Smolny Beyond Borders

Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

Life in the Face of War: Political Challenges, Social Responses, Cultural Shifts

War Ruins

International Conference of the Gagarin Center at Bard College

Location: Harriman Institute at Columbia University, New York

Thursday-Friday, April 13 -14

Russia’s large-scale war in Ukraine challenges the modern world and calls into question the phenomena of peaceful coexistence, which seems to have been taken for granted in the system of international politics. For most critics of the Putin regime, the war did not come as a complete surprise. What has been shocking is the scale of military actions and the pace of their escalation. The impact of the war on Russian internal affairs, institutions, and culture has also exceeded all expectations. The goal of the conference is to explore the background and causes of the crisis, internal (i.e., pertaining to the history of the region) as well as global, related to the political interests and direct or indirect engagement of international agents of the military conflict. We will also reflect on perspectives of social and economic analysis of the current state of affairs and the role of education in the war-torn world. The conference will address such subjects as forced migration of academic institutions, international cooperation in education, the boundaries of such interaction, and the possibilities of intercultural dialogue between intellectuals of the countries involved in the war in Ukraine. Following the best traditions of Liberal Arts education, the conference will be interdisciplinary, inviting scholarly contributions from the perspectives of History, Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, Journalism/Media, and Cultural Studies.

Participants are invited to respond to the following panels questions:

  • How does authoritarianism impact the emergence of new wars? What role did the Resource Curse play? What new approaches to the interpretation of military conflict does this war invite? 
  • Should Media be considered as a key vehicle of war in Ukraine and other military conflicts?
  • Which obstacles does Global Liberal Education face in Eastern Europe?
  • Rape, mobilization campaign and the (re)definition of masculinity and women’s protests: How is gender politics reflected in the war in Ukraine?
  • The story of the region told anew or what are the historical and cultural roots of the war in Ukraine (empire, nationalism, socialism, capitalism, and other contexts)?
  • Critical theory of the war in Ukraine: the “End of History” or the mere intensification of historical and political contradictions?

Please submit your proposals by January 31, 2023, to gagarincenter[at] (Subject line: “Gagarin Conference 2023”).

The application must include: 

  1. Name, surname, affiliation, and e-mail address.
  2. Panel question, the presentation title, and abstract (300-500 words).

The organizing committee will inform panel organizers of their decision by February 10, 2023. 

A limited number of travel grants to cover transportation and accommodation of conference participants is available on a competitive basis. 

For inquiries, please write to gagarincenter[at]