Shaping Identity in Eastern Europe and Russia: Soviet-Russian and Polish Accounts of Ukrainian History, 1941-1991

By Yekelchyk, Serhy | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Shaping Identity in Eastern Europe and Russia: Soviet-Russian and Polish Accounts of Ukrainian History, 1941-1991


Yekelchyk, Serhy, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Stephen Velychenko. Shaping Identity in Eastern Europe and Russia: Soviet-Russian and Polish Accounts of Ukrainian History, 1914-1991. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. 266 pp. Index. Cloth.

This book addresses the long neglected but central problem of Ukrainian historiography-the fact that, until very recently, narratives about the Ukrainian past were shaped by other, dominant nations: Russian, Polish, and "Soviet-Russian." In the past, students of historical writing about Ukraine were concerned primarily with the growth of the Ukrainian historiographic tradition proper. They tended to trace the making of "national historiography" rather than the evolution of "foreign" interpretations which, while appearing authoritative to contemporaries, were being constantly criticized by Ukrainian historians. Stephen Velychenko's thorough studies fill this gap. In 1992, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press published his National History as Cultural Process: A Survey of the Interpretations of Ukraine's Past in Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian Historical Writing from the Earliest Times to 1914. The book under review carries the inquiry on to the early 1990s.

In Part 1, "Background and Context," Velychenko explains how the category of "national history" acquired its own peculiar meaning in Eastern Europe, why official Soviet history writing should be properly classified as "Soviet-Russian," and how the Party developed and imposed on historians what it thought was "Dialectical Historical Materialism." Part 11, "Polish Historiography," surveys the transformation from the Neoromanticism and Positivism of the interwar period to the Stalinization of scholarship on Ukraine after World War Two and to the subsequent relaxation of ideological control. Paying special attention to the depiction of Polish colonization and Cossack rebellions, Velychenko analyzes in great detail the evolution of general schema and interpretation of particular events in both historical surveys of, and specialized monographs on, Ukraine. Part 111, "Soviet-Russian Historiography," has a slightly different structure. The author first discusses general works on the history of the Soviet Union and Soviet peoples, emphasizing the way these works portrayed the Ukrainian past-primarily Kyivan Rus' and the "reunification" with Muscovy in 1654.

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Shaping Identity in Eastern Europe and Russia: Soviet-Russian and Polish Accounts of Ukrainian History, 1941-1991
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