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IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program supporting second cohort

Jun 8, 2023

An Indiana University program that supports Ukrainian scholars and their research has been so successful that IU has agreed to support a second cohort of scholars for the next academic year.

Yevhen Rachkov presents his research to other Ukrainian Scholars and IU staff and faculty during a May 2023 virtual presentation as part ... Yevhen Rachkov presents his research to other Ukrainian Scholars and IU staff and faculty during a May 2023 virtual presentation as part of the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program. Screenshot by Hanna Bondarenko, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University The IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program started with an agreement in June 2022 to support up to 20 scholars after Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022. Support was so strong that eventually 33 scholars were assisted by stipends and access to IU resources and faculty members. Most importantly, the program built a sense of community through monthly research seminars and meetings, and partnerships between the Ukrainian scholars and their IU faculty partners, said Sarah Phillips, director of the IU Robert F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute, which administers the program at the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies.

Phillips said the Ukrainian fellows have expressed appreciation for the support and the solidarity the program has created among the scholars and with IU.

“This positive feedback was a clear signal that the program is important and should be sustained as long as possible,” Phillips said.

While the program will largely remain the same, the focus with the second cohort will be on interdisciplinary research and providing workshops on academic publishing in Western peer-reviewed journals, Phillips said. Interdisciplinary research is becoming more important for fostering global research dialogues, she added.

Scholars from the first cohort are all being offered the opportunity to remain in the program as continuing scholars, Phillips said. Those who remain will retain access to IU Libraries and other digital resources for at least another year, receive a small stipend and serve as informal mentors for Ukrainian scholars in the second cohort.

The inaugural cohort’s scholars can offer valuable advice regarding research relevant to the Russia-Ukraine war, their yearlong experience exploring IU’s vast digital library resources for research and teaching, and their personal experiences.

Defense and research

Andriy Posunko, a historian previously with the Dnipro Historical Museum, is a soldier with the 783rd Brigade. He is serving in Ukraine’s State Special Transport Service, — historically known as “railway troops” — which guards, repairs and operates railway lines and other important infrastructure such as bridges. The service’s focus is logistical support, but Posunko’s regiment has engaged in combat as well.

Andriy Posunko. Photo courtesy of Andriy Posunko Andriy Posunko. Photo courtesy of Andriy Posunko “There is no question of motivation,” he said. “We simply defend our country from a genocidal neighbor.”

He said his ability to participate in the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program has been important for his academic research and mental health. Posunko said a soldier’s life involves many repetitive chores and duties that can take a toll.

“Access to IU Libraries’ resources as well as a chance to listen to colleagues’ presentations helped me a lot to survive intellectually — not only of the professional field but also about basic sanity,” he said.

His research project, “The Transformation of New Russia: From Frontier to Province to Myth,” examines the history of a Ukrainian region that lost its autonomy and became “New Russia,” and how that provides context to the current war.

“The war in Ukraine is not only a conflict over regional autonomy or geopolitics,” Posunko said. “It is also a conflict over history, whereby both sides promote incompatible visions of historical justice.”

A poetic statement

Oksana Sukhovii, a professor at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, researches dialectology and the history of the Ukrainian language. She has gained acclaim for creating a war-inspired tautogram called “The Evil Flew In,” which contrasts Russia and Ukraine. Translated to English, her poem begins: “Evil flew in/Came in, swam in, crawled in/Haughtily, unexpectedly, brashly …”

Oksana Sukhovii. Photo courtesy of Oksana Sukhovii Oksana Sukhovii. Photo courtesy of Oksana Sukhovii After Russia invaded Ukraine, Sukhovii said she took her children to the Carpathian Mountains for safety while her husband stayed behind to defend Kyiv. During a sleepless night, the idea for the tautogram came to her.

She learned of the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program from a colleague and said the ability to work with like-minded people has helped her stay calm and steady during the war.

“It was important for me to receive both financial and moral support during the war, a time of uncertainty when there is no certainty about the future due to the actions of the aggressor,” Sukhovii said. “A certain financial stability helped me to concentrate on my work, and regular seminars with planned topics help broaden my horizons and suggest new approaches to solving problems.”

She said her research on the historical syntax of the Ukrainian language ties in with Ukraine’s desire to keep its identity and reject the ways Russia has imposed itself on the country.

Cultural heritage questions

Yevhen Rachkov, associate professor in the Department of Historiography, Source Studies and Archaeology at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, said the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program has aided his research for a cultural heritage project he is working on with colleagues. “City and War: Destruction, Preservation and Rethinking of the Cultural Heritage of Large Cities in Eastern and Southern Ukraine During the Russo-Ukrainian War” examines challenges pertaining to the destruction, preservation and rethinking of cultural heritage of Ukraine during the war with Russia.

Yevhen Rachkov. Photo courtesy of Yevhen Rachkov Yevhen Rachkov. Photo courtesy of Yevhen Rachkov Since 2014, Russian military aggression against Ukraine has caused significant destruction of historic buildings, memorials, monuments, museums and libraries. Rachkov said that according to experts, the current damage to the cultural heritage of Ukraine is the most severe since World War II.

Rachkov understands the destruction personally. He resides in the Northern Saltivka area in Kharkiv, which was severely damaged by Russian shelling. When the war broke out, his 16-story building experienced power outages and disruptions to heating and water supplies. On March 4, 2022, his house was shelled, causing a massive fire. Rachkov had to temporarily relocate but eventually resumed his scientific work.

In addition to allowing Rachkov to continue his research during wartime, he said the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program fosters the consolidation of intellectual resources and encourages interdisciplinary connections, such as through the program’s seminars. He said he’s been able to engage with other scholars, learn about their research and make connections for possible future collaborations.

“I firmly believe that the IU-Ukraine Nonresidential Scholars Program holds immense significance in supporting Ukrainian scholars who are facing risks and have chosen to remain in Ukraine following the full-scale Russian military invasion,” he said.


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Kirk Johannesen

Communications Consultant, Strategic Communications

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