By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Dr. David Aikman
During his time as a Time foreign correspondent, Aikman spent years writing from the Soviet Union. Besides becoming an expert on Russian society and fluent in the language, the assignment afforded him the opportunity to meet and repeatedly interview acclaimed Russian Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist, dramatist, and historian. Among western journalists, Aikman has probably had more interviews with Solzhenitsyn than any other (read Aikman’s article about Solzhenitsyn’s life on the Trinity Forum.)
As the Russia-Georgia situation settles, Aikman has resumed duties as a favored history professor, teaching classes on the history of Islam, on revolutionary eras in history, and now – to the added benefit PHC students – a new Russian language course. The latter class currently boasts full registration and a waiting list.
“We’re fortunate at Patrick Henry to have a professor like Dr. Aikman,” said Dr. Laura McCollum, Dean of Academic Affairs, “with both the cultural background, language degree and the in-country journalistic experience in Russia to offer our students. Given recent events in Georgia, it clearly has special relevance from an educational standpoint.”
Consistent with these intermingling Russian themes, Aikman relates how he traveled to Russia this very July, 2008, not for journalistic or academic reasons but for his honeymoon. At that time, the country gave no warning signs of violent intentions.
“We visited Estonia,” muses Aikman. “I had never visited the Balkan republics before. I hadn’t realized how much they hated the Russians.”
As Aikman told Fox commentators, he believes the motive behind Russia’s invasion of Georgia is clear—ego. Given the United States’ support of Kosovo’s independence earlier in the year, Aikman characterizes the invasion as “clearly, an infuriated response by [Russian Prime Minister] Putin.”
“The Russians have a ready-made pretext for this sort of thing,” he continues. “By their law, Russian states may invade anywhere where their citizens’ dignity is infringed.”
Recent news would seem to support Aikman’s thesis: Russia’s nominal allies have refused to support its activities, and Vladimir Putin has wildly claimed that the White House orchestrated events in Georgia to explain Russian aggression.
Regardless of how events resolve themselves in Russia, Patrick Henry College students continue to benefit in myriad ways from their access to a professor of Aikman’s experience and knowledge.
On a side note, regarding Aikman’s appearances on Fox News, it was actually PHC Journalism alum Rebekah Pizana who secured the bookings.
“Since last Fall, I was working to get him on [Fox],” she notes. “We pitch stories before we can run them and when the Russian crisis hit, I told them about Dr. Aikman, who interviewed Yeltsin and followed Solzhenitsyn, among other things. They brought him on Fox Weekend News and said, ‘This Aikman guy is really good!’ So they called him back later.”
Pizana has since moved on from Fox News and now works in the business development wing of restaurant.com.
“I was training in Chicago last week,” she smiles. “I’ll be able to do lots of traveling.”