Victor Winston

1925 - 2015

Victor Winston

Victor Winston, founder of Bellwether Publishing, which published leading geography journals for over 50 years, passed away on November 23, 2015, aged 90.

Victor Henry Winston was born in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) on February 22, 1925. He belonged to a vibrant Jewish community which was subsequently destroyed in the Holocaust. A week before the Germans marched into Vilna in June 1941 the Russians arrested the Winston family for Zionist activities. 16-year-old Victor was sent to Siberia where he spent four years in jails and concentration camps.

Having survived his incarceration and the war, Winston left in 1946 for the United States, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree at Columbia University in New York.

During the Korean War he was drafted into the US army and assigned to the Central Intelligence Agency. He was then transferred to the Mid European Center of Radio Free Europe, where he became its coordinator of research and later acting head.

In the 1950s, Winston taught at the Army War College before founding his own publishing house, Bellwether Publishing in 1959, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. Concurrent with his leadership of Bellwether, Winston also served as Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at George Mason University, Virginia. In the 1990s he moved to Palm Beach, Florida, from where he maintained a branch office of Bellwether. In later years he also served as a Visiting Professor of International Affairs at Marshall University, West Virginia.

Much of Winston’s academic scholarship drew on his own heritage and experiences including the city of Vilnius during the war years and the deportation of Soviet Jews. He also wrote about economic and political developments in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, including the economic geography of countries such as Poland, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, and reflections on the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. As well as journal articles, he co-edited a book with Ed A. Hewett titled Milestones in Glasnost’ and Perestroyka, with one volume on ‘Politics and People’ and another on ‘The Economy’ (The Brookings Institution, 1991).

Bellwether Publishing started small but later branched out to New York and London, and the publication of some 45 scholarly journals. Winston later sold the major portion of his business but continued with a similar, smaller firm focused on five highly-respected geography journals: Eurasian Geography and EconomicsPost-Soviet Affairs, Urban GeographyPhysical Geography, and GIScience & Remote Sensing.

All of these journals became – and remain – important and prestigious outlets for different parts of geography, and have shaped the intellectual trajectory of the discipline over several decades.

Two of the titles grew from Winston’s own interests. Soviet Geography: Review and Translation, which he founded in 1960, was a groundbreaking journal whose aim was “to make available in English reports of current Soviet research in geography.” It subsequently was renamed Post-Soviet Geography (1992-1995), then Post-Soviet Geography and Economics (1996-2002), until taking its current title of Eurasian Geography and Economics in 2002 with a wider remit of publishing original papers on geographic and economic issues across Russia, China, India, the European Union, and other regions within the Eurasian realm. It has achieved the status of being one of the highest ranked journals in Area Studies.

In 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, Bellwether started to publish Soviet Economy. It aimed to present research results and analytical observations on the profound transition taking place in the Soviet Union. By 1987, when the nexus between economics and politics became the focus of some very interesting research, the journal started to publish seminal papers in political science and contemporary history. It was renamed Post-Soviet Affairs in 1992 and continued to offer important research and analysis on the reform process. Today it still publishes contemporary papers on the state of the economy and society in the republics of the former Soviet Union.

In 1980 Winston founded two new journals: Urban Geography and Physical Geography. For the last 35 years, Urban Geography has published original papers on problem-oriented research by geographers and other social scientists on urban policy; race, poverty, and ethnicity in the city; international differences in urban form and function; historic preservation; the urban housing market; and provision of services and urban economic activity. Meanwhile Physical Geography has been an important central place for publishing research on topics of the sub-discipline including geomorphology, climatology, soil science, and biogeography, as well as research methods. In recent years it has embraced the work of physical geographers at the human-environment interface and also publishes cross-cutting research in physical geography.

The fifth of Winston’s journals was Mapping Sciences and Remote Sensing, published from 1964. It was renamed GIScience & Remote Sensing in 2004 and now publishes basic and applied research on cartography, geographic information systems, remote sensing of the environment (including digital image processing), geocomputation, spatial data mining, spatial statistics, and geographic environmental modeling.

Winston’s hope was that through sharing geographic research he would foster collaborations across international and topical borders. He came to know the literature of each sub-discipline well, including the contributors, editors, and editorial boards. He was a hands-on manager, working tirelessly behind the scenes to maintain the quality and viability of each of his titles. He devoted substantial time and resources to ensuring that each journal flourished, overseeing processing of papers, printing, and distribution.

Over more than 30 years, the five journals combined published more than 3,000 refereed geography papers. At a time when the publishing industry was becoming increasingly dominated by large, impersonal corporations with agendas occasionally at odds from that of academia, Bellwether retained an important, more personalized, and specialized niche outlet. For his efforts, Winston earned the widespread respect and indebtedness of geographers the world over.

In 2013, Routledge/Taylor & Francis took on the five journals. Winston was greatly encouraged by this new publishing home for Bellwether, which could no longer cope successfully with the massive changes ushered in by Open Access, the proliferation of consortia, and other such developments. He was also delighted that this would also make the journals accessible to thousands of libraries and institutions around the world.

Winston supported the efforts of the AAG for more than half a century and was among the longest-serving members and mentors of the Russian, Central Eurasian and East European Specialty Group. In addition, he and the staff at Bellwether were active in other AAG specialty groups associated with the topics of the journals. Winston also served as the AAG Representative on the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

In 2010, Winston and Bellwether Publishing received the AAG’s prestigious Publication Award, conferred in recognition of exceptional and outstanding contributions to the discipline by publishers. This honor recognized his many years of service as a rare combination of scholar and publisher, and in recognition of more than 50 years of sustained support for the discipline of geography through production of outstanding geography journals.

Jeremy Tasch, Chair of the AAG’s Russian, Central Eurasian and East European Specialty Group said: “Victor’s efforts to shape the intellectual development of our discipline are celebrated. But his heartfelt recollections of Lithuania, and his personal involvement in the lives of so many geographers, will be missed.”

Victor Winston is survived by his wife, Belle (nee Jaroslaw); their sons, Edward and Robert; and grandsons, Henry and Benjamin.