Scholarly article on topic 'Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the imperial past and competing memories'

Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the imperial past and competing memories Academic research paper on "Political Science"

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Abstract of research paper on Political Science, author of scientific article — Andreas Kappeler

Abstract The legacy of the tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union is one of the crucial factors for an understanding and an explanation of current affairs in the post-Soviet space. This is especially true for Ukraine and for Russian–Ukrainian relations. Russia regards Ukraine as a part of its own strategic orbit, while many Ukrainians want to liberate themselves from the Russian hegemony and advocate a closer cooperation with the European Union. This controversy culminated in late 2013, when Russian pressure led to a re-orientation of Ukrainian policy and a rapprochement with Russia. In this paper I present some reflections on the significance of the imperial heritage for the Russian–Ukrainian relationship. I analyse the different discourses and the Ukrainian and Russian historical narratives, politics of history and competing memories. The Russian–Ukrainian relationship was and is still characterized by an obvious asymmetry, a hegemony of Russia over Ukraine. Russia uses the Orthodox Church and the traditional dominance of the Russian language as instruments for its policy. Not only Russian historians, but also politicians and even the Russian President try to impose the imperial narrative on Ukraine. They are supported by a significant part of Ukrainians, who adhere to the ideal of a common Russia-led Orthodox East Slavic world. Other Ukrainian historians and politicians use the Ukrainian language and the Ukrainian historical narrative with its national myths of liberty and of Ukraine's closeness to Europe in their struggle against the Russian hegemony. The on-going “War of memories” is of special interest. Both sides use and abuse history as a political weapon, and the controversies about the heritage of Kievan Rus', the interpretation of Mazepa, the Holodomor and WW II are not only academic, but also political issues. They reflect the struggle over the geopolitical and cultural orientation of Ukraine which is of crucial importance for the future development of the post-Soviet space and of Eastern Europe.

Academic research paper on topic "Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the imperial past and competing memories"

Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9

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Ukraine and Russia: Legacies of the imperial past and competing memories

Q4 Andreas Kappeler

University of Vienna, Austria


Article history: Received 2 January 2014 Accepted 3 March 2014


The legacy of the tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union is one of the crucial factors for an understanding and an explanation of current affairs in the post-Soviet space. This is especially true for Ukraine and for Russian-Ukrainian relations. Russia regards Ukraine as a part of its own strategic orbit, while many Ukrainians want to liberate themselves from the Russian hegemony and advocate a closer cooperation with the European Union. This controversy culminated in late 2013, when Russian pressure led to a re-orientation of Ukrainian policy and a rapprochement with Russia. In this paper I present some reflections on the significance of the imperial heritage for the Russian-Ukrainian relationship. I analyse the different discourses and the Ukrainian and Russian historical narratives, politics of history and competing memories. The Russian-Ukrainian relationship was and is still characterized by an obvious asymmetry, a hegemony of Russia over Ukraine. Russia uses the Orthodox Church and the traditional dominance of the Russian language as instruments for its policy. Not only Russian historians, but also politicians and even the Russian President try to impose the imperial narrative on Ukraine. They are supported by a significant part of Ukrainians, who adhere to the ideal of a common Russia-led Orthodox East Slavic world. Other Ukrainian historians and politicians use the Ukrainian language and the Ukrainian historical narrative with its national myths of liberty and of Ukraine's closeness to Europe in their struggle against the Russian hegemony. The on-going "War of memories" is of special interest. Both sides use and abuse history as a political weapon, and the controversies about the heritage of Kievan Rus', the interpretation of Mazepa, the Holodomor and WW II are not only academic, but also political issues. They reflect the struggle over the geopolitical and cultural orientation of Ukraine which is of crucial importance for the future development of the post-Soviet space and of Eastern Europe.

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The conclusion of an Association and Free-trade Q5 Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine was on the agenda of the Eastern Partnership Summit of November 28/29th 2013 in Vilnius. The Ukrainian government apparently had made his choice in favour of a strategic rapprochement of Ukraine with the EU and against its integration into the strategic and economic sphere of Russia. The outcome of this event was considered being of crucial importance for the future development of

1879-3665/Copyright © 2014, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University. Production and hosting by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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2 A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9

1 the post-Soviet space. Although Ukraine did not fulfil all In this article I present some reflections on the signifi- 62

2 conditions for an agreement, among them the release from cance of the imperial heritage for the Russian-Ukrainian 63

3 prison ofYuliaTymoshenko, the former Prime Minister and relationship. In the beginning I give an overview of the 64

4 rival of Viktor Yanukovych in the presidential elections, relations between the two independent states since 1991, 65

5 both sides seemed to be ready for signing the agreement. secondly I discuss the position of Ukraine in the tsarist and 66

6 However, on November 21st the Ukrainian cabinet Soviet empires, thirdly I present the most important factors 67

7 declared that it would suspend its preparations for signing of the imperial legacy and their significance for Russian- 68

8 the Agreement. President Yanukovych justified the deci- Ukrainian relations, and finally I analyse the Ukrainian and 69

9 sion with serious economic problems of Ukraine, which Russian historical narratives, politics of history and 70

10 was not ready to be integrated into a common European competing memories which are important issues of the 71

11 market. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov explicitly Russian-Ukrainians relations. This article has the character 72

12 mentioned the decreasing trade with Russia and differ- of an essay and does not give an exhaustive treatment of 73

13 ences of opinion between Ukraine and Russia which had to the complex problems. 74

14 be settled immediately. For this purpose the Ukrainian 75

15 government proposed three-way-negotiations between 76

16 Ukraine, the EU and Russia (Malygina, 2013: 10,12-13). 1. Russian-Ukrainian relations since 1991 77

17 Obviously, the Ukrainian government yielded to heavy 78

18 pressures from Russia which opposed the agreement of 23 years ago Ukraine and Russia became independent 79

19 Ukraine with the EU and instead invited Ukraine to join the states after being Soviet republics for 70 years. The sepa- 80

20 Russian-led Customs Union with Belarus' and Kazakhstan. ration of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic under 81

