Ukrainian Themes

“Kaczyński has two different visions of international relations, one for the West and one for the East. In relations with the West, Poland is the subject of economic and political subordination that limits its sovereignty. With regard to the East, the approach is characterized by a liberal or even an idealistic attitude, with the central role played by legal and ethical norms. The West, according to the general logic of PiS, is ‘using’ Poland, but Poland wants to ‘democratize’ Ukraine.”
From a collection of essays on current Polish politics.
“In an example of what has been termed ‘conservative post-modernism’—relativizing truth—PiS historians have tackled the Wołyn (Volhynia) massacres of July 1943. It is argued that while Poles could not possibly have committed a massacre such as Jedwabne because they were neighbours, Ukrainian neighbours committed violence that was much worse.”
“73 percent of Poles considered the influx of Middle Eastern refugees to Europe a ‘major threat’ to their country, even more so than Vladimir Putin‘s Russia, which started a war in neighboring Ukraine.”

Part regional cultural geography, and part history, sociology, and travelogue, this book follows the Dnipro from its source in western Russia, through Belarus and Ukraine, to the Black Sea. Also in time, from the exquisite beauty of Scythian gold; the achievements of Kyivan Rus; the Mongol destruction of Kyiv; the Cossack dominion; the colonization of Ukraine; the epic battles for the river’s bridges in World War II, the building of dams and huge reservoirs by the Soviet Union, and the crisis of Chornobyl (Chernobyl).
The reader is taken also to Shevchenko’s burial place – Щоб лани широкополі /І Дніпро, і кручі / Було видно, -- було чути, / Як реве ревучий!
“Ukraine has a lot of work ahead before it can become truly ‘European.’ It cannot succeed without investment in its central river; without such investment, it will continue to thrash about uncertainly, causing money and talent to leave the country, and continue being victim to a much stronger neighbour that keeps chewing at its edges. Ukraine’s future is tied closely to the future of Ukraine’s River.”

“After Ukraine gained independence in the 1990s, it be­came popular among some local intellectuals to define a certain Ukrainian eschatological myth, as a part of the hazily sketched na­tional character.”
From a collection of essays on the apocalypse.
“The architecture of eleventh- and twelfth-cen­tury Kyiv reflects the topography of Constantinople, not only in the names of churches and fortifications, but also in the sacral meaning of its artistic implementations.”
“Ukrainian Romanticism presented the na­tional Cossack myth in the universal form of God’s fight against the Enemy. Cossacks and Ukraine in general became symbols of freedom and part of the apocalyptic plan.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

“Many residents of east Ukraine have nurtured a distinctive regional identity, which is now decisive for Ukraine’s next steps as a country. The expression this identity finds at the intersection of literature and memory.”
The monograph addresses the literature that has been created by what the author calls “the doubletake generation”, which was entering adulthood when the Soviet Union fell apart. While some of authors discussed have been the object of considerable critical attention (especially Zhadan), others (Krasniashchikh, Tsaplin, Kotsarev etc.) have not, and will in all likelihood be discoveries for many readers of this book.
The study models a way of writing about the Ukrainian and Russian components of cultural experience in Ukraine’s East that sees them as elements of a continuum, not as antagonistic parts of cultural entities whose centres are elsewhere.

In August 2002 two little girls from a village in Transcarpathia “saw the most beautiful white Lady. She was standing on a cloud, embellished with wonderful blossoms that did not touch the ground.”
The research about this Marian apparition provided a scholarly opportunity to explore its impact on the community, the stages of the erection of the pilgrimage site, the state of affairs in the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, pros and cons of the Ruthenian/Rusyn movement, struggles for Ukrainian statehood and national unity and, more generally, the significance of the idea of “unity” (iednist’) among the local population.
“There were some priests who fully realized the possible dangers of my work for the church, but embraced it anyway. I am very grateful to them for sharing with me their conviction that transparency should also apply to the church as an organization.”

Besides smart gambling on the geopolitical position of Belarus, the interests of a variety of energy policy actors in Russia and Belarus have contributed to the successes of the Lukashenka regime. This new monograph points at certain resemblance with Ukraine under President Leonid Kuchma (1994–2004). While some observers have referred to Lukashenka’s role in “balancing” between the various “clans”, any similarities with Kuchma’s “balancing” of various important economic-political groups (“clans”) in Ukraine are dwarfed by the reality that Lukashenka played a much more central role there than Kuchma ever did.

