Faculty Fall 2022: Yuliya Ladygina

The Reel Story of the Euromaidan and Russia’s War against Ukraine

Helena Rubinstein University Endowed Fellow in the Humanities and Assistant Professor of Russian and Global Studies

My project examines the legacy of Soviet and Hollywood war films, as well as the influence of contemporary media practices in (mis)representing war, terror, and terrorism, in cinematic depictions of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. By analyzing portrayals of the 2013-2014 Euromaidan Revolution, the 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Donbas War, and Russia’s 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine in recent Ukrainian films, I shed light on the myths and ideological touchstones that contemporary Ukrainian filmmakers inherited from their 20th-century predecessors and elaborate on how the canonical narratives and images from the past have been transformed and adjusted to the new historical circumstances. Concurrently, I argue that the latest cycle of Ukrainian war films merits attention not only because it provides a gripping record of the monumental experiences of outrage, fear, pain, and despair, but because it also constitutes a valuable set of cultural documents that present an original perspective on the hybrid nature of modern war and its mediatization. I am particularly interested in how contemporary Ukrainian filmmakers address the subject of control and circulation of information for political ends and how they frame cinema and other forms of media as pivotal strategic territories, where some of the key battles of contemporary wars are taking place, affecting the ways in which these wars are perceived and what actions are taken by those directly involved in them. I also pay close attention to how post-Soviet, postcolonial, and post-truth aspects of war-torn Ukraine conflate in recent Ukrainian war films to offer new fresh perspectives on questions of memory and national identity. Notably, although the primary object of my investigation is Ukraine-centric, its implications reach beyond the field of Ukrainian studies and as widely as the topics of the films it analyzes—from heterarchical identities and new modes of political mobilizations to weaponization of history, instrumentalization of culture, and digital warfare.