Thirty years ago, the world lived through one of the most optimistic moments of the 20th century. Communism—and the Soviet Union with it—had collapsed, the Cold War had come to an end, and democracy was on the rise around the globe. We are now in probably the grimmest moment since the start of the 21st century. The Cold War is making its way back, hot war has returned to the geographic center of Europe, and democracy is facing the most profound challenges since the end of World War II. Nowhere were the expectations for the arrival of a new era so high, and nowhere did they crash with such tragic consequences, as in the former Soviet space. Looking back, we see that 1991 did not mark the end of history, either as the ideological evolution of humankind or as a scholarly discipline that has documented the lengthy and painful disintegration of most of the world’s empires. What we see today is the continuing process of the disintegration of the USSR, complete with efforts to establish spheres of influence, border disputes, and open warfare. We also see Russia’s return to the international scene as it attempts to claim the role of not only a regional but also a global power, akin to the role played by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. In this lecture Serhii Plokhii discussed the developments of the last thirty years in the lands that once belonged to the USSR, bringing history in to explain the most recent developments in the region.
Serhii Plokhii is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University and Ukraine in European Dialogue Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
Katherine Younger, Historian of modern Eastern Europe and Director of the Ukraine in European Dialogue Program at the IWM, will moderate the evening.