Campus & Community

Serhii Plokhii is new Hrushevs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian History

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Serhii Plokhii, a prolific scholar whose studies have opened up a new pathway of studying Ukraine’s relationship with Eastern and Central Europe, has been appointed Hrushevs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), effective July 1.

Plokhii, 49, comes to Harvard from the University of Alberta, where he was a professor of history and associate director of the Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Historical Research. He previously taught at Harvard as a visiting professor in fall 2005 and spring 2003.

“Professor Plokhii’s incisive explorations of nationality and religion in Ukraine make him a real asset to our history department,” said David Cutler, FAS dean for the social sciences. “From his daring writings on religion while still under the Soviet regime to his more recent explorations of the origins of nationality and culture, Plokhii represents the frontier of contemporary studies in the history of Ukraine and its environs.”

Plokhii first earned his scholarly reputation through several writings on the early modern religious history of Ukraine completed years before the onset of glasnost and the collapse of the Soviet Union. After relocating to Canada, this study culminated in a sweeping book, “The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine” (Oxford University Press, 2001). Drawing on archives in seven European languages, Plokhii tracks the religious history of the country through the emergence of the Uniate Church in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Orthodox revival in Kiev, and the defense of Orthodoxy by the Cossacks during the Khmelnytsky revolt.

In his second major work, “Unmaking Imperial Russia: Mykhailo Hrushevsky and the Writing of Ukrainian History” (University of Toronto Press, 2005), Plokhii presents an intellectual biography of the Ukrainian historian Hrushevs’kyi with a close analysis of how his career interacted with the politics of imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. Plokhii shows how, by constructing an independent Ukrainian narrative, Hrushevs’kyi sought to destroy the Russian narrative that united Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian history into a single history. In tracking the history and calculations of Hrushevs’kyi, Plokhii carefully and judiciously questions both the imperial Russian and the Ukrainian national narratives.

Plokhii recently published his third major book, “The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus” (Cambridge University Press, 2006), which is a culmination of a decade’s work on how elite political discourse and history-writing create and shape cultural identities. Examining the premodern history of Eastern Europe, Plokhii seeks to explain how and when separate Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian identities emerged. In doing so, he presents a vision of the region as a history of minorities and borderlands — an intersection of Eastern and Central Europe peopled by an amalgamation of distinct ethnicities.

Plokhii received a B.A. in history and social sciences from Dnipropetrovsk University in 1980; an M.A. in history from Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in 1982; and a Ph.D. in history from Kiev University in 1990.