The Ukrainian History and Education Center condemns Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, and unlawful war against Ukraine. It is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine in these trying days, particularly with our museum and archives colleagues, the in-person and remote researchers whom we have assisted, and the artists and other professionals who have taken part in our events. Many of these individuals reside in or very close to the areas currently under heavy attack by Russian forces.
It is disheartening that this attack has been accompanied by a Russian disinformation campaign and nearly complete lack of access to facts about the war within Russia. Particularly disturbing are the gross misreadings of history that appear to be informing the current leadership of the Russian Federation.
This is a war about history
It is not just a war with historical causes; it is a war about the historical narrative itself. Russian claims that Ukraine is “a part of Russia” are nothing new. Arguably, they go back at least to the Pereiaslav Agreement between hetman Bohdan Khmelnytskyi of the Cossack Hetmanate and tsar Alexei I of the Tsardom of Muscovy. This agreement was finalized in 1654, more than a century before the United States declared its independence. Since then, Russian attempts to suppress Ukrainian identity and aspirations have occurred with disturbing regularity. Here is just a small sample.
In 1708, after the defeat of the Ukrainian hetman Ivan Mazepa at the Battle of Poltava, the Russian army under Alexander Menshikov sacked Mazepa’s fortress in Baturyn, massacring the women and children who had gathered there for safety.
In the 19th century, the Valuev Circular and the Ems Ukaz banned the publication of Ukrainian books and periodicals in the Russian Empire. The Valuev Circular even declared that “the Ukrainian language never existed, does not exist, and cannot ever exist”, thereby ironically proving the exact opposite: why would you need an edict banning something that doesn't exist?
Ukraine had a brief spell as an independent, anti-Bolshevik state during the period of revolution in 1917-1921, which, of course, puts the lie to Putin's preposterous claim that Ukraine was somehow Lenin's "invention". But the Bolsheviks did succeed in incorporating Ukraine into the Soviet Union, leading to repression, terror, and even genocide. This terror entered western areas of Ukraine when they were annexed by the Soviet Union during and after World War II.
There is, however, one way in which history is not repeating itself. A century ago, Ukraine failed to obtain widespread international recognition, especially after Woodrow Wilson’s idealistic principle of “self-determination” collapsed under the weight of geopolitical expediency. Today, Ukraine is recognized as an independent, sovereign state, and the world has finally shown readiness to stand with Ukraine in its defense of that independence and sovereignty.
How you can stand with Ukraine
- Make your views emphatically known to your elected representatives. While the United States Congress currently has wide bipartisan support for Ukraine, it is important that this support continues, especially if sanctions begin to have an impact on the economy.
- Make noise. Make sure your friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers know that support of Ukraine is important. Attend a protest if there is one nearby and that is something that you are comfortable with.
- Donate. There are many ways to contribute financially, and there are far too many reputable organizations for us to list.
Here are just a few organizations accepting donations:
- Ukrainian Orthodox Church of USA (www.uocofusa.org)
- Ukrainian National Women's League (www.unwla.org)
- Razom For Ukraine (www.razomforukraine.org)
- Nova Ukraine (novaukraine.org)
- United Help Ukraine (unitedhelpukraine.org)
In addition, Razom for Ukraine has a page of resources and many more organization links.