Chornobyl: The Tombstone of the Reckless Empire by Serhii Plokhii

Radiation sign by D. Markosian VOA

As the world prepares to mark the 30th anniversary of the worst nuclear disaster in its history – the explosion and partial meltdown of the nuclear reactor at the Chornobyl power station in Ukraine – there is a temptation to celebrate that date as well. The half-life of cesium-137, one of the most harmful nuclides released during the accident, is approximately 30 years. It is the longest “living” isotope of cesium that has the ability to affect the human body through external exposure and ingestion. The other deadly isotopes present in the disaster have long passed their half-life stages: Iodine 131 after eight days and cesium-134 after two years. Cesium-137 is the last out of that deadly trio of isotopes.

Study Ukrainian at Harvard with HUSI’s 46th Class: June 18 - August 6

HUSI feature

On June 18, the 2016 Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute (HUSI) will open its doors to admitted students, continuing a tradition that spans nearly five decades. The seven-week summer program offers advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals a unique chance to study intensive Ukrainian language and subject courses at Harvard University. “My participation in the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute was definitely one of the most enriching experiences of my life,” said Vira Byy, a former HUSI participant. “As a young person from Ukraine, that experience was truly a door opener: it brought me right into a superior level of academia and international affairs, and also gave me a much deeper understanding of where Ukraine stands on the global map, in terms of its political activities, complex history, and abundant cultural heritage.”

"Ties of Kinship: Genealogy and Dynastic Marriage in Kyivan Rus'" by Christian Raffensperger

Ties of Kinship

The warp and weft of political and social relationships among the medieval elite were formed by marriages made between royal families. Ties of Kinship establishes a new standard for tracking the dynastic marriages of the ruling family of Rus´—the descendants of Volodimer (Volodimerovichi). Utilizing a modern scholarly approach and a broad range of primary sources from inside and outside Rus´, Christian Raffensperger (former Shklar Fellow) has created a fully realized picture of the Volodimerovichi from the tenth through the twelfth centuries and the first comprehensive, scholarly treatment of the subject in English.

Rory Finnin on Literature in the Ukrainian-Crimean Tatar Encounter

Rory Finnin

On Monday, April 4, at 4:15 pm, Dr. Rory Finnin gave the Bohdan and Neonila Krawciw Memorial Lecture at 1730 Cambridge Street, room S-020. Entitled ‘A Bridge Between Us’: Literature in the Ukrainian-Crimean Tatar Encounter, his talk addressed the role of literature in the cultivation of Ukrainian-Crimean Tatar relations since the late 19th century. While introducing the audience to some of the Crimean Tatar works that are less frequently studied or well known than literatures in other languages, Finnin explored the interaction between Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar writers.

Why the Maidan? How the Square Became a Place of Civic Action

Euromaidan 2013 Mstyslav Chernov

In HURI’s latest Vasyl and Maria Petryshyn Memorial Lecture, Serhy Yekelchyk, Professor of History and Germanic & Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria, addressed these questions. In the March 7 presentation, he outlined the Maidan’s recurring role as host for Ukraine’s pivotal civic and political activities. Tracing the development and evolution of the square from its inception as a political space in 1876 through to the recent plans to memorialize the Euromaidan events, Yekelchyk argued that the physical shape of a public space and its relation to history and action have a certain ‘symbiosis’ that both evolves over time and continues to reflect back on itself.

Festschrift to Honor George G. Grabowicz Released

HUS 32

ЖНИВА: Essays Presented in Honor of George G. Grabowicz on His Seventieth Birthday has been published as volumes 32–33 of HURI's journal Harvard Ukrainian Studies. The two-volume set contains 49 essays in tribute to Grabowicz's distinguished contribution to the field of Ukrainian studies, and itself provides an exemplary overview of the state of the field at present. Fifty scholars from Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Canada, and the United States examine a range of subjects that reflect Grabowicz' own interests.

"The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine" by Serhii Plokhy

gates of europe

Ukraine is currently embroiled in a tense fight with Russia to preserve its territorial integrity and political independence. But today’s conflict is only the latest in a long history of battles over Ukraine’s territory and its existence as a sovereign nation. As the award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues in The Gates of Europe, we must examine Ukraine’s past in order to understand its present and future. Situated between Central Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, Ukraine was shaped by the empires that used it as a strategic gateway between East and West—from the Roman and Ottoman empires to the Third Reich and the Soviet Union.


Ukraine has been part of Europe for nearly a millennium.

Flags of the Dutch E.U. presidency and campaign posters for Wednesday’s nonbinding referendum on the E.U.-Ukraine association agreement are seen in The Hague, Netherlands, on   April 6. (Peter Dejong/AP)

Ukraine is once again at the center of European discussion. On April 6, in a nonbinding referendum, Dutch citizens voted by 61 percent to reject the E.U.-Ukraine Association Agreement. All 27 other E.U. members already have approved it.
This is the same agreement that sparked protests and upheaval throughout Ukraine in November 2013, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign it. In June 2014, newly elected President Petro Poroshenko signed the agreement, heralding Ukraine’s first step towards full E.U. membership. The Dutch parliament approved the association agreement in 2015, but this vote was triggered by a petition sponsored by Euroskeptics and was widely seen by them as a referendum on the E.U., not about Ukraine.

