“The house of a good man and a good woman will never know scarcity. You can keep supplies for many years, unless they rot.”* The Domostroi still has much to teach us these days, and we can apply its advice and admonitions to our field (if not, surely, to our individual lives!). The field of early Slavic studies is full of “good” people, women and men, doing some of the most exciting work in the history, culture, languages, literatures, economy, and religious lives of the people who lived (and still live) east of the Elbe. Few groups of scholars in any field are as productive as we are. Our “supplies” are fresh and appealing. There is no “rotting” to be seen. These are among the most impressive times ever for our field.
But they are impressive mostly because this productivity comes at times of some scarcity. For at least two decades, we have witnessed and lamented the decline in job announcements in early Slavic studies, the lack of replacement appointments for our colleagues who have retired or become “ever-memorable,” and the diminution in numbers of graduate students in our field—the next generation of specialists, upon whom the entire edifice depends.
This scarcity affects the Early Slavic Studies Association (ESSA), as well. While our membership numbers are healthy, our Distinguished Scholarship awards remain acknowledged and coveted, our panels continue to be well-attended, and our annual dinner remains a conference highlight, things could be better. Some basic and essential questions about the organization, posed last year by then-President Don Ostrowski, remain with us today, unanswered. What is the future of the ESSA? How can we increase the involvement of our members? How can the ESSA keep the field active and growing? How can we avoid “rotting”?
Over the past year, Cynthia Vakareliyska, Don Ostrowki, Jenn Spock, Eve Levin, and I—and many others besides—have been working to set an agenda for the future of the ESSA. We have at this year’s meeting a full agenda of action items and topics for consideration. We will look at our Constitution, our Awards Committee, our webpage, our budget, our Newsletter, and other important topics. We will need all of you to attend, if you at all can. These are vital years for us. We must make decisions now for the same of the future of the ESSA and, by extension, our field. But the first thing that we need more than anything else is the active involvement of our current members.
One engaged, hardworking person deserves to be singled out especially: Talia Zajac is stepping down after several years of excellent, dutiful service as our Newsletter editor. Under her editorship, the Newsletter has become a reliable, informative, and accurate record of the achievements of our members and the field generally. We thank her for her years of service and look forward to working with her in the future in new capacities.
I look forward to seeing you all in Boston.
*From Carolyn Pouncy’s translation (p. 153).