Decolonizing Slavic Studies


In Imperial Knowledge: Russian Literature and Colonialism (2000), Thompson showed the presence of Russian colonialism in major works of Russian literature, thus initiating postcolonial studies in non-Germanic Central Europe. Her lecture dealt with the insights first articulated in that book: why Russian colonialism has not been noticed until recently; how the teaching of Russian literature and history in the West has been influenced by colonialist distortions present in Russian literature; and the role of Western universities and research centres in promoting a colonialist version of Russian history. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace was invoked as a prime example of a great work of literature that shows historical events in a distorted mirror. Finally, suggestions for decolonising Russian and Slavic Studies at American and European universities were offered. 

Ewa Thompson is Professor of Slavic Studies Emerita and former chairperson of the Department of German and Slavic Studies at Rice University. She has done consulting work for U.S. government and private institutions and foundations. She is the Founder and Editor (1981-2017) of Sarmatian Review, an academic quarterly on non-Germanic Central Europe. 

Daryna Korkach is an Independent Scholar, Со-editor of the Journal "The Pages of History", and former IWM Fellow. She gave comments on the lecture and moderated the ensuing Q&A. 

Clemena Antonova, Research Director of The World in Pieces and Mariia Shynkarenko, Research Associate of Ukraine in European Dialogue, introduced the speakers.

This was an online event via Zoom; participation was possible only by invitation. A recording is available below: