Making Knowledge on Ukraine in the Interwar Period

Workshop on Ukraine in the interwar period from the perspective of the history of science

Date of event
25. 9. 2023 – 26. 9. 2023
Place of event
IOS, Raum 319, Landshuter Str. 4, Regensburg

The Russian war against Ukraine resulted in a massive displacement of Ukrainian scholars and increasing attempts to make knowledge on Ukraine. At the same time a discussion emerged about the persons who could legitimately claim expertise about the country. The figure of the expert has oscillated between the “native informants,” whose legitimacy came from their local knowledge, and “Westsplainers,” whose local expertise was questionable. Acknowledging that the question of legitimacy is also a question about the situatedness of knowledge, we propose to investigate practices of knowledge making on the Ukrainian lands, its inhabitants and its recent history, with a focus on the interwar period.

World War I put Ukraine on the mental maps of Europe, both as an imagined construct and as a body of separate political entities. Ukraine appeared on maps and in international debates, and Ukrainian intellectuals were visible like never before due to the global interest in the region and their political impetus to legitimize their own knowledge on Ukraine. After the Great War, the displacement of scholars and politicians increased their entanglements with non-Ukrainian institutions and scholars all over Europe.

At the end of WWI, the imagined Ukrainian lands were integrated as new regions into various states. In the interwar decades they remained a subject of intensified interest in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Inquiries involved a range of actors apart from professional academics, such as officials, citizen scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, travel authors, translators, memoirists, and photographers. Whether minorities or émigrés, Ukrainian intellectuals were subjected to power relations and often violence, which also limited their possibilities to become part of official discourses about the regions of their origins. The attitude towards them ranged from active cooperation to complete ignorance, often in reciprocity with ideologies and loyalties to state-building, nation-building or geopolitical projects.

We invite the public to join us in a workshop exploring, among others, the following questions:

  • How did political dynamics shape Ukraine's visibility in the interwar period?
  • How did Ukrainians maintain and use global networks to circulate authentic knowledge about their nation?
  • Who else was involved in creating or contesting knowledge about Ukraine, and what tensions arose in this discourse? How did World War I reshape the foundational theories of Ukrainian Studies (Ukrainoznavstvo)?
  • How did Ukrainians document and institutionalise the historical period 1914—1923?
  • How did different hierarchies affect the production of knowledge about Ukraine in different geographical contexts?
  • How was knowledge about Ukraine suppressed or distorted, and what role did violence play in silencing a "national minority"?

We look forward to exploring a rich diversity of perspectives, particularly with regard to the transnational interconnections of the issues highlighted. The workshop will include contributions that not only address Ukrainian actors directly, but also interact with knowledge about Ukraine from different perspectives. A wide range of disciplines will be represented, with a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to promote a comprehensive understanding of the issues discussed.

The workshop is jointly organized and supported by IOS Regensburg, the Institute of History (Czech Academy of Sciences), and the Lumina quaeruntur project “Images of science” in Czechoslovakia 1918—1945—1968 (Masaryk Institute and Archives, Czech Academy of Sciences).

Zoom registration

The programme of the workshop is available in the attachement (pdf) or at the website of IOS.