Photo: Banned for over forty years, one of the first Ukrainian Orthodox Church services in Kyiv, 1991. Credit: Tim Smith

The Oral History Society (UK) strongly condemns the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, an independent and sovereign state. We view with horror the indiscriminate bombing of ordinary people and abhor the unnecessary loss of life. We call for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukraine.

The OHS stands in solidarity with all Ukrainian citizens, with Ukrainian oral history colleagues and with the Ukrainian Association of Oral History. We also support all those Russian citizens who have been campaigning and protesting against the military action in Ukraine. We condemn the reckless destruction of Ukrainian heritage institutions and express deep concern about the safety of existing oral history archives and collections within heritage and educational institutions under attack by Russian forces. And we believe that, in the unfortunate event of Russian control of Ukraine, the future independence of oral history work and access to public archives of testimony will be threatened. The recent closure of Memorial, one of the oldest civil rights groups in Russia, which used oral history to uncover the crimes of the Soviet era, is a case in point.

Oral history can only thrive in democratic countries where it acts as an important human rights tool to give voice to the unheard, to uncover injustice, discrimination and prejudice, and bring governments, corporations and state power to account for their actions. It will also be a means of documenting personal accounts of Russian human rights and other abuses in Ukraine.

We particularly object to Vladimir Putin’s inaccurate misappropriation of history to justify Russia’s actions and the outrageous characterisation of the need to ‘denazify’ democratic Ukraine at a time when the Russian military is bombing Babyn Yar near Kyiv, one of the most sacred memorial sites of the Holocaust.

We urge all OHS members to speak out and support Ukraine, fellow oral historians and heritage professionals in every way they can.

Trustees of the Oral History Society (UK)

1 March 2022

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