UCL News


Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland, to unveil foundation stone of UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies

29 April 2004

His Excellency Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of Poland, is to deliver the keynote address of his state visit to the United Kingdom at a ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of the foundation stone of the new building for UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

The ceremony will take place on Wednesday 5 th May, at 4pm, at Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1.

On 12 October 1915 , The Times informed its readers of the formation of a School for Slavonic and East European Studies in London , intended as a unique centre for study of the nation states that would emerge from the First World War. Since that date, in addition to becoming a leading research institution in the field of Slavonic and East European Studies, the School and its members have also played a role in the region's momentous history.

Notable features of the School include:

  • Its joint founder, Tomá Masaryk, went on to become President of Czechoslovakia;
  • Its status grew through its role in World War II, when it was called upon by the Foreign Office, who used its expertise in the Slavonic/east European region to assist with vital information gathering. Partly as a consequence, the government made financial provision after the war to enable the School to expand its studies of Russian and eastern Europe
  • Its library holds a unique collection of 380,000 volumes collected since 1915, including many rare books and manuscripts and historical maps and posters charting the evolution of the region;
  • SSEES joined University College London in 1999.

The School's new building, being built in Bloomsbury, will provide it with the space to house its library appropriately and cater for the School's continued expansion. The new building itself is also intended to become a model of environmentally friendly construction, unique in central London, designed to avoid temperature swings to reduce the need for heating and air conditioning.

"At UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies we have been better placed than most to appreciate the challenges that the politics of the region have placed on our academic development over the last hundred years," says Professor George Kolankiewicz, Director of SSEES.

"In the early years of the School's existence it suffered from the low importance afforded to Slavonic studies in the UK. After World War II the status of Slavonic studies improved, as western governments realised the importance of having an effective understanding of the politics and culture of the region.

"The presence of Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Polish President, at SSEES on 5 th May to unveil the foundation stone of our new building reflects, I believe, the significance that the School enjoys in the region. Our new building will increase the accessibility of SSEES's magnificent library, and be the stimulus for further developments, as SSEES continues to contribute to the understanding of the momentous changes occurring in Europe."

Notes for Editors

1.The ceremony will begin at 1600 hours on Wednesday 5 th May at Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1. All media wishing to attend the ceremony need to register their interest with UCL's Media Relations office by Tuesday 4 th May by calling 0207 679 9726, unless they are already accredited through the Polish Embassy to cover President Kwasniewski's visit . Media wishing to attend the event are required to be at the venue by 1530 hrs. There will be no admission after 1545 hrs.

2. Members of Polish media organisations wishing to travel with or interview President Kwasniewski should contact the Press Section of the Polish Embassy on 0870 774 2700.

3.The School's new accommodation, designed by the award-winning architectural practice Short & Associates, will be situated on Taviton Street, in the heart of Bloomsbury. The building project is being managed by Turner and Townsend. The official opening of the new SSEES building will take place on the occasion of the School's 90 th anniversary, in October 2005. Media enquiries for the architects may also be made via the UCL Media Relations office.

4. SSEES academics are available for media comment in the run-up to EU enlargement and beyond, to comment on the political, economic and cultural implications for the region of EU accession. Interviews can be áarranged through UCL's Media Relations office.