The Russian invasion of Ukraine, on 24 February 2022, has quite understandably alarmed the international community. This unprovoked act of military aggression against the territorial integrity of a neighboring sovereign state not only violates numerous international treaties and legal conventions. It also recalls the immediate prelude to World War II, when Nazi Germany invaded the Second Polish Republic (1939), sparking a military conflict that led to the death of millions of people all over the world. This time, however, the armed aggressor is not only a dictatorship headed by a white Christian nationalist, but also a major nuclear power, with the capacity to destroy all life on our planet. Suddenly, to know something about Russia, Ukraine, and eastern Europe is in everyone’s interest – if only to figure out how to prevent immediate, complete, and total annihilation.
As Duke University’s Librarian for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies, it is my professional responsibility to help patrons identify, locate, and access the scholarly resources that they need to study and teach about this region of the world. As a native of Odesa (Ukraine), the grandson of Holocaust survivors, and a first generation American, I also feel a personal sense of responsibility for helping the citizens of my adopted homeland to appreciate the gravity of the situation and work towards the peaceful resolution of Russia’s war against Ukraine. To that end, this blog post not only offers some basic starting points for comprehending the current crisis, but also offers suggestions for what Duke library patrons (and others) can do to stay well-informed and actively engaged.
Please note that this is by no means a complete list of resources on the topic, which is being covered by specialized centers, such as Harvard University Ukrainian Research Institute, whose webpage on Russia’s War on Ukraine contains useful information and links to open access electronic resources; or the resource page on the same topic created by The Shevchenko Scientific Society in the US. Similarly, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta has a series of short videos called “Did you know?” that answers questions such as “Are Ukrainians and Russians the same people,” “Are Ukrainian and Russian the same language,” “Is the conflict in Ukraine an ethnic conflict?” And the Media Hub of Ukrainian Institute London has not only recordings of various talks on Ukrainian culture but also a video series called 10 Things You Should Know about Ukraine. Also in the UK, Sheffield Hallam University is hosting Peripheral Histories’ guide to War in Ukraine: Resources for Researchers, Teachers and Students. (Thanks to Ksenya Kiebuzinskii, Slavic Resources Coordinator at the University of Toronto Libraries and Head, Petro Jacyk Central & East European Resource Centre, and Jurij Dobczansky, Senior Cataloging Specialist, Germanic & Slavic Division, Library of Congress, for alerting me to some of these other, non-US-based initiatives).
Much of the international news coverage on the Russian invasion of Ukraine can be accessed via Duke University Libraries’ paid subscription to
- individual newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times, Times of London, etc., which can be accessed through the Online Journal Titles search)
- newspaper databases
- news aggregators (Nexis Uni, Factiva, etc.)
To get a local perspective on the situation on the ground, without succumbing to either propaganda or disinformation (such as the kind associated with the hashtag #BlackinUkraine), you will need to consult trusted, independent, and alternative news sources from Russia and Ukraine proper:
- The Kyiv Independent (in English)
- Hromadske International (in English, Ukrainian, and Russian)
- The New Voice of Ukraine (in English)
- The Kyiv Post (in English)
- Novynarnia (in Ukrainian)
- TV Channels from Ukraine: LIVE and wwitv.com (in Ukrainian)
- Meduza (in English) — independent news service based in Riga, Latvia
- Novaia gazeta (in Russian) — Russia’s Noble-prize winning newspaper (backfile to 1997 only available to Duke patrons) [update: news service halted on 4 March; European edition available online from May 6]
- Radio “Ekho Moskvy” (in Russian) — [update: forced off the air on 3 March]
- News on TV Rain (in Russian) — [update: forced off the air on 3 March; resumed broadcasting via its YouTube channel from Latvia, on 18 July]
- Agentstvo (in Russian) — independent investigative reporting from Russian journalists forced to flee abroad
You can also follow Ukraine-based journalists and correspondents on Twitter:
- Terrell Jermain Starr, non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and senior reporter at the The Root, an English-language online magazine of African-American culture.
- Olga Tokariuk, Kyiv-based independent journalist and non-resident Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
- Christopher Miller, an American retired United States Army Special Forces colonel and former acting US Secretary of Defense.
- Natalia Gumeniuk, head of Hromadske International.
