Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik: It’s Time to Take Sides on Every Front

Aug 28, 2022

Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik is a historian and sociologist who took part in one of three AABS-hosted panels this spring featuring Ukrainian scholars and their research. Each was recorded and is available for viewing on our YouTube channel. A couple months later, we asked several of those participant scholars to contribute a short piece to our yearly print newsletter, and we now republish those pieces online. Note: these pieces were written in May and June of 2022.

Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and Research Consultant for the Centre of Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development (SeeD). She studied History (Donetsk State University), Sociology (Central European University), and International Development (London School of Economics). Her papers with focus on migration and regional studies have appeared in, among others, European Sociological Review, Kyiv-Mohyla Law and Politics Journal and as well as in volumes under the imprint of Palgrave MacMillan, Anthem Press, and Ashgate. Her recent publications include What’s wrong with the Donbas? The challenges of integration before, during, and after the war in Ukraine in Transformation: from Soviet Republic to European Society (2020), and (co-authored) Eight Years after the Revolution of Dignity: What Has Changed in Ukraine during 2013-2021? (forthcoming, 2022).

© Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik

Despite the political ups and downs throughout its independence, Ukraine was developing as a democratic pluralistic state and saw a peaceful transfer of power (something that was seen as a challenge for the neighboring despotic ruler). The Euromaidan and the Russian aggression in 2014 accelerated the westward reorientation of the economy, strengthened institutional checks and balances, reshaped identity towards formation of a political nation, and increased the role of modernizing forces, especially civil society. (More on societal, economic, political, and institutional transformations in Ukraine prior to the war in the forthcoming book Eight Years After the Revolution of Dignity: What Has Changed in Ukraine During 2013–2021? by Volodymyr Dubrovskyi, Kalman Mizsei, Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik, and Mychailo Wynnyckyj.)

My house was one of the first residential building in Kyiv hit by a Russian rocket on the third day of the fullscale invasion in 2022. Sixteen apartments were demolished. Six people were wounded, including two children. Four hundred people are deprived of their homes. This was only one episode out of thousands now.

Since February 24, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation has created unprecedented security challenges that affect all spheres and levels of human life across the country. Unlike the annexation of Crimea and occupation of Donbas in 2014, which was the first phase of the invasion targeting mostly the local population and infrastructure, the new phase of war hit millions of people in all oblasts, unfolding stories of mass destruction, death, and violation of basic human rights.

To ensure the aggressor’s defeat, it’s time to take sides on every front.

According to data from the Kyiv School of Economics, 35.2 million square meters of residential buildings, 580 healthcare institutions, 992 institutions of secondary and higer education, 562 kindergartens, and 152 cultural facilities were destroyed in Ukraine since February 2022. Nearly 14 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes, including more than 6 million who have fled the country. The actual number of civilian deaths is unknown thus far, as continuing battles delay reporting. Hundreds of civilians have been found dead in Bucha, Kyiv region. Thousands have died in Mariupol. Illegal detentions, forced displacement, kidnapping, persecution, tortures, and murders of Ukrainian citizens are widely reported in the occupied areas. 1.2 million Ukrainian citizens were forcibly deported to Russia, incuding 210,000 children.

Apparently, the UN, again, was not prepared to react properly to the Russian aggression as an abrupt challenge to the sustainable global international order. Sadly, until recently, the language we used in publications to deal with Russian aggression was the subject of endless cautious discussions with international partners. But while UN Secretary-General António Guterres and other international actors have leaned on neutral langauge to “never give up” and “giv[e] peace another chance,” you cannot stay neutral when describing war crimes, genocide, and aggression. Finally, we have now seen some signs of change in the UN in April 2022, when 193 UN members condemned the invasion and voted to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. Unfortunately, changing the rhetoric of speaking about Russia and choosing the appropriate instruments to deal with Russia as a terrorist state is still a pain for many international actors, governments, and even intellectuals keen to “hear both sides,” “give a face-saving options to Russia,” and secure a decent place for Russian culture and science. Yet, are there any articulated Russian voices, options, or projects fully independent of the distorted historical legacies and chauvinistic colonial values?

Punishing and dismantling the independent Ukrainian state that does not fit the colonialist design of the Russian totalitarian project has become an idée fixe for the Russian dictator. For decades, it has been dispersed by the blaring propaganda machine and, as the Russian public polls demonstrate, was widely supported by the domestic public. Be it 70 or 80 percent, the majority of the public support the aggression against Ukraine as confirmed Russian surveys. What brought Russians to that moral catastrophe? As the famous Russian journalist Alla Gerber sadly noted, Russians were exhausted by their unfortunate biography, and the war against Ukraine has been trickily delivered to them as the way out … Russian historical breakdown remains to be learned and dealt with in due time. Now, consolidated international response to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion, and massive disinformation that led to the genocide of the European nation in the 21st century is yet to be given.

The war is not over, and, to ensure the aggressor’s defeat, it’s time to take sides on every front.

– Kateryna Ivashchenko-Stadnik, 2022