21 The Russian government, Russian media and President Leonid Kravchuk and of the Russian Socialist Federative 82

22 Vladimir Putin himself warned of the disastrous economic Soviet Republic under Boris Yeltsin from the Soviet Union 83

23 consequences an Association Agreement with the EU and their common alliance against the Soviet President 84

24 would have for Ukraine. Since July 2013 Russia declared Gorbachev were the decisive factors for the dissolution of 85

25 import restrictions on several Ukrainian goods and the Soviet state in December 1991. Moscow (the president 86

26 threatened Ukraine with a cut off of gas. In two non-official of Russia) fought together with Kiev (the president of 87

27 meetings of Yanukovych with Putin and in a meeting of Ukraine) against another Moscow (the president of the 88

28 Azarov with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Soviet Union). 89

29 St. Petersburg on November 20, just one day before the However, the Russian society and the Russian politicians 90

30 unexpected declaration, the deal was settled. The Russian were shocked, when they realized that the Commonwealth 91

31 government promised to offer cheap gas and credits (what of Independent States did not become, as expected, the 92

32 was officially confirmed on December 17th), and both successor of the Soviet Union, headed by Russia. They were 93

33 countries agreed on a renewal of negotiations about a surprised by the fact that Ukraine now was an independent 94

34 strategic partnership agreement. So, the Ukrainian gov- state in reality and not only formally (as the former 95

35 ernment changed its strategic priorities in favour of Russia, Ukrainian Soviet Republic). They were not prepared and 96

36 at least temporarily. unwilling to recognize Ukraine as an equal state and as a 97

37 The manoeuvres of the Ukrainian government and its separate nation. On the other hand the Ukrainian govern- 98

38 turning away from an Association Agreement with the EU ment aimed at the maintenance and extension of state's 99

39 were answered by massive protests in Ukraine. Several sovereignty and at relations with Russia on the basis of 100

40 hundred thousands of Ukrainians demonstrated in the equality (Burkovs'kyj & Haran', 2010; Smolii, 2004). 101

41 centre of Kyiv and called for the resignation of Yanukovych The relations between the two independent states were 102

42 and the cabinet of ministers. from the very beginning difficult. Almost all issues have 103

43 Whatever the outcome of this conflict will be, the events their roots in the imperial past. 104

44 of November and December 2013 demonstrated that Rus- Among the multiple problems I mention 105

45 sia's policy towards Ukraine followed the traditional im- 106

46 perial model. Russia exerted heavy political and economic 1. The question of Crimea, which had belonged to the 107

47 pressure also on other post-Soviet states, especially on Russian Soviet Republic until 1954, when Nikita 108

48 Georgia, Moldova and Armenia. While Armenia in Khrushchev decided that Crimea should be a part of the 109

49 September 2013 withdraw his willingness to sign a pre- Ukrainian Soviet Republic, though the majority of its 110

50 liminary Association Agreement with the EU and put its inhabitants are ethnic Russians. This had little impor- 111

51 priority on the Russian-led Customs union, Georgia and tance in Soviet times, but became important after 1991, 112

52 Moldova signed in Vilnius the respective documents. when borderlines separated the independent states. The 113

53 So, the imperial past is alive and represents an important former Autonomous Soviet Republic Crimea in 1992 was 114

54 political factor in the post-Soviet space. Russia's relation- renamed Republic of Crimea and is the only autonomous 115

55 ship with Ukraine is of special relevance. Ukraine is the territory inside Ukraine. The political leaders of the re- 116

56 second largest country in Europe by territory (after Russia), public usually support a pro-Russian policy, so recently 117

57 it has great geo-strategic and economic importance. By its in the conflict of late 2013. 118

58 history, culture and religion Ukrainians are closer connected 2. The question of the Russian Black Sea fleet which is 119

59 with Russia than the other former Soviet nationalities (with closely connected with the question of Crimea. After 120

60 the exception of the Belarusians). On the other hand Ukraine 1991 the Soviet Black Sea navy was divided between 121

61 and its history are intertwined with Central Europe. Russia and Ukraine and Russia had to recognize 122

A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9 3

1 Ukrainian sovereignty over the naval base Sevastopol. recently was of immediate importance, when Russia 62

2 However, in 1997 Ukraine yielded the naval base to exerted strong political and economic pressure on 63

3 Russia on the terms of a 20-year renewable lease. After Ukraine, while the EU demanded from Ukraine political 64

4 political disputes with Russia and inside Ukraine in 2010 and legal reforms. 65

5 the Russian Navy's lease of the Sevastopol base was 7. In general there is an obvious asymmetry in the relations 66

6 extended through 2042. Sevastopol is an important between the two countries and peoples (Kappeler, 2011). 67

7 symbol of the Russian nation, a hero-city of the Second Russia is a great power claiming to the heritage of the 68

8 World War and a national site of memory of the Crimean Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, having large re- 69

9 War. Many Russians, among them several politicians, sources and a relative prosperous economy. Ukraine is a 70

10 have never fully accepted that Sevastopol now is part of second-rate power without a continuous state-tradition, 71

11 Ukraine. having few resources and considerable economic prob- 72

12 3. The question of the approximately 8 millions ethnic lems. Although official Russia recognizes the indepen- 73

13 Russians living in Ukraine (17% of its population) and of dent Ukrainian state, the majority of Russians does not 74

14 the about 50% of Ukrainian citizens with Russian as their recognize Ukraine as an equal partner and does not 75

15 first language. The Russian speaking population is consider the Ukrainians as a full and equal nation. The 76

16 concentrated in the cities of Eastern and Southern independent Ukrainian national state is regarded as 77

17 Ukraine. About 3 millions Ukrainians live in Russia, something provisional, artificial which will hopefully 78

18 being the second largest ethnic minority after the Tatars. reunite soon with Russia. Russia looks at Ukraine as a part 79

19 The Russian government tried to instrumentalize the of its own strategic orbit, while Ukraine has no ambitions 80

20 ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking Ukrainians for to dominate Russia - a typical asymmetric relationship. 81

21 political purposes, while the Ukrainian government 8. The problem is complicated by the fact that many citi- 82

22 rarely mentions the Ukrainian minority in Russia. zens of Ukraine do share these views at least in part. The 83

