Photo by Caitlin Cunningham

A panel discussion with five Boston College faculty members took a long, and wide, view on the compelling and tragic events in Ukraine. “Ukraine: In War, In Peace, In History” brought together a mix of expertise and interests across disciplines: Political Science faculty members Professor Gerald Easter and Professor of the Practice Paul Christensen; Associate Professor of Mathematics Maksym Fedorchuk; and, from Eastern, Slavic, and German Studies, Professor and Chair Franck Salameh and Lecturer Curt Woolhiser.

Interviewed after the March 21 event, Salameh, who served as moderator, pointed to the remarks by Woolhiser as an example of the value in looking beyond purely political and international-relations aspects of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. He praised Woolhiser for giving a “fascinating crash course” in the history of Slavic languages and the place of Russian and Ukrainian in that family of languages, and how each influences collective identities and memories in the Slavic ethnoreligious space.

“I think his shedding light on the specific functions of Russian and Ukrainian, and the social, ethnic, cultural, and political meaning those languages convey to—and through—their users,” said Salameh, “makes it easier to truly understand what drives, politically, [Russian President] Putin and his opponents, and the political history of that region.”

Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies Maxim D. Shrayer, who organized the event but was unable to participate, summed up the rationale behind the discussion.

“The former USSR was a country of great national, ethnic, and cultural diversity, best understood through interdisciplinary lenses. Today’s Ukraine, too, is a nation of significant diversity of languages, cultures, religions, and ethnicities, and the war has united its people against Russia’s neo-colonial aggression.

“Three of my four grandparents were born in Ukraine,” added Shrayer. “I feel a vital connection with the country and her people, and this terrible war has affected me profoundly. The war in Ukraine has already created the biggest refugee crisis Europe has seen since World War II. It has elicited a wave of anti-Russian sentiments. It is important that we remember that the culprits are Putin’s regime, his henchmen and generals, and not Russian people or Russian culture.”

Sean Smith | University Communications | March 2022