As the winds of war blew across Eastern Europe on the afternoon of February 23, members from the University at Albany community—and viewers from across New York State—tuned in to an installment of Campus Conversations in Standish with Dr. Nadieszda Kizenko, Professor of History and Director of Religious Studies. Ten hours later, Russia began an artillery shelling campaign that rocked Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other municipalities. A full-scale invasion of Ukraine followed, beginning a war of aggression that continues today. 

Professor Kizenko delivered a presentation titled Ukraine and Russia: Key Moments in a Long Relationship. In the 45-minute talk, she told a story of two nations whose paths have intersected at multiple points in history, including: the Baptism of Rus in 988, the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648, Catherine the Great and the Partitions of Poland, the formation and disintegration of the U.S.S.R., as well as the Orange and Maidan Revolutions. 

While the conversation took place immediately before the opening salvo, Professor Kizenko astutely predicted the unified response of the Ukrainian people and the rejection of Russia’s belligerence. In her concluding remarks, she said, “What I find incredibly interesting is that after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, after every increasingly aggressive move that Russia makes—even the Russian speakers in Ukraine—anyone who might have had any nostalgia, any warm or fraternal feeling dating back for centuries, that is all being eroded thanks in large measure to Vladimir Putin.”

Dr. Timothy Sergay is an Associate Professor of Russian Languages, Literatures & Cultures and Chair of the Faculty Senate. During the 2022 Spring University Address, he cited Campus Conversations in Standish as an example of how the University can fulfill its strategic mission of promoting global common good. 

“A second avenue of response [to the war] is teaching events, organized as one-offs or as series, such as Zoom webinars or panels, where area studies faculty offer deep background lectures on Ukraine and Ukraine-Russian relations to both their institutional communities and to the public. The posting of such lectures and events to YouTube and to social media greatly extend their reach,” Professor Sergay explained. 

This installment of Campus Conversations did, in fact, reach out far beyond the reach of the immediate UAlbany campus. Alumni attended, as did librarians from other institutions (academic and public), plus community members from across New York State. 

Professor Kizenko’s talk was the first installment in the Spring 2022 Campus Conversations in Standish lineup, and the 32nd overall. For more information on the program, its history, and previous speakers, visit the Campus Conversations landing page. 

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