UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Surzhyk: A Transparent Double Mask

12 January 2024, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm

Event poster

A talk by Milena Khomchenko. The event is free and available to everyone

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to









Masaryk room
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton street

This talk delves into the instruments used by Russian imperialism to undercut Ukrainian identity, through the prism of the complex and dynamic historical and contemporary relationship between language hybridisation and purification. It provides a brief history of the persecutions that led to the widespread appearance of the Russian language in Ukraine; and the consequent contempt (on the part of “pure” Ukrainian as well as Russian speakers) towards Surzhyk, the assimilated local idiom comprising elements of both Ukrainian and Russian.

It proposes the concept of a transparent double mask—in reference to Franz Fanon’s white mask—to refer to the process of subjection to power apparatus/es, in particular by embracing the superior language standard, here either Russian or Ukrainian. In the context of Russia’s war and imperial politics against Ukraine, Surzhyk serves as a tool of resistance to colonial threats in disrupting the symbolic order of established languages.

Milena Khomchenko is an art researcher and writer from Ukraine and a co-founder and curator of SONIAKH. With the support of a Chevening award, she completed an MA in Aesthetics and Art Theory at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston University London. She holds a BA in Philology, English language and Ukrainian language from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Her texts have been published in Frieze, KAJET, L’Internationale Online, Spike Art Magazine, Danarti, KORYDOR, ArtsLooker, Blok, Your Art, and others. Among her curatorial projects is Let the long. Road. Lead. That. Stairs in. The Heavens at PLATO (Ostrava, Czech Republic), Closed Futures at DCCC (Dnipro, Ukraine), etc. She is co-author and archivist of the book MUHi 2009–2021 (Osnovy Publishing, 2022).


Perverting the Power Vertical (PPV) is an event platform and seminar series based at the UCL SSEES.

SONIAKH is a platform amplifying voices and visions from Ukraine and those of Ukraine’s allies and neighbors—by artists, activists, and scholars—in response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and its worldwide propaganda machine. It strongly supports Ukrainian statehood and the right of Ukrainians to defend themselves against the Russian colonial invasion.