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Photo: Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies


At present, the history of Eastern Europe and Eastern European Jewry in particular is a popular field of scientific studies. Our correspondent has had an interview with an expert in this field Oleg Kozerod, Doctor of Historical Sciences, member of the European Association for Jewish Studies (Oxford).


Q.: Dear Dr Kozerod, You are one of a few world's experts in Jewish history in Ukraine. Please tell us about current trends in studying Jewish culture and history of that country.


A.: There is a stable interest in studying Jewish history and culture in Europe and globally. The history of Eastern European Jewry draws typically special attention these days. Eastern Europe is the cradle of the modern Jewish culture. It is actually a focus of attention for everyone who wish to know more about a modern life of People of the Book. Special attention is paid to studying history of specific cities and areas in Russia and Ukraine, and a Jewish cultural heritage that has become a part of contemporary culture in ex-Soviet Republics. I am happy about the fact that European foundations still inject money into research programs on Jewish history in Russia, Ukraine and other countries, regardless of the financial crisis.


Q.:  Why is it so important for a modern historical science to study the history of Ukrainian Jews?


A.: The Jewish community in Ukraine suffered hard times. No global communities have ever experienced such a number of anti-Jewish campaigns in their scope and casualties. Just recall Chmielnicki pogroms, the Russian Civil War massacre, and the Holocaust. Where else in the world hundreds of thousands of Jews have been killed in such one-time and targeted anti-Jewish campaigns? It stands to mention that many of those tragic pages of history have not been studied yet. For example, there is a strong difference in data on casualties during the White Guard and Petliura's massacre in Ukraine. Nearly nobody studies this topic today in the world. There are also many other important issues in Ukrainian Jews history studies. Sure, you should not separate the history of Ukrainian Jews from the history of Eastern European Jews. That said, it's worth noting that Ukraine is the country that suffered from three Holocausts, and its history should be very thoroughly studied. 


Q.: Do you think such history has an impact on today's standing of Jews in Ukraine


A.: Now, Ukrainian/Jewish relations burdened with such history certainly have some specific features.  Just two short years ago Ukraine was lashed by a vast number of anti-Semitic publications that were issued and disseminated all over Ukraine without hindrance. Both today and tomorrow, to let the genie out of the bottle is a great risk for a country fraught with social tension. This should be considered by new heads of state and the Ukrainian elite. In the meantime, as of the last year, Ukraine, Russia and Venezuela rank Top 3 globally in the number of anti-Semitic campaigns.


Q.: What can you wish young researchers who'd like to work on this field?


A.: To keep a vision of the overall Jewish history picture in a global context. To love what you are doing and to address issues that have not been researched by anyone in the world.