AAUS Open Letter on Budget Cuts in Ukraine

April 1, 2020

Open Letter from the American Association for Ukrainian Studies Regarding Budget Cuts Following the Formation of the Stabilization Fund


President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal

Minister of Finance of Ukraine Serhii Marchenko

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba

Interim Minister of Culture Svitlana Fomenko


As American scholars of Ukraine, we appeal to you in defense of Ukrainian cultural and scholarly institutions that are disproportionately threatened by the proposed budget cuts following the formation of the Stabilization Fund.

Specializing on Ukraine in subjects ranging from politics, energy and economics to media, literature and history, we intimately understand the dire situation in which Ukraine finds itself following the outbreak of the coronavirus and the rapid economic downfall that it precipitated. At the same time, we appeal to you to review the proposed cuts to the national budget as they will disproportionately affect cultural and scholarly institutions leading to the collapse of their activities in Ukraine and abroad, with devastating consequences for Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against the many global threats it faces today.=

As experts who have dedicated our lives to studying Ukraine and Eastern Europe, we emphasize with urgency that culture, education, the arts and sciences are key to the global recognition of a country’s sovereignty. They defend a country against a foreign aggression and mobilize international support in the time of need as effectively as the military defends it on the ground. As history has proven more than once, without culture and scholarship, a country amounts merely to a territory that invites colonization and pays for it with the lives of its citizens. It is for these reasons that Ukraine’s neighbors such as Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and others spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on stimulating and promoting their own culture both in the country and abroad. Ukraine must do the same and forcefully promote its culture and scholarship to maintain and strengthen its cultural and political sovereignty.

We had welcomed with enthusiasm the creation in Ukraine under the auspices of government agencies of such institutions as the Ukrainian Institute, the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, the Ukrainian Book Institute, the Ukrainian State Film Agency, and others. For the first time in Ukraine’s almost 30 years of independence, the Ukrainian state had begun actively promoting Ukrainian culture, history, language, and scholarship in Ukraine and abroad. These institutions did foundational work in establishing in the world an image of Ukraine as a country that deserves respect and fascination for its cultural riches and scholarly traditions.

Within the short period since their inception, these institutions implemented hundreds of projects, including scholarly exchange with prominent international institutions of research and learning, support for Ukrainian studies in Ukraine and abroad, participation in international conferences and book fairs, translation of Ukrainian literature and historical documents into most widely used foreign languages, promotion of Ukrainian music and contemporary art at leading international festivals and competitions, and many more.

For the first time since its independence, Ukraine was actively investing in creating a formidable cultural and scholarly bulwark against the threats to the country’s very existence. All these projects and international alliance building efforts are now under threat of being eliminated entirely and completely.

We appeal to you to consider the grave consequences that the cessation of this work will have for Ukraine’s standing in the world and for the defense of Ukraine among educated, influential audiences in international capitals around the world. We urge you to reverse your decision to disproportionately cut the budgets of these cultural institutions and work with their leaders to determine reasonable reductions with the goal to preserve as many vital projects as is possible.


American Association for Ukrainian Studies


Signed by (on behalf of the Association):

Oxana Shevel, Tufts University President

Paul D’Anieri, University of California Riverside Vice-President

Ostap Kin, Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University Secretary-Treasurer

Further signatures in support of this appeal:

Dominique Arel, AAUS Nominating Committee Chair, University of Ottawa

Emily Channell-Justice, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

Vitaly Chernetsky, AAUS Board Member, University of Kansas

Alexandra Hrycak, AAUS Board Member, Reed University

Halyna Hryn, AAUS Nominating Committee, Harvard University

Victoria Khiterer, AAUS Communications Committee, Millersville University

Oleh Kotsyba, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute

Olena Nikolayenko, AAUS Nominating Committee, Fordham University

George Soroka, AAUS Communications Committee Chair, Harvard University

Oleksandra Wallo, AAUS Nominating Committee, University of Kansas

Sophia Wilson, AAUS Board Member, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Myroslava Znayenko, AAUS Board Member (ex officio), Professor Emerita, Rutgers University



Members of the Shevchenko Scientific Society in the United States who wish to add their signatures to the Letter are asked to fill out this form: https://forms.gle/8owZub7VkGx6vRNB7