Prof. Dr. Mikhail Akulov

URIS fellow 2021 autumn semester (August 2021 to January 2022)


Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 has led to increased engagement with the peninsula and its history within the field of research on Ukraine. In his research project “Between Nation and Empire. Crimea under the German Occupation in 1918”, 2021 autumn semester URIS fellow Prof. Mikhail Akulov addresses an almost forgotten episode from the late stages of World War I. The focus is on Wilhelmine Germany’s endeavour to turn Crimea, which had been occupied since May 1918, into a home for all German-speaking settlers in Russia. Though these plans were not realised, this episode is of interest not least because it opens fascinating comparative perspectives with other periods in the history of the peninsula and other plans for national “homogenisation” of the local population there.

In his course “Neither Red nor White: The 1917 Revolution as a National Moment”, Mikhail Akulov will join students in investigating the significance of the many national movements within the 1917 Russian Revolution, which is usually described as “Russian” and often reduced to the confrontation between “Whites” and “Reds”. The focus is on Ukraine and Central Asia and the comparison of “national liberation movements” in the context of nation-building and decolonisation. Another topic addressed will be post-Soviet narratives about these historical processes, which are often instrumentalised in the culture of remembrance.

Prof. Mikhail Akulov is a historian who researches and teaches at Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan (Astana) in Kazakhstan. He studied history at Harvard University (USA), where he obtained his doctorate in 2013 with a thesis on the history of Ukraine in World War I (“War Without Fronts: Atamans and Commissars in Ukraine, 1917-1919”). He went on to accept an appointment as Professor of History at the Kazakh British Technical University in Almaty. Since 2018 he has served at the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Nazarbayev University in Nur-Sultan, where he primarily teaches courses on the history of Eurasia during the short twentieth century (1914-1991).

Mikhail Akulov’s research interests include processes of social transition, the history of ideas and social history of the Soviet Union, definitions of fascism, Soviet and post-Soviet utopias, and the historiography of the philosophy of history.


Further information on Mikhail Akulov: CV incl. list of publications

Eighth URIS Fellow: Prof Dr Viktoriya Sereda

URIS Fellow in the 2021 spring semester (February 2021 to July 2021)

Picture by Ostap Sereda

The fate of the approximately two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the war in eastern Ukraine is only slowly beginning to capture the attention of social scientists. When it does turn to these issues, migration research concentrates primarily on IDPs as passive victims and those who suffer as a result of the war. In her current research project “The power of the disempowered: civic activism of Ukrainian IDPs”, Prof. Viktoriya Sereda, our eighth URIS fellow, shifts the perspective and looks at the agency of the Ukrainian IDPs. To what lengths do they go to become integrated in their new environment? How do they manage to draw strength from their own experience of displacement and flight for civic engagement? Viktoriya Sereda’s interview-based research is situated at the interface of the sociology of everyday life and the history of identity. She addresses one of the greatest challenges Ukrainian society has faced since the outbreak of the war in the east of the country.

In her course “Migration and belonging. Ukraine in glocal perspective after 1991” at the University of Basel, Viktoriya Sereda invites students to examine selected Eastern European migration processes and debates on belonging, multiculturalism, and integration, with a special focus on the case of Ukraine. For the last decade Ukraine was among the top ten countries suppling highest number of migrants in the World. Not less important are internal migrations that were often caused by military conflict and violence, and became a key factor of societal transformations as well as discussion on belonging. Another important theme of the course is the impact of migration from Ukraine and Eastern Europe on European and American history, and on the current global trends. Therefore, the course participants will engage in the interactive collaborative discovery of several key problems such as Ukraine’s place in the care chain, gender aspects of migration, trans-Atlantic intellectual migration, global diasporas, migrants as important transnational development agents, artistic representations of migration, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prof Viktoriya Sereda studied in L’viv, Budapest and Edinburgh and obtained her doctorate in 2006 with a study of the influence of regionalism on the formation of sociopolitical identity in Ukraine. She has served as Professor of Sociology at the Ukrainian Catholic University in L’viv since 2015. She was recently the MAPA Research Fellow at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University, where she used sociological data to develop a digital atlas of social changes in Ukrainian society.


Further information on Viktoriya Sereda: CV (incl. list of publications)

Seventh Fellow: Dr Bohdan Tokarskyi

URIS fellow in the 2020 autumn semester (August 2020 to January 2021)

Photo_BTPoetry and resistance are two key aspects of the current research project by our seventh URIS fellow, Bohdan Tokarskyi, PhD.

