The University of Amsterdam (UvA) will offer two courses in the field of Ukrainian language and culture from September 2023. The class will be taught by Oksana Kononuchuk, a linguist who fled Kiev to Amsterdam last year and is now a visiting researcher at the university. Member of UvA’s Russian and Slavic Studies Division.
Ellen Rutten, head of the department that offers these courses, told the NL Times that the idea came to her before 2022. However, she admitted that it was financially difficult to get her funding. The urgency of these courses became even more apparent following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. “We realized that it was not just a good idea, it was very urgent,” she said.
The professor of Slavic Literature and Culture explained that the main purpose was social rather than political. Its goal is to meet the urgent demand for Ukrainian language proficiency, which has surged since February 2022. Ukrainian refugee flows in Europe, humanitarian assistance, media coverage, international diplomacy, and national reconstruction require knowledge of: language.
Rutten noted that there are currently a large number of Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands who need assistance. Many Ukrainian refugees can communicate in Russian (a language more widely spoken than Ukrainian in the Netherlands), but it is “emotionally difficult” for some to use it. . “Speaking the language helps to ask for help,” she said.
These courses can contribute to a more holistic approach in Slavic studies, shifting the focus from a predominantly Russian-centric perspective to a more holistic and transnational perspective. As Rutten noted, many issues are still viewed through a Russian lens or analyzed in relation to Russia. In the wake of the full-blown invasion, many scholars of Slavic studies are reassessing their field and arguing for a more “hyper-Slavic development,” she said. The introduction of her two courses can be interpreted as a response to this call.
But Mr Rutten stressed that this does not amount to a “boycott of Russia”. Courses focused on Russian literature and language will continue, as will collaborations with Russian scholars. “They continue to be a very important part of the programme,” she stressed, adding that it was also important for her to “find a new balance.”
Some of the courses are designed for Slavic Studies and Eastern European Studies students who want to broaden their knowledge base. However, as Rutten pointed out, it is also available to students from other programs whose content may be beneficial to their studies and potential career paths.
Even non-examinees from outside the university cannot earn credits, but there are limits to how they can participate in class activities. This is especially suitable for professionals working in related fields, such as refugee aid activists, journalists and policy makers, Rutten explained.
Rutten cautioned that students should not expect to be fluent in Ukrainian after completing the course. “Ukrainian is a difficult language to learn,” he said. “It’s not like Dutch people learn German.” After completing the course, students can expect to be able to read short sentences and hold basic conversations in Ukrainian.
Mr. Rutten expressed his belief that these courses could help him better understand the situation in Ukraine. “A lot has already happened,” she said, referring to the “excellent coverage” of events in Ukraine. However, she argued that her public discussions and reports should always not view Ukraine as “in relation to Russia,” but rather as “a country in its own right.”
“This is something we can do better,” she added.
https://nltimes.nl/2023/06/18/university-amsterdam-will-soon-offer-courses-ukrainian University of Amsterdam will soon offer courses in Ukrainian