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The Transnational Paradigm of Historiography and Its Potential for Ukrainian History Philipp Ther The American historian Ronald Suny once wrote pointedly about the institutionalization of history in the nineteenth century: “History as a discipline helped to constitute the nation, even as the nation determined the categories in which history was written and the purposes it was to serve.”1 One need only mention the name of Mykhailo Hrushevsky to confirm the validity of this statement. He was not only the most important Ukrainian historian of the nineteenth century but also a preeminent nation-builder, like the Czech historian Franti≥ek Palacký.2 Hrushevsky ’s uniqueness in the history and historiography of Ukraine is based on a structural phenomenon. Building a nation within the framework of an empire required the construction of a national history that laid claim to a particular territory and people. This task was especially difficult in the Ukrainian lands, where in the nineteenth century there was neither an uninterrupted tradition of statehood nor an established high culture with a standardized language. By general European standards , this was not an exceptional situation. The parallel with the Czech national movement has already been mentioned, but there were also similarities with the Croatian and Lithuanian movements, as well as with some West European national movements, such as the Catalonian.3 Unlike these “small” European nations, as defined by Hroch, present -day Ukraine extends across a very large and diverse territory and was ruled by various empires and nation-states. These multiple contexts make it difficult to write a compact history of Ukraine on the model of a history of the Czech lands, which, after all, have a fairly continuous history within one empire. However, this diversity has attracted Western historians, who have no personal or family links to Ukraine. Renowned specialists on Ukraine such as Andreas Kappeler and Mark von Hagen began their careers as students of the Russian Empire, while others, Ukrajna II:Ideologies minta 10/21/08 5:09 PM Page 81 such as the present author, came to study Ukraine after an initial concentration on the Habsburg Empire and Poland. Furthermore, Ukraine’s diverse history makes it a highly interesting case for the study of processes such as nation-building, religion and nationalism, language standardization , empire, and emancipation. What makes Ukraine so interesting in this respect is the simultaneous existence of several national and religious movements and empires or, to be even more general, cultures and societies. That is why we have termed Ukraine a “laboratory” in the title of this collection. As Georgiy Kasianov and Andreas Kappeler show in this volume, the independence of Ukraine in 1991 has created a new (and old) trend— the nationalization of its history. Understandably enough, political elites encourage this trend in the hope that citizens will identify themselves with Ukraine as a nation-state. This has also been a trend in the newly independent or fully sovereign countries of East Central Europe.4 But should historians still act like nineteenth-century nation-builders? How does this influence the academic quality of their work, and does it really help their countries of origin to become strong nation-states? Attempts to nationalize history in the former socialist countries contrast with recent developments in the historiography of the older members of the European Union (EU). In Germany and France especially, there is a lively debate on how to overcome the national framing of historiography . That debate on “transnational history” and its potential significance for Ukrainian historiography is the main subject of the present article. But the Ukrainian case might also influence how historians of Western and Central Europe develop their own historiography and the transnational paradigm. Moreover, the case of Ukraine might also be interesting for American historians and their debate about transnational history, where the imperial past of Europe, or Eastern Europe in general , has been strangely absent. Another issue is the conceptualization of European history, and whether and how Ukraine is included in it. Unfortunately, politicians, intellectuals, and most recent master narratives of European history often apply the present political map of the European Union to the past. In many cases this leads to the exclusion of Ukraine, which is assigned to a post-Soviet space or a Russian sphere of dominance. Transnational history can reveal Ukraine’s past links with its European neighbors and thus potentially make an important impact by encouraging Western historians to understand Ukraine as a component of European history. Moreover, a transnational approach might more adequately...


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