Byrnes, Robert Francis

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Byrnes, Robert Francis

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Byrnes, Robert Francis

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Born December 30, 1917 in Waterville, New York, Robert F. Byrnes attended Amherst College, receiving his B.A. in 1939, and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1947. Byrnes continued his education as a senior fellow in the Russian Institute at Columbia University from 1948-1950.

Byrnes specialized in the study of Russian conservative thought, Russian historical writing, anti-Semitism in France and Europe, the Soviet role in world affairs after World War II, American policy toward Eastern Europe, and Soviet American relations.

Initially, Dr. Byrnes began his academic career as a specialist in French history, but switched his focus to that of Russian and East European history after serving from 1951 to 1954 as a consultant to the Central Intelligence Agency where he provided intelligence assessments on the Soviet Union and East Europe and served as director from 1954-1956 of the Mid-Europe Study Center, a CIA funded think tank on Soviet issues. In 1956, Dr. Byrnes joined the faculty in the department of history at Indiana University, where he served as chair of the department from 1958-1965. In 1967 Byrnes was named a Distinguished Professor of History, one of the highest honors IU bestows upon its faculty. Prof. Byrnes founded and served as director of IU’s Russian and East European Institute from 1959-1962 and 1971-1975 and was the first director of the International Affairs Center from 1965-1967. In 1982, he won IU’s Brown Derby Outstanding Teaching Award.

Outside of Indiana University, Byrnes was influential in the development of post-war Slavic studies in the United States. In the mid 1950s Byrnes was one of the founders of the Inter-University Committee on Travel Grants (now known as the International Research and Exchanges Board), an organization that facilitated academic exchanges of graduate students, language teachers and scholars with the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Originally serving on IUCTG’s policy and selection committees, Byrnes served as its director from 1960-1969. Byrnes also served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from 1975-1982 and was a consultant for the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the U.S. State Department, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Additionally, he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Boston College from 1969-1975 and of Alverno College (WI) from 1965-1975.

A prolific writer, Byrnes authored or co-authored 11 books, more than 100 articles, and served as editor of 19 books. His more prominent monographs on Russian history include: Pobedonostsev: His Life and Thought and V. O. Kliuchevsky: Historian of Russia. Byrnes also contributed to the history of Slavic studies in America with his publications: Soviet-American Academic Exchanges, 1958-1975, Awakening American Education to the World: the Role of Archibald Cary Coolidge, and A History of Russian and East European Studies in the United States.

From the guide to the Robert F. Byrnes papers, 1875-1997, bulk 1960-1989, (Indiana University Office of University Archives and Records Management http://www.libraries.iub.edu/archives)

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