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Making Knowledge on Ukraine in the Interwar Period

25.09.2023 – 26.09.2023 Hybrid: IOS, Raum 319 und Online Workshops

Hybrid event, in person or online via Zoom (registration).

The Russian war against Ukraine resulted in a massive displacement of Ukrainian scholars and increasing attempts to make knowledge on Ukraine. At the same time a discussion emerged about the persons who could legitimately claim expertise about the country. The figure of the expert has oscillated between the “native informants,” whose legitimacy came from their local knowledge, and “Westsplainers,” whose local expertise was questionable. Acknowledging that the question of legitimacy is also a question about the situatedness of knowledge, we propose to investigate practices of knowledge making on the Ukrainian lands, its inhabitants and its recent history, with a focus on the interwar period.

World War I put Ukraine on the mental maps of Europe, both as an imagined construct and as a body of separate political entities. Ukraine appeared on maps and in international debates, and Ukrainian intellectuals were visible like never before due to the global interest in the region and their political impetus to legitimize their own knowledge on Ukraine. After the Great War, the displacement of scholars and politicians increased their entanglements with non-Ukrainian institutions and scholars all over Europe.

At the end of WWI, the imagined Ukrainian lands were integrated as new regions into various states. In the interwar decades they remained a subject of intensified interest in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. Inquiries involved a range of actors apart from professional academics, such as officials, citizen scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, travel authors, translators, memoirists, and photographers. Whether minorities or émigrés, Ukrainian intellectuals were subjected to power relations and often violence, which also limited their possibilities to become part of official discourses about the regions of their origins. The attitude towards them ranged from active cooperation to complete ignorance, often in reciprocity with ideologies and loyalties to state-building, nation-building or geopolitical projects.

We invite the public to join us in a workshop exploring, among others, the following questions:

  • How did political dynamics shape Ukraine's visibility in the interwar period?
  • How did Ukrainians maintain and use global networks to circulate authentic knowledge about their nation?
  • Who else was involved in creating or contesting knowledge about Ukraine, and what tensions arose in this discourse? How did World War I reshape the foundational theories of Ukrainian Studies (Ukrainoznavstvo)?
  • How did Ukrainians document and institutionalise the historical period 1914—1923?
  • How did different hierarchies affect the production of knowledge about Ukraine in different geographical contexts?
  • How was knowledge about Ukraine suppressed or distorted, and what role did violence play in silencing a "national minority"?

We look forward to exploring a rich diversity of perspectives, particularly with regard to the transnational interconnections of the issues highlighted. The workshop will include contributions that not only address Ukrainian actors directly, but also interact with knowledge about Ukraine from different perspectives. A wide range of disciplines will be represented, with a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to promote a comprehensive understanding of the issues discussed.

The workshop is jointly organized and supported by IOS Regensburg, the Institute of History (Czech Academy of Sciences), and the Lumina quaeruntur project “Images of science” in Czechoslovakia 1918—1945—1968 (Masaryk Institute and Archives, Czech Academy of Sciences).



Opening remarks

Galina Babak (Prague), Guido Hausmann (Regensburg), Martin Rohde (Regensburg/Prague), Jan Surman (Prague)


Panel I: Networks

Andrii Portnov (Frankfurt/Oder): Cross-border intellectual exchange in Ukrainian humanities of the inter-war period

Hannah Steckelberg (Vienna): The Vienna-Ukraine connection in educational publishing

Yuliia Horbach (Kyiv): Ukrainian literary scholar Leonid Biletsky and his scientific activity during the Prague emigration period (1920-1940s) [online]

Comment: Aleksandr Dmitriev (Lausanne)


Lunch break


Panel II: International Communication

Magdalena Gibiec (Wrocław): Exerting soft power. Addressing “Ukrainian problem” at the League of Nations and in Western Europe by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists

Andreea Dahlquist (Târgoviște/Malmö): The Ukrainian Movement in Interwar Romania and Poland Reflected in the Diplomatic Correspondence of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Comment: Jan Surman (Prague)


Coffee break


Panel III: Memoirs I

Jagoda Wierzejska (Warsaw): Production of ideologized knowledge and areas of ignorance about the Polish-Ukrainian War for Eastern Galicia in Polish memoirs of the interwar period

Martin Rohde (Regensburg/Prague): Making knowledge under threat. Ukrainian memoirs on the Polish-Ukrainian war in the interwar period

Comment: Galina Babak (Prague)


Coffee break


Panel IV: Memoirs II

Yuki Murata (Vienna): Russian Retrospection of Revolutionary Ukraine in Interwar Europe: "White Cause" and Beyond"

Fabian Baumann (Vienna): The Historian as Memoirist, the Memoirist as Activist: Oleksander Shul’hyn’s Autobiographical Practice and the Consolidation of the Ukrainian Emigration

Comment: Gennadii Korolov (Warsaw)


Conference dinner

Contact person

Dr. Martin Rohde

History Department


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