The Context Behind the Crisis
Join us for a conversation with UChicago’s Faith Hillis and Monika Nalepa to examine the historical and political context behind the crisis in Ukraine and Russia.
About the Event
The world is observing a rapidly evolving crisis, as Russia attacks Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens “anyone who tries to interfere.” The consequences for Ukraine, Russia, the region, and our world appear increasingly catastrophic. In this Conversation @Graham, we will explore the longer historical and political context behind this crisis with Faith Hillis, Professor of Russian History, and Monika Nalepa, Associate Professor of Political Science.
Professor of Russian History and the College
Faith Hillis is an historian of modern Russia, with a special interest in nineteenth- and twentieth-century politics, culture, and ideas. Her work explores how Russia's peculiar political institutions—and its status as a multiethnic empire—shaped public opinion and political cultures. It also interrogates Russia's relationship with the outside world, asking where the Russian experience belongs in the broader context of European and global history. In addition, she is interested in the theory and practice of the digital humanities.
Her most recent book, Utopia’s Discontents: Russian Exiles and the Quest for Freedom, 1830–1930, was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. The book provides the first synthetic account of Europe's "Russian colonies"—boisterous and politically fractious communities formed by exiles from the Russian empire that emerged across the continent in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The book treats the "Russian colonies" as utopian communities in which radical activists worked to transform social relations and individual behavior, and it explores how these unique spaces influenced Russian political imaginaries as well as the culture of their host societies. Ultimately, the project offers a bold reassessment of Russia's relationship with Europe, the origins of the Russian revolution, and the creation of the Bolshevik regime.
Her first book, Children of Rus’: Right-Bank Ukraine and the Invention of a Russian Nation, was published by Cornell University Press in 2013 and released in paperback in 2017. Children of Rus' argues that it was on the extreme periphery of the tsarist empire—a region that today is located at the very center of the independent nation of Ukraine—that Russian nationalism first took shape and assumed its most potent form. The book reconstructs how nineteenth-century provincial intellectuals came to see local folk customs as the purest manifestation of an ancient nation that unified all the Orthodox East Slavs, and how they successfully propagated their ideas across the empire through lobbying and mass political mobilization. In addition, it reconceptualizes state-society relations under tsarism, showing how residents of a diverse and contested peripheral region managed to shape political ideas and identities across Russia—and even beyond its borders. Children of Rus' was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013.
Her current research is enriched by technology, and she is interested in thinking through how historians can use digital tools to open new avenues for exploration and to communicate their findings to other scholars and the general public. She is particularly interested in using geo-spatial analysis to analyze flows of people, ideas, and commodities over time and across space. For examples of her (ongoing) work in digital cartography, see her Utopia's Discontents website in development and her study of émigré publications.
She has held research fellowships at Columbia, Harvard, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. Her research has been funded by ACLS, IREX, Fulbright-Hays, and the NEH.
Professor of Political Science
Monika Nalepa (PhD, Columbia University) is professor of political science at the University of Chicago. With a focus on post-communist Europe, her research interests include transitional justice, parties and legislatures, and game-theoretic approaches to comparative politics. Her first book, Skeletons in the Closet: Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Europe was published in the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series and received the Best Book award from the Comparative Democratization section of the APSA and the Leon Epstein Outstanding Book Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the APSA. Her next book with Cambridge University Press, published in 2022, is entitled After Authoritarianism: Transitional Justice and Democratic Stability. She has also published articles in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, the Journal of Comparative Politics, World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Parliamentary Affairs, and Constitutional Political Economy.
Monika Nalepa is the Director of the Transitional Justice and Democratic Stability Lab, which produces the Global Transitional Justice Dataset.