CUSUR and Publication Endeavors (2023)
Recognizing the urgent need to set up proper channels for the maximum circulation of the information/analysis CUSUR possessed or had at its disposal, the Center long focused (starting as early as 2008) on having ‘a publication presence’ of some form or another.
CUSUR experimented with the ‘publication presence’ along two general lines of approach.
Exploring along a traditional publishing path (originally centered on printing annotated/edited versions of the various Center proceedings or ‘collected occasional paper’ monographs) eventually spawned an interest in establishing a bi-annual Journal of Ukrainian Affairs. As stated in the section on the work of the US-UA Working Group, “for each anticipated issue, each WG sector would elicit any number of articles from known US-UA government, NGO or academic specialists in their designated field and select one such article to be printed in the given number [four articles to an issue]; likewise, for each issue, each sector would ask the various named specialists to write reviews of recently published works in the field and select one such review to be printed in the given number [four reviews to an issue].”
Exploring along the Internet publishing path (originally an informal e-mail network that kept interested parties informed about ‘the latest news from Ukraine’ via short weekly summaries), CUSUR was eventually led to create its popular (particularly in academic and US NGO circles) website: www.usukrainianrelations.org. The website became the prime vehicle for providing material from the Center’s events, all occasional US-UA WG occasional papers and, indeed, preview articles for the awaited Journal; in fact, in 2013, the website’s success led the Center to focus on making the Journal electronic (to establish a ‘feedback’ procedure through ‘blogging’).
To this end, the Center conducted a series of publishing experiments during the 2010-2012 period. In order to get the proper ‘feel’ for the material the JUA might provide, CUSUR’s website (which itself become a valuable purveyor of newsworthy data) featured several prequel “articles/ commentaries” written by US-UA Working Group members and additionally provided
“interviews” with some of Ukraine’s most prominent political players (thought to be an interim move at the time).
While proceeding with the listed efforts, CUSUR came to an important conclusion (and equally important decision) in 2013. Noting the fact that a number of its abiding partners were already putting out first rate and long established “hard” or “paper” copy journals, the Center decided that it would not publish its JUA in the stated format; such “competition” would be valueless. Rather, CUSUR would keep the project strictly Internet based; if nothing else, the Internet based format would allow the Center to introduce an ‘interactive’ dimension to the endeavor (and, in the age of ‘web-surfing’, that might be the ultimate selling point).
Each electronic JUA issue would still include, as originally designed, four articles related to the Center’s areas of analytic interest as well as four reviews of recent books written in the said areas of interest. And the Journal would retain the ‘interviews’ feature (supplemented by a Internet available ‘video component’). Additionally, the JUA would provide a blog-site for every member of the US-UA Working Group. The blog-sites would allow for a fruitful exchange between the bloggers and the readers of the blogs as well as among the readers themselves.
The 2014-2015 period brought one further twist to CUSUR’s work and plans in the realm of information dissemination. With ‘the RU-Ukraine Hybrid War’ gathering strength in the wake of the ‘Crimea grab’ and the RU-led secessionist gambit in Donbas, accurate information and cogent analysis (regardless of the scope or location of the source) proved to be ‘at a premium’. To help ‘distribute’ such information/analysis, the NY Bureau of CUSUR agreed to set up (or more accurately, restart) an informal e-mail effort that would daily feature 5-10 leading stories, op-eds or columns on the UA crisis as well as well as commentary on the sent material by the US-UA WG members (all leading analysts in their own right).
The effort, dubbed “the UA bcc chain”, eventually found its way to several thousand e-addresses spanning six continents; many of the recipients were likewise key players in the dramatic events that were unfolding and began, in turn, sending material they thought relevant. The emerging dynamic led the CUSUR DC office to explore the use of ‘newer’ social media networking constructs: Facebook, Twitter & Instagram; in mid 2015, the Director of the DC Bureau established a (personal) presence on Facebook (as a way of disseminating CUSUR material still more widely).
In 2016-2018, all the various delineated CUSUR ‘informational’ efforts/endeavors (whether engaged in or planned for) saw a stringent review (to test for relevance), followed by an attempt to build a fully integrated system of ‘information dispensation’. In 2019, CUSUR turned to its website managing agent, GO-DADDY.COM to create a new platform, replacing the old Joolma software with a far more user-friendly Word Press mechanism. GO-DADDY.COM indicated that the Joomla patform was so antiquated that specialists were needed to make the transition. The COVID pandemic in 2020-2021 and distractions of the Russian invasion in early 2022 may have complicated matters, but a first rate specialist, Charles Harman, was eventually found to switch out of Joomla and switch to Word Press; better yet, upon completion of the effort, he remained with the project and agreed to move the existing archived material (forum programs, presentations, photo reports, articles, interviews, etc.) from one platform to another. Still better, he performed a wonderful face-lift on the homepage on the CUSUR website.
In 2023, the CUSUR website will be further restructured to: (1) include U-Tube style videos of the various forums CUSUR has done (at least, all those that possess a visual record); (2) feature the Center’s electronic Journal (with maximum focus on ‘interactive’ capabilities); (3) carry daily
digests of relevant news about Ukraine in the manner of the FDD Overnight Briefs; (4) provide access to a CUSUR Facebook page and a CUSUR Twitter link and (5) feature links to both the sites of organizations in global Ukrainian Hromada network and NGOs throughout the world who are considered reputable ‘Ukraine watchers’.
A wonderful additional effort, about to reach fruition in 2023, merits mention. In November 2020, Ostap Kryvdyk, former Senior Advisor to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Andrij Parubij and presently Chair of the Ukraine and the World Program at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, sent CUSUR a memo proposing a additional project that the Center, at least in part, had envisioned doing for more than a decade –i.e.- publishing a collection of the most prominent presentations of the venerable 22 years old UA Quest RT Series. While Mr. Kryvdyk’s proposal did not encompass a multi-tome approach originally contemplated by CUSUR, it very concretely elaborated on the idea of a single volume of the ‘best of the best’ dopovids/remarks with a solid foreword & afterword — all paid for by funds provided by UCU patrons. The UCU/UWP thought that publishing such a volume, highlighting ‘the thinking on US-Ukrainian Relations at its very finest’, would benefit all parties concerned.
CUSUR responded positively to the Mr. Kryvdyk’s and UCU’s probe. A series of Zoom and ‘in person’ meetings (both in the US and Ukraine) were held throughout the first half of 2021 to organize the work team and select the ‘sets of remarks’ that deserved to be featured in the final product. It now appears that the volume in question, appropriately dubbed ‘The Best of the Quest” will be ready for presentation at UA Quest RT XXIV in Oct. 2023, despite the traumas of Covid, the war and Mr. Kryvdyk’s mobilization into the Ukrainian Armed services.