The Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE) and The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies are working in collaboration to create a “Lasting Memorial” of Russia’s war in Ukraine. With a focus on fact-based, legally admissible evidence, University of Michigan scholars and experts assist The Reckoning Project through a detailed analysis of war victims’ testimonies for archival and legal purposes.
What is The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies?
The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies is an NGO that proposes a new model to address an old problem. There has long been a gap between the coverage of war crimes accessible to the public and the evidence presented in the criminal courts that hold perpetrators accountable. Journalism and social media have transformed the stage on which war crimes are committed by exposing them to the world in real time, but these valuable sources are almost invariably thrown out in court because of the high legal standards for verifiable and admissible evidence. The Reckoning Project, co-founded by Janine di Giovanni and Peter Pomerantsev, is seeking to mend this disconnect. Rather than returning with story-driven interviews that lack the robust details necessary for court evidence, The Reckoning Project’s journalists remain in constant contact with the project’s legal team and are being trained to collect fact-driven, observation-based testimonies from victims that will be bulletproof to courts’ attempts to shoot them down.
The Reckoning Project is well positioned to ensure that the power of first-hand testimony can extend beyond the media landscape into criminal courts. Beyond the scope of criminal justice, The Reckoning Project will also use the testimonies to create long-lasting memorials to victims of the conflict to ensure that the experiences of Ukrainians are not forgotten. By adding legal force to the stories and experiences of Ukrainian victims and memorializing the findings, The Reckoning Project will not allow for perpetrators to escape the public consensus of culpability through the slow and bureaucratic nature of the criminal courts like so many others have done in the past. The Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia partners with The Reckoning Project to provide necessary resources and ensure the addition of another impartial, scientific dimension to the data analysis.
More information about The Reckoning Project
The Reckoning Project at WCEE in the news
"Holding Russia to Account for War Crimes in Ukraine," Vanity Fair, 8/24/22
"U-M joins project investigating war crimes in Ukraine," The University Record, 9/21/22
Geneviève Zubrzycki (Principal Investigator) is professor of sociology and director of the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia at the University of Michigan. She has written extensively on national identity and religion, collective memory and national mythology, and the contested memory of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. In addition to her permanent position at the University of Michigan, she has held visiting appointments at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris and at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Wassenar. In 2021, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Bronisław Malinowski Prize in the Social Sciences from the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America. Professor Zubrzycki is on the advisory board of the Reckoning Project and leads the TRP’s UM team. In addition to leading the UM-TRP team, Professor Zubrzycki will be working on the commemorative dimension of the Project. For more information about Prof. Zubrzycki and her research, visit her webpage.
Kristin Foringer, Ph.D. candidate in sociology, is the team's Testimony Coding Supervisor. She has expertise in the fields of human rights and collective memory, which informs her role overseeing a team of student research assistants as part of the SURO course in the management and interpretation of testimonies collected by The Reckoning Project. Kristin has a B.A. in policy studies from Rice University and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Michigan. Her research on Colombian civil conflict and state policies of memory production and victim reparation has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the United States Institute of Peace.
Svitlana Rogovyk is director of the Slavic language program in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and coordinator of the Ukrainian language, literature, and culture undergraduate program at the University of Michigan. Her expertise lies in the fields of translation, language program curriculum design, proficiency assessment, and language pedagogy. She serves as the UM-TRP team's Translation and Editorial Supervisor.
Arina Vlasova Bustillos is Research Project Coordinator of The Reckoning Project at WCEE. She holds a Master’s degree in International and Regional Studies from the University of Michigan with a specialization in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Her background in sociology includes working as a research assistant for projects dedicated to education and public health in Eastern Europe. For her master’s thesis, she worked on the connection between health education, nationalism, and religion. Between her undergraduate and graduate degrees, Arina worked at an international educational NGO and an international clinic, where she gained project management and administrative experience. In her spare time, Arina serves as a volunteer translator for a pro-bono refugee translation collective.
Yuri M. Zhukov is associate professor of political science and research associate professor with the Center for Political Studies at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the causes, dynamics and legacies of armed conflict, at the international and local levels. He holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University. Zhukov is the developer and maintainer of VIINA, a near-real time violent event and territorial control tracking system for Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. As part of the UM-TRP team, Yuri provides his expertise on the quantitative analysis and validation of testimonies, using geospatial data on the reported location and timing of military operations, units, and territorial control.
WCEE Lecture. Investigative Journalists and the Documentation of War Crimes
Janine di Giovanni, founder and director, The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Watch the recording
Professor Janine di Giovanni will draw on her experiences as a war correspondent, author, and educator to highlight the challenges of human rights violations and other abuses against civilian populations in conflict areas. She has reported widely on war and its aftermath for nearly thirty years in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Africa, and has investigated human rights abuses on four continents.
Di Giovanni will give particular emphasis to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, highlighting similarities and differences from other wars she has witnessed first-hand, and underscoring the degree to which the war crimes being committed there are consistent with Putin’s playbook for Chechnya and Syria. Currently co-director and founder of The Reckoning Project, Professor di Giovanni will speak to the progress her organization and others like it are managing to achieve in documenting and memorializing war crimes in real-time, amid devastating violence and terror.
Janine di Giovanni has worked for over 35 years as a human rights reporter and investigator in conflict zones in the Balkans, Africa, and the Middle East. She is a senior fellow at Yale University, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, and a Visiting Fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow in Non-Fiction, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her their highest prize for non-fiction, the Blake Dodd, for her lifetime body of work. In 2016, she was awarded the Courage in Journalism Award for her distinguished work tracking war criminals most recently in Syria and Iraq, with a focus on ISIS. Di Giovanni is also the author of nine books, including The Morning They Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria, which is a collection of war testimonies translated into 30 languages. She has made numerous documentaries and is a frequent analyst on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and the BBC. Di Giovanni is the recipient of nearly a dozen journalistic awards, including two Amnesty International Awards, and the National Magazine Award, for her work in human rights and war reporting.