23 4. The question of the regional diversity of Ukraine which lack of a long state tradition, the belonging to states 84

24 reflects different histories. Roughly speaking there are dominated by other peoples and high cultures, caused a 85

25 four regions. 1. In the West there are the territories sort of minority complex of many Ukrainians in regard to 86

26 which belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy during the Russia. Not only parts of Ukrainians, but also many for- 87

27 19th century, namely Galicia with its mostly Ukrainian- signers are thinking Ukraine to be a part of Russia, the 88

28 Catholic population and its Polish past, Bukovyna and Ukrainian language being a Russian dialect and Ukrai- 89

29 Subcarpathian Ukraine which have a long Romanian and nian history merging with Russian history. So, Ukraine 90

30 Ottoman resp. Hungarian background. 2. Central Ukraine and the Ukrainians don't have a firm place on the mental 91

31 belonged for centuries to the kingdom of Poland- map of Europe until today. 92

32 Lithuania, from the 16th to the 18th century it was the 93

33 homeland of the Ukrainian Cossacks. It became part of The Russian-Ukrainian relations were especially diffi- 94

34 the Russian empire in the middle of the 17th and in the cult during the first years of independence until 1997, when 95

35 end of the 18th centuries. 3. The steppes of Southern a treaty about friendship, cooperation and partnership was 96

36 Ukraine north of the Black Sea were populated only since concluded, and again during the presidency of Viktor 97

37 the end of the 18th century mostly by Ukrainian and Yushchenko from 2005 to 2010. Since Viktor Yanukovych 98

38 Russian peasants. 4. Eastern Ukraine since the 19th was elected as the new president in 2010, the tensions were 99

39 century became an important centre of mining and reduced, though not eliminated. 100

40 heavy industry and attracted many Russian workers. 101

41 Until today the political orientations of the population 102

42 reflect the history, the ethno-linguistic composition and 1.1. Ukraine in the Russian and the Soviet Empire 103

43 the geographical location of their regions. 104

44 5. The question of energy supplies (especially gas) deliv- Russia has a long imperial past (Kappeler, 2001; Smolii, 105

45 ered or not delivered by Russia to Ukraine and through 2004). The Muscovite state became an empire in the mid- 106

46 Ukraine to Central Europe. Ukraine is dependent on gas dle of the 16th century, when Ivan IV conquered the 107

47 from Russia and a significant part of Russian gas is Khanate of Kazan with its polyethnic and multireligious 108

48 transported through Ukraine to Central Europe. Since population. In the 17th century Siberia and the Eastern part 109

49 2005 there were regular disputes about the price of gas of Ukraine were added, and in the beginning of the 18th 110

50 and of the costs for transit and Russia used gas prices as century Peter the Great declared Russia being an Empire 111

51 political instrument. (Rossiiskaia Imperiia), what remained the official name of 112

52 6. The question of the place of Ukraine between the Eu- the Russian state until the Russian Revolution. 113

53 ropean Union and the NATO on the one hand and Russia At the end of the 19th century the huge territory of the 114

54 and its political and economic allies on the other hand. Russian Empire extended from Poland in the West to the 115

55 This position reflects the history of Ukraine between Korean border in the East, from the coast of the Arctic Sea to 116

56 Orthodox Russia and Catholic Central Europe. Official the oases and deserts of Central Asia and to the Caucasus in 117

57 Russia harshly criticized the cooperation of Ukraine with the South. Its population of 140 millions was composed of 118

58 the NATO and plans of a possible entering the NATO by 44% ethnic Russians, 18% Ukrainians, 11% Muslims, 7% Poles, 119

59 Ukraine. In the presidential elections of 2004 President 5% Belorussians, 4% Jews and 11% other groups. 120

60 Putin openly supported the pro-Russian candidate Vik- The Russian Empire was a centralized state, based on 121

61 tor Yanukovych. As already mentioned, this problem the concepts of dynasty and of ascription to an estate. It 122

4 A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9

1 widely applied cooperation with loyal non-Russian elites approximately reaching the extent of the Russian Empire 62

2 who often were coopted into the imperial nobility. before 1914. With the annexation of Western Ukraine for 63

3 Although Russian was the dominant language and Ortho- the first time all Ukrainians were under the rule of a 64

4 doxy the state religion, language and religion were not the Russian-dominated state. The population of the late Soviet 65

5 decisive factors for the coherence of the empire. Its elite Union consisted of 51% Russians, 15% Ukrainians, almost 66

6 was polyethnic and multiconfessional. Non-Russian lan- 20% Muslims, and 14% other groups. 67

7 guages and non-Orthodox confessions were tolerated, at The Soviet state and the Communist party controlled 68

8 least until the last third of the 19th century. the peripheral territories (Martin, 2001). All kinds of po- 69

9 Among the more than 100 ethnic minorities the Ukrai- litical movements and national emancipation were sup- 70

10 nians were a special case (Kappeler, 2008). They were the pressed. However, the Ukrainians now were recognized as 71

11 most numerous group after ethnic Russians with 13 a separate nation which had its own territory, the Ukrainian 72

12 percent of the total population at the beginning of the 18th Socialist Soviet republic. During the 1920s the Ukrainian 73

13 century and 18 percent at the end of the 19th century. language and culture were developed and many Ukrainians 74

14 Before the middle of the 17th Century almost all Ukrainians were coopted into the Soviet elite. So, the nationalities' 75

15 had belonged to the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania, by that policy of the early Soviet state contributed substantially to 76

16 time one of the major players in Central Europe. Since 1654, Ukrainian nation-building. However, this policy was 77

17 however, parts of Ukraine were under the protection of the reversed since the 1930's, Russification of Ukrainians 78

18 Russian Tsar. The Ukrainian so-called Cossack Hetmanate reappeared and the Ukrainians again became subaltern 79

19 had a wide autonomy inside Russia until the second half of subjects of a Russia-dominated centre. Many educated 80

20 the 18th century, when it was abolished. Since the end of Ukrainians moved to Moscow and other Russian cities and 81

21 the 18th century the vast majority of Ukrainians lived in a numerous Ukrainian communists were coopted into the 82

