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All views expressed in these articles are the writers’ own and do not represent NovUM’s official or unofficial position.
Ukraine, from mother to brother of Russia
Far from being a precise recapitulation of Ukraine’s history in relations to Russia, this article aims at providing a general historical introduction to the complex Ukraine-Russia relationship. It ideally invites the reader to deepen their critical thinking regarding the current dispute in eastern Europe.
In light of recent events of Russian invasion in Ukraine, it seems reasonable to condemn the offender’s actions for the numerous breaches of conventions and international agreements. However, such events are, among other reasons, a reflection of the complex ties that bound today’s Russia and Ukraine. Whilst Ukraine is a recognised state, it has been so only since 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet it is not just another example of an ex-soviet country that has westernised since, quite contrarily it is an example of a country that, due to its history with Russia, has not been able to flourish since its independence.
Kiev, today’s capital of Ukraine, is the historical cradle of Russia which use to be referred to in old Russian chronicles as the mother of Rus cities, has now been reduced to the terminology of Little Russia, or even маленький брат (little brother). Whilst merely anecdotal, these names speak of a louder reality, one that ties Russia and Ukraine with emotional bonds that on the one hand Ukrainians try so fiercely to deny, and on the other Russians (Putin being the first) so romantically recalling the strength of their relationship. Before Russia was even named as such, its empire originated from the Kievan Rus empire, one that greatly expanded during medieval times in the 9th century due to its geographical location as a lucrative trade route between Slavic tribes, becoming in the 11th century the largest state in Europe.
Since, and after a relatively brief and unsuccessful independence after the Ukrainian War of independence in 1917, Ukraine benefited from privileges that not all Soviet countries had at the time. The main one granting Ukraine the status of a ‘proto state’, with certain Ukrainian specific amendments to the Constitution allowing it to act as an independent entity according to international law. This has made Ukraine, or former Soviet Ukraine, one of the founding members of the United Nations for example. In hindsight, these benefits can be interpreted in many ways, yet considering their emotional ties and the rebellious nature of Ukrainian history, they could be viewed as Mother Russia showing a preference towards its маленький брат.
Marcos León Santiago
Although Maastricht is a relatively small town where everyone seems to be constantly bumping into new and old acquaintances, the city conceals a mystery that may not be obvious to every student, but which makes the education environment particularly special. Have you ever thought about the universes that thrive behind the thick, brick walls of each of the faculties scattered around the city? What hides behind the fancy windows of the Law faculty? Is the secret garden of Banditos at FASoS only an urban legend? Can you get lost in Randwyck library?
Every faculty has its charm, and we should mind the possibility of sometimes getting tricked into blindness by its dazzling light. My main concerns here are bias and polarization, two phenomenons that have increasingly come to shape our “post-truth” society. What I noticed is that rivalries between people with (apparently) completely diverse interests – humanities and economics, law and natural sciences – do exist, and they have precisely evolved as an essential trait which pervades the student community in Maastricht. The ongoing, although usually subtle and unspoken, contest for the “Best Faculty Award” has reasons to exist, but it also carries the necessary elements to outgrow its ingrained superficiality. Why spend three years of your life studying a subject that you don’t consider crucially important and that does not reflect your innermost passions? After all, competition is a healthy and powerful force for progress. However, something we get to learn more and more nowadays is how diversity can not only ignite confrontation, but also enrich collaboration. Many student organizations, university workshops and international hotspots already offer the opportunity of interdisciplinary learning and debates for students who independently and spontaneously reach out to these associative activities.
Nevertheless, some of us may not have the time or willingness to actively engage in weekly meetings which may eventually remind us more of university classes than some extracurricular hours immersed in a multifaceted interdisciplinarity that we manage to absorb almost unintentionally. Even though we may realize the relevance of expanding our views beyond our field of expertise to evolve as better scholars, workers, people – sometimes the very awareness embedded in this learning process can be draining. This is why, when thinking about the whole range of opportunities Maastricht offers in this regard, I believe there is a special place that combines the release from university-like settings with the richness of human complexity and the entanglement of plenty of different subjects: Lumiére. It may seem obvious to many, but cinema is a powerful means when it comes to contemporary communication. Lumiére usually offers movies with value-laden undertakings, movies that are meant to portray certain angles of society in which the most diverse elements come together: from arts, to economics, to politics, to bioethics. What is special about this cinema is dual: on one hand, some of the movies are effectively contextualized by
lecturers and experts who clarify the underlying meaning. On the other, what is especially significant is what the cinema itself embodies: it is a space for debate and dialogue, a place where great issues are not just sterile words on a white sheet, but rather images, sounds, colors, emotions; they speak directly to us, and, most importantly, they make us speak.
Allegra Altea Tonon