A signal event for the development of Ukrainian studies in Canada took place in Edmonton on 8 April 2009: the Alberta Society for the Advancement of Ukrainian Studies was founded and held its first general meeting.
"The main aim of the society is to support the scholarly and educational programs and projects of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta, as well as to serve as liaison between these two institutions, the Ukrainian community, and Canadian society at large," said Dr. Orest Talpash in his opening speech.
The former chancellor of the university, Peter Savaryn, said that a similar organization, known today as the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies (CFUS), was established in 1975 and took on an all-Canadian character owing to the scale of its activities, moving its office to Toronto. CFUS supports a number of publications including the five-volume Encyclopedia of Ukraine and the Hrushevsky Translation Project, as well as the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, and projects of the Ukrainian Language Education Centre.
Professor Emeritus Bohdan Medwidsky, a well known scholar and philanthropist, was elected president. Dr. Medwidsky called CIUS “a hidden treasure of our community.” Without it, that community would be difficult to imagine, and there would be far less general knowledge about Ukraine and Ukrainians.
The director of CIUS, Dr. Zenon Kohut, emphasized that the founding of the society is also timely in view of the global economic crisis. As two-thirds of CIUS activity is funded by interest earned from endowment funds established by its benefactors, the annual budget has been reduced by some $275,000. This has already resulted in the elimination of positions and diminished support for research projects and scholarships.
Dr. Kohut spoke of the role of CIUS in Canada and abroad in disseminating knowledge about Ukraine and Ukrainians, making connections with the homeland, and helping preserve Ukrainian cultural heritage by means of programs and projects such as the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine, the Ukrainian-Canadian Program, the Hrushevsky Translation Project, and the Kowalsky Program for the Study of Eastern Ukraine.
As an example of CIUS influence, Dr. Kohut mentioned the ongoing archaeological excavation of the capital of the Cossack Hetmanate, Baturyn, which has obtained financial support from the Ukrainian government and given many students, scholars, architects, restoration specialists, state and museum employees a unique opportunity to acquire professional experience and revive this historic gem of Ukrainian culture.
Directors of CIUS programs who attended the meeting reported to the audience on their activities. Dr. John-Paul Himka shared his thoughts about the Research Program on Religion and Culture, one of whose main aims is to preserve sacral sites and cultural heritage. Dr. Serge Cipko spoke about the Diaspora Studies Initiative, which does research on the Ukrainian diaspora throughout the world. The society looks forward to initiating a new stage in the development of Ukrainian studies in Canada, strengthening the institute’s ties with the community, and helping promote its activities both nationally and internationally.
Participants in the first ASAUS general meeting (L-R):
Photo by Roman Petriw