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Dr. Trani receives honorary doctorate, signs agreement with Russian universities

A nearly 30-year interest in Russia and the Russian people came full circle for Virginia Commonwealth University President Emeritus Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., when he accepted an honorary doctorate from St. Petersburg State University during a whirlwind trip in July 2009 to celebrate the publication in Russian of his book, “Distorted Mirrors: Americans and Their Relations with Russia and China in the Twentieth Century,” and to sign an exchange agreement, on behalf of VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., with Moscow State University, where Dr. Trani taught American history in 1981 as a senior Fulbright Scholar.

The agreement with Moscow State represented VCU’s 16th international partnership with key universities in strategic areas of the world encompassing a dozen countries.

VCU’s structuring of those partnerships, emphasizing the total university’s participation, was shaped by Dr. Trani’s teaching experience at Moscow State, as he came to realize that international ties between university partners were too fragile to rest only on the relationships between individual faculty members.

The experience also propelled him on a new road of academic research into why the United States’ relations with Russia were so difficult, leading to the publication of “Distorted Mirrors” and earlier, in 2002, of “The First Cold War: The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson in U.S.-Soviet Relations.”

During his week-long July 2009 trip to Russia, Dr. Trani also visited the Metropol Hotel in Moscow to draw inspiration for a book he is planning on the life and times of Harrison Salisbury, a Pulitzer-prize winning author and journalist who wrote extensively on both Russia and China.  Salisbury lived at the Metropol during 1949 to 1955 as he reported on the shifting tides in the Post-World War II Soviet Union.

The publication of “Distorted Mirrors” in Russian coincided with President Barack Obama’s 2009 Moscow summit, and provided emphasis for the importance of the efforts of Dr. Trani and co-author  Donald E. Davis, Professor Emeritus of History at Illinois State University, in interpreting the historical roots of the American public’s largely negative perception of Russia, and its largely positive perception of China.

Russian television stations interviewed the two authors during book-signing ceremonies in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and audience members at their book-signings peppered them with questions about both the past and future of Russian-American relations.

American Consul General Sheila Gwaltney surprised Dr. Trani by appearing at St. Petersburg State University for his robing and investiture as an honorary doctor of sciences, awarded for his development of social and scientific contacts between the U.S. and Russia and for his active scholarship in the field of Russian studies.

The publication of a new book, an honorary doctorate from one of Russia’s most prestigious universities and a new international partnership for VCU.

Professionally and personally, Dr. Trani measured the week as the highlight of a lifetime.

Ram Spirit Walk

Photos courtesy of St. Petersburg State University

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