22 state dominated by Russians - the Russian Empire and later Soviet elite, especially during the Khrushchev era. Because 83

23 the Soviet Union. Only the West Ukrainians of Galicia, of their numerical strength and the strategic and economic 84

24 Bukovyna and Subcarpathia, the so-called Ruthenians, significance of their country the Ukrainians were controlled 85

25 became subjects of the Austrian emperor, and their history more tightly than most other Soviet nationalities. So, 86

26 took its own path, separated from Russia until WW II. Ukrainians were late-comers in the emancipation process 87

27 In the 19th century the so-called 'Little Russians' were of Soviet nationalities and only in 1991 played a decisive 88

28 regarded integral parts of the Russian or all-Russian com- role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 89

29 munity (Miller, 2003). The name 'Little Russia' initially was 90

30 the normal designation of the Ukrainians and was used in a 1.2. Factors of the imperial legacy 91

31 pejorative sense only since the end of the 19th century. 92

32 According to the dominant Russian view the 'Little Rus- 1.2.1. Russia and the post-imperial space 93

33 sians' consisted mainly of peasants, speaking a strange When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, all Union 94

34 Russian dialect and not being able to develop a high culture Republics declared their independence. The remaining 95

35 and statehood. Their aristocracy had been largely Russified centre was reduced to the territory of the former Russian 96

36 already during the 18th century, their written language and Federal Soviet Republic, whose territory corresponded 97

37 high culture had been absorbed by the Russian culture. So, roughly to the Muscovite state in the middle of the 17th 98

38 Ukrainians had a low place in the ethno-social hierarchy of century (the exceptions are the North Caucasus and the Far 99

39 the Russian Empire, much lower than the nations with East, conquered only in the 19th century, and the region of 100

40 their own nobility and high culture like the Poles, Finns, Kaliningrad [Königsberg], annexed after WWII). Russia was 101

41 Baltic Germans and Georgians. On the other hand Ukrai- deprived of most of the imperial peripheries and lost its 102

42 nians were not discriminated as individuals, because they status as a super-power. However, Russia is still an empire 103

43 were regarded as Russians. Only when a small group of the with its huge territory extending from the Baltic Sea and 104

44 Ukrainian intelligentsia in the middle of the 19th century the Black Sea to the Pacific and with its polyethnic and 105

45 started developing a Ukrainian national ideology, tsarist multireligious population, non-Russians having a percent- 106

46 Russia reacted with repressions and prohibited schools and age of approximately 20 percent. 107

47 publishing in the Ukrainian language. The Russian gov- Many Russians and especially the political elites are 108

48 ernment reacted so harshly, because a defection of the suffering from the lost status as a great power. There is a 109

49 Ukrainians was regarded as a danger for the Russian nation, wide-spread nostalgia for the tsarist Empire and the Soviet 110

50 which was imagined as an "all-Russian" East Slavic nation, Union, even for the totalitarian Stalinist regime. These 111

51 consisting of Great Russians, Little Russians and White tendencies became stronger under the presidency of Vla- 112

52 Russians. dimir Putin. So one main goal of Russia's foreign policy is 113

53 After the Russian Revolution and during the Civil War keeping the regions of the former empire under its hege- 114

54 most peripheral regions of the Russian Empire declared mony. Russia tries to control the post-Soviet space, desig- 115

55 themselves independent states, among them the Ukrainian nated as "near abroad", and to restrict the sovereignty of 116

56 Peoples Republic (Yekelchyk, 2007). Until 1921, the Red the former Soviet republics by interfering into their inner 117

57 Army and the new Soviet state succeeded in re-establishing affairs. Russia had to recognize that the Baltic states were 118

58 its rule over the majority of the former peripheral regions, lost, but Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Belarus and 119

59 among them Ukraine, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Ukraine are regarded as parts of the Russian orbit. 120

60 However, only after the Second World War the Soviet Again Ukraine is the most important and disputed re- 121

61 Union became again a powerful empire with a size gion. Russia fears a complete separation of Ukraine from 122

A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9 5

1 Russia and its entrance into the European Union and the language, although many of them are bilingual. In the cities 62

2 NATO. As already in tsarist Russia this is regarded as a of Eastern and Southern Ukraine Russian remains the 63

3 threat for Russia's position as a great power and also a dominant language. Only in Western Ukraine and in the 64

4 threat for the Russian nation, imagined again as an Or- countryside the Ukrainian language is deeply rooted. 65

5 thodox "all-Russian" nation. So, the asymmetry of the Many Russians and numerous Europeans and Ameri- 66

6 relationship persists until today. Russia exerts considerable cans regard Ukrainian as a dialect of the Russian language. 67

7 economic and political pressure to keep Ukraine in its im- The Ukrainian culture is considered as a peasant culture 68

8 perial strategic realm and tries to prevent the integration of with beautiful folk songs, traditional costumes and Cossack 69

9 Ukraine to EU and NATO. As already mentioned, this dances. The Ukrainian literature and music is not taken 70

10 problem is on today's political agenda. seriously. On the whole the "backward Ukrainians" have to 71

11 be "civilized" by Russia, by its language and by its devel- 72

12 2. The Orthodox Church oped culture. 73

13 The Russian government often has reproached the 74

14 For the Russian Empire the close cooperation of the Ukrainian government with forceful Ukrainization of Rus- 75

15 state and the Orthodox Church was an important factor of sians and the Russian-speaking Ukrainians by enforcing the 76

16 legitimation and stability. Today's Russia follows this policy use of the Ukrainian language in schools and state in- 77

17 and is using the Orthodox Church as an instrument of its stitutions. So, under the pretext of the protection of the 78

18 politics of hegemony. On the other hand the aspirations of rights of linguistic minorities it uses the language question 79

19 the Orthodox Church are supported by the state. In Ukraine as an instrument of pressure and intervention into the in- 80

20 this policy is facilitated by the fact that a majority of ternal affairs of Ukraine. In reality, as already mentioned, 81

21 Ukrainian Orthodox believers declare themselves as the Russian language keeps its strong position and the 82

22 members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church headed by the Ukrainian language only slowly recovers from the russifi- 83

