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Washington, DC
February 14-15, 2017

Washington DC
April 27, 2017

Washington, DC
June 15, 2017

Kyiv, Ukraine
August 30, 2017
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CUSUR 2016 - Project I
US-UA “Working Group” Initiative

The US-Ukraine “Working Group” Initiative was launched in 2007 in order to secure an array of experts in "areas of interest” for CUSUR and its various forums/proceedings; at the same time, it was hoped that the ‘experts’ might agree to write a series of ‘occasional papers’ to identify “major issues” impacting on US-Ukrainian relations.
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CUSUR 2016 - Project II
Publication Efforts

Recognizing the urgent need to set up proper channels for the maximum circulation of the information/analysis CUSUR possessed or had at its disposal, the Center long focused on having ‘a publication presence’ of some form or another.
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CUSUR 2016 - Project III
DC Occasional Briefings Series

CUSUR did not turn its attention to having a DC presence until summer 2012. Borrowing space when the need arose (particularly for various forum steering committees meetings) from the American Foreign Policy Council, its longest abiding partner, seemed to suffice; an Acela ride from the Center’s NY office did the rest. If there was a concern, it was to open an office in Kyiv.
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CUSUR 2016 - Project IV
Kyiv Seminars for UA Officials

The several visits of young, fresh minded, reform oriented UA military commanders and national security analysts to various top flight foreign policy think tanks and institutes of higher diplomatic or military learning in DC (prompted in good part by CUSUR invitations to its Occasional Briefings) in the latter part of 2014 prompted the UA MOD to propose a slightly different arrangement for similar discussions/conversations in 2015.
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The Problems of National Identity in Ukraine

Ukraine's Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Special Edition Roundtable:
Providing Ukraine with a 'Report Card' Before the 2012 Parliamentary Elections

The Problems of National Identity in Ukraine

Volodymyr Viatrovych

Remarks by Volodymyr Viatrovych, Chairman of Academic Counsil of Center for Research on the Liberation Movement, delivered at Ukraine's Quest for Mature Nation Statehood Special Edition Roundtable: Providing Ukraine with a 'Report Card' Before the 2012 Parliamentary Elections, held in Washington DC on September 20, 2012.


At the beginning of my talk, I’d like to give you a glimpse into what the Soviet policy towards the Ukrainian nation was, since this policy still has a great influence on today’s Ukrainian identity.

As a result of the collapse of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, the Ukrainian People's Republic (UNR) and the Western Ukrainian People's Republic (ZUNR) were formed. However, because of a difficult foreign situation and the inability of the political parties to unite, both ceased to exist. Ukrainian lands were divided and taken over by neighboring Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union would receive the largest portion of Ukrainian land. But since the Soviet leaders could no longer ignore the Ukrainian national movement, they had to make compromises and the territories of the former UNR were united into a quasi-state called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Even though, Soviet Ukraine was totally dependent on Moscow, this illusory Ukrainian state played an important role in the further national identification of Ukrainians. A Ukrainization process marked the first years of Soviet power in which Ukrainian culture reached a new level. The Ukrainian language became the official government language. Ukrainian universities appeared along with professional theater, cinema and Ukrainian publishing. Favorable conditions brought about a true Ukrainian cultural resurgence with an entire generation of writers, poets, painters and artists being born.

But this cultural revival of the 1920s is also known in history as the "Executed Renaissance" with the end of 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s marking a turning point in Soviet policy. Ukrainian national themes were now declared "bourgeois-nationalist" and proponents of such cultural ideas were either executed or imprisoned in the Soviet Gulag.

Russian state nationalism became the new policy instituted by the Soviet leadership. Russian language would become the official language, replacing the native languages of other nations. Russian history would replace the national histories of other republics, while the achievements of Russian culture are elevated higher than those of other nations. The goal of these new policies is to create a new Soviet identity by converting all nationalities into a single Soviet nation. And it was Russian history and Russian culture that was to become the basis for such a nation. The victory of World War II enabled the Soviet leadership to strengthen its policy aimed at forming a single Soviet people within the USSR. The War, was presented to the people as the Great Patriotic War, and had become a key nation-forming myth of the USSR. Its thesis centered around: 1) massive patriotism and sacrifice - all in the name of the Soviet homeland, 2) an unprecedented mobilization of all "Soviet" people for the fight against a terrible threat and 3) a messianic march west to make Europe free. The most impressive chord of this myth dealt with achieving the Great Victory, since it not only confirmed the rightness of the course chosen by the Soviet leadership, but also the power and irresistibility of the communist regime itself.

The circumstances of the war created ideal conditions for a new Soviet identity to be formed. Millions of people of many different nationalities were gathered together into the Red Army. They had to speak the same language, while being cut off from the outer world. And they were handled on a daily basis by “politruks” or special Communist officials whose job it was to teach them the new Soviet consciousness – the new Soviet values. The army became the melting pot from which all these different nationalities would exit as the monolithic Soviet nation. And this objective was fulfilled quite well. The combatants of this war are the brightest examples of this Soviet identity, and the myth of the "Great Patriotic War" is a very useful tool for its maintenance and renewal.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was the result of not only the activities of the national democratic movement throughout the republics, but also as a result of the weakness of the Kremlin leadership. The Ukrainian national movement had achieved its political goal when the declaration of independence of Ukraine was announced. But its activists were not yet strong enough to fully develop its new power in the country, so they were forced to compromise with representatives of the communist elite.

