The 2015 Petryshyn Memorial Lecture in Ukrainian Studies

April 14, 2015
Kravchenko UAlberta

In 1991 a lecture fund was established through a major gift donation from the estate of the late Vasyl and Maria Petryshyn and other Petryshyn and Hnateyko family members. This year's speaker is Volodymyr Kravchenko, a scholar with a special expertise in the regional history of Sloboda Ukraine and its major center Kharkiv, intellectual history, and Ukrainian and Russian historiography.

Monday, April 13, 2015 4:15-6:00 PM
Tsai Auditorium — S-010, CGIS South Building, Harvard University
1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Kravchenko UAlberta
Volodymyr V. Kravchenko

Director, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies
Professor of History and Classics
University of Alberta

(Re)defining the Ukrainian-Russian Borderland: The Case of Kharkiv/Kharkov

“Are historical regions alive today? What is the capital of “Novorossia”? Where does the Donbas fit in the symbolic map of the former Soviet Union? Where lies the Eastern/Northern border of Ukraine? How can a borderland’s historical legacy be incorporated into two narratives of Ukrainian and Russian nation building? After 1991, the national framework became the main intellectual tool for re-conceptualizing the territory of the former Soviet Union. What kind of nationalism is it producing? And in what way does it interplay with other forms of collective identities?” – These are some of the questions V. Kravchenko considers in a case study of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine and for two decades in the 20th century its capital.

Kharkiv emerged in the mid-17th century in the transition zone between the forest-steppe and the steppe. The geopolitical context of Kharkiv’s early history was formed by the peripheries of several nations – Muscovy, The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as well as the military polities of the Hetmanate, Zaporozhian Sich, Don Cossack Host, and the Tatar hordes. Kharkiv resembles those “borderland-central” cities of Eastern and Central Europe, which are regarded not only as “victims” but also influential factors in the process of the remaking of symbolic and political space of the region. These cities (other examples include Lviv, Chernivtsi, Odesa, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Bratislava) as a rule act as poly-cultural and poly-ethnic centers of modernization.

Kharviv evolved in ever changing political, social, national/ethnic contexts, whose fluidity open possibilities of ongoing (re)interpretations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Kharkiv lost its significance as a transit point of the “South-North” line. The economic crisis struck a painful blow at the military-industrial complex and Kharkiv machine-building and scientific-technical potential. Instead, it helped elevate Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk to the status of the economic and political leaders in the region. But with its economic potential and geopolitical significance, Kharkiv can still play a crucial role in the process of re-defining the post-Soviet Ukrainian-Russian borderland according to new national state criteria.

Listen to the lecture

Volodymyr Kravchenko received his degrees as candidate of historical sciences in 1986 and doctor of historical sciences in 1997 from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He was Professor of History at the Karazin National University of Kharkiv until 2012 when he assumed his present position in Canada. His most recent publications include Khar'kov/Kharkiv: Stolitsa pogranich'ia [Khar'kov/Kharkiv: The Capital of a Borderland] (Vilnus, 2010) and Ukraïna, Imperiia, Rosiia: vybrani statti z modernoï istoriï ta istoriohrafiï [Ukraine, Empire, Russia: Selected Articles on Modern History and Historiography] (Kyiv, 2011).