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Harriman Magazine
Cars on a street in front of a shattered theater building in Mariupol, Ukraine.
2024 Issue
Dear Reader
Letter from the Editor

Ann Cooper's headshotRussia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has “upended many extant assumptions about how the world works,” Alexander Motyl writes in a provocative essay for this issue of Harriman Magazine. One of those assumptions is academia’s traditional focus on Russia as the geographic and political center of Eurasia and East European studies. The war, says Motyl, has hastened a long overdue move to “decenter” how academics study the region, recognizing that Ukraine and other neighboring states are not mere offshoots or tangents of Russia.

Key to decentering is recognition of the region’s distinct languages and rich cultures—differences long embraced at Harriman in its academic offerings, which cover everything from Ukraine to Central Asia and the Balkans. In March 2023, we examined culture’s vital role in our event Art in Time of War, an evening-long celebration that featured the work of the institute’s four 2022–23 Ukrainian Harriman residents in Paris. More of their work can be found in this issue, along with an essay written for the Harriman event by Ostap Slyvnysky, vice president of PEN Ukraine.

Victoria Amelina, who was due to take up a 2023–24 Harriman residency, was killed last summer after a Russian missile struck the restaurant where she was dining in Kramatorsk, Ukraine. “On that date, Ukrainian literature was made poorer,” writes Andriy Kurkov, Harriman’s 2023 Writer in Residence, in a tribute to Amelina. Other wartime reflections in this issue come from Elise Giuliano, director of the Harriman’s MA program, whose groundbreaking research on public opinion in Ukraine was interrupted by Russia’s invasion; and from Emma Mateo, a Harriman postdoctoral scholar who went to Ukraine last summer to research grassroots resistance to the full-scale invasion.

Our other report from the field profiles work done by Tetiana Khodakivska, a New York-based filmmaker who also participated in Harriman’s Art in Time of War event. Khodakivska spent last summer in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions of Ukraine reporting on Russia’s notorious deportations of Ukrainian children. Her work is part of a growing body of research that could eventually be used for war crimes prosecutions.

This is the first issue of the magazine since fall 2022. I joined the staff in the summer of 2023 to work with longtime editor Masha Udensiva-Brenner on a revamped magazine. We have a new design, an editorial advisory board, and a mandate to keep the very broad Harriman community connected and informed about the institute and the region it has studied for 77 years.

While most of this issue focuses on Ukraine and the war, we also go back in history for a story about the role of Soviet journalists in giving the world some of the earliest eyewitness accounts of Holocaust atrocities. Then we come forward to today, to hear why the Associated Press now discourages use of the term “former Soviet republics” (think decentering). There are also alumni notes and a new feature, Harriman Talks, that follows up with a few speakers from the hundreds of interdisciplinary events held at the institute each year.

Please subscribe to the magazine, share with friends and colleagues—and, of course, share your feedback with us.

Ann Cooper's scribble in red
Ann Cooper

Featured photo: A Russian strike in March 2022 destroyed most of the drama theater in Mariupol, Ukraine. When Mariupol came under siege from Russia, the theater was used as a civilian bomb shelter. An Associated Press investigation a few weeks later estimated nearly 600 people died as a result of the theater strike. AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov