Ukraine: Thinking Together


“Chopin, 2013,” Markiyan Matsekh

Ukraine: Thinking Together
Kyiv, 15-19 May


This is an encounter between those who care about freedom and a country where freedom is dearly won. This year Ukraine has seen protests, revolution, and a counter-revolution from abroad. When millions of people gathered to press for the rule of law and closer ties to Europe, the Yanukovych regime answered with violence. Vladimir Putin offered the Ukrainian government money to clear the streets and join Russia in a Eurasian project. Yanukovych criminalized civil society, which only broadened the protests. Then the police began to kill the protestors in large numbers. This brought revolution, a shift of political power to parliament, and the promise of free elections. Russian authorities reacted by invading Crimea, sending provocateurs into eastern Ukraine, threatening to dismember the country, and suppressing Russian civil society. Ukraine today, like Czechoslovakia in 1938, is a pluralist society amidst authoritarian regimes, a fascinating and troubled country poorly understood by its neighbors. It is also home to an extraordinary tradition of civil society, and to gifted writers, thinkers, and artists, many of whom, reflecting on the Maidan, have raised in new ways fundamental questions about political representation and the role of ideas in politics.

In the middle of May, an international group of intellectuals will come to Kyiv to demonstrate solidarity, meet their Ukrainian counterparts, and carry out a broad public discussion about the meaning of Ukrainian pluralism for the future of Europe, Russia, and the world. The Maidan and reactions to it, in Ukraine and abroad, raise classical and contemporary questions of politics and ethics. How can human rights be grounded and how are we motivated by the idea of human rights? How and when does language provide access to the universal, and how and when does it define political difference? Are some experiences so intense that they alter the character of intellectual exchange as such? How is decency in politics possible amidst international anarchy, domestic corruption, and the general fallibility of individuals? Does revolution renew Europe and revive political thought or can revolution, like everything else, be consumed by the clichés and abstractions of globalization? What does the revival of geopolitics mean for the world order? Is the Maidan an eruption of youth or an expression of history? Does its memory bring Ukrainians closer to European preoccupations, or introduce constellations that confound myths? These will be the subjects of our seven panels, in all of which international and local intellectuals will meet. The discussions will take place in Ukrainian, Russian, German, Polish, French, and English, and in all panels at least one person, including those traveling from the west, will be speaking a language that is not his or her own mother tongue. In this way we hope to express our respect for language as such, and to demonstrate, in a small way, solidarity to Ukrainiansand others who speak multiple languages. In expressing ourselves in other languages we also stress that the universal themes require a special sort of work from all of us, a labor that we hope will be rewarded by understanding and friendship.


Thursday May 15

5:00pm Public Lecture by Timothy Snyder
Not Even Past: Ukrainian Histories, Russian Politics, European Futures
Site: Congregation Hall, Old University Building, Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Friday May 16

12:00 Press conference
Timothy Snyder, Leon Wieseltier, international guests
Site: Hotel Ukraina, Media Crisis Center

5:45pm Public Lecture by Bernard-Henri Lévy
La résistible ascension d’Arturo Poutine
In French with simultaneous translation to Ukrainian
Site: Congregation Hall, Old University Building, Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Saturday May 17

9:00am Opening remarks by Leon Wieseltier and Timothy Snyder
Site: Diplomatic Academy

9:30am Panel One
Do rights make us human?
Language: Russian, with simultaneous interpretation into English.
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: Ivan Krastev, chair, Viktor Erofeyev, Sergei Lukashevsky, Myroslav
Marynovych, Alexander Podrabinek, Ihor Shchupak, Josef Zissels.

1:30pm Panel Two
How did the Maidan change culture?
Language: Ukrainian, with simultaneous interpretation into English.
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: George Grabowicz, brief introduction, Ola Hnatiuk, chair, Vasyl Cherepanyn, Oksana Forostyna, Alexander Roitburd, Konstantin Skorkin, Olena Styazhkina, Serhiy Zhadan.

