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Research Projects

Shevchenko Text

Power of the Lyric in Ukrainian Culture

Since its inception, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies has sought to understand the social and political power of the lyric in Ukrainian culture, and particularly in the emergence and evolution of the modern Ukrainian national project. Its focus has since broadened significantly, from publications by Rory Finnin on the poetry of Taras Shevchenko to doctoral studies on the self-exploration of the lyrical ‘I’ in the works of Vasyl Stus (Bohdan Tokarskyi) and on the oral poetry tradition in Ukraine and its resonance today, particularly in verse confronting the trauma of war (Iryna Shuvalova).

Multilingualism in Ukraine

100 karbovantsiv note of the Central Rada of the Ukrainian People's Republic (1917): in Ukrainian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish

Rory Finnin is a Co-Investigator in the landmark project ‘Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies’ (MEITS), which is funded by a £3.2 million grant from the AHRC. The initiative undertakes a study of cultural texts and events – narrative fiction, poetry, theatre, cinema – that foreground, problematise and inform questions of linguistic unity, diversity, identity, power, and quality of life in the public sphere, particularly in Ukraine. It asks: 

  • How do cultural events and works of literature, film and theatre contribute to understandings and misunderstandings about the place and function of languages in culture in Ukraine? 
  • How does linguistic diversity in Ukraine bear on regional and national identities and communities affected by colonial pasts, particularly in the realm of culture? 
  • How does multilingualism figure in conflict and conflict resolution both intra- and internationally? 

Black Sea Networks

Rory Finnin is a member of the Core Team of the research initiative Black Sea Networks, headquartered at Columbia University. The project seeks to rethink traditional land-based area studies and contribute to a “new thalassology” emphasising patterns of connectivity and mobility in and around the Black Sea, including Ukraine. In his publications on the representation of Ukraine’s Crimean Tatars, Finnin has argued for the study of the Black Sea as 'a unifying, centripetal presence rather than a divisive, centrifugal one'.

Crimean Tatar Studies Initiative

Ahatanhel Krymskyi noted that ‘a complete, multi-sided history of Ukraine is impossible’ without a knowledge of the Crimean Tatars. Yet the living language and culture of the Crimean Tatar people remain too often neglected in geopolitical debates and in academic discourse, even in the field of Ukrainian Studies. In 2016, Cambridge Ukrainian Studies launched a Crimean Tatar Studies Initiative, which began with a first for Europe: a two-day postgraduate workshop in Crimean Tatar language and culture.

Media Studies 

In outreach and editorial commentary, Rory Finnin has sought to address ‘epistemological problems’ beleaguering the field of Ukrainian Studies and representations of Ukraine in Great Britain and Europe more generally. Cambridge Ukrainian Studies has accordingly confronted these issues through postgraduate workshops and lectures on Ukrainian media discourse as well as the landmark international conference ‘Ukraine and the Global Information War’, which explored the dynamics between the politics of representation and international security through the lens of the geopolitical tumult in Ukraine. Two doctoral research projects are now exploring media discourse in and about Ukraine, with special attention to the phenomenology of the border in media discourse about Ukraine (Jon Roozenbeek) and to Ukraine's ‘self-representation’ in the European media landscape (Maria Terentieva).  

Problems of Cultural Memory

Rory Finnin was co-author of the grant proposal for the project ‘Memory at War: Cultural Dynamics in Poland, Russia and Ukraine’, which was awarded €1 million by the HERA consortium. The interdisciplinary, multinational initiative warned that the often subterranean cultural trafficking of traumatic memories along the eastern border of the European Union, particularly in Ukraine, could contribute to the political destabilization of Eastern Europe. It involved academics in Cambridge, Groningen, Bergen, Helsinki and Tartu and advanced a pioneering methodology to map 'memory events' across a host of literary, filmic, historical and web-based texts in real time. Among the project’s publications was Remembering Katyn by Alexander Etkind, Rory Finnin et al (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), which was hailed by Jay Winter (Yale) as 'a rare example of collective scholarship’ and 'essential reading for all students in the social sciences and the humanities.’

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Cambridge Brings Work of Mykola Kulish to Life

8 June 2017

Mykola Kulish’s play Maklena Grasa is the story of a thirteen year-old girl who dreams of life in the Soviet Union and struggles to distinguish reality from fantasy. In September 1933, under the direction of Les Kurbas, it was performed at gunpoint before a crowd of GPU agents, the Repertoire Committee and Politburo of...

Crimea: Centre of Gravity in the Black Sea

5 April 2017

In 2014 Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea dominated headlines around the world. Since then it has largely receded from view – despite an ongoing Russian military build-up on the peninsula and crackdowns on Crimean Tatar civil society. On 21 April 2017 the international workshop ‘Crimea: Centre of Gravity in the Black Sea’ returns the peninsula and its environs to the centre of attention.