“People of the Cossack Stock:" Ethnic Minorities and the War Against Ukraine

Seminar on Russian and Eurasian Jewry
Event Format

In this presentation, Professor Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern will place the Ukrainian story in a global perspective, familiar yet unknown. European nations came of age as nation-states building their new states as mono-ethnic entities. On the contrary, Ukraine emerged after 1991 as a multi-ethnic state. Before and after the 2004 Orange Revolution, individuals of various ethnic origins and religious beliefs joined the Ukrainian nation-building efforts. The resistance to the Russian invasion in 2022, which Ukrainians called “the Great Patriotic War of the Ukrainian People,” demonstrated the multi-ethnic character of the Ukrainian nation. While Putin’s propagandists poisoned the international media with lies about xenophobic Ukrainian “Banderites” (right-wing xenophobes allegedly controlling the Ukrainian government), they could not deny the obvious: the Ukrainians were a multi-ethnic, internationalist force fighting for national liberation. Among those fighting for Ukraine were Orthodox Christians, Greek Catholics, Jews, Muslim Tatars, and atheists. The war galvanized representatives of Ukrainian minorities, including Hungarians and Crimean Tatars, who helped the Ukrainian army, the refugees, or both. Jews in Ukraine also joined the resistance immediately and en masse. While outlining the role of the representatives of ethnic minorities in the Russian-Ukrainian war, the presentation will focus on the case studies representing about five thousand Ukrainian Jews who joined the troops, territorial defense, volunteer centers, and army supply lines—in numbers much higher than the ratio of Jews to the general population.

Remote video URL


Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard University


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