IRES Institutet för Rysslands- och Eurasienstudier

The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict in Historical Perspective

Project leader

Igor Torbakov

Project period

January 2014-December 2016

Project description

The main objective of the project is to investigate how the identity issue is connected to Russia’s and Ukraine’s international conduct. The research’s intention is to look into how contested identities affect bilateral relations. Two interconnected questions will be explored: 1) in what way did the pre-1991 Russian-Ukrainian interaction prepare the ground for the clash of identities? and 2) which practices employed by both sides during the post-independence period helped reinforce the conflict potential, putting the two Slavic neighbors on a collision course? The study argues that the notion of identity is not reduced to ethnicity and/or language or to the ways the past is remembered and represented but also includes an axiological dimension – that is the value system that social groups or a society at large uphold. The project’s central argument is that, ultimately, it is precisely in the realm of axiology, not ethnicity, that the identity conflict between Ukraine and Russia is currently taking place.

Events in connection to the project:

Lecture: “The Ukrainian Revolution of 2014: What Is Going On,” Swedish Institute of International Affairs (2014).

Participation in International Workshop “How Ukraine Changed Everything: New Geopolitical Context and Its Impact,” Open Society Foundation, London, UK (2014).

Participation in International Workshop “Ukraine’s Complex Transition: Reforms, War and European Integration,” University of Humanities and Social Sciences & European Council on Foreign Relations, Warsaw, Poland (2015).

Publications linked to the project:

“‘This Is a Strife of Slavs among Themselves’: Understanding Russian-Ukrainian Relations as the Conflict of Contested Identities,” in The Maidan Uprising, Separatism and Foreign Intervention: Ukraine’s Complex Transition, ed. Klaus Bachmann and Igor Lyubashenko (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2014).

“Ukraine and Russia: Entangled Histories, Contested Identities and a War of Narratives,” in Revolution and War in Contemporary Ukraine: The Challenge of Change, ed. Olga Bertelsen (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag; New York: Columbia University Press, 2016).

Funding source: N/A