Welcome to H-Ukraine’s New Blog “Khroniky”
by Amber N. Nickell and John Vsetecka, H-Ukraine Editors
We came of academic age on stories of bribing reading room attendants with vodka and cigarettes, smuggling photocopies of documents across borders, and archival directors that stood as “Soviet-style” gatekeepers of the past. Yet, the archives that exist in the memories of our colleagues who conducted fieldwork during the Cold War era are not the same archives that many of us work in today. In many oblasts, the reading rooms are more open than they have ever been. Researchers receive stacks of NKVD files daily, taking pictures with their smartphones, giving chocolate and champagne as departure gifts, rather than bribes. Yet, despite these radical changes, remnants of the Soviet past linger. The process of gaining access to the archives and navigating them is somewhat opaque, rules for access fluctuate, and the application of those rules varies regionally.
Traditionally, to learn the rules of a particular archive, scholars do their research. We "Google" the archives, find relevant fonds, read through their 20 pages of rules and regulations, call and send e-mails to archival directors and reading rooms (often to no avail), and reach out to colleagues who have already conducted research there for introductions and tips. Yet, even then, our general picture of the situation going into the archives is incomplete, sometimes costing us precious time and resources. In our new open contributor blog series, we hope to make researching in Ukraine more transparent and less daunting. We will provide chronicles (hence the name) from researchers who have recent experience working in Ukrainian archives and with Ukrainian collections outside of the country.
“Khroniky” is a blog about conducting fieldwork for Ukrainian Studies’ research projects. The blog’s goal is twofold: to make the process of working in and with Ukrainian institutions easier and to raise awareness about materials related to Ukraine located in and outside of Ukraine. While the blog centers on paper and digital materials related to Ukraine, including library and archival holdings, data sets, and other ephemera; “Khroniky” will also publish contributions pertaining to the challenges of conducting other types of fieldwork, including anthropological observations, oral history and journalistic interviews, surveys, and other forms of data collection.
If you have recently conducted fieldwork in Ukraine or with materials pertaining to Ukraine housed in or outside of the country and are interested in contributing to “Khroniky,” please fill out the interest form here. We are also seeking contributions from archivists, librarians, and data curators who work in institutions with materials related to Ukraine. This is an excellent opportunity to spotlight and draw researchers’ attention to your holdings. Blog contributions should be from 500 to 700 words and can be written in either English or Ukrainian.