23 Patriarch of Moscow. Strong minorities are the adherents of cation during the imperial past. Again there is an obvious 84

24 the rival Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by the Patri- asymmetry: Most Ukrainians do not regard the Russian 85

25 arch of Kiev (in Ukrainian Kyiv), which tries to play the role language and culture as inferior, and the Ukrainian gov- 86

26 of a national church, and the Ukrainian-Catholic Church, ernment does not use the largely russified Ukrainians in 87

27 concentrated and deeply rooted in Galicia and Sub- Russia as a political weapon. 88

28 carpathia (Vulpius 2011). 89

29 The cooperation of the state with the Russian Orthodox 4. The heritage of the Soviet Empire 90

30 Church has been intensified during the presidency of Vla- 91

31 dimir Putin. The Russian nation is imagined as an Orthodox As already mentioned, the politics of nation-building 92

32 nation, and Orthodox Ukrainians are regarded as parts of during the 1920's is an important factor of the Soviet leg- 93

33 this community. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow explicitly sup- acy (Smolii, 2004). The existence of a Ukrainian Soviet 94

34 ported the idea of "Holy Russia" and of "the Russian world", Republic and the recognition of Ukrainians as a nation were 95

35 uniting Russia, Ukraine and Belarus'. In summer 2013 he important preconditions for the independent Ukrainian 96

36 celebrated in Kiev together with the Presidents of Russia state, created in 1991. On the other hand the politics of 97

37 and Ukraine the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Rus', russification from the 1930's on weakened again Ukrainian 98

38 in order to affirm the leadership of Russia in the "Russian" nation-building. The Soviet regime fostered the myth of the 99

39 Orthodox world. "friendship of peoples" and of the family of Soviet nations, 100

40 the Russians being the older, the Ukrainians the younger 101

41 3. The hegemony of the Russian language brothers. 102

42 Russia has declared itself the legal successor of the So- 103

43 In the tsarist and Soviet Empires the Russian language viet Union. This includes the nuclear weapons, this includes 104

44 was the dominant one, although in the Soviet Union the imperial ambitions and the maintenance of the hegemonic 105

45 non-Russian languages, among them Ukrainian, were discourse. Ukraine on the other hand did not abandon fully 106

46 recognized theoretically as equals and the position of its subaltern position in regard to Moscow, the former So- 107

47 Ukrainian was enhanced during the 1920's. However, in viet centre. 108

48 practice Russian remained the dominant language and In Soviet times the economies of the republics had been 109

49 since the 1930's its position was strengthened, while the closely intertwined, and Ukraine and the other Soviet re- 110

50 position of the Ukrainian language was weakened again. publics were dependent on the Soviet centre. The situation 111

51 Until today the Russian language remains the common did not change fundamentally after 1991. Russia remains 112

52 lingua franca of the post-Soviet space. This is especially true the main trading partner of Ukraine and Ukraine is 113

53 for the Central Asian republics and for Belarus'. Again dependent on Russian gas and oil, and Russia uses this 114

54 Ukraine is a disputed battlefield. dependency as a political instrument. 115

55 In independent Ukraine Ukrainian is the only state In the Soviet Union Ukraine and the Ukrainians had 116

56 language. The government advocates the use of Ukrainian been integrated into the Soviet state, society and economy. 117

57 in schools and bureaucracy in order to overcome the sub- Many Ukrainians worked in Russia, numerous Russians 118

58 altern status of the Ukrainian language (Besters-Dilger, migrated to Ukraine. So, there were many interethnic per- 119

59 2009; Besters-Dilger, 2011). However, the Russian lan- sonal ties and networks on the level of political and eco- 120

60 guage keeps its strong position until today. More than half nomic elites as well as between workers and employees, 121

61 of the population of Ukraine is using Russian as its main especially in the border areas. Russians and Ukrainians took 122

6 A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9

1 part in the common Soviet political culture with common Peter the Great. One can speak of a Ukrainization of Russia 62

2 values and ideological traditions. This transnational heri- in this period. According to the Ukrainian national narrative 63

3 tage of the Empire has not been destroyed entirely by the Russian and Soviet rule separated Ukraine from the com- 64

4 new borderlines between the new nation-states. On a mon European world, and only independent Ukraine now 65

5 personal level there are hardly any antagonisms between re-establishes the traditional ties with Central Europe. This 66

6 Ukrainians and Russians, with the exception of Galicia. argument is used in support of the integration of Ukraine 67

7 into the European Union and against closer relations with 68

8 4.1. Competing historical narratives and memories "non-European" Russia. 69

9 Although the most important Ukrainian national myth, 70

10 The question of the historical heritage is the most the Cossacks, is not exclusively Ukrainian, because there 71

11 controversial issue of the Russian-Ukrainian relations. were also Russian Cossacks, only the Ukrainian Cossacks in 72

12 History is one of the crucial factors of national identity and 1648 succeeded in creating their own political body. Ac- 73

13 it is used in the politics of history by states and societies cording to Ukrainian national thinking the Cossack tradi- 74

14 (Miller, 2012). Among the building blocks of the Ukrainian tion and the central European influences during Polish rule 75

15 nation collective memory may be the most important one. made Ukraine and the Ukrainians more European and more 76

16 Nations define themselves in delimitation from other na- democratic than Russia and the Russians. 77

17 tions, their historical narrative competes with other nar- This image is contested, of course, by Russia and the 78

18 ratives. For the Ukrainian and for the Russian national Russian national ideologues looking at the Ukrainians as 79

19 identities the delimitation from the Russian imperial uncivilized Russian peasants or anarchic Cossacks who 80

20 respectively the Ukrainian national narratives is crucial have to be ruled and civilized by Russia which brings Eu- 81

21 (Kappeler, 2011, 2012: 183-190; Kravchenko, 2011 , pp. ropean culture to Ukraine. 82

22 391-454; Plokhy, 2008; Sanders, Ed., 1999; Velychenko, Thus, the different and competing, often incompatible, 83

