Set against Gathering Olympic Celebration, UMass Amherst Historian Casts a Sobering Eye on the Caucasus

Audrey Altstadt

AMHERST, Mass. – As the world turns its attention to the grandeur of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, host of next month’s XXII Olympic Winter Games, University of Massachusetts Amherst history professor Audrey Altstadt will be taking a harder look at what she sees as an ongoing Western preference for energy security over human rights in the countries of the Caucasus region.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, Altstadt will present the second in this year’s series of lectures offered by the History Institute for K-12 Teachers at the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. Her talk, titled “Energy and Human Rights in the Caspian Basin,” begins at 4:30 p.m. at 97 Hawley St., with a teacher workshop to follow at 5:30 p.m.

While the workshop is currently filled to capacity, the lecture remains open to the public. All sessions are free. 

According to Altstadt, the oil- and gas-producing states around the Caspian Sea –  Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran – have poor human rights records but the US and EU need their energy resources. She will argue that for the US, as frequent champion of human rights and democratic rule, this dichotomy presents a philosophical and political dilemma.

Since 1994, the UMass Amherst history department has hosted events, workshops and in-service trainings for K-12 teachers in the area. The department’s signature offering is the History Institute, organized in conjunction with the Collaborative for Educational Services. The History Institute is an annual series of workshops organized around a central theme. At each workshop, a faculty member presents on a specific historical topic. Following the talk, teachers and scholars work together to develop strategies for applying the content to the classroom.

This year’s History Institute addresses contemporary events in historical perspective. Upcoming lectures in the institute series feature UMass Amherst history faculty Chris Appy and David Glassberg. By looking closely at Central Asia, the Middle East, the idea of American exceptionalism and the modern environmental movement, teachers are offered essential perspective on stories in the news today.