The Victory of Ukraine

The Victory of Ukraine

In later years, there would be bigger demonstrations, more eloquent speakers, and more professional slogans. But the march that took place in Kiev on a Sunday morning in the spring of 1917 was extraordinary because it was the first of its kind in that city. The Russian Empire had banned Ukrainian books, newspapers, theaters, and even the use of the Ukrainian language in schools. The public display of national symbols had been risky and dangerous. But in the wake of the February Revolution in Petrograd, anything seemed possible.
There were flags, yellow and blue for Ukraine as well as red for the Communist cause. The crowd, composed of children, soldiers, factory workers, marching bands, and officials, carried banners—“Independent Ukraine with its own leader!” or “A free Ukraine in a free Russia!” Some carried portraits of the national poet Taras Shevchenko. One after another, speakers called for the crowd to support the newly established Central Rada—the name means “central council”—that had formed a few days earlier and now claimed authority to rule Ukraine.

Are Russians and Ukrainians the Same People?

Rus Ukr people

To justify his meddling in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has claimed Ukrainians as Russian people. Is he right? In the last few years Vladimir Putin has surprised many observers of the international scene not only by his actions, but also by his words. In the middle of the Ukraine crisis, while the Russian media was vilifying the new government in Kyiv as nothing less than a “fascist junta,” he repeatedly went on record claiming that Russians and Ukrainians were one and the same people. What it meant in practice was demonstrated in March 2014, when the Russian troops took over the Ukrainian Crimea, which Putin declared a historical heritage site common to the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians and the place where his namesake, Prince Vladimir (Ukr. Volodymyr) of Kyiv, had been baptized. Russia’s annexation of the Crimea made this allegedly common site an exclusively Russian possession.


Serhii Plokhii, HURI Director

March 1, 2016. Chornobyl: The Tombstone of the Reckless Empire.

December 24, 2015. The Telegraph. The Gates of Europe by Serhii Plokhy, review: 'an indispensable guide to a tragic history'.

December 3, 2015. The Independent. The Gates of Europe, A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy, book review.

December 2015. H-Net. Zayarnyuk on Plokhy, 'The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine'.

October 26, 2015. Publishers Weekly. The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine.

September 2, 2015. Kirkus Reviews. The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine. A sympathetic survey of the history of Ukraine along the East-West divide, from ancient divisions to present turmoil.

May 18, 2015. History of the final days of the USSR wins Pushkin House Russian Book Prize.

May 18, 2015. «Последняя империя» Сергея Плохия была объявлена победителем Русской Книжной Премии Пушкинского Дома 2015.

May 5, 2015. Serhii Plokhii on Hromadske International "The Sunday Show".

April 22, 2015. Scholar Reframes Vision Of Cold War’s End. Serhii Plokhy interviewed by Marta Dyczok.

March 30, 2015. Lionel Gelber Prize Announces 25th Anniversary Winner.

March 6, 2015. Pasaulis neišmoko 1938–1939 m. pamokų. O Lietuva? (in Lithuanian)

March 4, 2015. Serhii Plokhii Discusses 'The Last Empire'.

July 27, 2014. The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union by Serhii Plokhii.

July 14, 2014. The dissolution of the Soviet Union.

June 24, 2014. Chronicling the Last Empire.

June 21, 2014. World History - "The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union" - Book TV.

June 9, 2014. The Ghosts of ’91.

June 2, 2014. The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union.

June 2, 2014. Then and Now: Ukraine and Russia, Money and Politics.

May 21, 2014. The Moscow Times: Plokhy's 'The last empire' is the best account of the Soviet collapse yet

May 18, 2014. Book Review: Plokhy's 'The Last Empire' Is the Best Account of the Soviet Collapse Yet.

May 3, 2014. Сергій Плохій: «Історики мають перейти від пропаганди місцевих «правд» до написання історії нації, де фігуруватимуть усі регіони, включно із Кримом».


Christian Raffensperger, HURI Associate

Anne Applebaum, HURI Affiliate

April 7, 2016. The Victory of Ukraine

Anne Applebaum explains why the fact of Ukrainian sovereignty and the establishment of a Ukrainian state matter much more than all the politics around Ukraine’s history.
She praises the efforts of Ukrainian historians who delve into many aspects of Ukraine’s history, like famine (the Holodomor) and other matters, for putting fresh wind in the sails of Ukrainian historiography, reserving a special praise for Serhii Plokhy and his most recent book The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine: "Recent events in Ukraine inspired Plokhy to condense its complex, thousand-year history into a single, readable, English-language volume.
Several other writers have published English-language histories of Ukraine in the past, notably Orest Subtelny (Ukraine: A History) and Paul Robert Magosci (A History of Ukraine). Plokhy’s version is slimmer, more streamlined, and more clearly focused on the issue that interests him most: the emergence of a Ukrainian national identity from a complicated mix of Slavic and Scandinavian tribes, Catholic and Orthodox religions, Mongol invasions, and of course Polish, Habsburg, and Russian imperial projects."
"The Ukrainian state that Hrushevsky fought to create now exists. But in order for it to survive, Plokhy argues, foreigners have to understand the history of Ukraine as well."
"Now that the existence of Ukraine is becoming more widely understood and accepted there will be more such stories, and more such reassessments.”
"The efforts of Hrushevsky and Plokhy have in this sense already borne fruit."

