WCED Lecture. “Empire Strikes Back: The Dissolution of the USSR and the Russian Invasion of Ukraine.”
In 2014, the old Soviet empire that had disappeared from the map of the world struck back as the Russian leadership decided to use its newly acquired economic and military might to rewrite the history of the Soviet collapse. Vladimir Putin, who has never concealed his regret and even bitterness about the fall of the Soviet Union, referred specifically to the Soviet collapse in a speech delivered on the occasion of the Russian annexation of the Crimea in March 2014. “The Soviet Union fell apart. Things developed so swiftly that few people realized how truly dramatic those events and their consequences would be,” said Putin, recalling the events of 1991. “It was only when the Crimea ended up as part of a different country that Russia realized that it had not only been robbed but plundered.” Putin’s speech was meant to remove all doubt that the “hard times” were over and that Russia was back, prepared to undo the “injustice” inflicted on it by the disintegration of the USSR. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the current crisis in Russia’s relations with the West reveal with unprecedented clarity that the drama of the disintegration of Europe’s last empire is far from over. Serhii Plokhii, professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard University and the author of The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (2014) will discuss the origins and driving forces of the current Ukrainian crisis in the lecture that brings together the fall of the USSR and the events of ongoing military conflict between the two largest post-Soviet republics.
Sponsors: WCED, CREES
Serhii Plokhii, Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History, Harvard University