CAS History

History of the Canadian Association of Slavists and Slavic Studies in Canada

The Canadian Association of Slavists was founded at the meeting of the Learned Societies of Canada at the University of Manitoba in 1954, but its origins date back to the early 1940s, which saw the birth of Slavic Studies as an academic field in Canada.  The Second World War led to increased awareness in Canada of the Slavic world; this, combined with increased Slavic immigration (including the availability of academically trained European Slavists admitted to Canada after the war) and a newly independent foreign policy prompted the development of the field.

The first teaching of Slavic languages at a Canadian university appears to have been a non-credit course in Ukrainian offered at the University of Saskatchewan in 1941.  By the 1943-44 academic year, eight colleges and universities were offering courses in elementary Russian. The first appointment in Slavic Studies was Professor Henry Andrusychen to the University of Saskatchewan in 1945.  The following year, the Canadian branch of the Association of American Teachers of Slavonic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) was formed in Toronto.

The late 1940s saw the take-off of the field, as departments of Slavic Studies were founded at the University of British Columbia, the Université de Montréal, the University of Toronto, and the University of Manitoba. A particular spur was a 1948 grant of the Rockefeller Foundation to the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia to encourage teaching in the field. It is especially notable that, from the start, a wide range of Slavic languages were taught across the country.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the further development and consolidation of the field in Canada.  In 1954, the Canadian branch of the AATSEEL voted to become the Canadian Association of Slavists.  The CAS founded its journal, Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes two years later, in 1956. In the same period, graduate programmes in our field began to open; by the late 1960s, PhD programmes existed at the universities of Alberta, McGill, Montréal, and Toronto, and students could study for an MA at several others. By 1966, 33 universities offered courses in our field.  This period also saw increasing opportunities for travel and research in the USSR and exchanges were established to facilitate scholarly communication with the region of our research interest.

The Canadian Association of Slavists and several of its leading members played an important role in the elaboration of Canada’s policy of multiculturalism in the 1960s and 1970s.  Professor Jaroslav Rudnyckyj was appointed to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in 1963. Together with Professor Bohdan Bociurkiw and Professor Paul Yuzyk (appointed to the Senate in 1963), he successfully argued in favour of multi- rather than bi-culturalism.

The Canadian Association of Slavists hosted the founding conference of the International Committee for Soviet and East European Studies (ICSEES) (now the International Council for Central and East European Studies, ICCEES) in Banff in 1974 and has remained a leading member of the ICCEES to this day.  In August 2020, the CAS will host the world congress of the ICCEES in Montréal.

Since the 1970s, numerous institutes, research centres, and chairs in our field have been established in Canada.  These include the Institute of Soviet and East European Studies at Carleton University (now the Institute of European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies), the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Toronto, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, the Centre for Ukrainian-Canadian Studies at the University of Manitoba, the Prairie Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage at the University of Saskatchewan, the Kule Centre for Ukrainian Folklore at the University of Alberta, the Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies at the University of Alberta, the Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, the Chairs of Ukrainian Studies at the Universities of Toronto, Ottawa, and York University in Toronto, the Kule Chair of Ukrainian Folklore at the University of Alberta, the Chair of Slovak History and Culture at the University of Ottawa, and the Chairs of Hungarian Studies and of Estonian Studies at the University of Toronto.

Slavists Named Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada

1979 Karol J. Krotki
1981 Wladimir Krysinski
1983 Milan V. Dimic
1984 Josef Skvorecky
1987 Edward Mozejko
1988 Régine Robin-Maire
1991 Leszek Kosinski
1991 Lubomir Dolezel
1993 Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz
1994 Igor Mel’cuk
1996 Paul Robert Magocsi
2001 Andrew Donskov
2002 Stanislav Kirschbaum
2008 Robert Brym
2012 Donna Orwin
2014 Lynne Viola
2015 David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye

Articles about the CAS’s History