Uncovering Ukraine: Ukrainian Studies in the World (Part 2)

September 9, 2023
Ukrainian studies have gained traction amid the raised demand for expertise in Ukraine and widespread interest in it.
Photo credit: The Ukrainian Institute, Mariia Protsiuk

Ukrainian studies, on the other hand, are developed unevenly over the world. UkraineWorld asked Mariia Protsiuk, Acting Head of Research, Analytics, and Academic Programs Department at the Ukrainian Institute about the current state of Ukrainian studies in the world. Learn more in the second section of our analysis.

Significant political shifts in and around Ukraine fueled interest in and development of Ukrainian studies. Thus, global interest in Ukrainian studies peaked in the 1990s with the dissolution of the USSR, and gradually declined.

The following waves of interest are associated with major political events such as the Orange Revolution, the Revolution of Dignity, and, naturally, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Another factor influencing the development of Ukrainian studies is the initiatives of the Ukrainian diaspora, even though its presence is not universal.

E.g., despite the presence of a big Ukrainian diaspora in Brazil, there’s only one Ukrainian studies centre, where people can learn Ukrainian language.

In terms of Ukrainian studies, North America is among the leaders. In the USA, there are analytical centres where Ukrainian studies are well presented. Diaspora is crucial in this context, as following WWII, people of the diaspora established centres of Soviet studies.

However, the most heated debate is currently taking place in the United States regarding the review of the role of Russia in the centres of regional studies.

Canada boasts the most prominent and oldest centres of Ukrainian study. They rely heavily on the support and funds of the Ukrainian diaspora. The shift to modern Ukraine studies has been a significant milestone in Ukrainian studies in Canada.

Another advantage is that they have limited overlap with regional studies centres, where Russian studies predominate. The issue is a lack of more funding.

In Western Europe, the situation varies from country to country. Great Britain, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are centers of Ukrainian studies in this part of the world despite the presence of some institutional problems.

In contrast, after a boom of interest in the 1990s, Ukrainian studies in France and Italy are in comparative decline. The situation is even worse in Spain and Portugal where Ukrainian studies are almost absent.

Northern Europe is experiencing the most rapid changes. In the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries, we see a lot of newly founded, politically oriented centres of Ukrainian studies. The only issue that arises is the long-term viability of research interest.

Poland is the leader in institutionalised Ukrainian studies in Eastern Europe, as well as one of the world leaders. Almost all of Poland's largest institutions have relevant departments and educational programmes.

The study of Ukraine within the framework of Eastern policy is also one of the key directions for state analytical centers in Poland.

There are sporadic centers of Ukrainian studies throughout the Balkan states, and there is a substantial Soviet heritage in the framework of Ukrainian studies in the Baltic states.

In the post-Soviet space, Ukrainian studies are present in Belarus and Azerbaijan. We found separate Ukrainian study centres in Moldova and Georgia, which is appropriate given that these are more powerful countries in terms of political interest and pro-Western orientation.

In Türkiye, Russian studies and narratives dominate. However, along with Germany, it is nearly the only country that has institutionalised Crimean Tatar studies. They are part of Turkic studies there, and aren’t connected to Ukraine.

In the Far East, Ukrainian studies are regarded in terms of economic cooperation, economic expansion, and globalisation. However, there are some disparities in Ukrainian studies in China, Japan, and South Korea.

Even though China cooperates with a number of Ukrainian universities, there are political limitations of Ukrainian studies and the dominance of Russian studies there.

Regarding Australia and New Zealand, there is a negative trend that reflects the decline of interest in Ukrainian studies, general tendency that shows reduced interest in European studies.

You can read the full research on Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar studies by the Ukrainian Institute here.