by Bruce Berglund
Just the other day, a student in my world history course called out before the start of class: “Hey, do you know anything about this Ukraine business?”
He got a lot more than he probably expected.
Just over a decade ago, when I was assistant director of the University of Kansas’ Center for Russian & East European Studies, I mixed with scholars, NGO workers, government analysts, diplomats and military officers who worked on Ukrainian issues. Kansas is one of the few universities in the US with dedicated courses in Ukrainian language and a summer program in the country, in the western city of L’viv.
While I was able to answer my student’s questions about the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine, for the blog I’ll defer to one of my former students at Kansas. Matthew Schmidt earned his MA in Russian & East European studies at KU and went on to earn a PhD in political science at Georgetown, where he studied under Charles King, one of the top experts on the history and politics of the Black Sea (and an outstanding writer). A specialist in Eurasian politics, with several research trips to Russia and the Caucasus region, Matthew taught at the School of Advanced Military Studies at Ft. Leavenworth and is now on the faculty at the University of New Haven.
The clip below features Matthew on “Richard French Live,” broadcast in the northeast US on RNN. After an overview of the current situation in Ukraine and Crimea, Matthew starts speaking at about the 5:00 mark.
(And on a more nostalgic note: you’ll hear Matthew talk about poet Czesław Miłosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature, as a native of the borderlands of eastern Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Twelve years ago, when Matthew was a new graduate student and I was a new professor, I led him through a semester of independent readings that begin with Miłosz’s memoir, Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition. We’ve shared a love for Miłosz ever since. But that’s a subject for another post.)
Bruce Berglund’s area of focus in his doctoral studies was East European and Russian history. He hosts the podcast New Books in Sports, which features interviews with scholars and journalists about their new publications on world sport.