From Vision to Reality: Exhibit of Ukrainian Studies at Harvard

December 9, 2019
From Vision to Reality: Exhibit of Ukrainian Studies at Harvard

exhibit title on wallIn Spring 2018, we began our celebration of 50 years of Ukrainian studies at Harvard University with an international conference. In December, we celebrated at the Association for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasion Studies (ASEEES) convention, which took place in Boston. This year, we are concluding our reflection on the last five decades with an exhibit in Fischer Family Commons on the first floor of CGIS Knafel at 1737 Cambridge Street. We invite you to stop by to enjoy an overview of the establishment of Ukrainian studies, the foundation of the Institute, activities of the summer program, and important work carried out by faculty, students, and staff.

Compiled by Olha Aleksic, Kristina Conroy, and Tymish Holowinsky and designed by former HURI publications manager Marika Whaley, the exhibit will be on display through January 16, 2020.

About the exhibit

On January 22, 1968, representatives from the Ukrainian Studies Chair Fund, a Ukrainian-American philanthropic organization, and Harvard University signed an agreement that laid the foundation for the institutional development of Ukrainian studies in Western academia. By 1973, the initiative was brought to fulfillment, establishing three chairs in Ukrainian studies (history, literature, and philology) to promote teaching, an institute to advance programs in research and dissemination of new knowledge, and support for developing a robust collection of Ukrainian materials within Harvard’s libraries.

exhibit on wallThe date of the signing was no accident. Fifty years earlier — to the day — Ukraine first proclaimed its independence as a modern state. Later that year, the country’s first national scholarly institute, the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, was established. But half a century later, in 1968, Ukraine was dominated by the Soviet Union and facing obscurity in world politics, Western consciousness, and scholarly activity. It is in this context that Ukrainian studies were established at Harvard, in part to continue Ukraine’s repressed academic tradition and to safeguard its independent identity.

In the fifty years since their establishment, the programs in Ukrainian studies at Harvard have made an indelible imprint on academia and have fostered a greater understanding of Ukraine and its neighbors. These years have also seen remarkable changes in Ukraine and in the field: Ukraine emerged as an independent state, and the scope of Ukrainian studies has expanded into areas and disciplines unanticipated in 1968.

This exhibit celebrates the work of the scholars and community activists who envisioned an ambitious project and made it a reality. It showcases the sizable contribution the programs have made over the years, tracing their development, adaptation, and expansion as each generation of scholars has met the challenges and embraced the opportunities of their time. In its sampling of the questions probed and works produced, it offers a glimpse of the fascinating depth and enduring vibrancy of Ukrainian studies.