3:00 Coffee break

4:00pm Panel Three
When do politicians become pariahs?
Language: German, with simultaneous interpretation into Ukrainian and English.
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: Daniel Markovits, chair, Wolf Biermann, Timothy Garton Ash, Jurko Prochasko, Mykhailo Minakov, Karl Schlögel, Karel Schwarzenberg.

5:30pm Public lecture by Ivan Krastev
The Global Politics of Protest
Site: Congregation Hall, Old University Building, Kyiv Mohyla Academy

7:00pm Public lecture by Timothy Garton Ash
From Lisbon to Kyiv?
Forty Years of Non-Violent European Struggles for Freedom
Site: Congregation Hall, Old University Building, Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Sunday May 18

9:30am Panel Four
Does Europe need Ukrainian revolution?
Language: French, with simultaneous interpretation into Ukrainian and English.
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: Konstantin Sigov, chair, Carmen Claudin, Bernard Kouchner, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Volodymyr Yermolenko.

11:30am Public lecture by Slavenka Drakulić
Intellectuals as Bad Guys?
The Role of Intellectuals in the Balkan Wars

Site: Center for Polish and European Studies, Building 6, Kyiv Mohyla Academy

1:30pm Panel Five
Geopolitics after Crimea: Realism, Idealism, Eurasianism
Language: English, with simultaneous interpretation into Ukrainian.
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: Leon Wieseltier, chair, Paul Berman, Carl Gershman, François Heisbourg, Volodymyr Kulyk, Anton Shekhovtsov, Tatiana Zhurzhenko.

3:00pm Coffee break

4:00pm Panel Six
Has totalitarianism returned to political thought and practice?
Language: Polish, with simultaneous interpretation into Ukrainian and English.
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: Aleksander Smolar, chair, Agnieszka Holland, Adam Michnik, Mykola Riabchuk, Marci Shore, Sławomir Sierakowski, Andrzej Waśkiewicz.

6:30pm Public lecture by Paul Berman
Alexis de Tocqueville and the Idea of Democracy
Site: Congregation Hall, Old University Building, Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Monday 19 May

9:30am Panel Seven
Can memory save us from history? Can history save us from memory?
Language: English, with simultaneous interpretation into Ukrainian
Site: Diplomatic Academy

Participants: Timothy Snyder, chair, Slavenka Drakulić, Olga Filippova, Frank Foer, Yaroslav Hrytsak, Nikolay Koposov, Martin Šimečka, Andrey Kurkov.

11:00am Closing remarks by Timothy Snyder. End of public events.
12:00 Press conference
Hotel Ukraina


The Kyiv-Mohyla Academy is located in the Podil’ neighborhood, on Kontraktova Square; the entrance to the Center for Polish and European Studies is on Voloska Street 8/5. The Diplomatic Academy is in central Kyiv, at 2 Velyka Zhytomyrska Street. The Hotel Ukraine is on 4 Instytutska Street. The InterContinental Hotel is on 2A Velyka Zhytomyrs’ka Street.

Practical solidarity:

This gathering was the initiative of Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic and Timothy Snyder of Yale University and was made possible by the willingness of colleagues to heed their call and agree to participate in great haste, and by the creativity and hard work of Tatiana Zhurzhenko and Oksana Forostyna. A number of partner institutions helped transform an idea into an event: the Batory Foundation, the Embassy of Canada, the Embassy of France, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, the Embassy of the United States of America, the European Endowment for Democracy, the Network of European Cultural Journals Eurozine, the Goethe-Institut, the Institut Français d’Ukraine, the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), the International Renaissance Foundation, the Ukrainian cultural journal Krytyka, the National University “Kyiv Mohyla Academy,” the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the National Endowment for Democracy, The New Republic, the Open Ukraine Foundation, the PinchukArtCentre, the Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust Studies “Tkuma,” the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, and the Visual Culture Research Center.