History of the Model

History and Present of the Model UN Community in Russia and all over the World

Model conferences were initiated before the emergence of international organizations, with the first one being held in the United States. American colleges paid much attention to the rules of procedure of the US Senate since it was first convened in 1789.

A future senator naturally had to be taught law, economics, political science, history, and international relations. Model Senates were held to ensure that theory is combined with practice. Model Senates are still held today alongside with models of other legislative bodies throughout the world.

Model International Organizations
Model UN were preceded by Model League of Nations. In 1921, a group of Oxford University students organized a session of the “International Assembly”. The event was quite meaningful, and even the Observer magazine published an article under the title “Geneva at Oxford”.

That model event was organized by Mir Mahmud, a student of Oxford, who came from Amritsar (India). He understood the need for further development of the model community, so in 1922 Mir Mahmud came to Harvard, where he addressed the members of the Harvard Liberal Club.

After the Club supported initiative of Mir Mahmud, in 1923 Harvard held an “International Assembly” model. Among other issues, the delegates focused on opium trafficking. However, in the mid-1920s, model conferences were held less frequently.

The model format in the first half of the 20th century was different from the modern one. While today the delegates discuss one issue for 5 days (or 2 at foreign model events), in the 1920s Oxford insisted on a different form. Sessions would last for one evening and discuss several issues would at once, allocating one hour for each of them. Moreover, sessions were conducted in defiance of the rules of procedure of the League of Nations, since the key role in the discussion belonged to the Model chairman, and the delegates did not always have equal opportunities to express their ideas.

A new phase of the Model community evolution occurred in 1945, which saw the creation of the United Nations. However, there are still some Model League of Nations (Russian State University for the Humanities hosts one of them).

The first Model UN was held in 1947 by the Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. It involved 150 delegates from 41 colleges and simulated only one committee – the General Assembly. This committee analyzed 3 issues:

  1. control and development of atomic energy,
  2. disarmament,
  3. civilian status of refugee.

1949 saw a Model UN of the St. Lawrence University, New York. It was masterminded by Gary Ralfe, an adviser of the US delegation at the 1945 San-Francisco conference and the 1945-1946 UN London conference.

In 1968 such practice was adopted by Europe through the efforts of Dutch students and lecturers. This year saw the European International Model United Nations hosted by The Hague. It has been successfully held every year since then.

Although Model UN community originated in the USA, the 1990s saw new events of this kind in East and South Asia, in the Middle East and in South Africa.

Nowadays Model UN community continues to evolve. Europe hosts more than 50 organizations of this kind, and the USA has some 150.

Model UN community in Russia
The first Russian Model UN took place in Moscow in 1990. This was the Model UN which is now known as Churkin Moscow International Model United Nations (C-MIMUN).

It is worth mentioning that initially the Model UN was organized by a Secretary General and several activists. Today the structure of the Secretariat is a lot more complex and comprises specific sections and working groups.

What has also changed is the scope of such events. Today Churkin Moscow International Model United Nations is the largest Model UN in Eastern Europe; it brings together over 700 delegates from all continents annually. The work is conducted in six official languages of the United Nations, which allows future diplomats to enhance their language skills. Well-developed infrastructure, high-class organization of social events, open information policy of the Model UN let the participants concentrate on the work in their committees, not wasting their precious time on organizational matters.

Russian experience in organizing Model United Nations is similar to that of the Model UN organizers in New York: the first Model United Nations were organized by a former diplomat (Grigoriy Kovrizhenko). On the whole, this practice is quite widespread, since Model United Nations are not only a matter of interest to students, but also an instrument of public diplomacy.

Major Russian Model United Nations are held under the auspices of the United Nations Association of Russia. Model UN actively cooperate with their foreign partners, and the largest ones have signed agreements on cooperation with European model UN.