A Laboratory of Transnational History

Ukraine and recent Ukrainian historiography
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Publication date: 
318 pages

A first attempt to present an approach to Ukrainian history which goes beyond the standard ‘national narrative’ schemes, predominant in the majority of post-Soviet countries after 1991, in the years of implementing ‘nation-building projects’.

An unrivalled collection of essays by the finest scholars in the field from Ukraine, Russia, USA, Germany, Austria and Canada, superbly written to a high academic standard. The various chapters are methodologically innovative and thought-provoking.

The biggest Eastern European country has ancient roots but also the birth pangs of a new autonomous state. Its historiography is characterized by animated debates, in which this book takes a definite stance. The history of Ukraine is not written here as a linear, teleological narrative of ethnic Ukrainians but as a multicultural, multidimensional history of a diversity of cultures, religious denominations, languages, ethical norms, and historical experience. It is not presented as causal explanation of ‘what has to have happened’ but rather as conjunctures and contingencies, disruptions, and episodes of ‘lack of history.’

Introduction: Georgiy Kasianov, Philipp Ther

I. National versus Transnational History

Georgiy Kasianov
“Nationalized” History: Past Continuous, Present Perfect, Future…

Mark von Hagen
Revisiting the Histories of Ukraine

Andreas Kappeler
From an Ethno-national to a Multiethnic to a Transnational Ukrainian History

Philipp Ther
The Transnational Paradigm of Historiography and Its Potential for Ukrainian History

II. Ukrainian History Rewritten
Natalia Yakovenko
Choice of Name versus Choice of Path: The Names of Ukrainian Territories from the Late Sixteenth to the Late Seventeenth Century

Oleksiy Tolochko
Fellows and Travelers: Thinking about Ukrainian History in the Early Nineteenth Century

Alexei Miller and Oksana Ostapchuk
The Latin and Cyrillic Alphabets in Ukrainian National Discourse and in the Language Policy of Empires

John-Paul Himka
Victim Cinema. Between Hitler and Stalin: Ukraine in World War II—The Untold Story

Yaroslav Hrytsak
On the Relevance and Irrelevance of Nationalism in Contemporary Ukraine

Roman Szporluk
The Making of Modern Ukraine: The Western Dimension

About the Contributors


"By offering alternative and competing visions of the past, this edited volume is of great interest to scholars of Ukraine. It illustrates the importance of moving beyond a teleological, linear, and 'national' narrative. At the same time it reminds us that there are a number of issues in Ukrainian history that should be reexamined through a transnational approach."
"This book addresses Ukraine's national historical project and the various problems inherent in an ethnocentric approach. Using contributions by a team of international experts on Ukraine, it offers new and insightful questions about approaches to the topic, and the result is a volume of the highest quality. Implicitly or overtly it challenges the current national history, which it perceives as being similar to Soviet versions in its one-sidedness and subjection to an interventionist state. As the editors point out in their introduction, Ukraine's history lends itself particularly well to the transnational approach since it was not a strong nation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As they claim, the accidental outcome of this book is the provision of an alternative reader of Ukrainian history, a welcome development for a new nation with a troubled and complex past."