Russia-Ukraine conflict center of passionate dialogue

A student and faculty members sit at a long table for a panel discussion.

Faculty members from College of the Pacific lead a panel discussion on the war in Ukraine.

Gleb Vashkevich, a second-year Media-X student at University of the Pacific, views war in eastern Europe through multiple lenses: he has a Ukrainian mother, a father from Belarus, a Russian roommate and he attends college in the United States.

“We have a crazy dictator in Belarus and war in Ukraine. Terrible. And I know it is very tough on my Russian roommate also,” Vashkevich said at College of the Pacific’s annual X-Boundaries event, where current issues are discussed by faculty and students in multiple disciplines.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia was this year’s topic.

Vashkevich’s feelings were echoed by student Margarita Kuranova from central Ukraine. 

“Ukraine is my home, my motherland, and my love for it has run in my blood since I was young,” she said. “But now I cannot think of my motherland without bursting into tears.”

Five faculty members and moderator Bill Herrin, professor of economics, shared thoughts on the war specific to their disciplines during the 70-minute event.

The dialogue included China’s role in the conflict and why the war started now.

“China has refused to condemn the attack and has largely repeated Russia’s version of events … This suggests that strategic interests really trump ideological interests,” said Daniel O’Neill, associate professor and chair of the School of International Studies.

“Evidence on the start of wars suggests that when countries have a declining per capita income, they become particularly dangerous,” said Susan Sample, professor of international studies. “That makes them a dissatisfied power and they are more likely to start conflicts and more likely to escalate them.”

Two economics professors discussed the dire state of the Soviet economy.

“The United States has not intervened militarily yet, but we have supplied resources and it has been (more of an) economic war with sanctions against Russia,” said Sharmila King, professor of economics. "And because the ruble has collapsed so dramatically, any imported good has become very expensive. That means inflationary pressure in Russia.”

“Russia is banning the export of goods and products so they can flood the market with those goods,” said Manizha Sharifova, professor of economics. 

One professor suggested taking a look at history to understand the conflict.

“The idea of historical grievances plays a role,” said Andreas Agocs, lecturer in history. “The history of the Cold War, and what it did to weaken Russia, is (Vladimir) Putin’s historical grievance.”

Igor Veligan

Igor Veligan

Professor shares perspective on war in Ukraine 

Igor Veligan, professor of violin and viola in the Conservatory of Music, says it is important to use the correct word to describe the situation in Ukraine.

“In newscasts, you often hear comments about ‘conflict’ in my country,” Veligan said. “This is not conflict. It is war, and people are horrified by what is happening.”

Veligan was born in the major city of Odessa and has family and friends in Ukraine.

He shared his perspective during a forum sponsored by the Pacific Alumni Association.

“At first, before the war started nobody including me thought this would happen,” he said. “Ukraine and Russia always have had issues. In general, Russian leadership does not think Ukraine is a sovereign country.”

Veligan estimates there are more than 100,000 Ukrainians in northern California. He said many are sending necessities back to the country. He also is appreciative of the outreach by others.

“People are dying from hydration and starvation,” he said. 

However, Veligan said there is “strong resolve” in many who value freedom and will remain in Ukraine.
“I know one composer in Kyiv who is 84 years old and he’s staying,” Veligan said. “He says ‘where would I go?’ There is much love for our country.” 

Veligan joined the Conservatory faculty in 2006. 

Benefit concert scheduled

The Conservatory of Music will present a benefit concert for Ukraine featuring performances by Conservatory students, faculty and guest artists, including Ukrainian musicians.

Conservatory Professor Igor Veligan will be one of those performing.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. on April 2 at the Faye Spanos Concert Hall on the Stockton Campus.

The event is free and attendees are welcome to make a donation to support Ukraine.