Memory Crash

Politics of History In and Around Ukraine, 1980s-2010s
$105.00 / €88.00 / £75.00
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Publication date: 
February 2022, 420 pages, 4 tables
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This account of historical politics in Ukraine, framed in a broader European context, shows how social, political, and cultural groups have used and misused the past from the final years of the Soviet Union to 2020. Georgiy Kasianov details practices relating to history and memory by a variety of actors, including state institutions, non-governmental organizations, political parties, historians, and local governments. He identifies the main political purposes of these practices in the construction of nation and identity, struggles for power, warfare, and international relations.

Kasianov considers the Ukrainian case in the context of a global increase in the politics of history and memory, with particular emphasis on a distinctive East-European variety. He pays special attention to the use and abuse of history in relations between Ukraine, Russia, and Poland.



Chapter 1. Notions and Definitions

Historical memory. Historical politics. History and memory. Basic definitions.

Chapter 2. Contexts

On stereotypes. “Western Europe.” “Eastern Europe.” Post-Soviet space.


Chapter 3. State Institutions

President. Parliament. Government. National Bank of Ukraine. Ukrposhta. Judicial bodies. Security Service. Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. Local authorities and self-government bodies. Archives and museums.

Chapter 4. Nongovernmental Organizations

Political parties. Civil organizations. Mass media and web-based communities.

Chapter 5. Historians

Communists to nationalists. Roles of historians.


Chapter 6. Historical Politics: An Overview

On the nationalization of the past. Sovereignization. Nationalization.

Chapter 7. Spaces of Memory

Lenin, Bandera, and others. “Battle of Kruty”: victims and heroes. The Holodomor Territory. Genocides at the edge. Memorial laws.

Chapter 8. Historical Politics: Beyond Borders

Ukraine–Poland: “thorny issues.” Ukraine–Russia: “fraternal rivalry.”


This is an excellent book about the power of discourse, the discourse of power, and the extraordinary complex ways in which they mingle, fight and intertwine. Focusing on Ukraine while maintaining European and comparative perspectives, Georgiy Kasianov has produced an exemplary work in the contested but increasingly central field of East European memory studies.
"Kasianov’s nuanced and impartial chronicle of the politics of history in Ukraine considers two competing versions of that country’s national history: a 'Soviet nostalgic' one that stressed continuity with the Soviet period and a nationalist one that emphasized Ukraine’s suffering at the hands of the Soviet government."
"Mit der vorliegenden Monographie zur ukrainischen Geschichtspolitik ist Kasianov eine Studie gelungen, die noch lange als Standardwerk gelten dürfte und sich hervorragend in den Forschungsstand zu anderen osteuropäischen Staaten einfügt. Vor dem Hintergrund des russischen Krieges gegen die Ukraine ist es eine bittere Ironie, dass dieses Buch sich wie ein Resümee der ukrainischen kollektiven Erinnerung seit dem Ende des Staatssozialismus liest."
"Memory Crash was published in Ukrainian in 2018 and appeared in a well-received Russian edition the following year. The text was updated before its publication in English just weeks before the invasion in February 2022. It offers a snapshot of the scholarly debate taken moments before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Students of historical politics examine ‘the use and abuse of the past for immediate political goals.’ Kasianov has studied this phenomenon over decades and across Europe. The reference to ‘impartiality’ is characteristic. ‘The historian’s business requires time away from the noise’, as he puts it in Memory Crash. That is how any larger perspective is won and his book begins by placing Ukraine’s historical politics in a European context. Read this book as testimony to decades spent working for a tough-minded but sophisticated view of the past, in the interests of a more tolerant and pluralist future."
What happens when imperial narratives fall, and the new national ones try to take their place? Memory Crush provides answers to this and many related questions in the way that combines analysis of a historian with the sensibilities of one of the key participants in the historical debates. A reflection and a report from the trenches of the historical wars at the same time, it is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand today’s Ukraine and the battles it is involved in.
This is a fascinating analysis of history politics in the Ukraine over the last forty years written by one of the best experts in the field. Kasianov tells an intriguing story about the way in which both governments and civil society actors have functionalized history in order to promote various versions of Ukrainian national identity. He explores the links of this mnemonic war to the Soviet era and also contextualizes it lucidly within a wider European and Russian history politics. This is a book that will be read with great benefit by anyone interested in the complex interactions between history and politics.
"Eine zu starke Fixierung auf die Vergangenheit könne zukünftige Fortschritte in seinem Land behindern, so der ukrainische Historiker Georgiy Kasianov. Mit seinem Buch Memory Crash präsentiert er die erste umfangreiche und empiriegesättigte Studie über ukrainische Erinnerungskultur(en) und ihre Akteure. Kasianovs Expertise und seine umfangreiche kritische Analyse ukrainischer Erinnerungskulturen auf staatlicher und zivilgesellschaftlicher Ebene, wie sie vorher noch nie da war, machen das Buch zu einem Meilenstein im Feld der Memory Studies."
The most comprehensive, critical-minded, and witty analysis of the Ukrainian memory politics today, Kasianov’s new book will surprise everyone who is interested in Eastern Europe’s politics and future.