Decolonizing knowledge — a perspective from the Ukrainian community
08-17, 04:25–04:45 (UTC), Room 324
Language: English

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 prompted a wide reevaluation of Ukrainian cultural legacy that had previously been viewed through colonial lenses. In this session, we’ll discuss how the centuries-long legacy of russification has impacted the content of wiki projects, what the Ukrainian community is doing now to decolonize knowledge, and how its experience might be applicable globally.


Empires have resources to create reliable sources – not just pure propaganda, that can be easily refuted, but respectable scholarly works. These sources outlive empires themselves, shaping how the rest of the world sees former colonies. A universal problem, it’is also applicable to Ukraine as a former Russian colony.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine prompted a wide reevaluation of Ukrainian cultural legacy that had previously been viewed through colonial lenses – museums are changing descriptions of Ukrainian paintings previously considered Russian [1], news outlets are changing names of Ukrainian locales from Russian transliteration to Ukrainian one [2].

Yet, a lot of the work still has to be done. The content of Wikimedia projects in Ukrainian and about Ukraine is still impacted by the colonial legacy – for example, some city names are yet to be renamed to reflect Ukrainian transliteration [3]. To give another example, after the USSR collapsed, the adjective “Soviet” was just replaced with “Russian”, and the role of other nations in WWII was erased– something that’s still acutely visible on the pages of English Wikipedia and other language editions.

Of course, Wikimedians cannot drive the change on our own – but we can and should raise our voice. For example, a system to render Japanese names into Ukrainian was never adopted during the Soviet times, so a system developed for the Russian language was used. Wikipedians are now petitioning the government to change it.

Our objectives for this session are:
look at how the centuries-long legacy of russification has impacted the content of wiki projects
discuss what the Ukrainian community is doing now to decolonize knowledge
reflect how the Ukrainian experience might be interesting and informative for other communities across the world.

== References ==

  1. Example: https://w.wiki/6V94
  2. Example: https://w.wiki/4tAS
  3. Example: https://w.wiki/Mjb

What is the experience level needed for the audience for your session?

Everyone can participate in this session

How will you deliver this session?

Hybrid, live: Some speakers will be onsite in Singapore and some will dial in

How does your session relate to the event themes: Diversity, Collaboration, Future?

This session is applicable to all three components of this year’s theme:
* decolonization of knowledge about Ukraine is a prime example of helping promote diversity as opposed to unification and cultural oppression;
* the decolonization is a decentralized process that involves a lot of collaboration across various levels – both within the Wikimedia community and the community collaborating with external stakeholders;
* it’s about building a sustainable future consistent with the knowledge equity goal post set out in the 2030 strategic direction.

See also: Presentation slides

Anton Protsiuk is Programs Coordinator at Wikimedia Ukraine, where he is responsible for overseeing the organization’s programmatic activities, such as content campaigns, diversity and editor recruitment initiatives, community events, and communications outreach. In his volunteer capacity he's also an editor and administrator of Ukrainian Wikipedia.

(Photo: MeOlya, public domain)

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Antanana (Nataliia Tymkiv) is a Ukrainian Wikipedia editor and administrator, member of Wikimedia Ukraine. She has been a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees since 2016, chairing it since 2021. She was a part of the Wiki Loves Earth international team, and organised Wikimedia CEE Meetings in 2014 and 2018 in Ukraine. Since 2013 she has been a member of Wiki Loves Monuments Ukraine organising team. From 2012 to 2016 served as a Board member of Wikimedia Ukraine, and as its volunteer Executive Director (2013-2015). An experienced editing workshop organiser

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