“After several abortive military attempts to establish control in Bessarabia, Moscow changed its tactics in mid 1920s by creating a separate Moldavian autonomous republic (MASSR) on the Ukrainian territory. It comprised some 160,000 Moldavians, (i.e., ethnic Romanians), but their share in the total population of MASSR was only a third.”
“Ukraine, if you look at the history, is the country that between 1933 and 1945 suffered the most losses of deliberate killing, at least 7 million people through famine, Soviet terror, Soviet citizens dying in German prisoner war camps, and the Holocaust. That is, understandably, the dominant story for most Ukrainians. There is an alternative story, which involves resistance to Soviet power by the Organization for Ukrainian Nationalists, because the latter did, in fact, resist with great persistence the Red Army. That nationalist tradition of course records that the Red Army brought back a system that had killed millions of Ukrainians.”
“There have been a couple of unusual bright moments. One was the Polish-Ukrainian discussions about ethnic cleansing in the 1990s, where a historian from each side had to give a paper under the same title.”

Gorbachev: When western Ukraine started talking about independence, Crimea announced that if this happens it would go to Russia. Moreover, Crimea was declared itself autonomous as the result. And residents of the Donets Basin remembered that after the Revolution, a Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic was created there. So they said they may want to restore it. Hungary’s claims to Ukrainian territories also came up. The question is: what will be left of Ukraine? July 1991
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders on 1000 pages.
Baker: What happens when Ukraine declares independence? Do the Russians say no?
Yakovlev: It will be a mess. There probably will be no civil war in Ukraine.
Baker: Are you talking of the Russians in Ukraine?
Yakovlev: There are 12 million of them, many in mixed marriages. There are 25-30 million mixed marriages. What sort of war could it be?
Baker: A normal war. What happens when Russia starts charging Ukraine the world market price for oil?
Yakovlev: This is “rope pushing” now. Yeltsin learned that Ukraine was selling oil for dollars. So Yeltsin cut oil production.
[Yakovlev and the President look at a map]
Yakovlev: Ukraine will be very small. November 1991

An earlier analysis of the impact of cold war broadcasting, Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America also cites Shelest, who on numerous occasions complained to Brezhnev that events in Czechoslovakia were "causing unsavory phenomena here in Ukraine as well." See more Ukraine-related quotations at bottom from the seminal CEU Press title on the collapse of Soviet domination.
In defiance to the rigid Soviet postal censorship, the targets of the huge book distribution program of the CIA included Ukraine also. The action reached hundreds of thousand East-Europeans and involved a broad network of institutional and private supporters in the west. Party first secretary Petro Shelest denounced efforts by "malevolent foreign intelligence services" to smuggle in "subversive, anti-Soviet literature and leaflets." Still, the delivery of 40,000 copies of Ukrainian journals was reported in 1982.

“National claims were considered legitimate at a certain level of development, and it became necessary for revolutionaries to provide an answer to them, as proven by Lenin’s philo-Ukrainianism in 1914.”
This book is an attempt to keep the attention of contemporary analysts focused on the social and cultural legacies of totalitarian experience in the space between Prague and Pyongyang.
“Stalin’s answer was to assign Ukrainian-majority territories to the Russian Republic, and to compel the more determined national communist leaders to resign.”
“National culture had to be kept within the bounds of folklore and traditional customs. Especially in Ukraine—which was governed by the Russian Khrushchev—these limits were even stricter.”
“Brezhnev himself—who started to declare himself a Russian in the 1960s—was of Ukrainian descent, and was a product of the slow but certain process of Russification.”
“The protests on Maidan and the national-democratic rebellion against the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovich became a grave threat to the Putin regime. Moscow launched a total and aggressive anti-Ukrainian propaganda campaign to counter this threat.”

Parallels highlighted between Ukraine and Belarus: The description of the hardships of Belarusian Jews points out—among others—that while the roughly 150,000 surviving Jews in the BSSR had only two synagogues in 1949, in Ukraine there were seventy for about 840,000 people. Furthermore, the painstaking scrutiny of archival statistics proved that by 1949 the number of Jews in the leadership of Soviet Belarus became lower than even that of persons with Ukrainian ethnic background!

