Victoria Khiterer

Associate Professor of History, Millersville University

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

I developed an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies in my childhood. I was born and grew up in Kiev, a city with over a thousand years’ history. Kiev medieval churches and cathedrals, Kiev Pechersk Lavra with its mystical monk caves, museums and archeological sites, all of this inspired my interest in history. Five generations of my Jewish family lived in Kiev and the history of my ancestors is tightly overlapped with the history of the city. So, I was always interested in the history of Jews in Kiev, which became the major topic of my research.

How have your interests changed since then?

Victoria Khiterer

My primary interest never changed, it just became wider. I extended my research to the history of Jews in Ukraine and the Russian Empire. However, my major works are devoted to the history of Jews in Kiev. My two recent books, Jewish Pogroms in Kiev during the Russian Civil War, 1918-1920 (Lewiston, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2015) and Jewish City or Inferno of Russian Israel? A History of the Jews in Kiev before February 1917 (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016), combine Russian and Ukrainian Jewish History with the history of Kiev. In the nineteen and twentieth centuries, Jews contributed greatly to the development of the city, building industrial plants, markets, schools, synagogues, apartment buildings, and public transportation. Jews constituted fifteen percent of the population of Kiev in the early twentieth century and twenty to twenty-five percent of Kievans in the interwar period. So, the story of Kiev is incomplete without the history of the Jews who lived there. But this topic remained under-researched for a long time, due to the prohibition on studying Jewish history in the Soviet Union. I have tried in my works to fill this gap and will write the history of Jews in Kiev in Soviet times, also. 

What is your current research/work project?

I am working on my new monograph Echo of Babi Yar: Commemoration and Memorialization of the Holocaust in Kiev. The Babi Yar massacre was the worst tragedy in the history of Kievan Jews. On September 29 – beginning of October, 1941, the Nazis and their collaborators killed in Babi Yar virtually all the Jews who remained in Kiev during the occupation. 

Babi Yar was one of the largest Holocaust sites in the Soviet Union, but a monument was not built there for many years due to Soviet state anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Under pressure from public opinion in the Soviet Union and abroad, a monument, “for one hundred thousand citizens of Kiev and prisoners of the war” was erected in Babi Yar in 1976. But the Soviets did not allow the sculptors to emphasize the Jewish nature of the tragedy in the monument or its plaque. Only after the collapse of communism and the end of state anti-Semitism, did public discussion of the Holocaust of Jews in Ukraine become permissible. In 1991, a memorial Menorah was built in Babi Yar.

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

I like to participate in the ASEEES Annual Conventions and the opportunity to interact with so many scholars. I really value the ASEEES publications and news, which keep me up to date with current research in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies.

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

I like to travel and see different countries, I enjoy reading fiction, watching good movies and going to theaters and concerts.