Discussion Group: What is this Literature? The Case of ‘Greek’ Writing from Ukraine

In this Discussion Group session, Panayiotis Xenophontos spotlights the rich literary history of the Greeks of Mariupol, Ukraine from the late 18th century to the present, and asks the following questions: are the texts presented part of Greek literature, since the majority are written in Modern Greek or Greek dialects? Should we see them geographically and place them in the space they were written, i.e. see them as part of Ukrainian literary history? Perhaps we should look at them within imperial frames as literature of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union? The case study he presents shows how the local can underline blind spots in grand narratives and periodisations of national literatures. Tragically, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has led to an immense loss of life in, and the destruction of, Mariupol, a city which is currently illegally occupied. In his concluding remarks, Xenophontos discuss how, and if, academic research on Ukraine’s Greek communities can help preserve their cultural heritage.


Panayiotis Xenophontos is a Lecturer in the Slavonic Sub-Faculty, University of Oxford, where he teaches Russian-language literature from the 19th century to the present. He is currently working on a monograph on Greek literature of Ukraine from the time of Catherine II to the present. He is the co-founder of KHARPP, a UK-registered charity delivering aid in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, and co-founder of RUTA, an association which aims to transform area studies in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.