie Kasbarian is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Stirling, Scotland. She earned her doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in 2006. She has been a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Edinburgh and has taught at SOAS, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva), the University of Lancaster (England), and the American University in Cairo. She is co-editor of Diaspora- A Journal of Transnational Studies. Dr. Kasbarian's research interests and publications broadly span diaspora studies; contemporary Middle East politics and society; nationalism and ethnicity; transnational political activism; refugee, displacement and migration studies.  She is the co-editor (with Anthony Gorman) of Diasporas of the Modern Middle East: Contextualising Community (Edinburgh University Press 2015), and co-editor (with Talar Chahinian and Tsolin Nalbantian) of Diaspora and ‘Stateless Power’: Social Discipline and Identity Formation Across the Armenian Diaspora during the Long Twentieth Century (forthcoming). Her current project is a comparative study of the different trajectories that transnational communities in the contemporary Middle East embody and enact, focusing on the Armenian diaspora. 


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Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), Ararat-Eskijian Museum