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K-State Today

May 2, 2023

Geography and political science faculty member publishes on territorial aspects behind War in Ukraine

Submitted by Vera Smirnova

Vera Smirnova, assistant professor in the departments of geography and geospatial sciences and political science, and Oleg Golubchikov, geographer from Cardiff University, have published an article, "More-than-state Ontologies of Territory: Commoning, Assembling, Peopling," in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers, a flagship journal for the American geographical community and a highly regarded outlet internationally.

The article reflects on the roots of the Russian invasion of Ukraine by examining territorial aspects of Russian statehood and drawing on a political geographic body of knowledge from within the region.

The paper examines geographical scholarship from the early 20th century to contemporary times with the goal to trace the evolution of specifically Russian conception of territory. It highlights how Russian territorial politics were shaped at the convergence of three colonial tropes: territory as grounded in collective agricultural work, territory as a physical geographic condition of the terrain and territory as a state project of modernization. These territorial perspectives not only gather approval in popular discourse today but have been reinserted into Russia's national security policy and affect the unfolding of the conflict, albeit not in direct and linear ways.

These forms of collaboration highlight the importance of interdisciplinary work at K-State, in particular trying to make sense of complex and critical global community conflicts like the War in Ukraine. This is especially true in the fields of geography and political science, where Smirnova teaches courses on Political Geography and Geopolitics, Politics of Russia, and Human and World Geography.

The continuation of this research is supported by the Jones Family Faculty Award from the political science department and with the help of Sierra Salazar, an undergraduate student in the department and recipient of the Undergraduate Research Award at the College of Arts and Sciences, who will soon join the internationally recognized master's program in Russian, Eurasian and Eastern European studies at the University of Helsinki and the Aleksanteri Institute. Some of this research was also presented at two panels on the Russian invasion of Ukraine held at K-State in February 2022 and 2023, co-sponsored by the Institute of Military History, the departments of history and political science, and the security studies program.