The mission of the Central Eurasian Studies Society is to facilitate communication and interaction among scholars of the Central Eurasia region, and in doing so to promote high standards of scholarship and instruction about the Central Eurasia region, to promote cooperation among persons and organizations concerned with the scholarly study of Central Eurasia, and to promote general knowledge of and public interest in Central Eurasia.


The idea of forming a new society for the study of Central Eurasia emerged from discussions held at annual workshops which were organized beginning in 1996 by Uli Schamiloglu at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  These discussions culminated, at the closing session of the workshop in 1999, in a consensus by a number of the participants that, in the absence of any such functioning society in North America, a scholarly organization was indeed needed and could be viable.  An informal temporary executive committee was formed, with Marianne Kamp as its chair.  Initially, its tasks were to examine what needs the society could serve and whether it could be established effectively — and eventually, to take steps to establish it.  Discussions began through e-mail, and John Schoeberlein was informally designated as the executive secretary of the committee.

The decision was made to go proceed with the formation of the society, the first formal activity of which would be the First CESS Annual Conference in October 2000, again hosted by University of Wisconsin-Madison.  At the conference, the process of establishing corporate articles and by-laws was begun, with legal and organizational guidance by Eric Sievers, followed by elections conducted at the end of 2000.  An Executive Board of six members was elected, along with John Schoeberlein as President and Marianne Kamp to serve in the capacity of past president (having been the chair of the temporary executive committee).  What was eventually to become the CESS Secretariat was established at the Harvard Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus to sustain the administration of the Society.  CESS incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in April 2001, and in the same year it sought and was granted federal recognition as a tax-exempt charitable organization.

With scholarly communications being a core purpose of CESS, the Society established a Publications Committee under the leadership of Board Member Virginia Martin, which planned and began publishing in 2002 the Central Eurasian Studies Review.  The Annual Conferences were the other major activity of CESS, the first three of which were held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  It was decided that in 2003 the Society had reached a sufficient organizational mature to begin a rotating program of conferences, the first of which — the Fourth CESS Annual Conference — was held at Harvard University in October 2003.  That event served as a clear demonstration of the interest CESS had generated, with over 800 attendees including roughly 500 panel participants.

Beginning in 2008, CESS started to organize Regional Conferences on a biannual basis.  The First Regional Conference was held in Issyk Kol, Kyrgyzstan in 2008, followed by the Second Regional Conference in Ankara (2010), the Third Regional Conference in Tbilisi (2012), and the Fourth Regional Conference in Astana (2014).

In the first several years, the growth of the CESS membership was very rapid, roughly doubling each year until in 2003 it surpassed 1,500 members representing nearly 70 countries.  Beginning in 2002, CESS also began to attract institutional support from among those institutions which are most engaged in the study of Central Eurasia.

In 2002-03, CESS established a formal Secretariat based at the Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus at Harvard, under the directorship of the program’s Director, John Schoeberlein.  While CESS has been careful to expand its activities methodically to ensure that the new society’s ambitions do not outstrip its capacity, new activities in 2002-03 included: establishment of an Award for the Best Graduate Student Paper presented at the CESS conference and election of Honorary Members.

In 2006-07, CESS established the practice of the rotating Secretariat, with the first move of the Secretariat from Harvard University’s Program on Central Asia and the Caucasus to Miami University of Ohio’s Havighurst Center. In 2011, the Secretariat made its second move to Indiana University’s Sinor Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies.  In 2014, CESS discontinued the model of having a university-based Secretariat.  At this time, CESS established a relationship with MemberClicks (an Association Management Service), and added the new role of a part-time Administrative Coordinator. In 2017, CESS added a new part-time role, that of Finance & Social Media Assistant.

The CESS Logo

The CESS Logo is based on an image found in a petroglyph left to us by Eurasian steppe nomads.  This is enclosed in the shape of the interior of an archway, though some have appropriately also interpreted this as the sillouette of a yurt.  These elements are broadly representative of diverse cultures and lifestyles found across the Central Eurasian region.  The concept of the running horse came from the winning entry in the CESS Logo Design Competition held in late 2001.  This design was submitted by Nadia Hlibka, to whom we are grateful for her compelling contribution.  The design was carried to completion by John Schoeberlein with further ideas and design contributions from a number of people.