Blog / Ukraine in Focus

Ukraine in Focus

In solidarity with Ukraine as the country seeks to defend itself against Russian aggression, and in recognition of the need to amplify the voices of intellectuals from Ukraine and abroad who have engaged deeply with the most pressing issues facing the country, the IWM is launching Ukraine in Focus, a selection of materials from members of the IWM community that will be updated each week, curated by Katherine Younger, Research Director of our Ukraine in European Dialogue Program.

Ukraine in Focus is an initiative of the IWM’s program Ukraine in European Dialogue. Since its creation in 2015, UiED has sought to foster intellectual and cultural exchange between Ukrainians and their counterparts across Europe and North America, through fellowships, events, and publications. 

The program is premised on the conviction that Ukrainians have much to contribute to broader intellectual discussion and that understanding the Ukrainian experience, both historically and in the present moment, sheds light on some of the key issues facing the world today.  

UiED continues the IWM’s longstanding tradition of solidarity with societies in transition, as well as its long-running engagement with the Ukrainian intellectual sphere. The “Ukraine in Focus” series revives an initiative started in 2014 that was curated by inaugural UiED Research Director Tatiana Zhurzhenko and formed part of Tr@nsit Online, IWM’s former online magazine. 

The emphasis here is on newly-published and still-relevant older materials that offer a rich, multifaceted picture of the current situation and of Ukrainian society, rather than coverage of rapidly-developing events. Reliable Ukrainian-run, English-language news sources include the Kyiv Independent, New Voice of Ukraine, and Ukraine World.

Sign up to our weekly Ukraine Newsletter to receive updates from the blog, along with information and events from our Ukraine in European Dialogue community.

Ukrainian Democracy and Global Asymmetries

26.07.2022
After five months of full-scale war, Ukrainians’ collective resilience continues to play a decisive role. One of the cornerstones of that resilience is collective action, cooperation among ordinary Ukrainians and between them and the state.

A War of Annihilation

12.07.2022
“There’s a war going on here, a war aimed at the annihilation of the Ukrainian people. The Russians have come to annihilate us as a nation, as a people who have dared to choose their own path of development, one not coinciding with the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions, with the revanchist desires of the mass of the Russian people,” Volodymyr Rafeyenko tells Marci Shore in an interview that discusses Rafeyenko’s experience of the war and a wide range of philosophical issues raised by it (for Project Syndicate in English; for Kultura in Bulgarian; for Scena9 in Romanian; and for Bernardinai.lt in Lithuanian).

The terms of debate

28.06.2022
How are Ukrainians talking about the war?

The Folly of "Off-Ramps"

01.06.2022
When Ukraine wins the war, Putin will build his own

Victory, Community, Humanity

17.05.2022
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February, an overwhelming majority of Ukrainians have been convinced that Ukraine will be victorious in the war. As the Ukrainian military continues to hold strong in the east – this week, Ukrainian troops have pushed Russian forces back across the border in the Kharkiv region – the discordance grows between the conceivability of a Ukrainian victory on the one hand and, on the other, rumblings in the international community that the Kremlin should not be humiliated by a punitive peace settlement.

Ukrainian History as World History 1917-2017

10.05.2022
This is a transcript of the keynote speech given by Timothy Snyder in the IWM Library, as part of the "Revolutionary Ukraine: A Reflection on 1917 and Its Aftermath" Conference (October 13-15 2017). The main theme of European history in the 20th Century is the transition from empire to integration. Ukraine is the country whose experiences bring together European and global themes that allow us to see this process. 1917 is the year to begin – the anti-colonial revolution that was also a colonial revolution. Timothy Snyder is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a Permanent Fellow at the IWM. 

History and Moral Responsibility

03.05.2022
"War brings the graphically empirical into sharp proximity with the metaphysical: the mangled bodies and the question of the nature of evil," Marci Shore reflects for Democracy Seminar. Against the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine, questions of responsibility and moral obligation in the present moment take on the utmost urgency.

War in the Donbas

26.04.2022
The Donbas has become the main arena of Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine, as Russian forces attempt to control the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. With this new phase, the region that has already endured eight years of war is once again under assault. The renewed focus on the Donbas brings into acute focus many of the issues that have been explored by Ukrainian scholars, writers, and journalists over the past eight years. This week we present a small selection of materials written by members of the IWM community since the initial Russian invasion in 2014, putting the war in its broader context.

