In the aftermath of World War II, the face of Europe was greatly changed. A number of countries of Central and Eastern Europe fell under the influence/control of the Soviet Union following the defeat of German fascism. Throughout the non-communist world political decision-makers felt the need for additional academic analysis of the politics and history of the USSR and the so-called “Soviet bloc” nations as well as for improved facilities for language training for a new generation of foreign affairs specialists.

A number of American universities established area studies programs and research institutes in the immediate post-war period, including notably Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Columbia University in New York City, and the University of Washington in Seattle. These institutions successfully produced the leading scholars of Slavic Studies in North America. A number of graduates and professors from these programs were instrumental in forming the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) from its conception between the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies (JCSS) and the American Council of Learned Societies’ professional journal to being its own membership organization.

The organization’s precursors—the Joint Committee on Slavic Studies (JCSS) and the American Slavic and East European Review (ASEER)—were two entities already in the field. The JCSS—a joint committee of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)—supported scholarly conferences and publications, disbursed research and fellowship grants, and sponsored bibliographic and other projects. In 1938, the JCSS set up a subcommittee specifically for the review of Russian studies, whose chief activity was to prompt and finalize a proposal for a national professional organization. This subcommittee joined forces with ACLS’s professional journal ASEER—American Slavic and East European Review, a scholarly magazine launched in 1941 by John Hazard of Columbia University. By that point, ASEER had already created a corporation named ‘American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, Inc. (AAASS)’. They did so, in 1948, so as to have an “owner” (but was merely a “legal umbrella”) so that they would be permitted to print their journal in the State of New York–that year is still considered our Association’s official date of establishment.

Together, ASEER and JCSS coordinated the June 1, 1960 launch of a full-fledge national professional membership organization under the existing AAASS name. This new AAASS combined the activities of both the JCSS’s Russian Studies subcommittee and the ASEER. However, ASEER was soon enlarged, revised, and renamed to become AAASS’ own quarterly peer-reviewed journal, Slavic Review. Professor Donald Treadgold of the University of Washington was the initial editor of this new official AAASS publication. AAASS had (and continues to have) an interdisciplinary scope, and was to be a means of promoting contact and communication and of encouraging a sense of identification and association among those concerned with Russian and East European Studies. Its main functions were to distribute an annual bibliography, to sponsor professional meetings and scholarly conferences, to provide a non-juried periodic newsletter (published to promote the flow of information among society members regarding the status of ongoing research and other matters of general academic interest), and to promote and sponsor other projects designed to help the field as a whole.