Joint SAE/SOYUZ statement on the war in UkraineOn March 4, 2022 by Emanuela Grama
The Executive Boards of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe and the SOYUZ Research Network for Postsocialist Cultural Studies have voted to endorse the following statement.
We unequivocally condemn the Russian government’s military assault on Ukraine, which has targeted cities and villages, as well as infrastructural and defensive capacities in various parts of the country. We are shocked and dismayed by the terror unleashed upon the Ukrainian population, which has been subjected to senseless bombardment, military invasion, and violent displacement from their homes. We are further distressed by the mass arrests of anti-war protesters in Russia, and the repression of activists, journalists, and academics in Russia and Belarus who oppose the policies of their governments.
As organizations representing many anthropologists and other scholars across the world who conduct ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative research in Ukraine, Russia, and the broader region, we feel called upon to challenge the distortions of historical facts and misrepresentations of current conditions that Vladimir Putin has used to justify this attack on the sovereignty and people of Ukraine.
Anthropological scholarship has shown that Ukraine is a vibrant and diverse country with a strong sense of national identity and a robust civil society, which has been instrumental in staging mass protest mobilizations, including the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Maidan protests in 2014. It is a country with its own traditions and a notable history of democratic struggle to carve out a place in the geopolitical landscape of post-Cold War Europe. In justifying this aggression, Putin has instead represented Ukraine as a non-sovereign part of Russia, a haven of right-wing extremists, and a polity set on committing genocide against its Russian speaking populations. His expressed motives of “de-nazification” and “de-militarization” are hard to reconcile with the recent landslide election of a Ukrainian President of Jewish heritage, or the country’s voluntary decommission of its nuclear arsenal in the 1990s. It seems instead that Putin is using NATO’s contested eastward expansion to justify his own imperialist ambitions in Ukraine. Meanwhile, his actions have already caused thousands of Russian war casualties and calamities—a toll that is likely to increase as western and other states ramp up their responses.
As anthropologists, we condemn the harm inflicted by this aggression on people on all sides of the borders of Ukraine. We join many other professional organizations in calling for a swift end to this military aggression, and the start of serious diplomatic negotiations that will return Ukraine to peace, preserve its territorial and political sovereignty, and prevent the further unfolding of a refugee and humanitarian crisis in a world already shaken by multiple concurrent wars and disasters, as well as a global pandemic.
This issue deserves a thoughtful and detailed response with recommendations that focus more directly on the underlying problems and offer specific solutions to the actual root causes.
I have discussed how to do that with the SAE and have provided one that is likely too long to insert here (more than 5,000 words), though I will also try to upload at least some of it below. I have titled it:
The Embarrassing Failure of Anthropology on the Russian Ukrainian War
An Anthropological Analysis of the “Joint SAE/Soyuz Statement on the War in Ukraine”.
I have uploaded it to my ResearchGate site at the following address. You can also try the DOI that has been generated for that site.
If that fails, you can contact me directly.
David Lempert, Ph.D., J.D., M.B.A., E.D. (Hon.)
Visiting Scholar, Humboldt University of Berlin
International Human Rights Lawyer, Member California Bar
Former Visiting Scholar, Harvard University Russian Research Center, 1990-91 (Bradley Fellowship for Research on Soviet Legal Culture)
Former Research Associate, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 1991-93
Promoter, Diaspora Bridge Center of Eastern Europe