The Medieval Academy of America strongly condemns the government of Russia for invading the sovereign state of Ukraine. We protest the already significant loss of human lives, and the ongoing bombing of Ukraine’s historic cities, including the capital at Kyiv (Kiev). We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and particularly the community of medievalist scholars, those who protect Ukraine’s historic patrimony, and the families and friends of MAA members. This tragic disruption of the lives of the people of Ukraine touches many of us personally. Within our circle, a sister-in-law is visiting relatives in central Ukraine; a friend in Odessa reported yesterday that invading Russian forces had landed from the sea; one of our MAA members living with his family in L’viv has reported being awakened by explosions two days in a row. We echo his sentiments “Praying and hoping for real peace to come.”
As medievalists we recognize the importance of Ukraine as cradle of the Early Rus, and Kyiv, the capital of Vladimir I (r. 980-1015) who converted to Byzantine Christianity after his emissaries to Constantinople reported the inspiring architecture and liturgy of Hagia Sophia. At the same time, we insist that this historical legacy does not justify Vladimir Putin’s claim that this territory belongs to Russia. Ukraine has its own complicated history and cultural makeup, which includes Scythian nomads who originated in Iran, Vladimir’s (transliteration of the Scandinavian name, Valdemar) Norse ancestors who were known by the name “Rus,” Tatars and Zaporozhian Cossacks, Jewish and Armenian communities, Lithuanians and Poles, whose legacy is reflected in the cultural expression of Ukraine’s later medieval cities. Only in the late seventeenth century were central and eastern Ukraine forcefully brought into the Russian Empire, while western Ukraine remained part of the Hapsburg Empire until 1918. In the interwar period, an independent Ukrainian Republic endured until 1922.
The legacy of the Early Rus survives in significant medieval monuments, including the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Kyiv, with mosaics dating to the eleventh century, the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (Monastery of the Caves, f. 1051), and the later medieval cityscapes of Chernivtsi and L’viv, all UNESCO World Heritage sites. We strongly condemn ongoing military actions that will inevitably claim innocent lives and result in the irretrievable loss of historical patrimony. We urge the resumption of diplomatic efforts to restore peace to Ukraine as soon as possible.
Thomas Dale, President
Maureen Miller, First Vice-President
Robin Fleming, Second Vice-President