The Institute began as an Inter-Disciplinary Committee on Soviet and Eastern European Studies founded in 1962 at Carleton. The committee was a premier interdisciplinary academic research hub about the Soviet Union, hosting lecture series with top scholars in the field. Faculty also appeared frequently on CBC television and radio broadcasts as consultants about Soviet and Eastern European affairs. In 1971, the Institute of Soviet and East-European Studies (ISEES) was formally founded at Carleton as a separate department with an area studies MA program that still exists in the present. The foundation of ISEES coincided with the relaxing Cold War tensions between East and West in the 1970s, a period labeled “The Detente” by historians. Under the direction of Carl McMillan, the Institute launched several innovative projects which focused on collaborating with academics and professionals from the Eastern Bloc in this period. These exchanges fostered important connections between the Institute to research institutes and universities in in the region that exist to this day.
As the Cold War thawed and the Soviet Union underwent a series of dramatic reforms in the 1980s, the Institute thrived as an important Canadian research hub. Under the administration of Larry Black, ISEES expanded its Russian language program by hiring expert linguists from the USSR. Additionally, graduate students at the Institute undertook exchanges to Leningrad State University (now St. Petersburg State University), building important connections and partnerships between East and West. Joan DeBardeleben, a prominent scholar in the field of Russian and Eurasian Politics, joined the Institute. As the Soviet Union dissolved, the media again turned to faculty members at ISEES as consultants to explain the complicated turn of events which were unfolding.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Institute faced a number of setbacks as Russian and East European area studies fell out of relevance. This trend affected many other former Soviet Studies departments across Western Europe and North America. From 1996-2003, ISEES was administered under the Norman Paterson School for International Affairs and its Russian program was absorbed in Carleton’s language school. In 1999, the Institute sought to rebrand itself to reflect the growing scholar interest in the post-Soviet transitions, East-Central Europe’s post-Socialist transitions, and the European Union’s growing importance on the world stage. At this point, we regained administrative independence and became the Institute of European and Russian Studies.
The 2000s saw the expansion of the institute both in size and in scope. In 2003, the Centre for European Studies was founded by Joan DeBardeleben. This EURUS-affiliated research centre received funding from both the EU and Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). It would later be designated an “EU Centre of Excellence” by the European Commission. Today, it continues to foster interdisciplinary research on the EU’s role in the wider world. Three scholars of contemporary Europe joined the Institute in this period of expansion. They include James Casteel, a historian of modern Germany and Russia; Crina Viju, a specialist in European economic integration; and Achim Hurrelmann, a political scientist focusing on EU integration discourse.
Considering the growing importance of Central Asia and the Caucasus in the 21st century, the Institute expanded its curriculum to include courses focusing on these regions and hired Jeff Sahadeo, a historian and specialist in Central Eurasia and the Caucasus. As the Institute continued to grow, we received generous external funding from the Kinross Gold Corporation and the Magna Corporation, which enabled both EURUS BA and MA students to pursue language exchanges and research trips abroad. Carl McMillan made a personal donation to establish the Pushkin Fund, creating the position of the outreach and development coordinator as well as the Institute’s first post-doctoral fellowship. In this period, EURUS also partnered with Carleton and the federal government, opening doors to students wishing to pursue co-operative education in the public sector.
After 2010, the Institute continued to expand, fostering innovative research supported by the EU’s Erasmus+ Program. Joan DeBardeleben and Achim Hurrelmann were both awarded Jean Monnet Chairships for their studies of European politics. Considering the growing importance of contemporary Russia, the Institute created the McMillan Chair of Russian Studies in 2021 and hired Paul Goode, a specialist in the study of Russian nationalism, as the inaugural chair. Following the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the Institute launched a number of research initiatives such as the War Observatory and a conference on refugees and conflict displacement. Under the direction of Crina Viju-Miljusevic, EURUS continues to be a leader in the field of European and Russian area studies, encouraging innovative faculty and student research.