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  • Nationalisierung der Religion: Russifizierungspolitik und ukrainische Nationsbildung, 1860–1920
  • Johannes Remy
Ricarda Vulpius, Nationalisierung der Religion: Russifizierungspolitik und ukrainische Nationsbildung, 1860–1920 [The Nationalization of Religion: Russification Policy and Ukrainian Nation-Building, 1860–1920]. 475 pp. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2005. ISBN 3447052759. €98.00.

In this monograph, Ricarda Vulpius researches the role of the Orthodox clergy in the contest between Russian and Ukrainian national identities in the late Russian empire and the revolutionary era. The project of an “all-Russian” nation included both the Little Russians and the Belorussians,1 even while some Ukrainophiles perceived their own nationality as fully separate from the Great Russians.2 During the period under discussion, many of the clergy in Ukraine did not identify exclusively with either the Russian or the Ukrainian nationality but held multiple identities that contained elements of both. The third contestant, Polish identity and the Polish claim to Ukraine, is left to the background in this study, which is understandable considering the subject group. Vulpius is well aware of the dangers facing a historian in the field of nationality studies in general and of the [End Page 977] Russian empire in particular. She attempts to avoid both one-sided extremes in which exclusive attention is paid either to the viewpoint of the government or to the subject nation under study. The author is well read in the most recent theories of nationalism and national identities, making use of the ideas of Benedict Anderson, Miroslav Hroch, Anthony D. Smith, and Adrian Hastings.3

The question of nationality in present-day Ukraine during the imperial period has been researched by several scholars.4 Vulpius rejects two scholarly opinions that she claims are now dominant: first, that the Orthodox clergy in what is now Ukraine was completely Russified; and, second, that the national conflict there was exclusively between Russians and Poles (409–10). While the first opinion may well be dominant, at least without the word “completely,”5 the author could have formulated the second in a less extreme [End Page 978] form: Ukrainophiles are sometimes underestimated rather than completely ignored as participants in the contest between national identities. Vulpius finds the role of Ukrainophiles in the local political landscape rather important and emphasizes that portions of the Orthodox clergy were contributors to and participants in the Ukrainian national project. Vulpius argues that the project of an all-Russian national identity was launched too late to prevent the development of a Ukrainian language and the identification of the local population with it. She claims that Ukrainian identity had by that time already become too strong to be supplanted by any “all-Russian” identity (409–14). In this, Vulpius differs from Alexei Miller, who emphasizes that the Russian government confronted the challenge of nationalism too early to win, before the industrialization that would have made assimilation into the Russian nationality more attractive to the population of what is now Ukraine.6 Although Vulpius agrees with Miller about the importance of the ineptitude of government policy for the failure of assimilation, she does not perceive the window of opportunity for assimilation that Miller argues existed in the last decades of the 19th century.

Vulpius’s interpretation of the causes of the outcome of the contest between national identities will hardly remain unchallenged. She does, however, back her argument with a detailed and source-based description of Ukrainophile activities among the Orthodox clergy. One of the most important achievements of this book is that it brings to light the existence of Ukrainian-minded clergy, a fact that has until now received rather little attention, at least in studies written outside Ukraine. Although the contribution of the clergy to the Ukrainian national movement in the Russian empire did not match that of their Greek Catholic counterparts in Austrian Galicia, it was nevertheless important and, regionally in the province of Podolia, even crucial.7

In the introductory chapters, Vulpius defends her use of the term “Russification” (26–30), which is controversial for its ambiguity.8 She does not find the term applicable to all the nationality policies of the imperial government in general, for any consistent policy on that scale did not exist. She finds the use...