“The abduction of the Russian and Ukrainian émigrés represented a failure of the structures of state and politics of the Czechoslovak Republic, which were without power and unable to defend their sovereign territory from another state’s execution of its rights; nor were they able to protect foreigners to whom the Republic had offered and provided refuge when they were forced to leave their own country.”
The tragic faith of the émigrés is discussed in the study on the diplomatic efforts of Czechoslovakia about the deportations by the Red Army after WWII.
Émigrés were deported not only from Bohemia but also from Moravia and Slovakia. Many of them had settled there after graduating from Czechoslovak universities in the 1930s. They included the director of the Ukrainian Gymnasium, and the chairman of the Museum of the Liberation Struggle of Ukraine.”
Furthermore, 40,000 persons are estimated to have been deported from what used to be the territory of Subcarpathian Rus in Czechoslovakia.

“While Kievan Rus’ has great significance for developments in eastern Europe, the origins of Carpathian Rus’ are to be found first and foremost in Carpathian Rus’ itself” – establishes the encyclopedic volume on the Carpatho-Rusyns.
“Being a stateless people, it is difficult to determine with any precision the number of Carpatho-Rusyns. According to the most recent official governmental census data, there are 104,000 Carpatho-Rusyns worldwide. Other informed sources suggest that the number could be as high as 1.7 million.”
“After 1989, local Ukrainian-oriented organizations and spokespeople rejected what they branded as ‘Rusyn separatism’ and ‘political Rusynism.’ There was, however, a positive side to such criticism, based on the principle that new movements are able to focus better on specific goals when they are criticized from without.”

“I only wish to draw the attention of the esteemed House to the cultural needs of the Ruthenians, which have hitherto not received sufficient consideration… That the establishment of a Ruthenian university in Lemberg is necessary I consider to be proven, and more than proven: it is self-evident” – declared bishop Sheptytsky (Szeptycki) in 1911 at the House of Lords in Vienna. His address is commented in the latest volume of the essential CEU Press undertaking, presenting texts that shaped national identities in eastern and south-eastern Europe.

“The case of Kiev serves as a useful reminder that the Russian Empire’s race to modernity entailed more than democratization, industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of civil society. It reveals the dark underbelly of modernity, showing how these processes could stir up new resentments, generate new conflicts, and militate against the dreams of liberal reformers”. Along with other metropolis in Europe, the birth of modern Kiev is explored. The empire’s first electric tram in 1894 on the one hand, and the most violent pogrom in 1905 on the other, Kiev was rapidly acquiring a reputation as the empire’s capitalist Wild West: in the last years of the old regime, Kiev was one of the most violent and unstable corners of the country.

“Dimitrie C. Moruzi (1850– 1914) is one of the rare instances in which Romanian authors seem aware of the importance of the Ukrainian national element as a potentially disrupting force for the unity of the Russian Empire.”
A book on competing Russian and Romanian visions of Bessarabia.
“Young Bessarabian students interacted with activists involved in the Polish and Ukrainian national movements who were rather active in the university centers most accessible to Bessarabians: Iuriev (Dorpat) and Kiev.”
In 1914, “the Constantinople branch of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine envisaged a joint military operation consisting of Ottoman forces and Ukrainian volunteer detachments that would land simultaneously near Odessa and in the Kuban region in hopes of inciting a revolt among the local populations.”
“Relations between the Bessarabian leaders and the Ukrainian Rada were rather tense due to the territorial claims that Kiev made first on the Hotin and Akkerman districts (where Ruthenians were a sizable part of the population) and then on all of Bessarabia.”

“It is wrong to treat Ukrainians as a population that evolved from the mixing of two races—the light- and the dark-haired. We should accept as a fact their belonging to one dark-haired race with local blond dashes.” The history of ethnography in imperial Russia and the USSR contains many such statements. One also learns—among others—that what on one bank of the Dnipro was considered part of the national heritage, was a symptom of superstition on the other (namely belief in demons). The analysis of ethnographic historiography spans from an era when “a dark-haired, tall, broad-shouldered Cossack from the glorious past personified the ideal Ukrainian male” up to times when “ethnographers contributed to the invention of Soviet lifestyle and thus to the creation of an identity that would rival national identity for a long time—in some areas of Ukraine, even after independence in 1991”.