The new state faced a plenty of economic and political difficulties. For a long time, authorities paid no attention to either the development of national culture, or to the recovery of the nation’s historical memory. Also, due to the smooth transition of the former communist elite into leadership positions in the new state, no distancing from Soviet heritage took place. A new-old political elite was not ready to discuss and reassess the past. It was quite satisfied with an eclectic view on history, combining certain subjects from the Ukrainian national historical narrative (like the UNR period) on the one hand with subjects from the Soviet narrative (like the Great Patriotic War) on the other.

An evolution of views on Ukrainian history was greatly intensified after 2004 because of significant changes on the political scene. Representatives of a younger generation began to assert their power, less tied to the Soviet past, they were able to assess Ukraine’s past objectively. And what is most important is that they got it in a struggle against the previous regime of Leonid Kuchma, who made no secret of his affection for the Soviet past. It meant that power was now in the hands of those who were able to take a fresh look at the history for themselves and understand the important need for society to also do so. Newly-elected President Viktor Yushchenko considered the mobilization of citizens, namely through their common Ukrainian identity, to be the main condition for large-scale reforms in the country. So for this purpose, work began on the reassessment of the Soviet past.

Ukraine began to overtake other countries of Eastern Europe which had already passed through important processes in overcoming the communist totalitarian heritage since the 1990s. Previously closed archives of the KGB began to open. Research of the Soviet past intensified, especially those regarding repressions against members of the national liberation movement and culture.

In 2006, the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance was established as a special authoritative body. The model was taken from other post-communist countries of Europe. Its task was to research and promote problems of the Soviet past, and to give them scientific and legal assessment. During the first phase of their activities, the main theme dealt with the Holodomor 1932-1933. Since this tragedy had affected millions of Ukrainians, the Holodomor quickly became one of the elements around which Ukrainians started to united. As a result, more than fifty percent of Ukrainians consider this tragedy to be a genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Much less progress has been made in making known accurate and true information about the Ukrainian Liberation Movement during the 1940 and 1950-s - the anti-Soviet fighting insurgents in western Ukraine. In this regard, the efforts of Ukrainian authorities faced not only a wave of modern Russian propaganda (similar to the pressure which was also made against the Holodomor), but they faced strong stereotypes of the Soviet period as well. If the Holodomor was stubbornly concealed by Soviet propaganda, the struggle of Ukrainian Nationalists for independence, on the contrary, was one of the main objects of its attacks. Fighters of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army were depicted as collaborators and traitors, especially in regions where the insurgents never acted and where local people knew about them only from Soviet propaganda. Nevertheless, opened archives and newly published documents and popular literature started the process of reversing public opinion about Ukrainian insurgents and becoming free from Soviet stereotypes. At the same time, the concept of the Second World War as the Great Patriotic War was also being reviewed. The term “Great Patriotic War” disappeared not only from the scientific discourse, but from school textbooks of history as well.

However, these processes were dramatically overturned by a new regime that came to power in Ukraine in 2010 with President Viktor Yanukovych as chief. Known for his pro-Russian sympathies, he focused on eliminating the achievements of the previous government in the humanitarian sphere. And as a result, Ukraine has begun to close these historical archives and has even made attempts to criminally prosecute historians for using KGB documents. President Yanukovych made a public statement cancelling Ukraine's efforts to achieve international recognition of the Holodomor as a genocide, and called it a-la Russian, a tragedy of all the peoples of the USSR. State level celebration of "Victory in the Great Patriotic War" on May 9 returned. Also, the Parliament adopted a law allowing the use of the red Soviet flag with the same honors as the blue and yellow state flag during May 9th celebrations.

The Ministry of Education of Ukraine which is headed by Dmitry Tabachnik, has become the main instrument of pro-Soviet revenge in the humanitarian sector. Under his leadership whole blocks of information about the Ukrainian liberation movement in the twentieth century and the policy of repression in Ukraine were eliminated from history textbooks; while the Soviet propaganda term "Great Patriotic War" returned. The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance was practically liquidated and reorganized into an advisory of the Cabinet of Ministers institution. A representative of the Communist Party became its Director while another member of the Communist party currently heads the archival agency in Ukraine.

Changes in humanitarian policy were not limited to history, but has affected both language and culture in general. For the last two years, laws depriving the Ukrainian language of state support in media and publishing have been adopted. The "Law on the Principles of State Language Policy" actually deprives the Ukrainian language of the status of being the only official language. It was passed by the Parliament and signed by the President despite large public protests.

State authorities have openly shown their favors for the Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Such a policy at the highest state level has continued in initiatives at the local level. A Joseph Stalin monument was put up in Zaporizhia; a Russian Tsar Alexander II monument was erected in Odessa (in addition to the previously established Empress Catherine II monument), and state authorities have taken part in honoring the memory of Peter Stolypin, a politician of the Russian Empire.

Today we can state that there are three large groups in Ukraine, each with different identities – Ukrainian, Soviet and Russian. The two latter groups tend to overlap and are often in a state of violent confrontation with the former, with some of their radical spokesmen even denying their right to exist. The greatest paradox of today’s modern Ukrainian power structure is that it focuses its efforts on supporting the Soviet-Russian identity, despite the fact that the presence of the Ukrainian identity is the basis for the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state and thus legitimacy of this power.


 

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Highlights from the UA Historical Encounters Special Event: 'Contested Ground': The Legacy of WW2 in Eastern Europe, held in Edmonton on October 23-24, 2015
 
Holodomor SE Highlights
Highlights from the UA Historical Encounters Special Event: Taking Measure of the Holodomor, held at the Princeton Club of NY on November 5-6, 2013
 
US-UA SD III Items of Note
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Highlights from UEAF Forum VI, held in Ottawa, Canada on March 7-8, 2012
 
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US-UA ED III Items of Note
Highlights from US-Ukraine Energy Dialogue III, held in Washington DC
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