About Ukrainian Witness

On the early morning February 24, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Russo-Ukrainian war that started eight years ago with the annexation of Crimea and occupation of Donbas territories has moved into a new phase. It is up to the historians to choose a name for it. For now, according to the UN for the first month of the full-fledged military aggression more than 4 million Ukrainians had to leave the country, and 7 million became internally displaced persons. At least 1 417 civilians have been registered as killed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This tragic statistic does not include people who perished in Mariupol, Volnovakha, Izium, Popasna, Trostianets and other cities that in the beginning of April continue to be under attack or occupation.

In the face of aggression against Ukrainian identity itself, Ukrainian academia appeared to be under the exceptional threat. Scholars, their research projects and livelihoods, universities, archives, museums, libraries are becoming the targets along with military and civilian infrastructure.

A minimum of ten scholars and staff members of various academic institutions have perished during the first months of the full-scale invasion. The fates of our colleagues from the universities in Berdiansk, Mariupol, Irpin are unknown. The striking photos of the bombed-out Karazin Kharkiv National University travelled around the world. Cultural community was shocked by the news about the burning down of the globally renowned Ukrainian naïve artist Maria Prymachenko museum in the first days of invasion. The Kuindzhi museum followed the same fate in Mariupol, as well as the historical Chernihiv venue of the local museum, one of the most prominent in the country. There is ample evidence that on occupied territories Russian militaries kidnap and torture people with pro-Ukrainian views as well as confiscate and burn books about Ukrainian history from the local libraries and schools. Western academic institutions have kindly introduced multiple scholarships to support their Ukrainian colleagues but unfortunately not all of them have opportunity to use this chance. Ukrainian male scholars who are exempt from mandatory mobilisation are not let out of the country to conduct their research in safety because of the current regulations.

However, Ukrainian researchers like the whole Ukrainian people proved to be irrepressible and resilient. We see how Ukrainian scholars worldwide and in Ukraine are uniting to promote Ukrainian agenda. We know that some people put aside their research and have joined Ukrainian armed forces or territorial defence, continuously take part in charity projects, assist refugees, evacuate people from besieged cities. This story is also about courage, cooperation and resistance of academic community in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Witness is a project launched by Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies during the first weeks of the full-fledged Russian aggression on Ukraine. We collect the stories from Ukrainian scholars – their experiences, thoughts, and ideas about the war. The project aims to provide first hand information about what is happening to Ukrainians researchers and Ukrainian academia, to record this plethora of experiences for history and to give an opportunity for the foreign audience to see the events through the eyes of Ukrainian scholars. Thus, we collect texts in any format: diaries, reflections, stories about what is happening here and now, what one sees, hears and feels.

We are honoured that these Ukrainian voices will sound here.


Please ask your questions and email your contributions to Ukrainian.witness@ires.uu.se

Senast uppdaterad: 2022-04-06