Public Engagement

Keynote Addresses

“Ukraine is Europe' Lessons for Europe and for Political Science”

September 4th, 2023. ECPR General Conference, Prague, Czechia.

Ukrainians have been using the “Україна це Європа” (Ukraine is Europe) slogan since the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, but their fight for a European future truly came into global focus after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

What does this slogan mean exactly?

In using it, Ukrainians convey a vision of their country as a distinct nation in the European family and as an independent democratic state: building institutional capacity, strengthening the rule of law, and pursuing Euro-Atlantic integration. For Europeans, Ukraine’s existential fight to resist forceful incorporation into the Russian World and tread a European path should put into stark relief that the only way to restore peace and security in Europe is to help Ukraine win the war. Europe will then need to contain Russia’s aggression for as long as it takes Russian society and elites to transform their country fundamentally from within.

For political scientists, Ukraine’s insistence on its Europeanness suggests that the post-Soviet/post-Communist regional categorization is overdue for re-examination: some theoretical frameworks and concepts might need to be retired as no longer useful and more pan-European comparative projects should be encouraged.


“Perspectives from Europe at a Time of War”

August 14th, 2023. Bergen Exchanges on Law and Social Transformation, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway. As part of the Democracy, Autocratization & Resistance Conference.

"Over the past decade, the pressures against liberal democracy have been mounting across the globe, both in historically new and fragile democracies and in what we had come to think of as consolidated and mature democracies. Many states have experienced rapid and marked democratic backsliding — often facilitated through law. At the same time, there are also effective forces resisting autocratization. In these opening keynotes of Bergen Exchanges, five eminent scholars from across the globe will give us insights into the dynamics of autocratization, resistance and democratic fragility as they are playing out in different regions".

"Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States" Keynote Presentation

March 9th, 2023. Graduate Student Conference, CERES, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

In February 2022, Russian missiles rained on Ukrainian cities, and tanks rolled towards Kyiv to end Ukrainian independent statehood. President Zelensky declined a Western evacuation offer and Ukrainians rallied to defend their country. What are the roots of this war, which has upended the international legal order and brought back the spectre of nuclear escalation? How did these supposedly “brotherly peoples” become each other’s worst nightmare?

In Russia and Ukraine: Entangled Histories, Diverging States, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel explain how since 1991 Russia and Ukraine diverged politically, ending up on a collision course. Russia slid back into authoritarianism and imperialism, while Ukraine consolidated a competitive political system and pro-European identity. As Ukraine built a democratic nation-state, Russia refused to accept it and came to see it as an “anti-Russia” project. After political and economic pressure proved ineffective, and even counterproductive, Putin went to war to force Ukraine back into the fold of the “Russian world.” Ukraine resisted, determined to pursue European integration as a sovereign state. These irreconcilable goals, rather than geopolitical wrangling between Russia and the West over NATO expansion, are – the authors argue – essential to understanding Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Parliamentary Testimonies

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Canadian Senate. Expert Testimony. June 1st, 2023.

Standing Committee on National Defense

Canadian Senate. Expert Testimony. September 28th, 2022.

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Canadian Senate. Expert Testimony. March 3rd, 2022.

Committee on National Defense

Canadian House of Commons. Expert Testimony. February 28th, 2022.
Copyright © 2023 Alex O'Neill.

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Prof. Maria Popova
McGill University
855 Sherbrooke Ouest
Montréal, Quebec
H3A 2T7

Copyright © 2023 Alex O'Neill.