“It is a grant that helps not only the researcher, but also the country.” With no small measure of appreciation, Aliesia Soloviova expressed her enthusiasm for the International Visegrad Fund Research Grant at the Historical Archives of the European Union.
The Visegrad Grant is available to early stage researchers from the Visegrad 4 countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), as well as from Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), and the Western Balkan region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia).
For Aliesia, the opportunity for fellows from partnership countries to come to the Archives enriches the knowledge and information about the processes and history of European integration, a benefit for those countries wishing to join the EU.
Aliesia was awarded her grant in late 2021, but pandemic restrictions at the turn of the year required her to postpone her research stay. However, with the outbreak of war in her country on 24 February, leaving the Kyiv region became a matter of urgency. She and two members of her immediate family left her hometown, dog in tow, and began making their way by car across eastern Europe, traveling across the Ukraine, through Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, and finally to Italy.
With the help of friends and strangers from both near and far, she and her family made it to Florence in March, where she could take up her fellowship at the Historical Archives and, importantly, “have something to do”.
A more nuanced understanding of youth organisations
Aliesia is in the final stage of her doctoral degree in history at the Institute of History of Ukraine. Having already passed the written part, she was preparing for her oral defense at the time of her departure from Kyiv.
The research she is carrying out at the Archives is a project concerning youth organisations in Europe and the USSR during the Cold War. The HAEU holds several relevant fonds, including those of the European Coordination Office of International Youth Organizations, the Young European Federalist fonds, the French European Federalist Movement, and documents from the Youth Forum of European Communities. These sources will help her shed light on how youth organisations in Europe and the USSR networked, how the youth organisations were used by the governments to promote an agenda, and how youth involved in these organisations envisioned the USSR and its position in the cold war conflict.
Thus far, she has noticed interesting differences in ideals and aims across the youth organisations in the former USSR, as well as with those in Europe and the United States.
Particularly resonant, also given the current situation, are surprising references in some materials from the former Eastern bloc, including those from Ukrainian groups, to concepts of democracy and basic human rights, confirming significant internal heterogeneity, not to mention distinct identities.
Calculating the story
After more than two fruitful months immersed in the Archives, Aliesia now faces the analytic stage of her research.
Convinced by innovations in the field known as ‘digital humanities’, Aliesia is now coding the documents so that she may complement a qualitative analysis with a quantitative one. To this end, she will use Python, an open source research software.
The software, she explains, will allow her to illustrate the networks of youth organisations, showing their weights and levels of importance.
“We often think of archives as places that can tell stories, but they are also sources of raw data. Now, with archival research, we can also calculate stories.”
With plenty of ‘data’ to analyse and code, Aliesia looks forward to publishing her work in a series of articles.