Ellison Center Lecture Series

Ongoing Conflict: Russia’s War against Ukraine

The 2023-2024 Ellison Center Lecture Series

In-person at the University of Washington

A three part lecture series presenting new research on Russia’s war against Ukraine.


Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is well into its second year. As the world ponders the geopolitical implications, Ukraine fights for its very survival. To help make sense of these events, this series features three speakers who investigate the reasons behind the war and its impact on Ukrainian society. They will discuss how Ukrainian identity has shifted, how Ukrainian fighters and ordinary people resist Russian aggression, and what the war means for the future of democracy and security in the region.

This series is organized by the Ellison Center with the generous support of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.

October 26, 2023 | Volodymyr Kulyk: The Shift Away from Russian in Wartime Ukraine

February 21, 2024 | Christopher Miller – The War Came to Us: Life and Death in Ukraine

May 2, 2024 | Oxana Shevel – Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States

The Shift Away from Russian in Wartime Ukraine

Volodymyr Kulyk – Stanford University; Head Research Fellow, Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

October 26, 2023 from 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM

Thomson Hall Room 317, University of Washington, Seattle, WA


Contrary to Putin’s expectations, most Ukrainians responded to Russia’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine by a stronger attachment to their country and nation. One element of this attachment is an embrace of the national language at both the symbolic and communicative levels. Not only did Ukrainians come to love their language more than before, but they also started to speak it more often in their everyday lives. Or so they say.



Volodymyr Kulyk is Head Research Fellow at the Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. He has also taught at Columbia, Stanford and Yale Universities, Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Ukrainian Catholic University as well as having research fellowships at Harvard, Stanford, Woodrow Wilson Center, University College London, the
Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and other Western scholarly institutions. His research fields include the politics of language, memory and identity as well as political and media discourse in contemporary Ukraine, on which he has widely published in Ukrainian and Western journals and collected volumes. Professor Kulyk is the author of four books, the latest of which is Movna polityka v bahatomovnykh kraïnakh: Zakordonnyi dosvid ta ioho prydatnist’ dlia Ukraïny (Language Policies in Multilingual Countries: Foreign Experience and Its Relevance to Ukraine) that was published in Kyiv in 2021. Currently he is an Adjunct Professor, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages, Stanford University.

The War Came to Us: Life and Death in Ukraine

Christopher Miller – Author and Journalist for the Financial Times

February 21, 2024 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM

HUB Room 145 (Husky Union Building)

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When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine just before dawn on 24 February 2022, it marked his latest and most overt attempt to brutally conquer the country, and reshaped the world order. Christopher Miller, the Ukraine correspondent for the Financial Times and the foremost journalist covering the country, was there on the ground when the first Russian missiles struck and troops stormed over the border. But the seeds of Russia’s war against Ukraine and the West were sown more than a decade earlier.

This is the definitive, inside story of its long fight for freedom. Told through Miller’s personal experiences, vivid front-line dispatches and illuminating interviews with unforgettable characters, The War Came To Us takes readers on a riveting journey through the key locales and pivotal events of Ukraine’s modern history. From the coal-dusted, sunflower-covered steppe of the Donbas in the far east to the heart of the Euromaidan revolution camp in Kyiv; from the Black Sea shores of Crimea, where Russian troops stealthily annexed Ukraine’s peninsula, to the bloody battlefields where Cossacks roamed before the Kremlin’s warlords ruled with iron fists; and through the horror and destruction wrought by Russian forces in Bucha, Bakhmut, Mariupol, and beyond.

With candor, wit and sensitivity, Miller captures Ukraine in all its glory: vast, defiant, resilient, and full of wonder. A breathtaking narrative that is at times both poignant and inspiring, The War Came To Us is the story of an American who fell in love with a foreign place and its people – and witnessed them do extraordinary things to escape the long shadow of their former imperial ruler and preserve their independence.


Christopher Miller is a writer and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine and Brooklyn, New York. He appears frequently on major US television news programmes, including those on CNN and MSNBC. He was interviewed for MSNBC’s documentary film Headliners: Paul

Photo:Christopher Miller

Manafort, and HBO’s The Perfect Weapon. Chris also appears regularly on podcasts and radio programmes on the BBC, NPR, CBC, Monocle, Crooked Media and elsewhere. Since 2022 he has been lead correspondent in Ukraine for the Financial Times. He was previously a world and national security reporter for POLITICO and a Ukraine correspondent for BuzzFeed News, where he covered the Euromaidan revolution and the invasion of Crimea. Before that he spent five years as a correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Kyiv. He has lived and worked in Ukraine for 13 years. His writing and journalism has been published in POLITICO EuropeThe Times, the GuardianThe Atlantic, CNN, Vice News, the Telegraph, the IndependentThe Outline and GlobalPost. His coverage of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was Missouri Honor Medal Winner for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States

Oxana Shevel – Associate Professor of comparative politic at Department of Political Science at Tufts University and Director of Tufts International Relations program.

May 2, 2024 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM 

HUB Room 214 (Husky Union Building)

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In February 2022, Russian missiles rained on Ukrainian cities and tanks rolled towards Kyiv to end Ukrainian independent statehood. President Zelensky declined a western evacuation offer and rallied the army and citizens to defend Ukraine. What are the roots of this war which has devastated Ukraine, upended the international legal order, and brought back the spectre of nuclear escalation? How is it that these supposedly “brotherly peoples” became each other’s worst nightmare?

In Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Divergent States, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel explain how over the last thirty years Russia and Ukraine diverged politically ending up on a catastrophic collision course. Russia slid back into authoritarianism and imperialism, while Ukraine consolidated a competitive political system and pro-European identity. As Ukraine built a democratic nation-state, Russia refused to accept it and came to see it as an “anti-Russia” project. After political pressure and economic levers proved ineffective and even counterproductive, Putin went to war to force Ukraine back into the fold of the “Russian world.” Ukraine resisted, determined to pursue European integration as a sovereign state. These irreconcilable goals, rather than geopolitical wrangling between Russia and the West over NATO expansion, are – the authors argue – essential to understanding Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Oxana Shevel is an Associate Professor of comparative politic at Department of Political Science at Tufts University and Director of Tufts International Relations program. Her research and teaching focuses on the post-Soviet region, especially Ukraine and Russia, and issues such as nation building and identity politics, citizenship policies, memory politics, church-state relations, and democratization process in the post-Soviet region. She is a co-author (with Maria Popova) of forthcoming book on the root causes of the Russo-Ukrainian war Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States (Polity, 2023). Her earlier book, Migration, Refugee Policy, and State Building in Postcommunist Europe (Cambridge, 2011) which examines how the politics of national identity and strategies of the UNHCR shape refugee admission policies in the post-Communist region, leading countries to be more or less receptive to refugees, won the American Association of Ukrainian Studies (AAUS) prize for best book in the fields of Ukrainian history, politics, language, literature and culture.


The annual REECAS Lecture Series is organized by the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies at the University of Washington in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation.