November 20, 2001
Ukrainian Studies in Western and Central Europe Today
While many North Americans of Ukrainian descent are aware to some degree of achievements in Ukrainian studies of the last few decades in Canada and the United States, relatively few know about developments in Western Europe. Recently, Professor Andreas Kappeler, a leading Western European scholar on Ukraine, gave two lectures on Ukrainian studies in Europe and Austria, sponsored by the University of Alberta's Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS).
Dr. Kappeler's first talk, delivered during a round table discussion on Ukrainian studies on October 14, surveyed the current state of Ukrainian studies in Western Europe, focusing on the German-speaking countries. Scholarly interest in Ukraine, he noted, which was virtually non-existent in Western Europe outside of Ukrainian emigre centres like the Ukrainian Free University in Munich, was ignited in the 1980s during the declining years of the Soviet Union. Since then, new specialists on Ukraine have emerged in several West European countries.
In Britain, the historian David Saunders at the University of Newcastle had published widely on the national movement in nineteenth century Ukraine since the 1980s. However, since Ukraine's independence, new specialists, especially on contemporary Ukraine, like Andrew Wilson, began to publish important, if sometimes controversial, studies.
Surprisingly, Ukrainian studies today are more developed in Italy than in France, where the historian Daniel Beauvois wrote two important studies on the Polish nobility in nineteenth century Ukraine. Ukrainian studies in Italy is focused largely on Ukrainian literature and culture, although the historian Andrea Graziosi has published important studies on the Ukrainian peasantry during the early Soviet period and the artificial Great Famine (based on reports of Italian diplomats).
Among the German-speaking countries, interest in Ukraine is lowest in Switzerland and highest in Germany. German scholars today are working on a wide range of topics in Ukrainian language, culture and literature. Interest in contemporary Ukraine is also strong, and publications have appeared on Ukraine's economy, politics and foreign relations.
Research in Ukrainian history literally exploded in the 1990s, particularly among younger historians. Recent dissertations have been written on Symon Petliura, Soviet Ukrainian historiography, the organization of the Zaporozhian Cossacks in the mid 17th century, the Polish and Ukrainian Social-Democratic Parties of Galicia, the extermination of Jews in Eastern Galicia, the university and urban society in Odesa before the 1917 revolution, the 1917 revolution in Odesa, and Muscophiles in Galicia. The last three were written by students of Dr. Kappeler. Despite the sharp rise in interest in Ukrainian history, however, there still is no chair in the history of Ukraine and only one chair in Ukrainian language and literature in Germany, so institutional support for Ukrainian studies remains weak.
Ukrainian and East European studies in Vienna was the focus of Professor Kappeler's second talk given October 15, co-sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Austrian and Central European Studies and CIUS. Dr. Kappeler said that the Institute of Slavic Studies at Vienna University has been very active recently in Ukrainian studies in literature and language. In history, the main focus of young historians today is Galicia in Austrian times, which reflects current interest in multicultural societies and Jewish history. Paradoxically, though, there is no Austrian national today working in the rich Vienna state archives on a topic related to Bukovynian or Galician history. The most ambitious project in Ukrainian studies in Austria to date has been the recent publication of an 800-page special issue of the journal Osthefte devoted to Ukraine, which was co-edited by Professor Kappeler. Following the talk there was a presentation of the special issue of Osthefte, during which Dr. Kappeler gave a detailed summary of the volume's contents.
Andreas Kappeler has had an abiding interested in Ukraine for over two decades. He is the author of many articles on Russian and Ukrainian history, especially on the Ukrainian national movement in Russia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is the author of Kleine Geschichte der Ukraine (A Short History of Ukraine), first published in 1994. A second edition appeared in 2000. Now at the University of Vienna, he was for 16 years a professor of East European history at the University of Cologne in Germany. In the mid-1990s, through his efforts, the University of Cologne was a co-sponsor and partner with CIUS and the Harriman Institute at Columbia University of a project studying Russian-Ukrainian relations. Following a conference and workshops on this topic, the Harriman Institute in 1996 published selected papers from a 1995 workshop entitled Peoples, Nations, Identities: The Russian-Ukrainian Encounter. CIUS is currently preparing selected papers from the conference for publication.
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