The Volkswagen Foundation is funding the Virtual Ukraine Institute for Advanced Study with almost one million euros. The opening and the first conference took place in Berlin on 8-9 November 2023. Sociologist Viktoriya Sereda leads VUIAS and coordinates its programme. 22 scientists selected from over 500 applicants represent the first cohort of VUIAS Fellows.
Oleksandra Matviichuk gave the keynote speech at the VUIAS opening ceremony. In her passionate speech, the human rights activist and head of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize-winning Centre for Civil Liberties in Ukraine called for a new appreciation of freedom in Western societies. She pointed to 54,000 documented – and as yet unpunished – cases of russian war crimes in Ukraine. Her bitter conclusion: “russia normalises evil.”
Already at the beginning of 2023, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin joined forces with Ukrainian and international partners to initiate the founding of the UIAS in Kyiv. During the founding phase under wartime conditions, a virtual structure was initially set up. It is hoeped, however, to inaugurate a real institute in Kyiv; an office in the city centre has already been rented. But for now the Institute is run virtually from the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.
The aims of the project are, on the one hand, to mobilise support for Ukrainian science in times of war and to lay the foundations early on for the reconstruction of the scientific landscape destroyed by the war. Secondly, VUIAS aims to help Ukrainian researchers inside and outside the country to network with each other and with the international scientific community. Last but not least, it is intended to counteract the brain drain caused by the war.