In pursuit of historiography, by Askold S. Lozynskyj

My late father-in-law was a historian much respected by his peers, notably, for his integrity. He was a Ukrainian American by birth and by choice. I once asked him whether as a Ukrainian he had difficulty pursuing the study of history since history is written usually by the victor and Ukrainians have not often been victors.

He stated with no hesitancy, that his aim is always to learn the truth irrespective of existing historiography and while that may be difficult under circumstances where his own nation has been less fortunate than others, it is important to look for sources first and then base your conclusions upon them. While he was paid modestly as all professors for his teaching, academic freedom was always paramount and his research and publications were always meticulous.

As as attorney, I understood sources, perhaps mistakenly, to mean evidence but my cynicism led me to understand that the sources he researched were not necessarily evidence that would be offered in a court of law. For historians, there is a broader understanding of sources. There are primary sources and secondary sources. And true research is based on primary sources which includes items created at the time such as artifacts used at the time, documents, memoirs, diaries, even recordings. Such primary sources need to be authenticated as well, at times, even forensically and identified. The individual historian’s interpretations of these primary sources can then be challenged by peer review (other historians). I respected that process although as an attorney I was not satisfied.

My father-in-law was an especially honest and diligent scholar. However, as in any profession there were and remain many charlatans and pretenders. Everyone, including historians and attorneys, possess a certain amount of personal bias. That bias may be further exacerbated by monetary interests. It is important to understand that as with attorneys, some historians are influenced by retainers and grants. For that reason in a court of law, a historian purporting to be an expert, just as any other called to testify, is subject to impeachment based on bias, remuneration, shoddiness.

Attorneys are recognized in that regard as they have a specific duty to represent only the interests of their client. They are not permitted to lie, but are expected to present only one side of the story. Still, in presenting only one side of the story, they need to adhere to rules of professional ethics. However, many attorneys are rather flexible in both regards. This is widely known and for this very reason there exist disciplinary proceedings which sanction attorneys.

Academics face similar review committees if there are accusations of scientific misconduct, a charge which includes a range of unacceptable behavior such as misrepresentation of facts or plagiarism. And the punishment can range from censure, to sanction and to termination. However, because a misrepresentation of facts, may be presented as the historian’s analysis and not a deliberate misrepresentation, official sanctions of academics particularly if they have already been granted tenure at an academic institution are rare. Thus, a stimulating teacher with a list of publications can find a position somewhere irrespective of what nonsense he propounds. That only adds to my cynicism.

The current war in Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014 but its most recent manifestation as a full scale invasion by the Russian aggressor has been much more recent. While the first day of full scale war is generally recognized as February 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin revealed his version of Ukrainian-Russian history in the Summer 2021. That speech was a proclamation of not only war but of genocide as he stated that Ukraine is not really a nation, whatever that means. He then proceeded to ascribe the history of Ukraine dating to Kyivan Rus to Russia despite the fact that, at that time, Moscow did not exist and would not for many centuries. Kyiv was established in the V century and Moscow in the XII.

Independent democratic Ukraine is fighting for its existence as a state and its right to its own history. A colonial Ukraine in the past whether as a part of one empire or another has produced historians on both sides of the Atlantic - including some agents of the coloniser and other self-loathing Ukrainian acolytes. Naivete and money for hire have afforded fora for expression to these agents and pseudo scholars. Their so-called scholarly research provide ammunition for those who wish to destroy Ukraine, like Vladimir Putin, who, through his official spokesmen and even his religious abomination, in his exhortation to the Russian people, Russian mothers, no less, encourage the extermination of the Ukrainian nation.

Despite all their efforts, the enemies of Ukraine will not succeed. Ukrainian and foreign history has proven that. The Ukrainian people have persevered despite long periods of enslavement with only intermittent and relatively brief periods of statehood since Ukraine's Kyivan Rus era of statehood. Though Ukrainians have only begun to write their own history in words, it has long been engraved by deeds of Ukrainian heroes. A Ukrainian victory in this war will be a celebration of the triumph of good over evil and a significant milestone in Ukrainian history. Yet another page will be written about the indomitable Ukrainian spirit.

This day of American independence seems like an appropriate day to urge all Americans to continue supporting Ukraine’s independence because what happens in Ukraine will affect future world history and the world’s freedom. That future freedom so much depends on American support. Thank you, President Biden and fellow Americans! You will be remembered by history.

July 4, 2022

Askold S. Lozynskyj

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Askold Lozynskyj

Askold Lozynskyj

Askold S. Lozynskyj is an attorney by profession and former president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (1992-2000) and the Ukrainian World Congress (1998-2008).

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