Norwegian version

Expanding knowledge about Ukraine through research and academic collaboration

Bombed out building at the Kharkiv Karazin University

Since February last year, researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR) at OsloMet have been working to disseminate knowledge to the Norwegian public. They have also led initiatives to promote greater research collaboration between Ukraine experts in Norway.

NIBR has been conducting research into Ukraine—including extensive collaboration with colleagues in the country—since 2008. In particular, NIBR researchers had already been studying political reforms, inter-ethnic relations, language and identity—both at the local and state levels—when Russia launched its full-scale invasion 24 February 2022.

Several current and recent research projects focused on Ukraine are based out of NIBR:

 

Audience listening to Aadne Aasland during the opening of the Norwegian Network for Research on Ukraine, UKRAINETT

The opening of the UKRAINETT research network

A new network for Ukraine research

The existence of an established research community made it possible to build up a university-wide network at OsloMet for scholars doing research on issues related to Ukraine.

NIBR researchers also established UKRAINETT – a network for Ukrainian researchers in Norway. The purpose of the network is, among other things, to convey knowledge about Ukraine to Norwegian politicians, government administrators, private-sector actors, and civil society.

“The reconstruction of Ukraine has already begun, even though the war is ongoing. It is therefore important that actors who will be contributing to the country’s rebuilding understand Ukraine and the conditions there, so that their work will be as effective as possible,” says Aadne Aasland, researcher at NIBR and head of UKRAINETT.

UKRAINETT had its first meeting in April, followed by a launch event open to the public in September. 

In November, the network held a two-day research seminar on OsloMet's campus that attracted nearly 40 participants who shared research findings and professional insights about the situation in the country. Aasland hopes this seminar will become an annual tradition. 

“We also hope that UKRAINETT can serve as a scholarly network and hub for Ukrainian researchers who have had to flee because of the war," says Aasland. "Several refugees who are now in Norway contributed at our opening conference, both with presentations and in academic discussions."

The reconstruction of Ukraine has already begun, even though the war is ongoing. It is therefore important that actors who will be contributing to the country’s rebuilding understand Ukraine and the conditions there, so that their work will be as effective as possible. – Aadne Aasland, researcher at NIBR and head of UKRAINETT

NIBR hosts Ukrainian researcher 

One of the refugees who is participating actively in the network is 32-year-old Oleksandra Deineko, who fled to Norway in early March.

“Oleksandra, or Alex as we call her, is a sociologist at Karazin Kharkiv National University, with whom I have worked closely for several years,” says Aasland.

Kharkiv is located in northeastern Ukraine, just 40 kilometers from the Russian border. The city came under heavy attack from the Russian army beginning from the start of the war. Deineko emphasises that she initially had no plans to flee her hometown.

“I had no access to bomb shelters, however, and the situation was getting worse and worse. After one week of living in a semi-occupied city, I wrote a message to my colleague Aadne Aasland and got an immediate answer: we will help you, come to Norway.” 

Deineko is now a visiting researcher at NIBR supported by funding from the Scholars at Risk programme.

“My story is not unique—more than 60 % of Ukrainians who have come to Norway had networks here. The truth is that social networks all around the globe have saved many lives in this war.”

A gifted researcher and valued colleague

“Alex only had a small bag with her when we met her at Oslo airport after an arduous journey from Kharkiv,” Aasland recalls. 

He says that Deineko has become an important resource person in NIBR's community of Ukraine scholars and has already participated in several research projects. Among other things, she interviewed Ukrainian refugees as part of a NIBR project conducted for the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and the Directorate of Integration and Diversity about how refugees from Ukraine were received in the first months after arrival.

“Alex already speaks Norwegian very well and can use Norwegian as a working language. At the same time, she maintains contact with her home university in Kharkiv and teaches digitally there. I am full of admiration for how she copes with this major upheaval in her life, while also actively contributing to our good working environment at NIBR,” Aasland observes. 

I had no access to bomb shelters, and the situation i Kharkiv was getting worse and worse. After one week of living in a semi-occupied city, I wrote a message to my colleague Aadne Aasland and got an immediate answer: we will help you, come to Norway. – Visiting researcher Olexandra Deineko
Visiting researcher Oleksandra Deineko wearing a winter coat in front of a brick building at OsloMet campus.

A partner university in Kharkiv

Since Aasland already had an established collaboration with colleagues at Karazin Kharkiv National University when the invasion occurred, he and his colleagues were able to quickly mobilise financial assistance in the first phase of the war. They collected over 100,000 Norwegian crowns—approximately 9,300 Euros—from colleagues at OsloMet.

The money was used, among other things, to buy food and medicine and cover travel costs for around 800 students who were living in student housing in Kharkiv when the war broke out.

Deineko emphasises that students and staff have managed to keep studying and working since the outbreak of the war despite great destruction of their campus and a continuous state of emergency.

“Karazin Kharkiv University Foundation is a charitable foundation started by alumni of the university. The foundation collects money to ensure continued operations and finance the reconstruction of our campus. The university has been hit by several Russian rockets and the destruction on our campus has been extensive,” she explains. 

Despite the war, the university continues with its core activities.

“The funds we receive through the foundation mainly go to three purposes", says Deineko.

Read more about the foundation here 

In April, OsloMet signed a cooperation agreement with Karazin Kharkiv National University.

The intention of the agreement is to develop closer cooperation in research, teaching and other areas between the two universities, and to create opportunities for academic and professional exchange. 

University building with snow covered trees. A sign at the university building reading "University" in ukranian.

A building on the campus of Karazin Kharkiv National University before the full-scale invasion. Photo: Unsplash

Research-based approaches to Ukraine's reconstruction

Just before Christmas, Aasland received word that the Nordic Council of Ministers will finance a Nordic-Baltic network for knowledge-based input into the reconstruction of Ukraine.

The network will bring together around 100 researchers with special expertise in Ukraine from universities, research institutions and think tanks in the Baltics and the Nordics, to contribute to the country's reconstruction and sustainable development.

The network will be led by the University of Agder, but it will consist of several thematic working groups. Aasland is part of the project's steering group and NIBR has been given responsibility for coordinating the working group that will work on issues related to Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced persons.

The results will be presented to governmental authorities, private-sector leaders and civil society organisations at three conferences in the Nordic and Baltic countries to be held over the next two to three years.

Interpreter training, language courses and university prep programmes

OsloMet also offers interpreting training modules in Ukrainian, and in the spring of 2023 around 30 students will begin their programmes of study in Norwegian-Ukrainian interpreting.  

In addition, the university is offering language courses and university prep programmes to Ukrainian refugees.