23 qi 1993,1994). historical narratives are an important element of the im- 84

24 In the Russian and Soviet imperial narrative Russia and perial legacy. Russia and Ukraine conducted a "War of 85

25 Ukraine did have not only a common history, but also a memories", which was accelerated by the national politics 86

26 common memory. Ukraine is included into the national- of history of the former President Yushchenko and the 87

27 imperial narrative of Russian history from medieval "Kie- increasing imperial tendencies in Russian politics 88

28 van Russia" until the Russian Revolution and the common (Kas'ianov & Miller, 2011; Portnov, 2013). 89

29 victory in the "Great Patriotic War". The periods, during I will mention four examples 90

30 which Ukraine was part of other states, above all of Poland- The heritage of Kievan Rus 91

31 Lithuania, are interpreted as times of national and religious My first case is the issue of the heritage of medieval 92

32 oppression. They only interrupted the main stream of Kievan Rus'. This first political body in East-Slavic territory 93

33 common history. The so-called "reunifications" of Ukraine was among the leading powers in Europe at the beginning 94

34 with Russia in 1654, 1793 and 1939/44 are regarded as of the second millennium. Medieval history seems to be far 95

35 cornerstones of this Russian national vision. For Russian away from contemporary politics. However, if we look at 96

36 nation-building the inclusion of Ukraine and the Ukrai- other countries, e.g. on the Balkans, it becomes evident that 97

37 nians was and is of crucial importance. many of the political disputes concern medieval or even 98

38 In the Ukrainian national narrative Ukrainian history is ancient history, the question of the heritage of ancient 99

39 separated from Russian history, beginning with medieval states and high cultures. Among numerous examples I 100

40 Kievan Rus', regarded a Ukrainian state, and ending with mention the discussions concerning the heritage of 101

41 the independent Ukrainian state, with highlights in the Macedonia between Macedonians, Greeks and Bulgarians, 102

42 Cossack Hetmanate of the 17th century and the indepen- the controversies about Transylvania between Hungarians 103

43 dent Ukrainian Peoples' republic of 1917-1920. According and Romanians, the controversies between Serbs and Al- 104

44 to this narrative the Ukrainian nation had to suffer under banians concerning Kosovo or between Armenians and 105

45 Russian rule and had to fight against Russia, until the final Azeris about Nagorno-Karabakh. 106

46 goal of its history, the independent nation-state, was So, the disputes between the Ukrainian and the Russian 107

47 attained. national narratives concerning the heritage of Kievan Rus' 108

48 Ukrainian national ideologues stress the fact that the are by no means an exception. In the history of the con- 109

49 majority of the Ukrainian lands belonged during more than struction of a Ukrainian national narrative and national 110

50 four centuries to Poland-Lithuania and only two centuries consciousness, this was one of the crucial issues. In the 111

51 to Russia respectively the Soviet Union. In this period, from work of Mykhailo Hrushevs'ky, the father of modern 112

52 the 14th to the 18th Centuries, Ukraine became part of the Ukrainian historiography and first President of Ukraine in 113

53 Central European space and was influenced by Western 1917/18, the question of the Kievan heritage is the most 114

54 ideas, by renaissance, humanism, reformation, German important founding myth of the Ukrainian nation (Plokhy, 115

55 municipal law and Jesuit schools. Ukrainians emphasize 2005). Hrushevs'ky and his work have been condemned 116

56 that the first stage of the Westernization of Russia origi- in Soviet times and are canonized in today's Ukraine. The 117

57 nated in Ukraine, especially in the Kiev Academy, founded portrait of Hrushevs'ky is represented on the 50 hryvni 118

58 in 1632, which was the first institution of higher learning in note, and the portraits of the Kievan princes Volodymyr 119

59 the East-Slavic world. Graduates from the Kiev Academy (Vladimir in Russian) and Yaroslav on the 1, respectively the 120

60 became prominent Westernizers in Russia since the middle 2 hryvni-notes. In an article, published in 1904, Hrush- 121

61 of the 17th century and even more so during the reign of evs'ky protested "against the usual scheme of Russian (East 122

A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9 7

1 Slavic) history" and claimed that Kievan Rus' was an oath to Peter the Great and fought together with Charles 62

2 exclusively Ukrainian state, while Russia and the Russians XII. against Russia at Poltava where they were defeated in 63

3 emerged only later in the forests of the North as a mixture 1709. The Russian Orthodox Church even laid an anathema 64

4 of Finno-Ugric and Slavic elements. The heritage of Kievan on him which has not been revoked until today. Peter the 65

5 Rus' according to Hrushevs'ky was taken up by the princes Great and the battle of Poltava are prominent sites of 66

6 of Galicia-Volhynia, then the grand Princes of Lithuania Russian national-imperial memory, immortalized by Alex- 67

7 and later the Ukrainian Cossacks. ander Pushkin and Peter Tchaikovsky. In the Russian and 68

8 This interpretation of the heritage of Kievan Rus' is Soviet Empires disloyal Ukrainians were qualified as 69

9 contested by almost all Russian historians and politicians, 'Mazepists' and even today the term is used as a negative 70

10 and also by the majority of historians in other countries stereotype for Ukrainians. So, during the propaganda 71

11 claiming the Kievan heritage at least partially for Russia. campaign against the conclusion of an Association Agree- 72

12 Arguments for this view are the continuities of the ruling ment of Ukraine with the EU in late 2013, the prominent 73

13 dynasty from Kiev to Moscow and of Orthodoxy from the Russian journalist Dmitry Kiselev reproached the Ukrainian 74

14 baptism of Rus' in the end of the 10th century until today. government with "neomazepism" (http://www.pravda. 75

15 The Ukrainian-Russian controversy about medieval Rus' is 76

16 a-historical, projects the modern terms Russia and Ukraine In Ukraine, Mazepa is widely regarded as a national 77

17 into deep history. Nevertheless, the issue of the heritage of hero. According to this narrative Mazepa with the support 78

18 medieval Rus' is of primary importance for historians as of the Swedish king tried to liberate Ukraine from "the 79

19 well as for politicians. Russian yoke" in order to attain an independent Ukrainian 80

