In an interview with the University of Basel, our current URIS Fellow Viktoriya Sereda talks about the current situation in eastern Ukraine and how the conflict has triggered large migration movements within the country since 2014. As a sociologist, she talks about her research on the changes for society and the individual that have resulted from the ongoing conflict.
(Interview Source: University of Basel, Photo: University of Basel, Oliver Hochstrasser)
Our eight URIS Fellow Prof Dr Viktoriya Sereda has arrived in Basel. She will teach a class on “The power of the disempowered: civic activism of Ukrainian IDPs”. Find more information about the intriguing research in Viktoriya’s portrait
“How to React to Crisis, Secessionism and War – Protest, Peace Activism, or Emigration? South Caucasus & Ukraine in a Comparative Perspective”
On 20 November 2020, the research initiatives “Ukrainian Research in Switzerland” (URIS) and the “Center for Eastern European Studies” (CEES) presented their digital workshop. Those invited included young visiting scholars from Ukraine and the South Caucasus who had been researching at the Universities of Bern, Zurich, St Gallen, Geneva and Basel in the 2020 autumn semester. The workshop addressed the (frozen) conflicts between Abkhazia and Georgia and between Ukraine and Russia. These conflicts are confronting the people in the region with difficult political and social choices: Should they join the secessionist movements, support peaceful solutions through cultural and social engagement, or escape the conflicts through emigration?
The guests were invited to describe the situation in eastern Ukraine and the South Caucasus in a comparative sociological, ethnological and historical perspective. The workshop consisted of three moderated panel discussions of 75 minutes each. The participants were asked to relate their current research to the overarching theme of the event.
In the first panel “Beyond the Politics of History and Memory”, moderated by Benjamin Schenk (Basel), national historiography and individual memory in Soviet Ukraine were explored in the context of the current politics of the past. A close look at artists and historians who have helped to shape the narratives of this politics of remembrance produced unexpected insights into overlapping ideas and concepts concerning, and assumptions about, historical conflicts. In her doctoral thesis, Nataliya Borys (University of Geneva) examines academic networks between Polish and Soviet Ukrainian historians in the 1960s and 1980s. She comes to the conclusion that historical scholarship in the Soviet Union was subject to both material and ideological constraints. The ability of researchers to travel was limited, meaning that only very few transnational academic networks were able to emerge. This, in Borys’ view, was also why the prism of an ethno-national historiography continued to prevail even in the post-Soviet sphere.
The Slavonic and cultural studies scholar Bohdan Tokarskyi (URIS) also alluded to this with his discussion of the life and work of the Soviet Ukrainian poet and dissident Vasyl’ Stus (1938-1985). Tokarskyi urged that we expand the boundaries of our “mental maps” regarding the Soviet dissident movement and consider the diversity and the solidarity within the gulag. A national and ethnocentric perspective, he said, also opened up new ways of interpreting a “common solidarity”. The ensuing discussion highlighted the difference between a history based on events and facts and the – distinct – narratives of historiography.
The second panel, “Socioeconomic Aspects of Conflict”, moderated by Jeronim Perović (Zurich), looked at the challenges of transnational economic ties in situations of political conflict. Aspects considered included the disruption of transnational infrastructures and international economic relations as a result of international economic sanctions and their social implications. Gvantsa Salukvadze (CEES) focused on the dependence on tourism of the mountainous regions of Georgia in the face of political decisions and sanctions by the Russian Federation limiting the freedom of movement and the distribution of food. The instability of political relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia had, she said, negatively impacted the once stable economic landscape and destabilised the fragile economies of the tourism- and agriculture-based mountainous regions. In the discussion, Salukvadze highlighted the fact that Georgia was seeking to reduce its dependency by diversifying its economic contacts, including with Europe.
In the case of Crimea, Maria Shagina (CEES) believes that an expansion or resumption of economic ties between the peninsula and Europe is unlikely. In her research project she investigates the impact of the Western sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Crimea. The lack of food and medical product supplies, Shagina explained, was resulting in critical shortages. In the following discussion, she underscored the fact that at the moment – unlike in Georgia – the Crimean government could only improve supply by trading with other sanctioned states like Syria. This meant that the humanitarian situation remained extremely tense.
The third panel was titled “How to Deal With Border Conflicts” and focused on individual strategies for dealing with conflicts. Moderated by Ulrich Schmid (St Gallen), the researchers discussed how people in the conflict regions interacted with public authorities and how they can secure access to social services. In her research project on the “line of contact” between the so-called Peoples’ Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and the rest of Ukraine, Oleksandra Tarkhanova (St Gallen) concentrates on the negotiations between the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the state actors. Tarkhanova believes that the practices and understanding of citizenship are central here. The aim of her research project is to investigate how the social rights of IDPs and residents of the uncontrolled territories are regulated by law and constructed in political discourses.
Nasta Agrba, meanwhile, looked at the impossibility of participation (CEES) in her research project “The ultimate soft power: EU education as an integration instrument for de facto states through the example of Abkhazia”. Agrba set out the case that a lack of programmes for Abkhazian students at European universities was isolating Abkhazia in the field of education. Young Abkhazians were consequently choosing to study at Russian universities instead. The lack of such EU programmes made it impossible for the students to come into contact with other education systems and sociopolitical practices. Agrba reasoned that opening up EU study programmes could have a positive impact on the social participation and development of Abkhazia’s younger generation.
