Bumping Up Against Ukraine

Russian historian Dr. Lewis H. Siegelbaum had an epiphany when he was considering his subject for Kalamazoo College’s annual Edward Moritz Lecture, which was this: a lifetime of research into the history of Russia and the Soviet Union does indeed provide qualification to deliver a lecture on Ukraine. Siegelbaum had, in fact, “bumped up” often against the latter in his explorations of the former. And, at the time Siegelbaum was invited to give the Moritz Lecture (December, 2019, during the first impeachment hearings of then President Donald Trump) Ukraine was very much in the news. In the informative and wide-ranging lecture that resulted from his epiphany Siegelbaum touches on the historical effects of Ukraine’s crossroads geographical location between the tides of eastern and western empires; on the Soviet Union’s 1954 “gifting” of Crimea to Ukraine and, 60 years later, the Russian Federation’s annexation of it back; on the history of Ukraine’s Jews; on the vast migrations (forced or otherwise) of Soviet peoples throughout 15 Soviet Socialist republics during the era of the USSR, and on Ukraine as a “laboratory,” so to speak, for the study of national identity formation with respect to both “other” and “self.” Siegelbaum is Jack and Margaret Sweet Professor Emeritus of History at Michigan State University where he taught Russian and European history from 1983 until 2018. The College’s History Department’s annual Edward Moritz Lecture pays tribute to the late professor Edward Moritz, who taught British and European history at Kalamazoo College from 1955 to 1988. The lecture celebrates excellence in teaching and research in the field of history. The full title of Siegelbaum’s lecture was: “Bumping Up Against Ukraine as an Historian of Russia.”