The Man with the Poison Gun: Q and A with Serhii Plokhii


The Man with the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story, Serhii Plokhy’s latest publication, tells the captivating story of Bohdan Stashinsky, a KGB assassin who eventually defected to the West. The product of meticulous archival research, the book sheds new light on this thrilling real-life drama.

While there are good reasons to associate a KGB assassin with a cold-blooded killer, Stashinsky’s path to that role was far more complicated and tragic. Forced to cooperate in order to save his family from arrest, he agreed to be a KGB informant and was subsequently groomed to serve as an assassin. His later defection and trial is a story filled with intrigue and political implications at the highest levels of the Soviet regime.

We sat down with Serhii Plokhy to ask him a few questions about the book, his research process, and the interesting surprises he uncovered.

Видання УНІГУ Летять в Україну

HURI Publications

Український науковий інститут Гарвардського університету - невіддільна частина американської академічної та освітньої системи, але Інститут завжди був свідомий свого коріння і радо ділиться з українськими науковцями всіма своїми надбаннями і здобутками. Адже в основі розвитку будь-якої науки лежить вільний обмін ідеями. Й можна навести багато прикладів того, як монографії та інші видання УНІГУ стимулювали українознавчі дослідження в самій Україні. Щоправда, не всі університети й бібліотеки мають достатньо коштів на закупівлю монографій, виданих в Гарварді. Тому їхнє безкоштовне розповсюдження є важливою складовою діяльності УНІГУ.

Зокрема, раз на кілька років ми надсилаємо в Україну всі свої публікації й частину книжок із бібліотечних фондів. А в 2007 році, наприклад, коли Інститут перебирався в своє нове приміщення, 50 українських університетських та публічних бібліотек одержали зібрання наукових видань УНІГУ, повний комплект журналу «Harvard Ukrainian Studies» («HUS», «Гарвардські українознавчі дослідження») та багато періодики з різних країн Європи та Північної Америки.

"(Re)mapping Spaces of Memory in Ukraine after the Euromaidan" by Viktoriya Sereda

Viktoriya Sereda

Viktoriya Sereda, HURI MAPA Project Research Fellow, describes the research she shared in her Seminar in Ukrainian Studies presentation, which was held on January 30, 2017.

During the Euromaidan and its aftermath, when public activism reached its peak, new spontaneous, grassroots local initiatives aimed at the creation of a new heroic cult emerged. Support for this cult still would vary in different parts of Ukraine, since the Euromaidan itself did not have an equal degree of support in all oblasts. Very soon, this heroic narrative was complemented by another, more powerful, one, which was associated with the Russian aggression in Donbass, since the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Operation) directly affected much wider circles of Ukrainian society. For the first time, Ukraine has started to form a cult of heroes commonly accepted in practically all regions. However, this cult does have some limitations, excluding people who have an alternative interpretation of events.

Ukraine: Is It Really East and West?


From public discourse to political statements, people discussing Ukraine often talk about the East and the West. Indeed, there is a widespread belief that Ukraine has sharp regional differences, that the country is split in two along the lines of language, historical narratives, economic values, geopolitical orientations, and so on. But is the country really divided in this way? And, if not, why did it become a common conception?

Viktoriya Sereda, HURI fellow, has assessed the roots of this habit and has identified some of its effects on scholarly analysis. Her work attempts to overcome some of the obstacles created by the tendancy to divide the country into macro-regions.

Memorable Moments from ASEEES 2016

Michael Flier at ASEEES

The 2016 Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) Convention, themed “Global Conversations,” was held in Washington, DC on November 17-20. This annual meeting brings together experts in the field to participate in panel discussions, showcase their publications, and connect with peers.

The Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute was well-represented at this year’s convention. Our faculty, staff, associates, and other colleagues participated in panels, displayed our publications, and held a special event in honor of George G. Grabowicz. Read on to learn more about how Ukrainian studies were showcased at ASEEES.

Summer Research Travel Grant Program

Both undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled at Harvard are invited to apply to the HURI Summer Research Travel Grant Program for support to conduct projects in Ukraine during the summer of 2017. Grants of up to $2,000 for graduate students and $1,500 for undergraduates will be available for travel and research expenses. Students wishing to apply for a HURI summer research travel grant must prepare an application using Harvard's Common Application for Research and Travel (CARAT). Completed CARAT forms and additional required material are to be submitted to the Ukrainian Research Institute by Friday, March 3, 2017.

Application proposals will be reviewed by HURI’s selection committee and decisions will be announced by mid-April.

Questions regarding HURI’s summer travel research grants should be addressed to Tymish J. Holowinsky, Executive Director, tel. 617-495-4081.

Harvard University
Research Centers and Institutes
2016 Summer Travel Grants
Common Application Process

Read about some of last year's travel grant recipients here.



Monday, February 27, 2017 4:15pm - 6:00pm

Beyond Biological Citizenship: Public Health in Ukraine in Wartime
Jennifer Carroll, Brown University
Room S-050, CGIS South, Harvard University More information.

Full Calendar


Serhii Plokhii, HURI Director

December 22, 2016. Foreign Policy. The Dissolution: Why Did the Collapse of the Soviet Union Go So Wrong? 

December 22, 2016. Wall Street Journal. Serhii Plokhy on Soviet espionage.

December 22, 2016. Boston Globe. Book Review: Assassination 101, KGB style.

December 21, 2016. New Pathway. Toronto Annual Ukrainian Famine Lecture 2016.

December 6, 2016. Voice of America. Interview: 25 лет после распада СССР: «Историю обмануть не удалось».

December 1, 2016. Україна Модерна. Сергій Плохій: “Україна змінюється: я відчуваю себе тут сьогодні більш-менш нормальним істориком України, який не мусить платити за свої тексти.”

October 1, 2016. Укрінформ. Україна має союзників для побудови відносин з адміністрацією Трампа.

August 24, 2016. Громадське Радіо. Я написав книгу, щоб іноземці розуміли українську історію, — професор Гарварду. 

August 24, 2016. Hromadske. How Ukrainians Were Responsible For The End Of The Cold War (YouTube). 

August 19, 2016. Hromadske Radio.Shadow of the 1991 Moscow Coup Today. 

August 19, 2016. Громадське Телебачення. Україна зіграла вирішальну роль у розпаді СРСР після путчу — Сергій Плохій (YouTube).

May 23, 2016. New Eastern Europe. To and for Europe: Review of 'The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine'.

May 23, 2016. New Eastern Europe. Plokhy awarded as "Ambassador of New Europe."

May 18, 2016. The Financial Times. Ukraine sings to a tune of new national pride.

March 5, 2016. Україна Модерна. Вийти за межі: міркування над епілогом «Останньої імперії» Сергія Плохія 

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

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

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

December 12, 2015. Голос Америки. Чому імперське бачення веде до війни та що собою являє українська нація - Гарвардський історик.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Christian Raffensperger, HURI Associate

Anne Applebaum, HURI Affiliate

Oxana Shevel, HURI Associate

Nadiya Kravets, HURI Research Fellow

HURI Shapes US View on Ukraine

Olga Onuch, HURI Affiliate

MAPA Project

Yuri Shevchuk, HURI Affiliate

Volodymyr Dibrova, Preceptor at Slavic Department, Editor at HURI

Volodymyr Sklokin, Shklar Fellow 2014-15

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

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