A Slavonic and cultural studies scholar from the University of Cambridge, Tokarskyi is exploring the life and work of the Soviet Ukrainian dissident poet Vasyl’ Stus (1938-1985) in a study titled “A Fragment of Wholeness: The Making of the Self in the Works of Vasyl’ Stus”. Stus spent the last 13 years of his life in Soviet prison and the Gulag and is revered in Ukraine as a dissident and national martyr. Bohdan Tokarskyi offers an innovative reading of Vasyl’ Stus’s oeuvre by focusing on Stus’s poetic subjectivity. The scholar seeks to elucidate the poet’s distinctive position at the intersection of Ukrainian metaphysical poetry, European modernism, and Soviet literature. Through “A Fragment of Wholeness”, he also endeavours to show how Stus’s works invite us to revisit these canons. With his innovative literary scholarship, Bohdan Tokarskyi pays tribute to the work of one of Ukraine’s most complex twentieth-century poets who is still largely unknown outside of his home country.

The subject of poetry and resistance is also the focus of the course Bohdan Tokarskyi will teach at the University of Basel in the 2020 autumn semester. The tutorial “Towards a History of Poetic Resistance in Ukraine” will centre on salient oppositions such as “nation/empire”, “individual/state” and “poet/ regime” and consider them in a historical context. The aesthetic, forms and images that shaped the tradition of the poetry of resistance in Ukraine from Taras Shevchenko to the Euromaidan will be analysed before being placed in a comparative and histoire croisée context with poetry from Russia and Poland.

Bohdan Tokarskyi studied international law in Kyiv and subsequently obtained a doctorate in March 2020 with a work of literary scholarship at the University of Cambridge, where he also taught Ukrainian Studies. Bohdan Tokarskyi’s advocacy for Ukrainian literature is not limited to the university; he has also translated Vasyl’ Stus’s poems and worked as an ad hoc advisor for the first documentary film about one of 20th-century Ukraine’s most important resistant poets.


Further information on his CV (incl. list of publications) or on his website

Sixth Fellow: Prof Dr Mykhailo Minakov

Prof Dr Mykhailo Minakov
URIS fellow in the 2019 autumn semester (August 2019 to January 2020
Politics and ideology of the “Peoples’ Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk – the research project “Secessionism in Ukraine” by our sixth URIS fellow could not be more topical.

Minakov_portraitFollowing its dissolution in 1991, fifteen new, internationally recognised states emerged on the territory of the USSR. Meanwhile, the status of four small new “de facto states” in the Southern Caucasus and bordering Moldova – Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria – remains contested. Nor have the so-called “Peoples’ Republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east of Ukraine been internationally recognised.

In his current research project, Mykhailo Minakov is investigating which ideologies and political practices connect these six Eastern European de facto states, and what consequences the striving for autonomy in the territories of Donetsk and Lugansk has for the stability of present-day Ukraine.

In his course at the University of Basel “Political History of Contemporary Ukraine (1991–2019)”, Prof. Minakov will discuss with students the political challenges facing Ukraine since gaining independence in 1991. How have democracy, the economy and national sovereignty developed? What role is and was played here by the legacy of more than 70 years of the Communist experiment? Why have there been repeated popular uprisings in Ukraine during the past 18 years, and what consequences did these have for the political development of the country?

Prof. Minakov takes an interdisciplinary approach in his research and teaching, combining political analysis with political philosophy. His research interest focuses on the reasons, promises and consequences of the crisis-ridden 1990s, the power of the oligarchs and the origin and consequences of the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Euromaidan in 2013/14 in Ukraine.

Mykhailo Minakov studied philosophy at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. After completing his PhD (2000) and postdoctoral thesis (2007), he taught there as professor of philosophy and political science. Since 2018 Minakov has held the position of Senior Advisor at the Kennan Institute (Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, Washington DC). He taught as a visiting professor at Viadrina European University in Frankfurt (Oder) until March 2019.


Further information on his CV (incl. list of publications) or on his website:

Fifth Fellow: Prof Dr Kateryna Dysa

Prof Dr Kateryna Dysa
URIS fellow in the 2019 spring semester
(February to July 2019)

 “Young people, travel if you can, and if you cannot – travel all the same” (Jules Verne: L’École des Robinsones, 1882)

Dysa_PortraitTravellers’ accounts and travel guides about the city of Kyiv are the focus of Dr Kateryna Dysa’s current research project “Transformation of the Image of the City in Travel Literature: The Case of Kyiv from the Mid-19th to the Early 20th Century”. Labour migration, pilgrimages and secular tourism led to greater mobility in Tsarist Russia in the mid-19th century and gave rise to new literary forms such as travel guides and travel reports. As the centre of “ancient Rus”, Kyiv was at this time a well-known yet provincial pilgrimage destination for Orthodox believers. The city changed constantly under the influence of the travellers, emerging by the early 20th century as a dynamic, multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan centre. Dr Kateryna Dysa explores the constructions and transformations of the urban landscape of Kyiv from the perspective of a history of travel, making an important contribution to research on tourism and travel in Tsarist Russia.

