On Saturday 8 June I attended the annual conference of the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES). CREES was established as a specialist interdisciplinary centre for research on the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries at the University of Birmingham in 1963 as the ‘thaw’ was beginning to take hold during the Cold War. 2013 marks its 50th anniversary. It also marks 30 years of my personal contact with the centre because I first went there in 1983 to take up my postgraduate studies financed via a linked award connected to an ESRC-funded project headed by Prof Bob Davies, the leading historian in the West on Soviet economic development and CREES’s founding director. Bob Davies and other staff at CREES were responsible for supervising many of the academics now in post throughout the UK and abroad with responsibility for teaching Russia-related history, politics and international relations, economics and sociology. Many CREESniks (as we are collectively known) also staff the offices of Whitehall and government think tanks.
The conference was held, as it usually is, at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. As this was a special anniversary conference it was particularly well attended and proved to be a great opportunity to catch up with people I don’t see very often, including those whom I’m usually more likely to meet in the Lenin library or archives in Moscow! Rumours still abound about the Soviet flag raising incident that saw CREES banned from Cumberland Lodge briefly in the 1980s. There was cake and champagne to mark this special occasion and a good deal of well-deserved praise for Bob Davies, who, despite the fact that he officially retired many years ago, is still researching and publishing in the field of Soviet history and remains an inspiration to us all.