The war on Russian writers against the war on Ukraine

A blurry Leonid Parfenov at an event in London in 2011

Next week will see the launch of collaborative work to bring some of the UL’s Ukrainian material together into a pop-up exhibition.  This week, we will focus briefly again on the effect Russia’s war on Ukraine is having on its own country, this time through the prism of the leaked list of authors that the Moscow Dom Knigi bookshop network have apparently banned their staff from putting on display (a full ban is thankfully not in place); an article in Russian about this can be found here.  The ban largely relates to the authors’ appearance on the list of ‘foreign agents’ (inoagenty) this blog has mentioned before, which ultimately boils down to their stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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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

The Russian 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

‘Memoirs of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Women’ online collection : the September 2021 Slavonic item of the month

This short (and slightly late) September Slavonic blog celebrates a new open-source collection of women’s memoirs from the last 70-odd years of the Russian Empire.

A screenshot of some of the collection’s contents.

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Some resources on racism and anti-racism in Eastern Europe

The latest in our series of racism/anti-racism posts relates to Eastern Europe.  This is just the beginning of a collection of resources on the topic, and future posts will include material to broaden our coverage to include more areas, countries and topics: this list covers mostly Ukraine, Russia and part of the Balkans. Continue reading