Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine

Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine

Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine

Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine

Excerpt

Independent Ukraine emerged in August, 1991, and was ratified by a national referendum in December of this same year. However, the roots of the modern state are to be found in the period of Perestroika, under Mikhail S. Gorbachev, when civil society first began to emerge. Ukraine began the process of building a new nation, accepting the existing borders as “inviolable” and eventually agreeing to be a non-nuclear state with its own currency and constitution. The latter suffered a few crises, and at the time of writing, Ukraine appears to have opted for a parliamentary system over a presidential one, though the ramifications of that change—effective in 2006—have yet to be seen. Several scholars have offered analyses of the newly independent Ukraine and the respective presidencies of Leonid Kravchuk (1991–1994) and Leonid Kuchma (1994–2004), leading up to the mass uprising in Kyiv in November– December 2004 known as the Orange Revolution. In January 2005, when Viktor Yushchenko became the third president, he announced his intention to have Ukraine join Euro-Atlantic structures such as the European Union and NATO, which implied—to what degree is a moot point—a move away from the Russian orbit. Ukraine's grassroots population had demonstrated its resistance to what was perceived as corruption, authoritarianism, and the restrictions on the media by the government of the day. But it has also appeared to support a fundamental change of direction from the Soviet period, some fifteen years after acquiring independence.

This book examines a question related to the concept of nation building, namely the construction of a national history. Arguably, there are several national histories and several interpretations of the past, and it may not be possible to determine which particular version is in the ascendancy. However, in Ukraine's case, the version in place—the Soviet narrative—has clearly been superseded and is obsolete. Yet that interpretation has remained influential in certain regions, particularly those of the east and south, and continues to sway the way residents of Ukraine perceive their state. By the mid-1990s, Mykhailo . . .

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