History Peeps: Dr. Olga Dror, Professor of History
Born in the Soviet Union, Olga Dror studied Vietnamese language and literature at the School of Oriental Studies at Leningrad State University. She recalls that admission to the program explicitly “gave preference to boys over girls, and I liked the challenge.” But sex discrimination proved easier to overcome than discrimination against Jews. After she graduated college, anti-Semitism limited Dror in finding a job and she decided to emigrate.
In 1990, she surrendered her Soviet passport—and consequently her citizenship—in exchange for documents allowing her to leave the Soviet Union. A “stateless person” with $300 in her pocket, Dror emigrated to Israel where she decided to study International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Despite the challenges of a new country and new language, Israel “felt like home.” There, Dror states, she began again “from scratch.” After the demise of the Soviet Union, when many new Israeli embassies opened in the former Soviet Republics, she used her new expertise in international relations to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affair as a Consul of Israel to the Baltic States.
In 1997, Dror started on yet another adventure when she crossed the Atlantic to Ithaca, New York, to begin a Ph.D. program at Cornell University, concentrating in Southeast Asian and East Asian History. Although her new life came with additional challenges, like mastering American English, Dror completed her graduate studies rapidly, in 2003. The next year she joined the faculty at A&M, when her long journey from St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) brought her to College Station.
Now the author of five books on Vietnam, Dror enjoys digging through archives, interviewing people, and exploring countryside temples. Her goal is to foster a “deeper understanding of Vietnam and its place in world history.”
Dr. Dror loves teaching. She states, “I’m thrilled each time I go to class.” For her, the classroom is not only a place to teach new material but also to show students how to argue their point and respect the opinions of the others.
On a personal note, Dr. Dror is most proud of her son Michael Dror, a fellow Aggie, who graduated in 2014.
To what historical figure would Dr. Dror like to say “howdy” if given a chance? Dr. Dror would not mind meeting Ho Chi Minh, the first President of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. An enigmatic revolutionary who cemented the Vietnamese communist state for decades, Ho Chi Minh is the focus of a new book Dr. Dror is writing a book about the cult of personality.
Jennifer Wells ’24