12:20 30 Nov 2023

Renowned historians, including Timothy Snyder, unveil global initiative to deepen Ukrainian history research

Photo: svirzh_zamok / Instagram

Historians Timothy Snyder, Serhii Plokhii, Yaroslav Hrytsak, and dozens of other scholars are launching the project "Ukrainian History: A Global Initiative."

The project was recently presented in Kyiv, Rubryka reports.

What's the problem?

"European history is in crisis and requires a serious reconsideration. A new beginning can happen in Ukraine, where traditional themes of European history are deeply significant and undergo an immediate transformation," said the project's creators. "When conventional frameworks are applied to Ukraine, the research can yield previously unknown results, refreshing European history as a whole. Ukraine provides an opportunity to overcome traditional intellectual divides and find a new synthesis." 

Ukraine has become the center of the battle for truth as a victim of a Russian invasion justified by lies and myths. For these and other reasons, Ukraine is a fitting place to establish a true past.

"Establishing the truth about Ukrainian history in the 21st century may be a prerequisite for humanity's survival in the 22nd century. The question of this war is whether totalitarian impunity should triumph on the battlefield or if there is a chance for pluralism and self-awareness. This is perhaps a question for the entire century. It is, of course, a question for the whole world. This is a post-colonial moment for all," said the historians.

What's the solution?

Historians Timothy Snyder, Serhii Plokhii, Yaroslav Hrytsak, and dozens of other scholars are launching the project "Ukrainian History: A Global Initiative."

The project's goal is to explore, over three years, the deep history of the lands of modern Ukraine and the people who inhabited them.

Researchers will delve into 70 topics, ranging from the prehistory of Ukrainian lands to the present day. This includes the origins of human settlements, the spread of Indo-European languages, relations between classical Greece and the Black Sea region, Viking-era Europe, Byzantium and Kyiv, the Renaissance and Reformation, and contemporary issues of nation-building and empire. The initiative will indirectly seek answers to fundamental questions like "Who are we?" and "How did the nation come into being?"

How does it work?

About 50 Ukrainian and 40 international scholars will participate in the project. While most participants are historians, experts in natural history, zoology, paleontology, and archaeology will also be involved.

The project will be overseen by an independent board of directors, including historian and Yale University professor Timothy Snyder, politician and diplomat Carl Bildt, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, President of the Ukrainian Catholic University Boris Gudziak, journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum, lawyer and bestselling author Philip Sands, poet Serhii Zhadan, CNN host and Washington Post journalist Fareed Zakaria, Ukrainian journalists Natalia Humeniuk and Yulia Mostova.

The project's initiator and idea author is businessman Viktor Pinchuk. The research will be managed by an independent International Academic Advisory Council.

"This project is by no means a response to Russian propaganda. History should not be confused with counterpropaganda. Counterpropaganda helps better resist propaganda and distinguish it from the truth. If this were a response to Russia, it would be evil and aggressive; the impulse of this project is creative," explained historian Timothy Snyder.

The project's manifesto states:

"Seeking to participate in Ukraine's intellectual and cultural reconstruction, colleagues also seek to restore the humanities, pose significant questions, and engage in serious questing for answers. Since the invasion of Ukraine is part of a larger crisis in the world, exploring the deep past of Ukraine can generate broader concepts for the future."

The project aims to combine national history writing with postcolonial and global approaches, seeking new empirical and conceptual understanding through innovative approaches in various disciplines and utilizing new technologies.

"This new model, while focusing on Ukraine, should be applicable to any other society," said the manifesto authors.

The project is registered and will be regulated as a charity organization by the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Rubryka reported that the book by Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhii, "The Russian-Ukrainian War: The Return of History," made it to the list of the best publications of 2023, according to The Telegraph.

It was also reported that the team of the municipal institution "Center for the Protection and Study of Archaeological Monuments" within the project "Virtuality of Forgotten Ancestors: Immersive World of Bronze Age Burials" created digital reconstructions of four Bronze Age burials (3rd–2nd millennium BCE).

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