20 One example, how Kievan Rus' is used in contemporary state. Peter the Great is blamed for having violently sub- 81

21 politics is a recent talk of the Russian President Vladimir jugated Ukraine, an image confirmed in the writings of the 82

22 Putin. He declared in September 2013 at the Valdai Forum national poet Taras Shevchenko. 83

23 that Kievan Rus' was the nucleus of the Russian Empire and In connection with the 300th anniversary of the battle 84

24 that since then Russians and Ukrainians had a common of Poltava in 2009, the arguments over Mazepa and Poltava 85

25 history and culture. were charged with political meaning again. (Kliewer & 86

26 "Ukraine, without a doubt, is an independent state. That Hausmann, 2010). There were political disputes about a 87

27 is how history has unfolded. But let's not forget that today's joint Russian-Ukrainian celebration of the battle in Poltava, 88

28 Russian statehood has roots in the Dnieper; as we say, we proposed by the Russian President Putin. The proposition 89

29 have a common Dnieper baptistery. Kievan Rus' started out was declined by the Ukrainian President Yushchenko, and 90

30 as the foundation of the enormous future Russian state. We the celebration in Poltava took place without higher polit- 91

31 have common traditions, a common mentality, a common ical representatives. However, the Russian victory was 92

32 history and a common culture. We have very similar lan- celebrated in the former imperial capital St. Petersburg. 93

33 guages. In that respect, I want to repeat again, we are one Yushchenko for his part advocated a joint Ukrainian- 94

34 people" ( Swedish celebration of the battle and the erection of 95

35 An example of the contrary national-Ukrainian view is monuments of Mazepa and Charles XII in Poltava. The late 96

36 the statement of the prominent Ukrainian writer Mykola Viktor Chernomyrdin, then Russian Ambassador in 97

37 Riabchuk who stresses the significance of the exclusive Ukraine, commented this idea with a provocative question 98

38 Kievan heritage for a Ukrainian identity: drawing a parallel between Charles XII and Hitler: "What 99

39 "We can see that the identity issue is in the core of in- would you think if we would erect a monument for Hitler in 100

40 ternal and international problems Ukraine is coping with. Stalingrad?" (Kappeler, 2009: 221). After long discussions 101

41 In a sense Ukraine is coping with the consequences of a the monuments, as far as I know, have not been erected and 102

42 perdicious historical myth that, being internalized, heavily the monument of glory and the monument to the victor 103

43 influenced Ukrainian identity and, being internationalized, Peter the Great remain the only ones in Poltava (Shebelist, 104

44 heavily influenced the Western perception of both Ukraine 2012). This outcome shows that the discussion about 105

45 and Russia. In brief, it is the myth of a thousand-year-old Mazepa like many of the other discussions is not only one 106

46 Russian state which in fact has neither been thousand- between Russian and Ukrainian historians, journalists and 107

47 years old, nor Russian. Hardly any historical myth has politicians but it takes place also inside Ukraine. There are 108

48 ever made such a great international career as an indis- numerous Ukrainians sharing the view of Mazepa as a 109

49 puted historical "truth". Hardly any was so broadly and traitor. 110

50 uncritically accepted in academies, multiplied in mass The discussions about Mazepa, Peter and Poltava inside 111

51 media, and enshrined in mass consciousness and in popular Ukraine and between Ukraine and Russia are aggressive 112

52 discourse as a common wisdom" (Kappeler, 2011: 421-22). and express antagonistic, exclusive interpretations of the 113

53 Hetman Mazepa - traitor or national hero? past. They were conducted not only by historians and 114

54 My second example is the Ukrainian Cossack Hetman journalists, but also by politicians, including the presidents 115

55 Mazepa who defected from Russia in 1708 in order to join of both countries. So again, a historical topic was politized 116

56 King Charles XII of Sweden. During the last years there and instrumentalized in the competition of memories. 117

57 were fervent discussions about the historical role of Het- Holodomor 118

58 man Mazepa (Kappeler, 2009: 220-223; Kappeler, 2003: My third example is Holodomor, the Ukrainian name of 119

59 25-27). He may be the historical figure polarizing opinions the terrible famine of 1932/33, man-made by the politics of 120

60 in Russia and Ukraine more than any other. In Russia, he has Stalinist Soviet Union, which caused the deaths of more 121

61 the reputation of the archetype of a traitor, who broke his than 5 millions people, among them more than 3 millions 122

8 A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9

1 Ukrainians. In Soviet times the famine had been taboo and Nevertheless, the revisionism in the interpretation of WW 62

2 was never mentioned. In post-Soviet Ukraine, especially II was supported by the official politics of history during the 63

3 after 2004, it was officially interpreted as a genocide presidency of Yushchenko. It culminated in the erection of 64

4 directed against the Ukrainian people. Today, it represents numerous monuments to the UPA and in awarding the title 65

5 one of the crucial elements of the historical narrative and of of hero of Ukraine to Roman Shukhevych, the leader of the 66

6 the national mythology uniting almost all parts of Ukraine UPA, in 2007 and to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the OUN, 67

7 and delegitimizing the Soviet past (Kasianov, 2010). in 2010. So, in Ukraine, the myth of the "Great Patriotic 68

8 The interpretation of Holodomor was internationalized War" of the Soviet Union was partially substituted by the 69

9 and became a source of tensions between Ukraine and myth of a Ukrainian national liberation war against the 70

10 Russia. In today's Russia the famine is recognized as a Soviet Union. 71

11 disaster, but Russian historians contend that the Hol- Official Russia and the Russian media protested against 72

12 odomor was a common tragedy of all Soviet peoples and this revisionist re-interpretation of the "Great Patriotic 73

13 that as many of the victims of Holodomor were living in War". The expression "banderovtsy" together with "maze- 74

14 Russia. The controversy among historians about Hol- pintsy" was used for a negative designation of nationalist 75

15 odomor turned into a "War of memories". Ukrainian na- Ukrainians already during the Soviet era and is still used 76

16 tionalists accused Russia (instead of the Soviet Union) of today. In 2009, the Russian President founded a "Commis- 77

17 the crime of Holodomor and even demanded an official sion of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to 78

18 excuse. Russian media attacked the Ukrainian interpreta- Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests", and 79

