Telegram Archive of the War

We document how Ukrainians learn, live, and share testimonies about the war through Telegram. This emergency archiving aims to collect and organize information flows that may quickly disappear due to their short-lived digital nature. We are preparing an archive that will help us talk about war when we can talk about it in the past tense.

WHAT IS THE TELEGRAM ARCHIVE OF THE WAR?

We document how Ukrainians learn, live, and share testimonies about the war on Telegram. We store on our servers streams of messages and audiovisual content from mainly Ukrainian channels and chats published since February 24, 2022. After processing and structuring the materials, an archival collection about the war will be created and published.

WHAT DOES THE ARCHIVE INCLUDE?

It includes almost everything (although, of course, not everything). The range of archived channels and chats is extensive: local and all-Ukrainian volunteer groups for the coordination of humanitarian assistance, evacuation chats, housing search, reporting on missing persons, reporting about air-raid alerts, urban channels and local problems in the areas of hostilities and the occupied territories, personal diaries, blogs and artistic reflections, humour and memes, expert analytics, documenting the course of hostilities and destruction, political communities, messages of local and central authorities, armed forces, media, as well as Russian government propaganda and pro-Russian channels and chats.

The Telegram not only reflects the course of the war — but there are also ongoing hostilities waging here. From the first days of the invasion, a chatbot was created on this platform to inform the Armed Forces about Russian military positions. In addition, Belarusian activists regularly monitor the actions of the Russian military in Belarus and report air attacks on Ukraine. On the other hand, Telegram is actively used for information and propaganda campaigns, as well as for the coordination of cyberattacks and the publication of acquired databases and personal information.

Our archive records all text and voice messages, images, audio, video and other types of files. We are already archiving around 1000 channels and chats. The total amount of data reaches about four terabytes and grows.

Despite the broad framework, our focus areas do change. We stopped archiving some channels and assigned low archiving priority to others. We keep adding new thematic focuses. The main emphasis is on local and industry-specific channels and chats that allow you to see the information landscape from the residents' perspective and go beyond the understanding of war as armed hostilities or official and journalistic messages only.

What’s next?

We divided the work on this archive into several stages: capture, structure and access, and interpretation.

As the channels disappear (some of them do not exist any longer) and social networks are inherently fragile and ephemeral, our priority today is emergency archiving — responsive preservation of information flows about the war that we can see.

The next stage includes processing — a structured description of available materials, the preparation of metadata, the preparation of ethical and legal protocols for working with the archive, and the preparation of a report on the process itself and the context of archiving. To do this, we plan a series of  methodological seminars  with experts in the field of digital archives, web archiving, social media researchers, etc. During these conversations, we hope to develop a clearer understanding of all the risks and benefits of publishing this archive. You can follow the latest updates on the  Center for Urban History  website.

In the third stage of our work, we want to prepare an infrastructure for working with the archive and, possibly, a Telegram emulator interface that will allow third parties to access the materials and work independently. This archive dimension should help bring the person closer to the context where the channel content was created. In addition, we are considering the possibility of analyzing and visualizing the collected data. We might prepare API access or open datasets for this purpose.

 In addition, we want to start a conversation with researchers from a wide range of disciplines about the possibilities of analyzing and interpreting the material collected in this archive. We are interested in organizing a series of events where we will be able to present the context of the creation of the archive about its content, as well as discuss the areas of research from the perspective of several social and humanitarian disciplines, as well as artistic practices.

PARTICIPANTS

All participants in this archival project, except for the Center for Urban History employees, come from previously occupied territories or were forced to leave their homes with the onset of a full-scale Russian invasion. Their professional background is in historical disciplines, journalism, and media communications. For security reasons, we decided not to disclose any more details about them this time.

Project curator: Taras Nazaruk

PARTNERS AND SUPPORT

We are grateful to Niels Brügger (Aarhus University, NetLab), Anders Klindt Myrvoll (Netarkivet), Olga Hołownia and members of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, Marcin Wilkowski (Centrum Kompetencji Cyfrowych UW), Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures) Marc Tuters, Stijn Peeters (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam), Maciej Maryl (Centrum Humanistyki Cyfrowej Instytutu Badań Literackich PAN), Maria Drabczyk (Centrum Cyfrowe), Ad Pollé (Europeana), Migle Bareikyte, Tatjana Seitz, Yarden Skop (Universität Siegen), Valerie Schafer, Lars Wieneke (C2DH, University of Luxembourg), Anton Mischuk, Mykola Makhortykh (University of Bern), Oleksiy Chebotarov (Center for Governance and Culture in Europe, University of St. Gallen; New Europe College; Center for Urban History) for valuable direct and indirect advice, guidance, and consulting.

Financial support: Center for Governance and Culture in Europe (University of St. Gallen), NEP4DISSENT, Körber Stiftung.

Infrastructure support and advisory: Save the Ukraine Monuments (4CH Project), Amazon Web Services, Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam)

Publications:

Talks and Presentations:

Digital Archiving Workshop Series:

Launched by the University of Bern in cooperation with the Center for Urban History and the University of Zurich in June-July 2022 (please follow  the link  for more details).


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