1959 - 1991: A unique history
BEWC started life as the 'GB-USSR Association', a membership organisation dedicated to sustaining dialogue and contact with the countries of the then Soviet Union.
Membership rose to some 1500, including a wide range of specialists and public figures with expertise and involvement in the region. The association was widely consulted and cited on issues including political trends, human rights and the establishment of closer links with the region.
Activities included a programme of monthly events (mainly membership seminars and speaking events for leading analysts). A published journal and specialist library collection were also made available to members.
Politicians and the diplomatic service have always had a close involvement with the association. Representatives of both houses of Parliament have been members and officers, with leading figures, including several Prime Ministers, holding the post of President.
Independence has always been important to us. Although core-funded by the UK Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the association has always been able to develop and sustain dialogue where governmental bodies are more constrained.
1991 - 2000: Responding to change
The break-up of the Soviet Union created opportunities to work with its constituent countries, now far more open to contact through a range of channels.
The GB-USSR Association was renamed The Britain-Russia Centre and The British East-West Centre, abbreviated to BEWC.
The nature and purpose of membership also changed.
The new geo-political situation led to a shift in emphasis away from UK government core-funded membership activities to project-based work with a variety of donor agencies as a non-profit and consultancy organisation.
BEWC is proud of the role it has played in sustaining contact and debate with the region for well over 50 years, often in very difficult circumstances.
Following a period of rapid change in many areas, we remain engaged across the CIS and we look forward to continued involvement with the governments, organisations and peoples of the region.