Russia's Easter Offensive

17.04.2022
Jesus in east European political thought Today Easter is celebrated by western Christians; a week from now it will be celebrated by the Orthodox and Greek Catholics in Ukraine, and by the Orthodox in Russia.  By then, Russian troops will be engaged in their Easter Offensive, a new Russian attack on Ukraine in the Donbas. 

After Bucha  

12.04.2022
The scenes from Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region, documented in the wake of Russian forces‘ pullback, have heightened international outrage over Russia’s war of aggression. Yuri Andrukhovych writes for FAZ that „We must be clear to ourselves that Bucha is not an isolated case, even if it is the most glaring example to date. That Bucha (and all the other Buchas) is not a sad fluke, not an ‘operational incident,’ not an instance of the hysteria of ‘simple Russian boys’ put in a desperate situation by their war. But rather the planned and methodical implementation of a Russian state program, the content of which is partially the enslavement and largely the elimination of Ukrainians.

Misunderstanding Ukraine

05.04.2022
“Before the invasion, did you struggle to understand Ukraine? Could you place it on a map or picture its people? Perhaps it existed on the periphery of your imagination, a bleak suburb of Greater Russia, which Vladimir Putin claims doesn’t really exist. You wouldn’t be alone,” writes Peter Pomerantsev for The Economist’s 1843 Magazine. Indeed, the longstanding problem of misunderstanding, overlooking, or underestimating Ukraine can be seen everywhere you look in this war, starting with the hubristic Russian conviction that Ukraine would capitulate within days. It also reveals itself, albeit in a less directly lethal way, in discussions of Ukraine’s future that deprive Ukrainians of agency in determining that future.  

The War in Ukraine and Universal Values: Transcript

29.03.2022
This public conversation took place in the IWM Library on 11 March 2022, with Serhii Plokhii and Timothy Snyder, moderated by Philipp Blom. It considered what is at stake after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, turning an eight-year conflict that started with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, into a full-scale war.

The Lives Transformed by War

22.03.2022
This Thursday, 24 March, will mark one month of war in Ukraine. The scale is staggering: cities have been leveled; thousands of civilians have become casualties of war; 10 million people have been displaced. Over 40 million lives have been fundamentally changed by the Russian invasion. In the face of mass violence, the incomprehensibility of its extent, it is worth pausing to consider those individual lives. 

Through whose eyes? 

15.03.2022
Who will we listen to as we try to make sense of the war in Ukraine? As we seek to understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what is at stake, who better to turn to than Ukrainians themselves? 

Ukrainians are consoling us by setting an example of how to live

15.03.2022
I spent a weekend in Vienna, filled with Ukrainian activities, including discussing "Ukraine and Universal Values" at the Institute for Human Sciences, and attending a reading of Ukrainian (and Russian and Belarusian) texts by Austrian actors at the Volkstheater.  I had never seen actors break down and weep on stage before.  The moderator had to leave the stage to collect herself.  And rather than inappropriate that seemed just right, even dignified, as if not to cry would have been not to acknowledge the weight of war and the need we have for words that can help us to feel it.

Sacrifice and Responsibility

08.03.2022
War is taking an unspeakable toll on Ukraine: once it became clear Russia’s initial assault failed to topple the Ukrainian government, the aggressor shifted to the savage punishment of Ukrainian civilians for their staunch resistance. Cities are encircled and civilian targets, from kindergartens to hospitals to zoos, are under attack; Russian forces are deliberately killing people trying to flee to safety.  

"How to talk about the war?"

07.03.2022
History and myth in Russian schools, from Novaya Gazeta

Ukrainian Resolve

01.03.2022
In the days since Vladimir Putin launched a horrific full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainians have demonstrated astounding individual and collective courage.

"Genocide" and Genocide. How Putin's atrocity talk leads to atrocities

28.02.2022
What does it mean that Vladimir Putin accuses the Ukrainian government of "genocide," and promises "denazification" after conquering the country?  It means, most likely, that he plans to arrest the political and civic leaders of Ukraine, carry out show trials, and have innocent people executed. 
A telephone pole falling over in the snow

Redefining normality in Ukraine

22.02.2022
In his recent lecture for the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, co-sponsored by the IWM, Timothy Snyder argued that we should think of Ukraine as a normal country – a place that might be exceptional only for the intensity with which it has experienced major historical trends. Recasting Ukraine’s past in this light helps to cut through the historical myths propagated by the Kremlin and to understand present-day Ukraine in its own right.