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Identity and History in a Current Conflict

Russia is pursuing a war of aggression against Ukraine with the goal of forcing its disappearance as an independent state and of fundamentally altering the security architecture of Europe. At the same time, it has become clear how much the return of thinking in terms of spheres of influence builds on historical arguments, which were used by Vladimir Putin himself in 2021 in an essay more than 20 pages long. There he insisted that the Ukraine belongs to a Russian and Orthodox cultural sphere. The justification it has given for the invasion of its neighbour is also based on purported historical circumstances.

The interpretation of Ukraine’s past has thus become a starting point of negotiations over its present. For the position of both the general public and political representatives in Germany, too, it is not irrelevant to inquire into the soundness and value of such arguments. How sound are these historical arguments? What do they aim to achieve and how are they received in Russia itself? What is the importance of presidential historiography in the arsenal of cultural technologies of power in present-day Russia? And what do we know about the people of Ukraine itself, about their political orientation and how they understand their identities? These questions will be discussed by two renowned experts.


Welcome greetings:
Mayssoun Zein Al Din

Lecture (cancelled!):
Andrii Portnov: Ukraine as Subject of History.
The entanglement of Russia and Ukraine in the light of current theses and events

Ulrich Schmid: The Ukraine of the Regions.
Local, national and transcultural identity in a time of war.

Chaired discussion:
Ulrich Schmid talks about the perception of the current situation in Russia and Ukraine, about how to place the historical theses of Vladimir Putin and about possible misunderstandings in Germany. The discussion will be opened for questions from the audience.

Recording of the live stream:


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Information on the Participants:

Dr. Mayssoun Zein Al Din is Executive Director of the Academy of International Affairs NRW.

Prof. Dr. Andrii Portnov is Professor of “Entangled History of Ukraine” at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt on the Oder and Coordinator of the Project “Prisma Ukraïna” at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin.

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schmid is Professor of the History of Russia at the University of St. Gallen and coordinates the polling-based research project “Ukrainian Regionalism”. His analysis of the staging of political power in present-day Russia was published by Suhrkamp Verlag in 2015, with the title Technologien der Seele (Technologies of the Soul).

PLEASE NOTE: The event will be recorded in sound and image as video, audio and photography. A recording of the event will be made publicly accessible online. By entering the venue, all participants thereby declare their agreement that the recordings be used in publicity, reporting and documentation of the event.

Photo: iStock, Viacheslav Tykhanskyi

Academy of International Affairs NRW, Rheinallee 24, 53173 Bonn, Germany


The event is public, but the number of participants is limited. Registration at is required and participation is possible only after the registration has been confirmed. The event will be conducted under the terms of the current Coronavirus Protection Act of the German Federal State of North Rhine–Westphalia, on which see:

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