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Ukrainian heritage protected in a computer cloud

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After carefully considering the best way to help her university colleagues in the face of the Russian invasion, the director of the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian StudiesNatalia Khanenko-Friesen, and her team decided to set up a rescue team from the Ukrainian archives.

We are really worried about our colleagues and the work they are carrying out in the eastern part of Ukraine, where the advance of the Russian armed forces is the greatest.

Natalia Khanenko-Friesen says she has heard of destroyed or vandalized archives and museums.

From culture to misinformation

Despite open access to all universities and all educational establishments, all disciplines combined, this online archive space has above all a cultural dimension, underlines Ms. Khanenko-Friesen.

Waist-up portrait of smiling Natalia Khanenko-Friesen.

Natalia Khanenko-Friesen is worried about her colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic and hopes to be able to offer them support.

Photo: Provided by Natalia Khanenko-Friesen

Our initiative is due to the fear that not only the collections will be lost, but also that the history and cultural heritage will be wiped out. »

A quote from Natalia Khanenko-Friesen, Director of the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies

Indeed, as the invasion approached, Russian President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed that Ukraine was not a real nation, but an artificial creation detached from Russia by its enemies.

This inaccurate statement worries academics.

Thus, to deal with misinformation, the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies has also set up a series of videosHave (New window)Have Did you know (in English) to answer questions surrounding the conflict. Subsequently, he wants to launch an initiative based on media analysis, according to his director.

A lesson from the past

Frank Sysyn is Professor of History and Director of the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies in the Toronto office. According to him, the digitization and sharing of data is crucial for future scholars and would allow a better understanding of Ukraine, but also of its region in general.

He recalls that, at the start of his career in the 1970s, the Soviet Union restricted access to its archives. It was the emergence of more open post-Soviet states that allowed scholars to delve into information that until then had been inaccessible.

This was extremely important in order to develop our historical and cultural knowledge in a different way.he said.

Indeed, according to him, those who previously went to Russia to study the Soviet Union, in particular through secret police files, subsequently stopped in Ukraine or the Baltic States to consult the archives.

The history teacher fears that this source of information will fall under the control of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Important documents that could then become inaccessible again or even be destroyed.

We have to look ahead and be sure that they will be preserved no matter what. »

A quote from Frank Sysyn, Professor of History and Director of the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies in the Toronto office

We all think of Sarajevo, the destruction of the wonderful library in Bosnia, and the need later to try to recreate this library with what was left of it.

The working group includes the Canadian Institute for Ukrainian Studies as well as the Kule Folklore Center from the University of Alberta and other Canadian research organizations.

With information from Stephen David Cook

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