The Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) owes its creation to an active group of émigré Ukrainian scholars, under the leadership of an Illinois-based historian named Stepan Horak (1920-1986). Horak founded the ASN journal Nationalities Papers in 1972 under the institutional support of the Shevchenko Scientific Society of New York, headed by Jaroslaw Padoch between 1977 and 1991. In its first dozen years, ASN attracted primarily Ukrainian and Baltic scholars. The Ukrainian connection has remained strong throughout, and the American Association of Ukrainian Studies remains the only professional association that has continuously held its annual meeting at ASN since the advent of ASN's Annual World Convention.
A second key moment in ASN's history paralleled the rise of nationalities politics in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. At the initiative of Henry Huttenbach, who became the journal's editor in 1987, and of Michael Rywkin, president since 1984, ASN began to hold annual day-long Soviet nationalities workshops at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, forging a relationship with the university that proved to be critical in the long run. The partnership owed a great deal to Alexander J. Motyl, who headed a nationalities program at the Harriman Institute. Another seminal step was reached when Nationalities Papers signed a contract in 1995 with Carfax (later folded under Taylor & Francis), one of the world's largest publishers of journals.
The third moment was the arrival in the mid-1990s of a large cohort of graduate students and young scholars just a few years removed from their PhDs who were energized by the research possibilities opened up by glasnost, the collapse of Communism and, the world being what it is, ethnic conflict. A generational shift in ASN personnel occurred at the 1994 Slavic Convention - where ASN used to meet annually - with the election of Ian Bremmer to the presidency. The advent of the first Annual World Convention in 1996 resulted from Bremmer's vision, and a dozen members of that cohort are still active as officers within ASN. By the late 1990s, ASN had truly gone international, with the 1998 Convention, for the first time, welcoming more than a hundred scholars travelling from outside North America (the number of scholars grew significantly in subsequent years).
We are still experiencing the fourth phase, a time of impressive growth. The Annual World Convention presents a strong and diverse portfolio of papers, and Nationalities Papers continues to draw academically rigorous submissions from experts in the field. The Convention has been holding Doctoral Student Prizes since 2005, a Book Prize since 2010, and a Best Documentary Film Award since 2013. Importantly, gender parity is a defining characteristic of ASN: female scholars have won over half of of the student awards since 2005.
- Dominique Arel (with assistance from Michael Rywkin)