Ukraine and films in the Klassiki database : the August 2022 Slavonic items of the month

Last year, Cambridge University Libraries started providing access to the Klassiki database of films from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.  The subscription was started specifically to support courses taught under the auspices of Film Studies and/or Slavonic Studies.  In its own words: “Klassiki hosts a highly curated permanent collection of films that represent the best of classic filmmaking from the region. We also offer a brand new ‘Pick of the Week’ contemporary title, selected by the curatorial team. Each of our films are accompanied by programme notes, journal essays, newly commissioned subtitles and online interviews with the best filmmakers from the region.”

In terms of Ukraine, the Klassiki database currently has 6 films in its Ukraine section.  It did have a 7th – the documentary film Mariupolis (2016) directed by Mantas Kvedaravičius.  As readers will probably already know, that film was about the experience of Mariupolʹ under fire from Russian-backed separatists, and its director was tragically murdered there this year in March, a victim of the 2022 full-scale war.  He had been in the city to make a sequel.  The 2016 film is no longer on Klassiki, since have been able to license it to make it fully and freely available on YouTube here.  Kvedaravičius’ 2013 Cambridge PhD thesis, Knots of absence : death, dreams, and disappearances at the limits of law in the counter-terrorism zone of Chechnya, is at the Haddon Library and in the Library Storage Facility, and here is his home department’s tribute to him.

The Ukrainian films on Klassiki were made in Ukraine and chiefly by Ukrainian directors, with one in Ukrainian (and Hutsul), two silent, and three in Russian.  They include two films by Kira Muratova, two by Oleksandr Dovz︠h︡enko, one by Serhiĭ Paradz︠h︡anov (Sergei Parajanov here), and one by Marlen Khut︠s︡iev (who Cambridge was fortunate enough to host in a 2014 visit).  The films’ descriptions from Klassiki follow. Continue reading

Ukraine and anti-war Russians in ‘Novaia Gazeta’

The first stanza of Bykov’s poem.

Subscribers to this blog will have seen a reblog earlier in the week from the CUL Electronic Collections Management site announcing access to the Russian-language newspaper Novaia Gazeta.

The Russian war against Ukraine was not only the focus of the paper in its final weeks in Russia before it closed but of course also the reason for its closure, as Russian governmental pressure relating to the so-called “special military operation” made it impossible for the newspaper to perform its duties properly.

The paper appears three times in our A-Z databases list (all three here) because East View, the platform via which we have access, provides the years 1994-2021 as a single digital archive, while providing access to the first few months of 2022 as another, and the new Europe edition as a third.  The Europe edition started in Riga in early May, while the last Russian edition appeared in late March, a few days before the atrocities committed in Bucha were revealed.  The latest horrors, including the torture of a Ukrainian POW, are now covered in the most recent Europe issue (but note that an ’18+’ tag is applied to articles with distressing images – take the warning seriously). Continue reading

Decolonisation and Russia’s war against Ukraine

When the Cambridge University Libraries Decolonisation Working Group was set up in September 2020, its members agreed that the group’s terms of reference should include the following: “We recognise that while the primary colonial legacy in Cambridge libraries relates to the British Empire, Cambridge also holds material relating to other colonial powers, past and present, and this is also part of our decolonisation focus.”  The wording came about because I was keen to ensure that non-British colonial legacies should not be overlooked when we hold such extensive collections from all around the world.

The Library of Congress authority name heading for Kyïv, previously listed as Kiev.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is a devastating reminder of these other colonial legacies.  Putin has openly compared his “military operation” against Ukraine to Peter I’s wars of expansion (or, more specifically, wars of reclamation, in Putin’s narrative).  In the library context, decolonisation work to address the colonial past and its violent embracing in the present involves many areas of library activities.  This post provides just a few initial suggestions, and I hope that future posts will pick up specific defined and achievable projects that come out of these. Continue reading

Ukraine, agriculture, and war

It is hard to believe that the three-month anniversary of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred this week.  As the war slips down the headlines despite the ongoing intensity of fighting, air attacks, and civilian and military loss of life, it is more important than ever to talk about the war and share information about it and the country it is being waged against.

When I was recently in the UL’s Maps Room, looking at a map of Mariupol, I also spent some time looking through a 1962 Soviet atlas printed in Moscow about Ukraine and Moldova.  It struck me again and again, as I studied thematic map after thematic map, how extraordinary and ridiculous it is that Ukraine – the largest country wholly situated within Europe – was so little known to the majority of the world until this year.  Even the events of 2014 – the Maidan protests, followed by illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia and the outbreak of war in East Ukraine led by Russia-backed separatists – didn’t manage to put this huge and fascinating country on the map of most people’s minds, which is in part why the 2022 Russian invasion is often not understood as having had – despite the shock of the actual invasion – an 8-year lead in.

Continue reading

The invasion of Ukraine : the February 2022 Slavonic item of the month

There had been other plans for this month’s blog post, but Putin’s invasion of Ukraine yesterday and its unfolding violence and tragedy are all any of us can think about now.

In this blog, we normally point readers to books but of course in the current situation, books will follow and internet resources are what we need for information now.  This list put together by a New Mexico State University academic of freely available news sources in English from Ukraine, Russia, and more is a good starting place.  Please click on the tweet below to see the list.

Here is the Cambridge Ukrainian Studies twitter account too:

The events of these last two days have been devastating and almost unbelievable for those of us fortunate to be far away from the violence, but many Ukrainians and commentators have taken pains to point that Putin’s incursions into Ukraine started nearly 8 years ago, with war in the east and the taking of Crimea.  The hybrid war in eastern Ukraine had in its direct form already taken many thousands of lives, including that of the brother of Dr Olesya Khromeychuk, who was one of two language specialists who taught me Ukrainian here when I was getting my feet under the table.  Her book, A loss : the story of a dead soldier told by his sister, has recently been bought by the UL.

As previous blog posts have detailed, the UL has bought academic and source material from Ukraine and from Russia (as well as from further afield) about these tragic times, and we will continue to do so as far as we can in the light of the overwhelming new invasion.

We will also continue to hope and work for peace as private individuals (through contacting MPs and supporting charities) and hope for a kind and genuine welcome in the UK and elsewhere for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.  The sanctions being correctly levied against Putin and his Russian elite will have an awful impact on ordinary Russians too, many of whom have already been brave enough to risk arrest and imprisonment by peacefully protesting the war, and we think of them too.  We have many books about Putin, some academic but some ‘popular’ publications too – about him and by him (eg this and this) – to have examples of such material being published into the Russian book market.

As librarians, we are also looking at ways of helping our Ukrainian counterparts.  Since I first published this blog post, the UK Slavonic librarian network COSEELIS has published a statement of support for Ukraine and committed in it to seeking and listing initiatives to provide professional aid to Ukrainian libraries and archives.

Mel Bach