The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), in partnership with the Centre for U.S.-Ukraine Relations, is organizing a major international conference to examine the political, social and economic consequences of the Second World War for the people and postwar states of Eastern Europe. Titled “Contested Ground: The Legacy of the Second World War for Eastern Europe,” the gathering will take place at the University of Alberta on 23-24 October 2015 and will be open to scholars, students and members of the general public.
While the defeat of Nazi Germany liberated millions from fascist dictatorship and led to the establishment of democratic governments in Western Europe, in the areas occupied by the Red Army any sense of freedom was short-lived as Communist and pro-Soviet regimes were imposed and maintained through a combination of force, intimidation, deceptive propaganda and rigged elections. Discussions will primarily be focused on the immediate as well as long-term repercussions that the Yalta and Potsdam agreements had for those that fell within Moscow’s “sphere of influence” or were subjected to varying degrees of pressure from the Kremlin. The Ukrainian postwar experience is to be compared and contrasted with that of other countries which ended up as members of the Warsaw Pact or as uneasy neighbours of the Soviet Union. Besides the Cold War and the lingering effects of the devastation wrought by the bitter conflict, the conference will also consider how narratives of the war were shaped by the official histories adopted by different governments, distorted by post-war propaganda, and contested in the memories of veterans and survivors. Of course, the legacy of Second World War has acquired new relevance due to Putin’s annexation of Crimea, the hybrid war in eastern Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s escalating military threats directed at former Soviet republics and satellites.
A distinguished group of scholars has already agreed to present papers at the Edmonton conference. These include such experts from overseas as Paul Goble (Tartu University, Estonia), Yitzak Brudny (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Hakan Kirimli (Bilkent University, Turkey), and former Polish Minister of Defense Janusz Onyszkiewicz (International Centre for Democratic Transition). Among the American participants are Norman Naimark (Stanford University), Mark Von Hagen (Arizona State University), Janusz Bugajski (Centre for European Policy Analysis) and Ariel Cohen (Institute for the Analysis of Global Security).
These will be joined by Ukrainian scholars like Yuri Shapoval and Vladyslav Hrynevych of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, as well as leading specialists from several Canadian universities.
James Sherr of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) in the United Kingdom will be the featured speaker at a public banquet to be held on 24 October to mark the conclusion of the conference. A world-renowned authority on Russia and Ukraine, he will address the theme “The ‘Peace of 1945’ and the Current State of Affairs in Ukraine.”
A limited number of tickets will be available for the dinner, which will also mark the beginning of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.