Global Field Study: Ukraine
Witnessing the Struggle for Recognition and Reconciliation
From a perch in Eastern Europe students gazed along the coast, where a fleet of warships dotted their view of the picturesque Black Sea. While not at war with one another, the different flags they flew made visible how fractured the region had become over time.
“You see a couple of little flags on the ships that are Ukrainian and you see Russian flags on the rest of them, so you can see the split there,” reflected Wendy Gallagher ’14, who was studied the ethnic conflicts brewing in Ukraine as part of the GFS course Politics and Ethnic Conflict in Ukraine.
The semester-long course, featuring a 10-day trip to Ukraine, centered around the different ethnic conflict among Ukrainians, Russians, and ethnic minorities, which threaten to break apart this area of the former Soviet Union. For instance, in 1944, more than 190,000 Crimean Tatars, an ethnic Muslim minority who lived along the Black Sea, were deported to Kazakhstan and Russians were placed on their land. Now the Tatars have returned to Crimea but have not been given land rights.
“The land is beautiful, so people don’t want to give it up,” said Elise Harry ’14, another student who participated in the course. “The Tatars have basically no rights. I think Ukraine has since recognized that there were mass deportations, but I don’t think that Ukraine feels responsible for it because at that time it was the Soviet Union.”
In addition to touring Kiev and the Black Sea coast, the course included a trip to the United Nations and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, where students discussed the sobering issue of radicalization among Crimean Tartar youth with embassy officials. Students also got to speak to the first deputy chairman of the Crimean Tartars, Refat Chubarov, about their struggles as a people group, said Harry, who felt the course was the perfect preparation for her summer internship working with survivors of torture due to its emphasis on international law and the struggle for human rights and recognition.
Reflecting on another pressing issue in Ukraine covered in the course, Gallagher was struck by the subtlety of the conflict in Ukraine between those who want to rejoin Russia and those who want to remain a separate nation.
“You see the struggles of other humans and what they're trying to go through to deal with what they think is right for themselves,” added Gallagher, who is interested in working to prevent human trafficking. “I think that’s a big conflict in the world today: how do you get your needs recognized, especially on an international level?”