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  • Regionalism Without Regions: Re-conceptualizing Ukraine's Heterogeneity ed. by Ulrich Schmid and Oksana Myshlovska
  • Mykola Riabchuk (bio)
Ulrich Schmid and Oksana Myshlovska, eds. Regionalism Without Regions: Re-conceptualizing Ukraine's Heterogeneity. 460 pp. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2019. ISBN 978-963-7326-63-9.

The collaborative volume on Ukrainian regionalism edited by Ulrich Schmid and Oksana Myshlovska, with 22 contributors from several countries, stems from the large-scale research project "The Region, Nation and Beyond: A Transcultural and Interdisciplinary Reconceptualization of Ukraine." Carried out in 2011–15, it included two extensive nationwide sociological surveys (2013 and 2015) and a number of focus group discussions in various regions and social milieus (the full research data is accessible at

The primary goal of the project was to conceptualize regions as social rather than geographical constructs—that is to say, "relatively homogeneous patterns of attitudes, allegiances and identifications expressed by individuals living in a spatial unit" (6), and to "examine the social and cultural dynamics of Ukrainian regionalism" (18). The notion of "regionalism" is less clarified, even though is acknowledged as a "key factor in Ukrainian culture" (10). At some point we learn that it "refers to the principle that every nation-state is not a homogeneous entity but a legal abstraction that unites geographically, economically and culturally different zones" (9). In a more comprehensive way, the authors employ Catherine Wanner's and Viktor Yelensky's notion of regionalism as "a political principle premised on achieving a greater degree of political autonomy for a substate structure" (13). Essentially, this replicates the second part of the definition from Webster's dictionary (regionalism is a political ideology focusing on the "development of a political or social system based on one or more regions") but omits the crucial first part—"consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogeneous population."

The volume, however, deals much more comprehensively with the latter, identitarian aspect of regionalism (the "multifacetedness of regional identification") than with the former, political-ideological aspect. The eight chapters (besides the editors' introduction and Oksana Myshlovska's conclusion) explore, consecutively, Ukraine's regional identities, memories, languages, literary mediascapes, religion, and economy, and discuss, additionally, two topical issues related to social changes after the Euromaidan revolution (Yaroslav Hrytsak) and the "identity repertoire" of the revolution participants (Anna Chebotariova). The latter two chapters, though different in style, are a welcome addendum since the main part of the research and research-based writing was completed before the dramatic events of 2014 and therefore includes few references to the sea changes caused by the revolution and war.

During the research, 6,000 respondents in all Ukraine's administrative regions were asked about the strength of their identifications with various identity targets: city, country, region, Ukrainian, Russian, and "other" nationality, [End Page 167] Eastern Slavic community, Europe, family, gender, age generation, profession, religion, and social status. Additional questions were put to respondents about their economic situation, attitudes to risk, levels of trust and envy, and attitudes toward historical events and figures. The primary goal of the study was to examine the regionalization trends that were put in motion as Ukraine attained independence and its different parts "started to rediscover, to reimagine and formalize their historical pasts," cultural peculiarities, and economic interests (4). The process is placed in the broader context of the post-Soviet transition and seen as closely interconnected with two other developments—of simultaneous nationalization and transnationalization (5). The tragic events that unfolded since 2014 have shifted the question of Ukraine's regionalism far beyond the field of genuine theoretical knowledge into the heated realm of violent politics. This imbues the study, especially the two post-2014 chapters, with the intrinsic and perhaps unconscious desire to promote Ukraine's unity and downplay the seriousness and persistence of various internal cleavages.

Samuel Huntington, with his unfortunate theory of the "clash of civilizations" and perfunctory description of Ukraine as allegedly "divided between the Uniate nationalist Ukrainian-speaking west and the Orthodox Russian-speaking east" (1996, 138), appears here as a primary focus of criticism—a sinister instigator of innumerable journalistic clichés and propagandistic fakes. Indeed, "the simplified view of Ukraine...


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