Harvard's Ukrainian Research Institute Shapes US View on Ukraine

Yuri Shevchuk, HURI Affiliate

Oxana Shevel, HURI Associate

Volodymyr Dibrova, Preceptor at Slavic Department, Editor at HURI

Volodymyr Sklokin, Shklar Fellow 2014-15

HURI Awardees of the National Science Foundation Grant

May 24, 2014. Prof. Henry Hale (Principle Investigator, George Washington University), Prof. Timothy Colton (Co-Investigator, Harvard University), Dr. Nadiya Kravets (Co-Investigator, HURI, Harvard University) and Dr. Olga Onuch (Co-Investigator, HURI, Harvard University and University of Oxford), have formed a research team studying the politics of the Ukrainian crisis, and have been awarded a large National Science Foundation Grant to conduct a Multi-wave Electoral Panel Survey in Ukraine. Funding for the project has also been provided by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the Ukrainian Studies Fund.

Olga Onuch, HURI Affiliate

Nadiya Kravets, HURI Research Fellow

Gennadi Poberezny, HURI Associate

MAPA Project


Serhii Plokhii, HURI Director

January 10, 2016. The Daily Beast: Are Russians and Ukrainians the Same People?

October 11, 2015. El País: Las sombras del imperio.

October 8, 2015. Wirtualna Polska: Kulisy rozpadu ZSRR. Serhii Plokhy dla WP: zadecydowały negocjacje przywódców Rosji i Ukrainy.

August 15, 2015. The Future of the Past: The Ukraine Crisis in the Historical Perspective.

April 17, 2015. The Globe and Mail: The Soviet Union didn’t die.

March 6, 2015. Сергій Плохій: «Суспільство, яке сьогодні твориться, вимагає іншої історії…».

March 3, 2015. "Тиждень.ua": Для багатьох уперше виникає образ Росії як іншого й дедалі частіше як ворога.

May 12, 2014. "The Takeaway": Eastern Ukraine Votes, Pro-Russian Separatists Claim Victory.

February 25, 2014. The New York Times: The West Must Work With Russia.

February 21, 2014. "Here & Now": What Ukraine’s History Tells Us About Its Future.

February 21, 2014. "The Takeaway": Violence & Political Unrest Continues to Erupt in Ukraine.

February 20, 2014. "The Ohio Channel": Ukraine: Headed for Revolution?

February 20, 2014. Bloomberg's Radio: Harvard’s Plokhii Calls Ukraine Violence Unprecedented.

February 20, 2014. Harvard Gazette: Confrontation in Ukraine.

February 19, 2014. National Catholic Register: Ukraine at the Breaking Point: 26 Dead, but Spirit Undefeated.

February 19, 2014. KQED Radio: Violence Grows in Ukraine.

February 19, 2014. National Geographic: Q&A: Ukraine's Dangerous Turn Has Roots in History.

January 27, 2014. Majority Report: Ukraine Protests Explained.

December 27, 2013. National Catholic Register: Ukraine’s ‘Maidan’ Protests Are Spiritual as Well as Political.

December 4, 2013. NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook: Ukraine Splits Over East-West Economic Rivalry.

Oxana Shevel, HURI Associate

Roman Szporluk, Mykhailo S. Hrushevs'kyi Professor of Ukrainian History, Emeritus, Harvard University

Marta Dyczok, Shklar Fellow 2010

Anne Applebaum, HURI Affiliate

Yuri Shevchuk, HURI Affiliate

Lubomyr Hajda, HURI Associate Director

Askold Melnyczuk, HURI Affiliate

Volodymyr Dibrova, Preceptor at Slavic Department, Editor at HURI

Patricia Herlihy, HURI Associate

Nadiya Kravets, HURI Research Fellow

Michael S. Flier, Oleksandr Potebnja Professor of Ukrainian Philology, Harvard University

Michelle Viise, HURI Monographs Editor

Olga Onuch, HURI Research Fellow

Amelia Glaser, Former HURI Fellow

“Why Is Kyiv Burning?" Article in the Harvard Crimson

Gennadi Poberezny, HURI Associate

George G. Grabowicz, Čyževs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian Literature, Harvard University

Oleh Kostyuba, Editor of Krytyka and Harvard PhD Candidate in Ukrainian Literature

GSAS Harvard Ukrainian Student Society


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