On July 13, 2019 the Baltic Studies Summer Institute (BALSSI) celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a symposium hosted at Indiana University's Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies Language Workshop. Entitled “BALSSI at 25: The Experience and Its Contribution to Baltic Studies in North America,” the event explored the history and future of Baltic Studies.
Speaking on the symposium panel were: Thomas DuBois, Professor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Guntis Šmidchens, Professor of the University of Washington; Toivo Raun, Professor of Indiana University; Piibi-Kai Kivik, Senior Lecturer in Estonian at Indiana University; and Dalia Cidzikaitė, Senior Researcher at Vytautas Magnus University and Lithuanian instructor for the summer 2019 Language Workshop at IU. As well as exploring the long and rich history of BALSSI and the future of Baltic Studies in America, the speakers discussed the challenges facing Baltic Studies and less commonly taught languages as a whole, including a decrease in funding and support on all levels and lower enrollments as a consequence. Dr. Toivo Raun explained the history of the Baltic diaspora and how the spreading of the Baltic peoples after World War II and following the end of Soviet rule over the Baltics created Baltic Studies in America. He emphasized that this field brings together people from a variety of cultural, linguistic and geographical backgrounds. Piibi-Kai Kivik showed how Estonian language teaching has evolved over the years, highlighting the summer language program as an enriching experience whether or not students go on to pursue a career connected to the Baltic region.
After the symposium, attendees were treated to an appearance by The Hedgehogs, a Baltic folk music ensemble, who performed Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian songs.
The Baltic Studies Summer Institute (BALSSI) is a cooperative project involving the Baltic Languages Consortium and the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies which focuses on the study of the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Indiana University has a long history of hosting BALSSI and offering Baltic languages at the IU Language Workshop in the summer. The university was one of the first centers of Baltic Studies in America: Estonian has been offered at IU since 1953 and continues to be taught here today in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies. So far, IU has hosted BALSSI more often that any other university, and will do so again in 2020.