University of Bradford Awarded Honorary Degree to Prof. Leonidas Donskis (Updated)

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On July 19, Tuesday, Prof. Leonidas Donskis, Member of the European Parliament, active public figure and an academic, was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Bradford (Great Britain).

The honorary degree which is awarded to those who contribute in the humanities was granted to Leonidas Donskis for his academic research in the Eastern European and Baltic studies, various publications, activities in the public sphere and work in the European Parliament.

The ceremony, which was held at the Great Hall of the University of Bradford, proceeded according to British academic traditions. The respectable attending public included not just the university’s Chancellor famous former cricketer Imran Khan, the Vice Rectors and the university’s large academic community, but also the Mayor of Bradford and representatives of city municipality.

Prof. Donskis was especially delighted to see his friends among the guests, the people he has retained close academic and personal ties with. One of them, Professor of Sociology at the neigbouring University of Leeds Zygmunt Bauman, came to Lithuania upon the invitation of Leonidas Donskis last autumn and held public lectures.

Before receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, the Lithuanian academic was introduced by Prof. John Hiden – Leonidas Donskis’ colleague at the University of Bradford. He provided a brief rundown of the honorary degree’s recipient’s biography, emphasising strong academic framework of Donskis’ achievements. Prof. John Hiden also revealed that Leonidas Donskis is a big fan of The Beatles and performs the legendary British band’s songs himself. A formal speech common to such an occasion was made warmer by affectionate personal recollections.

Accepting the academic award, in his speech Leonidas Donskis expressed sincere thanks to the community of the University of Bradford for the honour bestowed on him. The academic described the years spent at Bradford as some of the happiest in his life. According to Donskis, this was not just because of the great academic environment in the university, its communal atmosphere, the prevailing sense of loyalty and personal freedom, but, first and foremost, because of the people he had the chance to work with, some of whom have remained his friends to this day.

Leonidas Donskis worked at the Dept. of European Studies in the University of Bradford in 1999–2000, after having received a position of a Leverhulme Trust visiting research fellow. The Baltic Research Unit, functioning at the University of Bradford at the time and headed by Prof. John Hiden, was the only one of its kind in the entire Western Europe. Leonidas Donskis, therefore, added his contributions to academic projects by the leading specialists of Eastern European and Baltic studies: he prepared publications, read public lectures, took part in conferences. Currently the Baltic Research Unit has been moved to the University of Glasgow and is run by John Hiden’s disciple Prof. David J. Smith.

Leonidas Donskis described the years in Bradford as critical to his academic career: it is here that he wrote his first book in English and prepared material for the second one. The  End of  Ideology and Utopia? Moral Imagination and Cultural Criticism in the Twentieth Century was published by Peter Lang publishing company in New York in 2000, while the second one, Identity and Freedom: Mapping Nationalism and Social Criticism in Twentieth-Century Lithuania, was published by one of the most renowned academic publishing houses in the world, Routledge, in 2002. The Lithuanian version of the latter book, Tapatybė ir laisvė: trys intelektualiniai portretai, was published by Versus Aureus in Vilnius in 2005. In the book, Leonidas Donskis introduced not just Vytautas Kavolis and Tomas Venclova, but also the famous dissident and politician Aleksandras Štromas, whose connections with the University of Bradford were particularly strong. It was precisely this university that took in Štromas, dissident who fled the Soviet Union, and provided him with an academic position at the Dept. of Peace Studies in 1974–1977.

Leonidas Donskis’ academic ties, established while working in Bradford, remain strong to this day. John Hiden read lectures at Vytautas Magnus University upon Donskis’ invitation. Another notable achievement is that the Journal of Baltic Studies is now published by the prestigious Routledge – Prof. David J. Smith has worked as its editor while Leonidas Donskis is still a member of its editorial board.

Leonidas Donskis continues delving deep into European and Baltic studies, he has also founded and is the editor of the only academic book series on Baltic studies in the world, On the Boundary of Two Worlds, which is published by Rodopi.

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