Mi / 17:00 – 19:30

War, Peace and Pacifism


Online (Zoom)

The current unprovoked war of aggression waged by the Russian regime against Ukraine has upended many assumptions about the conditions of peace and stability in Europe. As thousands of innocent lives are lost and millions of people are displaced and forced into exile, an embattled population in Ukraine displays remarkable resilience and puts up resistance to the assailant, with many convinced that winning the peace requires winning the war. In Russia anti-war demonstrations have been criminalised by the government and pacifist protesters are now treated as dangerous subversives. In Germany, Putin’s invasion ignited debates about the antimilitaristic postwar consensus and a foreign policy striving for a trade-based rapprochement with Russia: did the pacifist leanings of the Federal Republic not only fail to uphold the peace but inadvertently encourage Russian expansionism?

The shock over the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war has alerted the intellectual community to how partial its understanding of the political processes in both Ukraine and Russia was. This has cast doubt on the adequacy of the categories and narratives marshalled in previous analyses of post-Soviet political reality. Awareness of Russian traditions of imperial thinking remains limited, while it is still common to view Ukraine as a mere object of geopolitics, caught between NATO expansion and Russia’s “security concerns”. How to do justice to the diversity of Ukrainian culture and society? How do we comprehend Russian imperialism and popular support for it within Russia? How does the war mobilise or imperil different social groups in either country? What are possible repercussions of the invasion for future visions of international order and security?

Rather than pretend to offer conclusive answers to these questions, the roundtable will tentatively approach them from different angles, bringing together academics, activists and representatives of human rights NGOs from different countries. See all presentation abstracts here.


Volodymyr Artiukh graduated from the doctoral program in sociology and social anthropology at the Central European University (Budapest-Vienna, 2019). He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography/COMPAS (University of Oxford) and works with the ERC-funded project ‘Emptiness: Living Capitalism and Democracy under (post-)Socialism,’ where he studies war-related destruction, deindustrialization and outmigration in Ukraine. His previous research focused on labour and social movement in Belarus and on coping strategies of industrial workers in Ukraine.

Victoria Smolkin is Associate Professor of History and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University. She is the author of A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press, 2018), awarded Honorable Mention for 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies. The Russian translation was published by New Literary Observer and long listed for the Alexander Piatigorsky Literary Prize. She has also authored numerous articles, which have appeared in KritikaThe Russian Review, and in the collections Cosmic EnthusiasmInto the CosmosFormations of Belief, and The Cambridge History of Atheism.

Olga Shparaga, taught philosophy at the European College of Liberal Arts in Minsk (ECLAB), which she co-founded in 2014. She is a member of the coordination council of Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and a co-founder of the feminist group in this council, which led to her imprisonment in October 2020. To escape a looming criminal trial, she fled to Vilnius. Olga now lives in exile and is currently a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. Her book Die Revolution hat ein weibliches Gesicht. Der Fall Belarus was published by Suhrkamp in 2021.

Nataliia Tomenko is an artist, researcher and Roma activist. She completed her MA in Cultural Heritage Studies: Academic Research, Policy, and Management at Central European University in Vienna. She additionally holds an MA in Graphic Design from the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts. Currently, she is working at ERIAC: European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture as a coordinator of the History and Commemoration section. In parallel, she is working as a board member and a Creative Director at ARCA: Agency for the Advocacy of Roma Culture in Ukraine, that in current circumstances of the War in Ukraine is working in areas of humanitarian aid and evacuation of the Roma people from Ukraine. Nataliia is also a National Volunteers Coordinator and Roma Rights Defender at the European Roma Rights Centre in Ukraine on a volunteer basis, with the aim of supporting the principal’s work in defending the human rights of Romani people across Europe and fighting against digital anti-Gypsyism. As part of art projects connected to Roma cultural heritage, she engages with the visual representation of Roma history and culture.

Volodymyr Ishchenko is a research associate at the Institute of East European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin. His research focuses on protests and social movements, revolutions, radical right and left politics, nationalism and civil society. He authored a number of peer-reviewed articles and interviews on contemporary Ukrainian politics, the Euromaidan uprising, and the ensuing war in 2013-14 — published in Post-Soviet AffairsGlobalizations and New Left Review, among other journals. He has been a prominent contributor to major international media outlets, such as The Guardian, Al Jazeera and Jacobin since 2014. He is working on a collective book manuscript, The Maidan Uprising: Mobilization, Radicalization, and Revolution in Ukraine, 2013-2014.

Tatiana Levina is an Academy in Exile Fellow at KWI Essen. She taught philosophy at HSE University Moscow and was involved in academic activism until her dismissal in 2020. In 2018 she organised the seminar “Women in Philosophy and Politics”, which moved to the independent platform Antiuniversity in 2019. This workshop focused on the role of women in political protest and on women as public intellectuals. In 2020-2021 she participated in the project “She is an Expert” on women philosophers, and was a speaker at the feminist festivals Eve‘s Ribs and FemFest Moscow. She also taught a course on feminist philosophy for the independent project Free University-Moscow. At KWI, Tatiana is continuing her research project on women philosophers in the Soviet Union in the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on feminist metaphysics and epistemology. She is also preparing a book manuscript, entitled The Abstract Revolution: Platonism in the Avant-garde Era, for publication.