James H. Billington

Wilson International Center for Scholars; Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC
Historian; Librarian
Humanities and Arts


James H. Billington is the Librarian of Congress Emeritus at the Library of Congress. Prior to the Library of Congress, Bllington taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962 and subsequently at Princeton University from 1964 to 1973. From 1973 to 1987, Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation’s official memorial in Washington to America’s 28th president. As director, he founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Center and seven other new programs as well as the Wilson Quarterly. Billington is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He has been decorated as Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and as Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the President of France and as Commander of the National Order of the Southern Cross of Brazil. He has been awarded the Order of Merit of Italy, a Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the Federal Republic of Germany, the Gwanghwa Medal by the Republic of Korea, and the Chingiz Aitmatov Gold Medal by the Kyrgyz Republic. In 2008, Dr. Billington was awarded the Order of Friendship by the President of the Russian Federation; the highest state order that a foreign citizen may receive. Billington is the author of "Mikhailovsky and Russian Populism" (1956), "The Icon and the Axe" (1966), "Fire in the Minds of Men" (1980), "Russia Transformed: Breakthrough to Hope, August 1991" (1992), "The Face of Russia" (1998)—a companion book to a television series of the same name, which he wrote and narrated for the Public Broadcasting Service—and "Russia in Search of Itself" (2004). 

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