Tamar Demurishvili‘s (Bern) current research project focuses on religious life in (post-)Soviet Georgia and Russia. Demurishvili examined changes and continuities in the religious sphere. At the centre of her study is the concept of “nostalgia”. Demurishvili analyses the role that nostalgia plays as one aspect of faith in post-Soviet Georgia and in Russia when it comes to the construction of the collective memory. She found that religious institutions use the concept of nostalgia to influence collective memory and group behaviour in the post-Soviet region.
The audience enthusiastically took up the invitation to take part in discussions. There were particularly animated questions and lively debates in the “breakout rooms” set up by the organisers on Zoom, which served as a platform for informal interaction in place of the usual conference breaks. Despite their different research interests and academic backgrounds, the participants engaged in truly in-depth conversations with one another. A platform was thereby created where people could come together respectfully to exchange ideas and have stimulating discussions about the highly emotive subject of the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and the South Caucasus.
Report by URIS & CEES
Learn about conflict and dialogue in the context of Ukraine.
- Understand the conflict in and around Ukraine and the current status of the settlement process.
- Analyze key actors, drivers and layers of conflict in the context of Ukraine.
- Assess opportunities and challenges for dialogue in Ukraine at the local, national and international level.
- Learn about key concepts from peace studies and how they apply to Ukraine.
- Exchange experiences and become part of a community of practice.
Watch the video and learn more about the fascinating poet Vasyl Stus
‘Fighting for the Self: Poetry from the Gulag’. How the dissident poet Vasyl Stus fought for human and national rights and created unique poetry of the self, overcoming the extreme conditions of the Soviet Gulag.
Series of the Ukrainian Institute London
In February 2021 (15.-26.) our experienced and esteemed Ukrainian teacher Yuliya Mayilo will again offer a two-week Ukrainian language course. Sign up for the digital Ukrainian language course, which will be free of charge for all students and staff of the Swiss universities thanks to the generous support of the Universities of St Gallen, Zurich, Bern and Basel.
The network ost:est invites our URIS fellow Bohdan Tokarskyi to an open seminar titled “Der Zwischenraum” Vasyl Stus in Dialog with Rilke.
All details to the zoom-event on Wednesday, 9 December 2020, 14:15-15:45 can be found here
The seventh URIS fellow Bohdan Tokarskyi (Cambridge/ Kyiv) will present his research on Innovative Poetics of Self-Doubling in Vasyl Stus’s Palimpsests in the joint colloquium of Eastern European History and the Slavonic Studies at the University of Basel on Tuesday, 6:15 p.m. Please register under email@example.com if you want to join the event via zoom.
Join the opening discussion of the Ukrainian Studies Online Colloquium with our URIS-Community member Fabian Baumann, starting at 6pm.
The Opening Discussion on November represents a starting point for constructive debates approaching the evolution, challenges and prospects of Ukrainian Studies from a variety of (trans)regional research backgrounds. This first talk, moderated by Andrii Portnov (European U Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)), will be shaped by the analytical contributions of Fabian Baumann (U of Basel), Joanna Konieczna-Sałamatin (U of Warsaw), Mykola Riabchuk (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) and Natalia Sinkevych (LMU Munich).
The program of the Ukrainian Studies Online Colloquium, consisting of 15 virtual sessions hosted via ZOOM, is out! Our interdisciplinary online format is free and open to the public. Login access can be requested at ukraine(at)europa-uni.de.
Each session will be streamed online via the YouTube channel Entangled History of Ukraine/Prisma Ukraïna.
“Ukraine and Europe in Transition”
The initiative Ukrainian Research in Switzerland (URIS) is calling for applications for two URIS fellowships for the autumn semester 2021 and the spring semester 2022 at the University of Basel (Switzerland), subject to the approval of the corresponding grant funds. The internationally oriented fellowship programme is open to postdoctoral and senior scholars in the humanities, cultural studies and social sciences whose research has the potential to make a substantial contribution to a better understanding of the history, society, politics and culture of Ukraine. The URIS fellowship enables the recipient to spend six months researching at the University of Basel (August 2021–January 2022 and February 2022–July 2022) and will be awarded on the basis of excellence criteria.
Read the entry of the six URIS fellow Mykhailo Minakov on the Focus Ukraine Blog of the Kennan Institute.
Preliminary programme: Monday, 26 October 2020
17:15 Seminar: “Der Zwischenraum: Vasyl Stus in Dialogue with Rilke”
19:00 Guest lecture “(In)visible Voice: Vasyl Stus and the Soviet Ukrainian Poetry of the 1960s-1970s”
Ost¦Est invites you to the talk “The Instrumentalisation of the Past and Political Mobilisation” with the editors of the Euxeinos Special Issue “The Instrumentalisation of the Past and Political Mobilisation”
‘How did the past create the present?’ – This would be the usual question for historians who strive for a most accurate possible reproduction of what has happened in the past and seek to understand how past events are connected to the present. In the present volume of Euxeinos, we propose, however, to turn the question the other way around, looking at history and historiography not as something given, but as a product of a specific political context.
