Posted: April 27, 2007
Stephen Jones, professor of Russian studies and chair of the European Studies Program as well as a member of the International Relations Program, joined the Mount Holyoke College faculty in 1989. Prior to that, he taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz and at the University of London. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Essex and his doctoral degree from the London School of Economics. The recipient of almost countless grants, scholarships, and awards, Jones is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on the modern political, social, and economic history of Caucasia (Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia). But the broad range of his professional and pedagogical interests includes a near- encyclopedic knowledge of the theories and history of nationalism, of post-communist societies of the former Soviet Union, and of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
It is hard to keep up with his publication record: to date over 70 articles in scholarly journals, chapters in edited volumes, encyclopedia entries, and reports to agencies and organizations such as the World Bank, the State Department, or the National Geographic. We didn't count the book reviews, newspaper articles, appearances on NPR, Radio Tbilisi, or BBC TV (at breakfast time!) or consultancies for the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, the New York Times or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In 2005, Harvard University Press published Stephen's book Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy, the first of what will be a three-volume political history of modern Georgia and, in effect, a major "contribution to the history of the Russian Empire as a multinational entity." To quote from one of the reviewers, Socialism in Georgian Colors is a masterfully detailed account "of the movement that produced the world's first government organized around social democratic principles. It is a sophisticated, yet clearly and accessibly written, examination of the Georgian historical context that gave rise to the social democratic movement." Another reviewer writes, "A clear and compelling and dramatic narrative that sustains your interest, integrating theory and highlighting not only historical but contemporary issues . . . a tour de force, a comprehensive history of a nation." Jones claims to be currently writing the other two volumes: The Georgian Social Democratic Republic: 1918-1921 and Georgia and the Struggle for Stability: 1989-2005. However, this claim may be misleading. According to those who have witnessed Stephen rushing about the campus laden with overstuffed attachés and shopping bags full of printed matter, all three volumes were completed, in rough draft, a while ago. He failed to deliver the manuscripts to the publisher in electronic form since, at the time, there was no portable computer memory with that capacity. It took a wheelbarrow. He pulled his back and returned with a pair of scissors.
Stephen is unwavering in his modesty about his service beyond the College. In fact, his voice as the modern historian of the Georgian Republic has been pivotal in supporting the fledgling republic's democratic conscience. But he has also raised funds and enabled the necessary know-how to help modernize the libraries of Georgia and he is one of the founders of the January Exchange in Georgia that has hosted Mount Holyoke College students for several years. Stephen Jones has helped transform his department from a more traditional Russian language and literature focus to a program that spans the disciplines, adding cultural studies, politics, and history to the mix. Students speak of him in superlatives: organized, enthusiastic, accessible, supportive, eager to help, engaging, a relaxed and terrific mentor. "Stephen is both enthusiastic and knowledgeable, both of which he always brings into the classroom." "Couldn't read his handwriting… but definitely one of the best teachers I had."... "He … knows a lot about this topic. So much so that sometimes when I write papers for the class I am certain that something that I say will ultimately be wrong." And then there is the yurt which made its first appearance on Skinner Green in 1997 in conjunction with the course Nomads, Steppes and Cities: An Introduction to Peoples and Cultures of Asia. Students assisted Stephen, and master builder Chris Pyle, in constructing the beautiful tent. It also comes to good use by the department that holds its spring meeting there. They talk in strange tongues while sipping tea.
Stephen Jones is clearly a man of many talents. We should also mention fine cooking (roasted ham with thesecret sauce comes highly recommended) and hypnotic story telling.