Writing the history of Ukrainian culture before, under, and after communism

by Serhy Yekelchyk

Students of nationalism have spilled much ink discussing the codification of a modern national culture by patriotic intellectuals as one of the main components of nation-building. Ernest Gellner has proposed that nationalists create modern high cultures for their nations by selecting and developing certain components of folk tradition. Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm analyzed the cultural mechanisms involved in the ‘invention’ of modern nations – traditions, museums, novels, newspapers, etc. Ukrainian specialists, like historians elsewhere, have published works applying these conceptual models to their country’s case. Yet they, and students of nationalism in general, have focused on social practices, such as the transformation of a peasant costume into a national symbol, the use of ancient first names or even the spread of reading rooms throughout the countryside. National cultures and national identities, however, have also been constructed discursively, and never in more coherent form than in histories of a national culture.

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