More on colonialism: a selection of books and publications by journalist Maksym Eristavi

Maksym Eristavi
More on colonialism: a selection of books and publications by journalist Maksym Eristavi

Maksym Eristavi is a journalist studying and raising awareness of Russian colonialism for the past decade. Recently, together with a team of Ukrainian artists, he published a book — an illustrated guide to 48 recent Russian invasions of independent countries. 

The journalist is also a co-founder of the Volya Hub and The Ukrainian Spaces projects, aimed at raising global awareness of Russian colonialism and uniting communities of people affected by Russia's imperial policies.

You can read our recent interview with Maksym Eristavi on our website, with a link to it in our stories. 

Especially for Svidomi, Maksym Eristavi has prepared a selection of books and publications worth reading for those interested in colonialism. The following is a direct speech.

The very first response of many foreigners, when you tell them about Russian colonialism and imperialism, is the surprise that they have never heard of it before. Some people are uncomfortable admitting their lack of knowledge or that their perceptions of Russia have been shaped by centuries of Moscow propaganda. This is a natural response. It's easier to deny it right away: "It can't be; otherwise, I would have heard something about it before", " Those are just the emotions of a Ukrainian who hates Russia", or "I've never read about it anywhere".

In such cases, it always works for me to disarm sceptics with an intense flow of facts, names and sources — and most importantly, not just Ukrainian ones. Otherwise, I will be labelled a "Russophobe" and dismissed. To form this almost automatic counter-reaction with well-informed arguments, I had to enlighten myself and work on decolonising my knowledge. I started with the fundamentals:

  • Do I know what colonialism means and how it differs from imperialism?
  • Can I explain how colonialism has distorted my self-perception and identity?
  • Do I know the basic story of my ancestors' Russification, and can I describe its universal formula?
  • Why did Russian colonialism go unnoticed by the intellectual elite abroad?
  • Who else has suffered and still suffers from Russian colonial violence? How many nations, people, countries?
  • Do I know the names of those from other former Russian colonies who are also actively denouncing Russian colonialism?

This selection will not only help you to have a short list of resources on Russian colonialism at hand for basic education of foreigners, but it may also be helpful for self-education as Ukrainians. The authors did a lot to open my eyes to many things.

We made a series of three explainers for the Volya Hub together with the Ukrainian researcher of colonialism, Mariam Naiem. What is colonialism? Why is Russia a colonial empire? and What is decolonisation? They are also available in Ukrainian.

Imperial knowledge: Russian literature and colonialism is one of the first books abroad to expose the colonialism of Russian culture by an American professor of Polish-Lithuanian descent, Thompson, Ewa M. It is also available in Ukrainian.

Russia and Ukraine. A little-known classic by the diaspora Ukrainian academic Myroslav Shkandrij shows how Russian literature helped the empire distort and Russify the image of Ukrainian identity. Exposes the colonial and imperial nature of the "great Russian culture".

How Western scholars overlooked Russian imperialism. How and why the Western academy turned a blind eye to Russian imperialism — from Botakoz Kassymbekova, a leading researcher of Russian colonialism and Qazaq professor. In general, follow her work. Professor Kassymbekova is currently writing a book about the phenomenon of Russian "imperial innocence" and how Moscow managed to avoid being labelled a colonial empire. This book began with the article On the Phenomenon of Russia's 'Imperial Innocence', which Professor Kassymbekova wrote with her American colleague of Kyrgyz origin, Professor Erica Marat.

The Problem with Russia is Russia. Snyder is always great, but no one can lay the groundwork with a word about Russia's imperialism and colonialism like Oksana Zabuzhko.

Cancel culture vs. execute culture: Why Russian manuscripts don't burn, but Ukrainian manuscripts burn all too well. Why giving space to Russian culture and Russians during the genocide in Ukraine is immoral and tantamount to supporting colonialism — an article by the late Viktoriia Amelina. No one could have written it better.

My mother tongue tastes like ashes. Suppose you have to give foreigners only one text to read about the phenomenon of the Russian language in Ukraine and how it is connected to colonialism. In that case, you will not find a better one by Ukrainian professor Sasha Dovzhyk.

The Zelensky Effect. Are you tired of explaining that Ukrainians are not Nazis? A new book by Canadian professor of Ukrainian descent Olga Onuch (who recently became the first professor of Ukrainian politics abroad) on the phenomenon of contemporary Ukrainian nationalism and its inclusive, progressive and political foundation.

The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of History. Anything by Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy is a must-read for foreigners. But this new book perfectly explains why Russia started the genocide in Ukraine, why this confrontation has a long history, and how it is a civilisational war between authoritarian fascism and democracy, not a local dispute between neighbours.

Postcolonialism, Russia and Ukraine. Twenty years ago, anyone who tried to talk about Russian colonialism was openly mocked abroad. But despite the risk to his career, Ukrainian academic Vitaly Chernetsky published this groundbreaking work, which paved the way for the current generation of scholars to enter the academy.

Russian culture is a stolen culture. Don't forget to remind us how Russia stole an entire generation of Ukrainian avant-garde artists, from Malewicz to Ekster, a classic example of colonial violence. Follow the work of Ukrainian historian and journalist Oksana Semenik, who decolonises Ukrainian art appropriated by the empire.

Why Ukrainians don't want to share platforms with Russians. Ukraine Explainers should be bookmarked as a resource for explaining key Ukrainian topics to foreigners in a simple and understandable way. But this one is significant for a reasoned answer to the question as to why Ukrainians are against reconciliation sessions with Russians. It covers a long track record of systemic abuse, Russian propaganda of "fraternal peoples", and historical justice.

On 'identity confusion' as a tool of Russian colonialism. The phenomenon of confused identity and how Russian colonialism primarily seeks triumph in the minds of the enslaved is from Qazaq academic Azamat Junisbai

How Russia tried to colonise Africa and failed. Russia constantly assures that it has never intended to colonise Africa. Ukrainian historian Oleksandr Polianichev successfully debunks these myths.

The Case Against the Russian Federation: One Year Later. Ukrainian historian and filmmaker Oleksiy Radynski explains in popular terms why Russia is an empire of settler colonialism that steals other people's territories, exterminates or assimilates the indigenous population, and then mercilessly devastates local natural resources to finance the metropolis.

How Russian colonialism took the Western anti-imperialist Left for a ride. The most intelligent and, at the same time, the most uncomplicated text on how Russian propaganda recruited Western left-wing politics and anti-imperialist activists as "useful idiots" is from American journalist Alaric DeArment.