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Eighteenth-Century Studies 35.1 (2001) 67-69



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Forum: Memory and the Shaping of Ukrainian National Identity

Introduction

Taras Koznarsky


The papers of this Forum explore the formation of Ukrainian memory. Once the center of the medieval principalities of Kyivan Rus', later part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and then of the Russian Empire, Ukraine was incorporated into various conflicting historic and cultural schemes and narratives. Early modern Ukrainian identity was transformed from the late eighteenth century onward in connection with processes that helped shape the historic, ideological, and cultural contours of the Russian Empire. The Ukrainian intelligentsia that sought to develop an autonomous Ukrainian identity reinterpretated and reappropriated the past in order to create alternatives to dominant imperial schemes.

For the evolution of modern Ukrainian identity, the eighteenth century played a decisive role. It was a century of political defeats and disasters, which began with the Battle of Poltava (1709), the last realistic chance to establish a Ukrainian polity independent of Russia, namely the Cossack Hetmanate. It witnessed the abolition of the office of hetman (1764), the destruction of the Zaporozhion Sich by Russian Imperial troops (1775), and the transformation of the autonomous Hetmanate into Russian provinces (1783). Yet it was at this time that Ukrainian society and culture crystallised out of the stormy seventeenth century and evolved in a manner distinct from its Polish and Russian neighbors. Although the polity, society, and culture of eighteenth-century Ukraine were to be amalgamated into the emerging Russian imperial construct at the end of the century, [End Page 67] they served as both stimuli and models for the early nineteenth-century Ukrainian revival. All of this involved a complex process: a native tradition evolved at the same time as an overarching empire emerged to which Ukrainians made major contributions. One can see certain analogies (not pursued in these essays) in the relationship among Scotland, England, and the British Empire in this period.

Whereas, in political terms, the Ukrainian eighteenth century is quite short (1709-1783), in intellectual and cultural terms, it is quite long--divided by a caesura. During much of the early eighteenth-century, the polity, society, and cultural changes that had begun in the seventeenth century developed further. These included the Cossack revolts and the establishment of the Hetmanate, the formation of Cossack Ukraine led by a new elite and embodied in a new social structure, and the amalgamation of Byzantine Slavic Orthodoxy, on the one hand, and western Humanism, Renaissance, and baroque, on the other, into the specific Ukrainian or Cossack Baroque. From the middle of the eighteenth century, by contrast, the forming Russian imperial polity, society, and culture come to shape the paradigms for nineteenth-century Ukraine. The penetration of the Enlightenment, both directly as well as through the Russian imperial capital of St. Petersburg, where Ukrainians played important roles in intellectual and cultural life, transformed Ukraine and set the stage for the modern Ukrainian revival.

The papers presented here examine how various agents approached and fashioned the Ukrainian past according to their ideological ends and professional engagements. Zenon Kohut traces the origins of the "unity paradigm"--the notion of a common historic destiny of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples. First fashioned in the seventeenth century by the Kyivan Orthodox clergy, this notion was blended into post-annalistic Muscovite historiography in the eighteenth century and became the cornerstone of Russian imperial history and ideology through the influential works of Karamzin and Ustrialov in the first half of the nineteenth century. At the same time, Dr. Kohut outlines the development of an alternative Ukrainian historic paradigm epitomized by the anonymous polemic work from the early nineteenth century History ofthe Rus' People, which had a tremendous impact on Ukrainian romantic ideology, historiography, and literature.

Frank Sysyn's paper examines and contrasts two early modern Ukrainian historical projects. The first, undertaken by the Ukrainian Orthodox clergy in the early seventeenth century to buttress their position in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, focused on the recovery of ancient Kyiv, the great medieval city and Rus' political and religious center that had fallen into decline...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 67-69
Launched on MUSE
2001-10-01
Open Access
No
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