William E. Harkins Colloquium

Columbia Slavic Department Establishes the Harkins Colloquium

William Harkins was an expert in many areas and a versatile and innovative Slavist.  In honor of his multifaceted contribution, we are establishing a colloquium that celebrates the cultural as well as disciplinary variety within the Slavic field.  The new Harkins Colloquium, run by graduate students, will provide a forum beyond the classroom in which they pursue their intellectual interests.  The aim is to reimagine Slavic studies both by drawing our own faculty and students together and by enhancing our links to individuals and groups beyond the department.  Funds will be available for graduate students to pursue initiatives of collective interest, host speakers, gather informal groups, or organize more formal events.   Donations toward the establishment of this colloquium may be sent to e Department of Slavic Languages, Columbia University,  1130 Amsterdam Avenue, Mail Code 2839, New York, NY 10027, attention: John Lacqua.  Checks should be made out to Columbia University with "Harkins Colloquium" in the memo line. You can also donate, online, using the following link:

Donate to the William E. Harkins Colloquium

In memoriam William E. Harkins

William E. Harkins, Professor Emeritus of the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University, died on May 17, 2014, at the age of 92.  Among Slavists, Bill Harkins was a true renaissance man: he was an expert on Russian prose, a specialist in Slavic folklore, one of the first American scholars to do serious work in Czech literature, the author of a monograph on Karel Čapek, a translator from Czech, the author of the Dictionary of Russian Literature, the author of a Czech language textbook and co-author of a widely used textbook of Russian grammar, and a promoter of regional studies.  Generations of Columbia students remember him fondly for his contribution to their training on all these fronts, as well as for his good will, his attention to their development as writers, and his having made them attuned to the interplay of word and image in Slavic culture.  In 2000, his students and colleagues in the field honored him with a Festschrift volume entitled Depictions: Slavic Studies in the Narrative and Visual Arts (edited by Douglas M. Greenfield).  His colleagues were profoundly grateful to him for his generous service to the Slavic Department, the Russian Institute, the university, and the Slavic field at large.  He played an important role in making Columbia an important center for Slavic studies. 

Born in 1921 in State College, Pennsylvania, William Harkins received his B.A. degree from Pennsylvania State University.  After military service, he did his graduate work in the Slavic Department at Columbia and received his doctorate in 1950.  His dissertation, published as a book, was The Russian Folk Epos in Czech Literature.  Professor Harkins taught in the Slavic Department at Columbia for the next forty years.  One colleague who had worked with him for forty years described Bill Harkins as “absolutely honest,” and “always kind,” and noted that Bill “always bore far more than his fair share of the burden, administrative, pedagogical, and emotional, of working together with a group of people different enough from one another to make a strong department.”  At Columbia, Bill Harkins was chair of the Slavic Department and Director of the Russian (now Harriman) Institute, in addition to serving in a number of other organs, including the University Senate and the Committee on Instruction.  He was very active in professional associations in the Slavic field at large and served as President of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages.  His work in promoting Czech studies at Columbia and at large deserves particular mention. 

Bill Harkins’s commitments and activities extended beyond the Slavic field.  He had a special interest in Japanese prints and served twice as the President of the Japanese Art Society (formerly Ukiyo-e Society).

There will be a memorial for William Harkins on Friday, October 17, at 3pm in the Atrium of the Harriman Institute.





Women in Revolution:

Gender, Sexuality, and the 1917 Russian Revolution


To mark the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution and its direct aftermath, the Barnard Slavic Department, along with the Harriman Institute, the Barnard Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the William E. Harkins Colloquium at the Columbia Slavic Department present an interdisciplinary lecture series, “Women in Revolution.” The series interrogates the role of gender and sexuality in Revolutionary and early-Soviet Russia. Leading scholars from the U.S. and Russia will investigate the fraught relationship between the revolutionary ideals of gender equality and the eventual entrenchment of a new Soviet power system. The series is free and open to the public, with talks intended to appeal to a broad, non-specialist audience. All events in the series will take place in the Ella Weed Room, 223 Milbank Hall, on the Barnard College campus from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.


January 31 - Elizabeth Wood (History, MIT)

“Mobilizing, Silencing, and Exploiting Women after the Russian Revolution: Ambivalence about Gender Difference”


March 8 - Elena Gapova (Sociology, U of Western Michigan)

“The Russian Revolution and Women's Liberation: Making the Soviet Gender Contract”


March 29 - Elena Zdravomyslova (Political Science, European U in St Petersburg)

“The Soviet Gender Contract and Sexual Politics: From Revolution to Soviet Patriarchy”


April 5 - Christina Kiaer (Art History, Northwestern)

“Revolution Every Day: Early Soviet Posters and the Propagandizing of Women”

All events: 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Ella Weed Room, 223 Milbank Hall, Barnard College

The series is organized by Irina Denischenko and Bradley Gorski with help from Erica Drennan and Milica Ilicic and is sponsored by the Harriman Institute, the Departments of Slavic and of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, and the William E. Harkins Colloquium at the Slavic Department at Columbia University.




2021 William E. Harkins Colloquium Guest Speaker

(selected by Slavic graduate student)


With the lecture:



Thursday, January 21, 2021, 4:15-6:30 pm

via Zoom:



Alexei Yurchak is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His work focuses on political anthropology, anthropology of science, anthropology of art, and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of the award-winning book Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation (Princeton University Press, 2006 and NLO 2014). He is currently completing a book manuscript about Lenin's body and the Moscow laboratory that has maintained it since 1924.