We continue to be deeply concerned and saddened by the war taking place in Ukraine. We are an international university, committed to social responsibility and democratic values. As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Dr Markian Prokopovych, Associate Professor at our History Department, discusses a series of topical webinars, and the global significance Ukraine has become.
Ukrainian-born Markian specialises in the history of Eastern and Central Europe and is at the forefront of communication with our Ukrainian partners, as well as teaching the Ukrainian History module of our Undergraduate History degree and the Decolonising History module of our MA in Global History next academic year.
Markian has initiated several collaborative projects, including chairing The Ukrainian Talk Series. The talk series is jointly organised by Durham University, Zaporizhzhia National University in Ukraine, and Durham County Council. Here he explains more:
Q. Can you tell us about The Ukrainian Talk series.
A. Durham University twinned with Zaporizhzhia National University in Ukraine in 2022. Since then, many initiatives have taken place that bring colleagues from both universities together. The Ukrainian Talk Series is just one of the results of this collaboration.
These talks are public-facing, hybrid events taking place in venues such as the Gala Theatre and Durham Town Hall, which are aimed at a general audience, though naturally many Durham University staff and students also attend. It’s an exciting, though also challenging, format involving some panellists and audience with us in person, while others join us online from around the globe.
The series explores Ukraine’s complex history, and the many ways in which the ongoing war has changed and will continue to change the lives of so many people.
Q. Why did you decide to run this series of webinars?
A. I believe that it’s necessary to understand the past of the ongoing conflict and to listen to the expert community in Ukraine if we are to propose meaningful recommendations for the ongoing recovery and reform.
Equally, it’s important to recognise that the war in Ukraine is a global phenomenon, and to incorporate the knowledge we have from studies of other conflicts and crises situations. Here the contributions of many colleagues at Durham who work on other regions and subjects are particularly valuable.
We also aim to give voice to our Ukrainian colleagues, whether they are affiliated with Zaporizhzhia National University or with other institutions.
Q. What have you covered so far?
A. We began the series by discussing geopolitics and history in what we could call Europe’s ‘Eastern borderlands.’ We talked about how the unravelling of the war might have broader implications for post-Soviet countries and for Russia as a global superpower, as well as the justifications for the war coming from the Kremlin.
We have discussed the moral costs of war, focusing on moral traumas and shattered worldviews they cause, including how this might be different from, for example, Vietnam. Later in the series, psychologists and lawyers discussed sexual violence in times of war. We talked of the need for justice, legal protection, and counselling for all those affected by war.
The series has also seen historians consider the medieval legacies and how they are used to justify modern agendas, and how to decolonise East European history.
Meanwhile, lawyers have explored the potential for international war tribunals, and ways to legally help refugees and displaced persons, to safeguard the freedom of expression, and to control targeted spending for foreign funds.
Q. What will be covered in the final two sessions?
A. On 2 March, just a few days after the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we will have an interdisciplinary panel discussing refugees. This will involve experts discussing the best ways that states, the humanitarian system and educational institutions can help these people.
Our closing event will be on geo-security dimensions of the war in Ukraine. This will draw on the panellists’ diverse and interdisciplinary expertise covering Ukraine, the broader regions of East Central Europe, the Near East, and Eurasia, and organisations such as NATO and the US government.
Q. What are your plans after this series concludes?
A. We’re currently preparing several research- and student-focused initiatives, as well as public-facing, events. We’re also working towards bringing Ukrainian experts to Durham; after having done so much excellent work with them virtually, many colleagues and students are eager to meet them. There is no guarantee that all these plans will come to fruition, however even if only some materialise, I’m hoping they will provide the basis for more Ukrainian Talks in the next academic year.
To register for the remaining sessions:
Ukrainian Refugees: Challenges and Possibilities (2 March, 5:30pm) To attend in person get tickets via the Gala Theatre website, or to attend online register here.
Geo-security dimensions of the war in Ukraine (TBC)To attend in person at Durham Town Hall, registration is via Eventbrite, or to attend online register here.