What are the factors that led to Russia waging war on Ukraine? It’s a question Western professor Marta Dyczok has been trying to answer since the invasion almost one year ago. The answer is complex and isn’t one that can be summed up easily.
“I kept getting asked this question by media outlets and students, and the answer is not a simple one,” said Dyczok, associate professor of history and political science who specializes in Ukraine and Eastern European politics. “I realized this question would take an entire course to answer; so I designed one.”
The new course called Russia’s War Against Ukraine is being offered in January through the department of political science, and is open to all students.
In addition to her role at Western, Dyczok is the author of six books. The latest is Ukraine Calling. She has also published numerous chapters in academic books and her papers have appeared in journals such as Europe-Asia Studies, Demokratizatsiya and Canadian Slavonic Papers.
It was important to Dyczok that the course be accessible to everyone at the university and therefore there are no prerequisites or writing assignments.
“My goal is to help students understand the larger issues and also get a first-hand view of what’s going on. In my lectures I will be drawing on my experiences of travelling to many of the places that are now in the headlines: Kyiv, Moscow, Odesa and Mariupol,” said Dyczok.
As part of the course, Dyczok will analyze Russian propaganda, as well as discuss Putin’s personal messages against Ukraine and its president. The course will also look at the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the lead up to Russia’s invasion.
Themes of the online course include hybrid warfare, disinformation, geo-politics, international law, and humanitarian impact. Dyczok said students in the course will also explore the international response to the war, including Canada’s role, international war crimes, with the final week focusing on prospects for peace.
Guest lecturers will be invited to share their expertise with the class and Dyczok is also hoping to have current Western students from Ukraine attend.
She said she often hears from students that they want to do something to help, and one way is by keeping the lines of information open.
“Every time I hear about new Russian missile attacks against Ukraine, I tune in to Hromadske Radio in Ukraine to see if they are still on air. So far, they always have been, and we can help them continue broadcasting by donating,” she said.
Hromadske Radio is described as one of the few independent media outlets in Ukraine and is run on listener donations and grants. Since the invasion, they have continued to operate to help inform Ukrainians.
Dyczok herself produced and hosted a weekly English language show titled Ukraine Calling on Hromadske Radio. The show featured interviews with politicians, diplomats, scholars, journalists, activists and artists.
She aims to keep battling misinformation as the war rages on, and a large part of that is helping to inform the young minds of today.
“There are many things we can all be doing, but it starts with keeping ourselves informed and offering support,” she said.