A job in Kyiv is out of the question for Iaroslava Strikha. Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden have both been translated by the translator for Ukrainian publishers. Strikha returned to Harvard University in January as a visiting lecturer, where she earned her doctorate in Ukrainian literature in 2017. The Russians invaded her country on February 24th.
Because of Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian publishing market will take years to recover, according to her.
However, if things get worse, Strikha may head to western Ukraine instead of returning to Kyiv in May. In light of her dissatisfaction with academic leaders outside Ukraine’s borders’ response to Putin’s aggression, Strikha says she will leave the field of higher education if she is forced to do so. According to her, simply making public statements in support of Ukrainians is insufficient.
Condemning war crimes is the lowest standard, she said. The invasion of a sovereign state is something that “any normal person would condemn without equivocation.”
Academic institutions in the United States and around the world are debating how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even though many academics believe that higher education should not ignore Russian aggression, others warn against cutting off all ties to the Russian people and government.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ended its partnership with Skoltech, a Russian research group that MIT helped found in 2011, on the day that the Ukrainian invasion began. Access to Russian-language courses will be restricted on sites like edX and Coursera, according to the companies. The University of Arizona and the University of Colorado have both made public commitments to cut their ties to Russia. The Middlebury College study abroad program for Russian students has been discontinued.
The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University released a statement in support of Ukraine on February 25. About two weeks later, the Davis Center issued a second statement saying that any Russian institutions whose leadership had expressed support for Russia’s war in Ukraine would be cut off from partnerships with the Davis Center.
The editor-in-chief of the Ukrainian intellectual journal Krytyka is George Grabowicz, a retired Harvard professor of Ukrainian literature. Many academics, he said, are either calling for a boycott of all Russian academic institutions or calling for a boycott of only those institutions that have shown support for the war. Some organizations say that if the bans are applied the same way to all Russian scholars, they could be made out to be bad people.
Grabowicz takes the third position, advocating the severance of Russian ties with anyone who hasn’t voiced opposition to the war in any way. “Just because they’ve kept quiet doesn’t mean they’re not complicit,” he insisted. According to the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine, he signed a resolution calling for the worldwide cessation of all ties with people or groups linked to the Kremlin.
A lot of Russian academics are afraid to speak out against Russian aggression because of the risk of arrest, and he realizes this as well. For the time being, Grabowicz recommends that universities suspend relations with their Russian counterparts. A “kind of accounting of what has happened and who has been where, who has done what, has not yet been done,” he said. “However, I believe that doing business as usual now would be immoral,” he continues.
According to Robert Quinn, co-founder and executive director of Scholars at Risk, the number of requests for assistance from both Ukraine and Russia has increased recently. Despite Quinn’s understanding of the calls for a temporary halt to all Russian connections, Quinn expressed his hope for a more permanent solution. For those who are trapped in this regime, “even a temporary cutoff can be extremely harmful,” he said.
At Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, history professor Mark McCarthy argued against a “one size fits all” approach. McCarthy agreed that it would be best not to involve Russia in research that could be used against American interests—for example, in the field of infectious diseases. However, he argued that U.S. institutions could lose out by severing ties in interpersonal social fields that focus on fostering communication. The professor was concerned that by preventing Russian students from attending American universities, they would be deprived of exposure to counterproductive ideas in Russian state propaganda.
In doing so, “you may be denying people the very ideas that help them take a stand, help them resist what the state is telling them to do,” he said.
She says some of her colleagues and publishers have joined Ukraine’s armed forces. Strikha continues to monitor friends and family in Ukraine via group chats. she said. “A month ago they were writing books and representing our country at book fairs. Now they’re defending our country with guns in hand. “Due to Russia’s actions, Ukraine is unable to speak for itself at international events of this kind. “