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November 1, 2001

Anniversary Year for CIUS begins with Panel on Ukrainian Studies

2001 marks the 10th year of Ukraine's independence, but also the 25th year since the founding of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS). To mark the occasions, CIUS is organizing a series of commemorative events and lectures for the 2001/2002 academic year. The first was a panel discussion on "The Current State and Future of Ukrainian Studies", which took place on 14 October. Panelists included Dr. Andreas Kappeler, Professor and Director of the Institute of East European History, University of Vienna; Dr. Frank Sysyn, Director of the Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research, University of Alberta; and Dr. Oleh Ilnytzkyj, Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta. Dr. Zenon Kohut, Director of CIUS, University of Alberta, served as moderator of the event.

Zenon Kohut opened the proceedings by comparing and contrasting the conditions in which the Ukrainian community found itself 25 years ago and today. CIUS was founded in 1976, in part to respond to three dangers: Soviet policies aimed at suppressing Ukrainian culture; indifferent and sometimes hostile attitudes on the part of Canadian political and academic elites; strong assimilatory pressures on the Ukrainian-Canadian community. Since then, CIUS has promoted Ukrainian and Ukrainian Canadian studies and has served as a resource centre for Ukrainian-language and bilingual education. The collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's independence increased the tasks, complexities and scope of CIUS's work. CIUS is now heavily involved in Ukraine and many North American academics and government figures now seek knowledge on Ukraine through CIUS publications and consultations with CIUS-based scholars. Ukrainian Canadians now have resources for language learning and cultural heritage retention not previously available. Dr. Kohut concluded that while the anniversary was a time to celebrate, it also presented an opportunity to reflect on what was accomplished and what should be done in the future.

The first speaker, Andreas Kappeler, now at the University of Vienna, was for 16 years a professor of East European history at the University of Cologne. In his talk, Dr. Kappeler surveyed the current state of Ukrainian studies in Western Europe, focusing on the German-speaking countries. Outside of Ukrainian-run institutions like the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, Ukrainian Studies had virtually disappeared from West European institutions of higher learning after World War II. Scholarly interest in Ukraine, however, was ignited in the 1980s, during the declining years of the Soviet Union. Since then, new scholars have emerged and many scholarly publications on Ukraine have appeared in Europe. Interest in Ukrainian history in Germany, for instance, virtually exploded in the 1990s, particularly among younger historians. Despite this surge in interest in Ukrainian history, there is, unfortunately, no chair in Ukrainian history and only one chair in Ukrainian language and literature in Germany, so institutional support for Ukrainian studies remains weak.

The next speaker was Professor Oleh Ilnytzkyj, who has taught Ukrainian literature and language at the University of Alberta since 1983. Professor Ilnytzkyj noted that work in Ukrainian studies done in teaching units was often overshadowed by the achievements of CIUS and the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI) in the U.S. The community's resources often went to these institutes. In the meantime, inability to get proper funding for teaching has affected negatively, he argued, the ability of instructors to deliver high-quality programs to their students. At the University of Alberta, teachers of Ukrainian must compete with instructors of about ten other languages, including Spanish, French and German, for departmental resources. It was imperative therefore to identify problems and see that some resources went toward improving teaching programs. Work in the institutes and teaching departments, he concluded, should support and complement one another, where possible.

The final panelist, Frank Sysyn, has been with CIUS as head of the Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research since 1989. In his talk, Dr. Sysyn gave a sweeping overview of the development of Ukrainian studies in Canada and of CIUS's role in that development. He noted the long tradition of support for Ukrainian studies in Edmonton, evidenced by the publication here in 1939 of Dmytro Doroshenko's History of Ukraine in English, the first survey of Ukraine published in English in North America. The community, he concluded, understood the importance of publishing books on Ukraine in English - for future generations of Ukrainian Canadians but also for wider audiences. Since its establishment, CIUS succeeded in placing Ukraine on the scholarly agenda, in large part by successfully completing large projects, like the preparation and publication of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. In the future, CIUS will continue to initiate large projects, and is now undertaking the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine project. The growing capabilities and reach of the internet means that an internet version of the encyclopedia will not only allow continuous updating. Moreover, because of the internet's reach, the overall impact of this project should exceed by far that made with the publication of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine. A second long-term CIUS project is the publication of volume two of a three-volume history of Ukrainians in Canada, covering the interwar years. The first volume, published in 1991, covered the years 1891-1924. Additional funding is needed to bring both these important projects to fruition.

A lively discussion followed the presentations, which reflected the concerns and interests of Edmonton's Ukrainian community. These ranged from political concerns to largely cultural and educational issues, such as the decline in Ukrainian-language use in the community and Ukrainian-language teaching in the bilingual schools. A reception followed the discussions.

 

 

 

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