Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

People working in Ukraine. Image links to event page.



“If not us, then who?”: Understanding Ukrainian Civilians’ Engagement in the War Effort Since February 2022
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Please join the Harriman Institute and the Ukrainian Studies Program for a Director’s Seminar with Emma Mateo, Petro Jacyk Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Ukrainian Studies at the Harriman Institute. Moderated by Valentina Izmirlieva.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, analysts and observers around the world were shocked and surprised that Ukraine did not fall in a matter of days or weeks. Instead people across the country resisted with both military and civilian means, halting the Russian advance. Surveys indicate that over 80% of the Ukrainian population contributed to the war effort in some way (e.g. Onuch et al 2022, 2023), suggesting that Ukrainian civilians have made a crucial, if hard-to-quantify, contribution to Ukraine’s continued resistance. However, scholarship on civilian wartime engagement more broadly tends to focus on decisions to join the military or to flee following the onset of conflict – meaning that our understanding of how and why civilians mobilise in non-combatant roles is limited. Drawing on recent fieldwork conducted in Ukraine, this talk discusses the diverse roles Ukrainian civilians are playing in the war effort and what motivates this engagement, particularly in parts of Ukraine most acutely impacted by the war. The discussion will also contextualize this engagement in Ukraine’s longer history of civilian mobilization, based upon Emma’s doctoral research into mass mobilization in Ukraine prior to 2022.

Emma Mateo is currently the Petro Jacyk Postdoctoral Research Scholar in Ukrainian Studies at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University. She studies protest and civil society in Eastern Europe, with a particular focus on local mobilization during mass protests and significant political events. Emma’s current research focuses on the response of Ukrainian civilians to Russia’s full-scale invasion. Emma’s PhD research at the University of Oxford (2022) explored the role of networks during nationwide protests in Ukraine and Belarus. Emma also holds a master’s degree in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Oxford, and a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages from the University of Cambridge.