The authors will be present at the Ost|Est Talk:
Aleksandra Sekulić, PhD candidate in Theory of Art and Media at the Faculty of Media and Communications, Belgrade (Serbia) and programme director at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination (CZKD) in Belgrade
Olesya Khromeychuk, Teaching Fellow in Modern European History at King’s College London
Malkhaz Toria, associate professor of history and the director of the “Memory Study Centre in the Caucasus” at Ilia State University (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Ekaterina Klimenko, PhD Candidate at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Iryna Eihelson (Brunova-Kalisetska), PhD in Psychology, facilitator of different dialogue projects, e.g. “Ukrainian action: Healing the past”
Join the talk on Wednesday, 30 September, 12:30 live on Facebook
What’s going on at URIS? Fellows, workshops, language classes and other activities – follow the URIS-news in our latest newsletter
Our seventh URIS fellow Bohdan Tokarskyi has arrived in Basel. Find all information about his most interesting research project “A Fragment of Wholeness: The Making of the Self in the Works of Vasyl’ Stus” here: Portrait
The Center for Governance and Culture in Europe at the University St Gallen organizes an international and interdisciplinary conference on Transculturality in the Black Sea Region.
More details on topics and participants can be found in the program
Olha Martynyuk has been awarded a EKSAS-fellowship and will spend the academic year 2020/2021 at the University of Basel/ Department of History. URIS is looking forward to collaborate with Olha Martynyuk and to learn more about her current research project “Bicycle Transport and Micromobility in Ukraine (1890-1990)”. More information about the interesting research of Olha Martynyuk can be found here.
The Chair of Entangled History of Ukraine, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/ Oder invites you to the Ukrainian Studies Online Colloquium.
More information about the course can be found in the video by Prof Dr Andrii Portnov:
The Ukrainian Studies Online Colloquium aims at connecting scholars of Ukrainian and East European Studies at the European University Viadrina as well as other institutions in the Berlin and Brandenburg area to colleagues in and outside Ukraine and the neighbouring countries. By inviting speakers from a range of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, this online format aims at providing a platform for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and a place of encounter of students and researchers interested in and focusing on Ukrainian studies.
Apply for the participation in the Ukrainian Studies Online Colloquium with an abstract of your proposal for presentation, to be submitted until September 1, 2020 to firstname.lastname@example.org
EUXEINOS – Culture and Governance in the Black Sea Region (Nr. 29 – 07/2020)
Cécile Druey and Eliane Fitzé issued a collaborative journal on the instrumentalisation of the past and political mobilisation.
Find all articles including the study by Iryna Brunova-Kalisetsk and Anna Chebotarova on Ukraine here: Center for Governance and Culture in Europe
When we met Dymtro Tytarenko on our URIS study trip to Kyiv in August 2019, he shared his impressions of the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine with students from Switzerland.
The historian and lawyer, born in Donetsk in 1976, was forced to emigrate to Kryvyi Rih. Since then, he regularly travels to his hometown and documents the experiences of the people in the regions hit by the war. On “Histoires Continentales” he recounts how the older generation, eyewitnesses of the Second World War, experience the current war in eastern Ukraine.
This online lecture is part of the WissLit series by the Department of Slavic and Hungarian Studies of Humboldt University Berlin.
To access the online lecture on Zoom please go to https://hu-berlin.zoom.us
ID: 943 1950 0699
Password: 317 549
For more information on the WissLit series please see here.
URIS is very excited to welcome Bohdan Tokarskyi as our next URIS-Fellow in the autumn term at the University of Basel
Since 2014, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) pursues an “unbiased and even-handed policy towards peacebuilding, policy dialogue and reform processes in Ukraine”.
In March 2020 the SDC released the Cooperation Programm for the years 2020-23. The overall goal of Swiss cooperation is “to support Ukraine on its path towards peace and towards an inclusive society, in which women and men equally contribute to and benefit from public integrity and sustainable growth.”
To this intend four objectives have been defined:
- Promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, ensure respect for international humanitarian law, foster human rights and strengthen democratic governance while also addressing the consequences of the conflict.
- Accelerate low-carbon economic growth and improve the quality of life for people in urban areas.
- Facilitate competitive and inclusive growth.
- Improve the health of the population, especially of people affected by the conflict.
All details, including “learned lessons” from the previous programme (2015-2019) and more information about the implementation of those strategic goals can be found in the official paper.
The report about our URIS Conference “Ukrainian Studies Today. State of the Art in Switzerland” by Alexandra Wedl is online:
URIS marked its three-year anniversary with the conference “Ukrainian Studies Today. State of the Art in Switzerland” in Basel. Bringing together the URIS fellowship programme scholars and numerous Switzerland-based projects, the objective was to discuss ongoing research and future perspectives. The broad range of topics from scholars with different academic backgrounds illustrated the dynamic of the still young field of Ukraine research in Switzerland as well as its growing international relevance in recent years.