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Harriman Institute

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Language Issues as a Pretext for Military Intervention: The War in Ukraine and its Balkan Connection
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Location Note

1201 International Affairs Building
420 W 118th St, 12th Floor

This is a hybrid (in-person/virtual) event. Registration required for attendance. Please note that all attendees must follow Columbia’s COVID-19 Policies and Guidelines. Columbia University is committed to protecting the health and safety of its community. To that end, all visiting alumni and guests must meet the University requirement of full vaccination status in order to attend in-person events. Vaccination cards may be checked upon entry to all venues. All other attendees may participate virtually on Zoom or YouTube.

Please join the Ukrainian Studies Program at the Harriman Institute for a talk by Robert Greenberg, University of Auckland. Moderated by Mark Andryczyk.

This presentation explores the cultural and linguistic ramifications of the ongoing war in Ukraine arguing that the Russian invasion has accelerated processes of Ukrainianization especially among the country’s Russian speakers. These processes have arisen in direct defiance of Vladimir Putin’s declared aims of liberating and protecting Ukraine’s Russian speaking population. Like Slobodan Milošević in the Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s, Putin has used historical grievances and language issues to justify his country’s attacks on Ukrainian cities, towns and villages. As will be demonstrated in this talk, the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s serve as precedents that help us understand Putin’s mindset and aims in Ukraine. Ironically, the early signs are that the aim to suppress Ukrainian language and identity are failing in a scenario similar to that in the former Yugoslavia.

An award-winning teacher and researcher, Professor Robert Greenberg is a visiting scholar this semester at the Harriman Institute. He is a Professor of Linguistics the and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. He examines sociolinguistic issues in the Slavic world especially the link between language and identity. He completed his book, Language and Identity in the Balkans (Oxford University Press 2004, 2nd edition  2008) while on his last time as a visiting scholar at Columbia, and began looking at the connection between the Balkan wars of the 1990s and the war in Ukraine in 2015. Professor Greenberg has taught at Georgetown, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Yale and beginning in May will be a visiting professor at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center of Hokkaido University before returning to his post at Auckland in July.