My Brother or the ‘Other’?: Justifying Russian Colonialism in Ukraine throughout the Twentieth Century

NTU Hist PG_6
26 Oct 2022 09.00 AM - 10.00 AM Zoom Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public

On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin,
has justified the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine by framing it as a moral crusade
against hidden Nazi forces. In this case, Putin portrays Russia as a protector of
Ukrainian interests, reflecting familiar vernacular and discourse of Russo-Ukrainian
relations. My research analyzes how and why different Russian governments (and
their forces) justified their forceful and/or coercive interventions into Ukraine.
Tracing the roots of the Russo-Ukrainian colonial discourse starting with the 1905
Revolution and ending with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the historical and
documentary evidence highlight the various similarities and differences of how
Russia justifies their imperialist or colonialist initiatives. I delve into the history of
Russian (internal) colonialism, the opposition of Ukrainian nationalism, Soviet
russification strategies and efforts, and their impacts/legacies in modern Ukraine.
By incorporating both political and social frameworks of historical analysis, this
colonial history is displayed as a multi-layered and complex web that highlights the
key players, historical factors, and most importantly, those impacted. My conclusion
analyzes Russia’s present-day imperialist endeavours in Ukraine as a continuation of
this colonial history. I pose questions such as: Why did Russia invade Ukraine in
2022? In what manner, does this conflict between Ukraine and Russia fit in the
overall colonial discourse? How does the recent invasion of Ukraine fit into and/or
stray from previous historical justifications? Why did Putin use the memory of the
Holocaust as a justification?

Ana C. Villegas (she/her) is a second-year graduate student within Canada’s University of Toronto’s Master of Museum Studies program, while also pursuing a collaborative specialization in Jewish Studies. She currently holds a B.A. (Honours)
in History from Trent University and specialized in Modern European History, particularly Holocaust history. As an emerging museum professional, her interests lie on museum exhibitions displaying subjects on, or related to trauma and violence. Lately, she has been coordinating and co-managing with Mr. Bruno Véras and her faculty’s student journal, the iJournal, to produce a special summer edition featuring essays relating to topics of trauma, memory, and ‘difficult history’ in museums. Recently, she has been selected to present her research on the experiences of Jewish doctors in the Warsaw ghetto at the Midwest Jewish Studies Association Conference this upcoming September.