In her course at the University of Basel titled “Describing Eastern Europe: The History of Travel Writing about the Region between the 16th and 20th Centuries”, she explores with students who the first travellers in Eastern Europe were, what they were hoping to achieve when they embarked on their journeys, and what tropes they reproduced or created about the historical regions of Poland, Russia and Ukraine. The emergence of travel literatureas a genre and its potential for understanding the modern age in Eastern Europe from a social and cultural theory perspective are the focus of the tutorial, which is open to students of history, Eastern European studies, European Global Studies, and literature.

Dr Kateryna Dysa’s dissertation at the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest represents the first comprehensive study on witch trials in Ukraine. Her forthcoming monograph “Witchcraft Trials and Beyond: in Volhynian, Podolian and Ruthenian Palatinates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 17th –18th centuries”argues from an anthropological perspective that witchcraft in Ukraine manifested itself in mundane domestic magic and reflected the prevailing social tensions. Dr Kateryna Dysa has likewise charted new historiographical territory with her second book project on the history of sexuality in the urban centres of 18th-century Ukraine. Her analysis of the persecution practices of representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox churches places discourses about sexual practices and the body in a comparative European perspective.

Prof Dr Kateryna Dysa researches and teaches at the Mohyla Academy in Kyiv.



Fourth Fellow: Dr des. Trevor Erlacher

The fourth URIS fellow, Dr des. Trevor Erlacher, will research and teach at the University of Basel from August 2018 to January 2019

41965062_2179257665646851_482714183306051584_nDr des. Trevor Erlacher is a junior scholar whose research focuses on the history of Ukraine from the 19th century to the present day. He studied history at Portland State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his PhD studies in Russian and Eastern European history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017. His particular research interests include the cultural and intellectual history of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora, with a focus on nationalism, imperialism, radicalization and exile.

Current research project
During his time in Basel, Trevor Erlacher will prepare his dissertation entitled “The Furies of Nationalism: Dmytro Dontsov, the Ukrainian Idea, and Europe’s Twentieth Century” for publication. Looking at the biography of Dmytro Dontsov (1883-1973), Trevor Erlacher explores the global and transnational dimensions, ideological development and cultural expression of Ukrainian integral nationalism from its origins to post-Communist Ukraine. The concepts of “iconoclastic authoritarianism” and “cosmopolitan ultranationalism” are developed as key concepts for analysing Dontsov’s life and work.

Tutorial course
In Basel Trevor Erlacher will teach a course in English on the subject of “Nationalism and Socialism in Twentieth-Century Ukraine” during the 2018 autumn semester. The course explores the political and cultural history and the history of ideas of the regions forming today’s Ukraine from the late 19th century to 1991. The history of Ukraine will be analysed as a nexus of interactions, conflicts, assimilations, faiths, parties, ethnicities and different states. The course focuses on the historical situation of Ukraine as a colonised frontier region on the peripheries of various dynastic and totalitarian empires.

The course is open to BA and MA students of Eastern European studies, Eastern European history, history, European history in a global perspective, political science, European Global Studies and related subjects. The link to the course in the University of Basel calendar is available here.


CV with list of publications (PDF)

Third Fellow: Prof. Dr. Valeriya Korablyova

The third URIS fellow, Prof. Dr. Valeriya Korablyova, will research and teach at the University of Basel from February to July 2018.

Dr Valeriya Korablyova studied sociology at the V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University and earned her doctorate in philosophy there. In 2012 Dr Korablyova moved to the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev for her habilitation project, which she completed in 2015 with a specialisation in social philosophy and the philosophy of history. She has a strong record of interdisciplinary projects concerning post-Soviet transformations and nation-building in Ukraine and East Central Europe. Her research to date has focused on the symbolic process of nation-building and the distancing of the self from the other (“othering”).

Current research project
In her current research project Dr Korablyova is examining the paradox, so central to the recent Ukrainian past, of the effort to (re-)define a nation state under the European umbrella while the EU itself is under fire and nationalism anywhere is considered a reactionary phenomenon. The project is grounded in critical social theory and looks at possible nation-building models for contemporary Ukraine in the balance between the ways in which the country perceives itself and regional (Poland and Russia) and global (EU and USA) perspectives.

Tutorial course
Dr Korablyova will teach a course in English in Basel on “Untimely Nation: Ukraine in East Central Europe” in the 2018 spring semester. The tutorial course focuses on the central actors, frames and effects of the nation-building process in post-Soviet Ukraine. It will also look at Ukraine in the context of regional and global trends. The course discusses in theoretical terms the understanding of nationalism and models of nation-building in a supposedly “post-national era”. It also aims to provide a deeper general understanding of contemporary Ukraine and the wider region.

The course is open to BA and MA students of Eastern European studies, history and European history. The link to the course in the University of Basel calendar is available here.