19 tion and in 2008 the Russian President Medvedev harshly to "defend Russia against ... those who would deny Soviet 80

20 criticized in a letter to President Yushchenko "the nation- contribution to the victory in World War II" (http:// 81

21 alist interpretations of the mass famine of 1932/33 in the Obviously the 82

22 USSR, calling it a genocide of the Ukrainian people". He activities of the commission should be directed against the 83

23 deplored that "these efforts are aiming at maximally re-interpretation of WW II in Ukraine and in the Baltic 84

24 dividing our nations, united by centuries of historical, cul- states. 85

25 tural and spiritual links, particular feelings of friendship However, the interpretation of WW II as an anti-Soviet 86

26 and mutual trust" (; liberation war is by far not shared by all Ukrainians. Espe- 87

27 cially in Eastern and Southern Ukraine OUN and UPA, 88

28 So, the Russian President interfered in the interpreta- Bandera and Shukhevych have a bad reputation and many 89

29 tion of the Ukrainian past and appealed to the Soviet myth Ukrainians remain supporters of the Soviet and Russian 90

30 of the "friendship of peoples". However, Russia may view of the "Great Patriotic War". 91

31 consider itself as the legal successor of the Soviet Union, So, the divided memories over WW II show that things 92

32 but Russia is not responsible for the Stalinist crimes. On the are not so simple. Russians and Ukrainians have not only 93

33 other hand Ukrainians have to accept that Russia is not the one history and one narrative and not a single memory, but 94

34 Soviet Union and that among the perpetrators and victims many histories, narratives and memories. The historical 95

35 of Holodomor there were Ukrainians and Russians. The memory is divided not only between Russians and Ukrai- 96

36 common heritage as victims of the Stalinist terror would nians, but there are different remembrances inside of 97

37 indeed have the potential for a common Russian-Ukrainian Russia and Ukraine. This is more important for Ukraine, 98

38 remembrance of Stalinism and a common coming to terms where Russian and Soviet narratives are deeply rooted in 99

39 with the Soviet past. There are good arguments against the the minds of many Ukrainian citizens, than for Russia. This 100

40 interpretation of Holodomor as a genocide. However, the concerns many Ukrainians in the Eastern and Southern 101

41 attempt of the Russian President of imposing a hegemonic parts of the country, while the national narrative supported 102

42 discourse on Ukraine is again an imperial message. by Ukrainians in the West and the centre fundamentally 103

43 distinguishes itself from the Russian one. So the issues of 104

44 4.2. "Great Patriotic War" or "Ukrainian war of liberation"? the national narratives and the historical memory are 105

45 disputed not only between Ukraine and Russia, but also 106

46 My last example is the interpretation of the Second inside Ukraine. In Russia there are also distinctions and 107

47 World War. In Russia the victory in the so-called "Great disagreements between imperial, national and liberal 108

48 Patriotic War" is the most important element of the col- memories and narratives, but to a lesser degree than in 109

49 lective memory and of national consciousness. So, official Ukraine. The national-imperial narrative seems to be 110

50 Russia as well as Russian society and Russian historians shared by a majority of Russians. 111

51 react harshly to all attempts of revisionism concerning this A short summary 112

52 topic. The legacy of the tsarist Empire and the Soviet Union is 113

53 In Ukraine, especially in its Western part, there were one of the crucial factors for an understanding and an 114

54 activities for a re-evaluation and rehabilitation of the Or- explanation of current affairs in the post-Soviet space. This 115

55 ganization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrai- is especially true for Ukraine and for Russian-Ukrainian 116

56 nian Insurgent army (UPA), both organizations having relations. It is undeniable that Ukraine and Russia have a 117

57 fought against the Soviet Union (Golczewski, 2011; Jilge, special relationship. They are closer entangled than other 118

58 2008). However, numerous members of these organiza- nations by the common religion (Orthodoxy), by a partially 119

59 tions collaborated with Nazi Germany, participated in the common East-Slavic culture, by long periods of a common 120

60 extermination of the East European Jews and committed history and parts of a common memory. Most Ukrainians 121

61 massacres among the Polish population of Volhynia. over centuries were parts of the Russian Empire and the 122

A. Kappeler / Journal of Eurasian Studies xxx (2014) 1-9

10 11 12

20 21 22

Russia-dominated Soviet Union. So, the Russian-Ukrainian relationship was and is still characterized by an obvious asymmetry, a hegemony of Russia over Ukraine.

This asymmetry is reflected in the competing discourses. Many Russians regard Ukraine as part of the Russian orbit and even of the Russian nation. Independent Ukraine tries to liberate itself from the Russian hegemony, while Russia wants to keep Ukraine in its own sphere of influence. Russia uses the Orthodox Church and the traditional dominance of the Russian language as instruments for its hegemonic policy. It is supported by a significant part of Ukrainians of Russian and of Ukrainian origin, who adhere to this view of a common Russia-led Orthodox East Slavic world. Not only Russian historians, but also politicians and even the Russian President try to impose the imperial narrative on Ukraine. Ukrainian historians and politicians use the Ukrainian language and the Ukrainian historical narrative with its national myths of liberty and its closeness to Europe in their campaigns against the Russian hegemony. The on-going Russian-Ukrainian "War of memories" is of special interest. Both sides use and abuse history as a political weapon, and the controversies about the heritage of Kievan Rus', the interpretation of Mazepa, the Holodomor and WW II are not only academic, but also political issues.

So history and memory matter. It is impossible to understand and to explain what is going on in Russia and the other post-Soviet states without taking into account the imperial heritage of the tsarist Empire and of the Soviet Union and its interpretations and remembrances. The ongoing struggle over hegemony in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus between Russia on the one hand and the European Union and the NATO on the other hand, is focused on Ukraine, the second state in Europe by territory. In 2013 Russia again exerted considerable pressure on Ukraine in order to keep Ukraine in its own strategic orbit and to prevent the integration of Ukraine into the European Union. The outcome of the struggle over Ukraine will have a decisive impact on the future development of the postSoviet space and of Eastern Europe.

2003,Miller, 1997,Szporluk,

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