Illia Ponomarenko, defense reporter with The Kyiv Independent.
- Francis Scarr, reporter for the British Broadcasting Company.
- Neil Hauer, independent journalist in country.
- Shaun Walker, journalist for The Guardian.
- Christopher Miller, correspondent for BuzzFeedNews.
- OSINTtechnical, American blogger and freelancer at UK Defense Journal, who publishes open source imagery of fighting.
Unless they are open access, most works of scholarship produced on the basis of primary sources can take some time before they are published. Consequently, there is a bit of a time-lag between current events and their scholarly analysis. Nevertheless, it is possible to find numerous works on the history of post-Cold War world and the immediate causes of Russia’s war on Ukraine, which began with the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
To find books and monographs on the topic, conduct a “subject” search in the “Books & Media” tab of the Duke University Libraries’ online catalog for the following controlled vocabulary (Library of Congress Subject Headings):
- Ukraine Conflict, 2014-
- Ukraine — History — Euromaidan Protests, 2013-2014
- Ukraine — History — Russian Invasion, 2022-
- Ukraine — Politics and government — 21st century
- Crimea (Ukraine) — History — 2014-
- Donets Basin (Ukraine and Russia) — History
- Russia (Federation) — Foreign relations – Ukraine
To find scholarly articles on the topic, conduct a search in one of our research databases, which index or provide full text to journals in different academic disciplines, research areas, and world regions. For the topic in question, you might want to consult the databases in the following categories:
- Slavic, East European & Eurasian Studies
- Public Policy and Political Science
- Non-governmental and Inter-Governmental Organizations (NGOs & IGOs)
A curated list of relevant article databases can also be found on the “Articles” tab of the Duke University Library guide to Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies.
- Town of Glory (2020)
Spotlights a small and prototypical provincial Russian town, where people admire Vladimir Putin for making Russia great again.
- Nine Month War (2018)
The experience of a young man in western Ukraine who is drafted into the Ukrainian army when Russia annexes Crimea.
- The Gas Weapon (2014)
Post-Soviet Ukraine’s (and Europe’s) dependence on Russian gas.
- How Putin Came to Power (2005)
Uses archival footage to trace the stunningly rapid ascension of a political unknown to leadership of the Kremlin.
The Democratic Revolutionary Handbook (2007)
Includes interviews with the organizers of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.
Finally, for award-winning Ukrainian feature films on the war in the Donbas, check out the following tiles:
- Donbass (2022)
Ukraine’s official submission to the 91st Academy Awards is a tale about the hybrid war in Eastern Ukraine, a world lost in post-truth and fake identities.
- Bad roads (2022)
Ukraine’s official Oscar submission for the 2022 Academy Awards is a collection of four short stories are set along the roads of Donbass during the war.
- The Earth is blue as an orange (2020)
A film about the daily trauma of living in a war-zone, in Donetsk, told from the perspective of a young mother and her children.
Here are just some suggestions for how you can get involved and stay active.
- Attend/organize an anti-war rally, vigil, or teach-in
- Write your elected representatives in Washington, DC and tell them to pass legislation
- authorizing additional humanitarian, financial, and military assistance to Ukraine
- setting up a UN-enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine
- expediting the immigration and resettlement of war refugees in the US
- excluding Russia’s entire banking system from SWIFT international payment network
- Donate to charities specifically seeking to ameliorate the human suffering caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A list of such charities has been compiled by several different organizations:
- Learn a Slavic language, so you can increase your cultural literacy when it comes to Russia and at least some of the countries of Eastern Europe.
Hopefully, peace will prevail and nonviolent solutions will ultimately be found. Whatever happens, I will continue to fulfill my mission of acquiring relevant resources for Duke University Libraries’ Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern European Studies collection and assisting patrons in using it to better understand the current situation. That is the least I can do at this time. In the future, I plan to learn more about the process of decolonizing the academic library in general, and area studies librarianship in particular. And to do a better job of foregrounding the voices of Ukrainians and the many other non-“Western” peoples who once inhabited or continue to find themselves living in the shatterzone of empires, a beleaguered region of Europe still known as the bloodlands.
If you have any questions about the resources mentioned in this blog post or have suggestions for other items to include on this list, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Duke patrons with a NetID can also suggest a purchase by filling out this online request form.