The governor-general of Little Russia, Repnin, wrote to Nicholas I: “The Little Russians are really quite Russians. The dialect, the customs and the dress are somewhat different, but the faith, the tsar and Russia are a single untouchable sacred object for them, whereas a hereditary enmity towards the neighboring Catholic Poles makes them the best guardians against Polish thoughtlessness.”
Processes of nation-building within the Romanov Empire – including suppressions of such aspirations – are examined in parallel with related trajectories in other empires in Europe.
“The creation of the Ukrainian and Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republics, along with the vigorous Soviet policy of Ukrainization and Belarusization within the framework of the general drive toward korenizatsia in the 1920s, all were policies deconstructing the very backbone of the Russian nation-building project of the imperial time. All the eastern territories of contemporary Ukraine, which were deeply russified before WWI, were transferred to those Soviet republics, often in spite of the protests of the local population, like in the case of the Vitebsk or Donetsk regions.”

International comparative research of verbal magic covered the entire continent from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, and includes the development of the index of the East Slavic charms, magical texts and prayers. “The southern part of the East Slavic territory (primarily the Ukrainian tradition) noticeably differs from Russian and Belarusian traditions by the inclination towards short texts. In one opinion, these brief Ukrainian spells are the most archaic form of charms; they have undergone less Christian influence, there is almost no epic element in them, spatial objects remain nameless, and so on”.

“A letter issued on May 25, 1694 by the authorities of the city of Kovel states that two Vlach Gypsies filed a complaint against Hungarian Gypsies who attacked them in the forest and robbed them of many belongings, including six horses and a considerable sum of money and property.”
The archives of a number of cities in Ukraine provide sources on the presence of the Roma in Polish history. Not all of them reflect the age old clichés. From a letter from 1549 we learn that Andrzej Rotemberg (and the people with him) “while staying for some time at my estate in Radenychi and other estates in the Peremyshl county, behaved virtuously, decently and politely without any complaints from my subjects.”
In the 18th century groups of Roma wandered or were resettled to the left bank of the Dnipro, testified in documents, among other, from the historical archive in Kharkiv.

Browsing on from the backlist, several more monographs focus on Ukrainian themes:

  • the deeds and vicissitudes of Jesuit communities on the peripheries of the Habsburg empire, including in Uzhhorod and Mukacheve; and their role in the creation of the Uniate (Greek Catholic) Church;
  • the Ukrainian question is analyzed as handled by the Empire in the 19th century;
  • in the next century the liquidation of the Greek Catholic Church was the order of the day in western Ukraine;
  • the role of various armed groups fighting on the Ukrainian fronts during WWII. Who were heroes, who were villains?
  • the first volume to discuss east-central Europe and Russia within the context of European security;
  • the politics of state formation in Ukraine in the 1990s;
  • the state-building process in Ukraine, comapred to Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia;
  • policies, practices and outcomes of privatisation in six former communist countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Slovenia and Ukraine;
  • the sovereignty movement of Tatarstan is of interest not just for the few percent of Ukrainians among the inhabitants of that republic;
  • just as Ukrainians cannot be indifferent towards Belarusian identity struggle, either;
  • together with twenty-eight more post-communist transition countries, the political and economic performance of Ukraine is also examined as part of a search of varieties of transition models.

CEU Press offers a lot more on the past and present of Ukraine in comparative and collective volumes:

Excerpts from Masterpieces of History:

Document No. 43: Cable from US Ambassador Jack Matlock to the State Department, "The Soviet Union over the Next Four Years", February 3, 1989
"Indeed, despite all of the changes in Soviet society over the past several years, the glasnost and the perestroika, only nationalism has been capable of igniting popular passions. And we just remember that the Ukraine and Central Asia - areas where, because of population size, resources and religion, nationalism could represent a major danger to the Soviet empire - have remained thus far almost eerily quiet, a calm that neither we nor the Soviet leadership should expect to continue."

Document No. 53: Transcript of CC CPSU Politburo Session, "Outcome of the USSR People's Deputies Elections", March 28, 1989
Gorbachev: "The outcome of the campaign shows us that at all stages - in the nominations and in voting - the elections went most successfully, with fewer losses and expenses, where people saw the real fruit of perestroika. This is the north Caucasus, and the central Chernozem oblast, Ukraine, and the Altay region."

Document No. 99: Session of the CC CPSU Politburo, November 9, 1989
Prime Minister Ryzhkov: "Among them everything is aimed at preparations for secession. All these discussions with us are just for show, for buying time. As soon as they win elections, they will adopt a decision to leave. What should be done? Introduce a common free market among isolated republics? But that would mean chaos. What we should fear is not the Baltics, but Russia and Ukraine. I smell an overall collapse. And then there will be another government, another leadership of the country, already a different country."