Ukraine and the Borders of Europe

Essays in Ukrainian and European Intellectual History
Seminars and Colloquia

In this talk, Yermolenko presented the concept for his new book project on Ukrainian intellectual history through the prism of 19th-20th century European intellectual history/history of ideas. This book will be a continuation of his Liquid Ideologies: Ideas and Politics in Europe in the 19th-20th Centuries (Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2018), which has been awarded several of the leading book prizes in Ukraine. 

Yermolenko explored how evolving ideas and imagination of Europe in the 18th-20th centuries shaped evolving ideas and imagination of Ukraine, in particular the image of Ukraine as the “big frontier”. Moving beyond the geographical sense of border/frontier inherent in Ukraine’s name, the focus here is on the mental and geo-philosophical aspect: the evolution of the mental borders of Europe and the concepts, metaphors, and imagination of Europe that shaped and reshaped how Ukraine and the Ukrainian lands have been seen in intellectual history, both from within and from without.

Under consideration are different episodes in the complicated evolution of the European idea: the Enlightenment “Europe as civilization”, the Romantic “Europe of roots” and “palingenetic Europe”, the positivist “Europe of progress”, the early 20th century “Europe of a new beginning” etc. Finally, the current Ukrainian imagination of Ukraine as a “frontline Europe” or “frontline democracy” and its place in other forms of imagining Europe in the current context will also be examined.
Sitting at the crossroads of disciplines—philosophy, history of ideas/intellectual history, and literary studies—the project is structured around three major pillars: a) the European imaginary of Ukraine: how various European writers and philosophers saw the Ukrainian lands and what consequences this produced; b) the Ukrainian imaginary of Europe: how Europe has been seen by Ukrainian writers and philosophers; c) current political and cultural debates around Ukraine in Europe.

Volodymyr Yermolenko is a Ukrainian philosopher, writer and journalist, associate professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Doctor in Political Studies (EHESS, Paris), PhD in Philosophy (Ukraine), Analytics Director at Internews Ukraine, Chief Editor at, Board Member at International Renaissance Foundation (OSI Network). From October to November 2021 he is Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Comments were provided by Katherine Younger, Research Director of the Ukraine in European Dialogue Program at the IWM, and IWM Permanent Fellow Ludger Hagedorn.


Fellows Colloquia are internal events for the IWM Visiting Fellows and Guests.