CV and list of publications (PDF)

Second Fellow: Dr Olena Palko

The second URIS fellow, Dr Olena Palko, researched and taught at the University of Basel from August 2017 to January 2018.

2014-04-20 12.11.16

Dr Olena Palko is a junior scholar with an interdisciplinary profile. She studied political science and philosophy at the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kiev and obtained her doctorate in political science at the Institute of Political Science and Ethnology at the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev. Dr Palko also completed further PhD studies in history at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England in March 2017. Her research interests are the political and cultural history of Ukraine in the 20th century. Dr Palko’s research to date has focused on the question of the Bolsheviks’ consolidation of power in Ukraine in the 1920s.

Current research project
In her current research project, Dr Palko is undertaking a comparison of the nationality policies of Poland and the early USSR in the 1920s. With particular reference to policy towards the Ukrainian nation, the research investigates the interplay of minority policy and foreign policy in the years between the wars. It describes nationality policy as a means of political consolidation and intergovernmental rivalry, exploring in particular the role of Soviet “Polonophobia” and Polish “Sovietophobia” in the formulation of nationality and minority policies in both countries.

Tutorial course
Dr Palko taught a course in English in Basel on “Soviet Nation-Building in the 1920s-1930s” in the 2017 autumn semester. The course focused on principles and measures of Soviet nationality and minority policy in the interwar period. Conflicting objectives and differences in the implementation of nationality and minority policy in the various Soviet republics were discussed. The aim of this approach was to contribute to a better understanding of the historical dimension of numerous contemporary conflicts in the post-Soviet region.
The course was open to BA and MA students of Eastern European studies, history, political science, European Global Studies and related subjects. The link to the course in the University of Basel calendar is available here.

Public lectures and conferences
Dr Palko gave a lecture on“Mythologizing the Revolution: The Representations of the Russian Revolution in Ukrainian and Russian Revolutionary Literature”, at the conference “One Hundred Years that Shook the World: Failures, Legacies and Futures of the Russian Revolution” organised by the University of St. Gallen, Literaturhaus Zürich and Palace St. Gallen.

Dr Palko participated the public panel discussion “10 Tage, die die Welt erschütterten” – 100 Jahre danach: Dimensionen der Revolution für Europa” within the series of lectures “100 Jahre Russische Revolution” at the University of Berne.


CV and list of publications (PDF)

First fellow: Prof. Dr. Georgiy Kasianov

The first URIS fellow, Prof. Dr. Georgiy Kasianov, researched and taught at the University of Basel from February to July 2017.

Bild: Univerisät Basel, Oliver Hochstrasser
Picture: University of Basel, Oliver Hochstrasser

Prof. Dr. Georgiy Kasianov was born in Chelyabinsk in the southern Urals in 1961. He obtained a degree in history and social sciences from the National Pedagogical University of Kiev in 1983 before completing his doctorate in history at the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Kasianov has been Head of the Department of Contemporary History and Politics at the Institute of Ukrainian History at the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev for more than ten years. His research interests are the social, political and cultural history of Ukraine in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Current research project
Prof. Kasianov is currently working on a monograph about the political use and abuse of history and collective memory in Ukraine since the 1980s. Central aspects of his studies include the nationalisation of history, the construction of a national narrative, the representation of the past in the public sphere, in the media and in school textbooks, the tension between nationalist metanarratives and those informed by nostalgia for the Soviet error, the “decommunisation” and the utilisation of history in intra-and international conflicts. Prof. Kasianov continued to work on this project during his stay in Basel.

Tutorial Course

Picture: University of Basel, Oliver Hochstrasser
Picture: University of Basel, Oliver Hochstrasser

Prof. Kasianov taught a course in Basel on “History, Cultural Memory and Politics: Ukraine and the Post-Communist Space”. He and the students explored the history of Ukraine through the different ways in which it is represented in professional historiography, in political and public discussions, and in the media and art. The link to the course in the University of Basel calendar is available here.

Public lectures
“Past Continuous: Politics of History in Ukraine and the ‘New Europe’ (End of 1990s – 2000s)”
Prof. Kasianov gave a lecture on the subject of “Past Continuous: Politics of History in Ukraine and the ‘New Europe’ (End of 1990s – 2000s)” at the public URIS opening event in Basel on Wednesday, 29 March 2017. In his presentation, Prof. Kasianov spoke about the politics of history in Ukraine in the 1990s and 2000s. He explored how the past is used and abused for the present, how history and collective memory can be exploited by various actors, interest groups and governments, and what the consequences are of this kind of utilitarian and politically motivated use of history and memory.


List of publications (PDF)

“Fragen der Vergangenheit werden stark instrumentalisiert”, interview with Georgiy Kasianov, website of the University of Basel (22.3.2017).
“Dem Homo sovieticus entkommen”, article by Georgiy Kasianov in DIE ZEIT (2.12.2016).