IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


The politics of language, identity and education and the current conflict in Ukraine

29 March 2022, 1:30 pm–2:30 pm

Ukrainian independence monument and flag in Kyiv (Photo by DmyTo / Adobe Stock)

Join this seminar to hear Olga Cara and Germ Janmaat discuss the role that identity politics has played in sparking the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Kiran Dhillon


Room 728
20 Bedford Way

Has Putin drawn on Ukraine’s nation-building policies to develop a narrative about a cultural genocide on the Russian-speaking population? Has he used such a narrative to justify the invasion?

Olga and Germ will begin this seminar by providing an overview of the politics of identity in the post-Soviet world to assess the kind of national identities that the Soviet successor states are trying to build - exclusionary ethic, assimilatory cultural or inclusive civic ones - and the role these nation-building projects have played in initiating or sustaining international conflicts. 

They will then examine the history of Ukraine’s nation-building policies and Russia’s response to them from the break-up of the Soviet Union to the present. They will contest that Ukraine’s identity project can be characterised as an assimilatory cultural one, motivated, in first instance, by a concern about the extinction of the Ukrainian language, culture and identity. 

This cultural project is characterised by a prioritisation of the Ukrainian language in public spheres, particularly in education, and by a rewriting of national history. 

Although Putin has repeatedly accused Ukraine of committing genocide on the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass, there has not been evidence found of him explicitly invoking Ukraine’s identity politics to support this accusation and justify the invasion. 

This event will be particularly useful for those interested in education, politics, current affairs, eastern Europe and culture. 

LLAKES Seminar series

This seminar is part of this series. These seminars explore connections between learning and the promotion of economic competitiveness and social cohesion.

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Covid-19 measures

To minimise Covid-related risks for in-person attendees at our events we will facilitate social distancing where possible. In-person attendees will be required to pre-register to gain entry to the event. We strongly encourage attendees to wear a mask while in our buildings. We ask that those registered for our events do not attend in-person if they are showing respiratory symptoms. Thank you for your co-operation.

About the Speakers

Olga Cara

Lecturer in Sociology of Education at IOE, UCL

She is a quantitative and mixed methods sociologist exploring the relationship between ethnicity, language, and education as well as identity production. She has published a range of academic articles on these topics. Her geographical area of expertise is Latvia and Russian speaking population in post-Soviet space. Olga’s PhD looked at Russian- speaking children’s identity construction in the context of bilingual education in Latvia.

More about Olga Cara

Germ Janmaat

Professor of Political Socialization at IOE, UCL

His research looks at how education, broadly conceived, can influence civic competences, values and behaviours. He is currently working on a Nuffield funded project on post-16 educational trajectories and social inequalities in political engagement. His PhD research focused on Ukraine’s nation-building policies in education and the response of the Russian-speaking population.

More about Germ Janmaat