International Graduate Student Symposium

The field of the study of contemporary Ukraine has undergone profound change since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and even more since a peaceful revolution in December 2004. New questions have emerged on the research agenda and new methodological tools have become available to explore the dynamics of political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments in Ukrainian society.

The Orange Revolution took many observers by surprise and captivated the world. In its aftermath, scholars are busy examining both its sources and its ramifications not only for the future of Ukraine, but also for the prospects for democracy in the post-Soviet space and the continued expansion of the European Union.

Political scientists and historians alike need to sort through at least two competing explanations of Ukraine’s political trajectory and its peaceful revolution. The first explanation views the Orange Revolution as a random and unpredictable explosion of popular angst against a corrupt and increasingly repressive regime. This perspective should generate research on spontaneous popular mobilization and the factors that determine such protests success and failure. The second explanation posits that the Orange Revolution represented the inevitable demise of an unstable and heterogeneous regime, which was subject not only to domestic, but also to external pressures. This scenario envisions research on the historical roots of Ukraine’s national resistance movement, the influence of Ukraine’s deepening regional divide on competition among its political elites, and the role in that process played by Russia, the US, the European Union, and other supranational organizations, such as the Council of Europe. Finally, the study of the Orange Revolution in comparative perspective will further not only knowledge about Ukraine’s political development, but also our understanding of the mechanics of a revolution. Participants can examine the importance of resource mobilization, the contagion effect from neighboring countries who have gone through a similar event (for e.g. Georgia and Serbia), and the role (crucial or epiphenomenal) of “professional revolutionaries” and other external actors on domestic mobilization.

One also needs to examine consequences of the Orange Revolution. In its aftermath, Ukrainian dialogue with the West, and specifically with the European Union, took on new importance. Recent developments in Ukraine necessitate new approaches to the question of EU enlargement, especially in the context of a renewed Euroskepticism in Europe. In addition, participants will assess whether the new Yushchenko regime is more stable than Kuchma’s regime and whether a year after the revolution, Ukraine is closer to democratic consolidation. Finally, the timing of the conference is extremely auspicious for discussions of the Ukrainian parliamentary election campaign, which will be taking place in March 2006.

The impact of the Orange Revolution on Ukrainian culture and literature will also be in the spotlight of the symposium. Among the most visible effects of the Orange Revolution on the literary scene was a political mobilization of Ukrainian writers which culminated in the much debated “Open Letter of 12 Apolitical Writers.” Significantly, among the cosignatories of the letter were the writers who early in their literary career deliberately broke away with the tradition of social and political engagement which dominated Ukrainian literature. Despite their unequivocal public declaration of political preferences the writers were conspicuously absent on the main stage of the Maidan during the Orange Revolution populated by pop & rock stars and sports celebrities. In contrast, in the years leading toward Ukrainian independence writers enjoyed great public authority and were at the frontline championing cultural and social issues, many of them turning into professional politicians. The significant shift in the status and influence of the writers on the public and the cultural scene highlighted by the Orange Revolution as well as other developments in Ukrainian literature and culture since independence will be scrutinized at the symposium.

We are open for new ideas and approaches. Interdisciplinary studies are welcomed.

Key issues for discussion:

Panel 1: Rewriting the Past: New Approaches to Ukrainian History

The Orange Revolution that continues to have a tremendous influence on Ukraine's politics and culture might have a similar effect on thinking about Ukrainian past. The panel will consider the effect of the recent political events on conceptualizing Ukrainian past. It will also examine the processes in Ukrainian historiography in relation to the continuing debates about "anti-colonial" and "postcolonial" paradigms within Ukrainian historical community which is undergoing its own "orange revolution".

Panel 2: Rethinking Ukrainian Literature and Culture since Independence

The panel will examine the status and condition of contemporary Ukrainian literature and culture and address the recent literary and cultural developments triggered by the Orange Revolution. The participants are encouraged to examine the issues of social and political (dis)engagement of the post-independence literature as well as the role of the writers as public intellectuals in the present-day Ukraine. The participants can also investigate the literary topics in relation to the identity building process in contemporary Ukraine as well as issues of post-colonial condition of Ukrainian culture.

Panel 3: State and Society in Contemporary Ukraine

This panel will examine the relationship between state and society in Ukraine. Specifically, this panel will focus on civil society, the regional factor in state-society relations and within society itself. Further, this panel will investigate the phenomena of peaceful revolutions in the post-Soviet space in a comparative perspective. Political scientists last theorized about revolutions in the wake of the Islamic revolution in Iran, so a contemporary discussion of the topic is sorely needed. This panel will attempt to test and update existing theories of revolution.

Panel 4: Redefining Ukrainian Identity

This panel will investigate ethnic politics, identity, interfaith relations and the effect of mass culture on these areas. The panel will examine if there is a process of identity redefinition taking place in Ukraine and/or the diaspora. The panel will look at the various identities in Ukraine- national, religious, regional, linguistic, ethnic- and discuss which appear to be dominant. Finally, the panel will discuss the effect of mass culture, influenced both by the West and by Russia.

Panel 5: Ukraine’s Foreign Relations

The Orange Revolution marked a westward turn in Ukrainian foreign policy. This panel will discuss the current realities of EU-Ukraine dialogue, the likelihood of Ukrainian accession, and European attitudes towards this process. The panel will also examine current Ukrainian foreign policy towards NATO, the United States, and Russia as well as look at the possibility of other vectors for Ukrainian foreign policy.

Roundtable: Ukrainian Studies in Flux

The roundtable will be a summary discussion of the themes covered in the panels. Further, it will bring different analysts with diverging perspectives together. Also, the panel will provide an opportunity for an interdisciplinary discussion of the themes and issues covered in the conference. The roundtable will conclude with a discussion of the future directions in the study of Ukraine.

Workshop: Doing Field Research in Eastern Europe

The objective of the workshop is to provide graduate students with practical tools in preparing and conducting a successful field research in the post-communist countries.

Anticipated outcome and impact of the event

By providing a forum for young scholars to present their work and exchange ideas, the conference will foster the development of a new generation of scholarship not only in the study of contemporary Ukraine, but also in the wider context of the study of the post-Soviet states. We intend to explore publication opportunities for selected conference proceedings, such as a special issue of a major journal or an edited volume. In addition, the best papers will be published in the Working Paper series of the Petro Jacyk and Danyliw programs, which is available electronically through the website of CERES.