Nation Building, History Writing and Competition over the Legacy of Kyiv Rus in Ukraine
By Taras Kuzio
Nationalities Papers, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2005)
Introduction: This article surveys the history of Kyiv Rus within the realm of nation building, identity and historical myths. It argues that Ukraine’s elites believe that Western, Russian and Soviet schools of history on Kyiv Rus (and Ukraine) are incompatible with nation and state building.
Two schools—Ukrainophile and East Slavic—compete within Ukraine. Nevertheless, the former has been promoted as the dominant school by ruling elites, many of whom date from the Soviet Ukrainian SSR and might personally favour the East Slavic framework. As Stepanenko states, Hrushevsky “is factually theorizing the most convincing version of Ukrainian history.”
This article therefore shows how the elites have concluded that the Ukrainophile school is more compatible with post-Soviet Ukrainian nation building. This factor is of interest to scholars because the Ukrainophile school was, and in some cases still is, defined as “nationalist” (i.e. in effect, unscholarly) by Western and Russian historians.
The article is divided into two sections. The first provides a theoretical and comparative overview of historical myths and nation building within studies of nation- alism in political science, anthropology and postcolonialism studies. It then discusses the competition between the Ukrainophile and East Slavic as a not untypical postmodernist phenomenon.
The second section discusses how the Ukrainophile view of the Kyiv Rus legacy is being promoted and contested by the East Slavic alternative. This alternative is surveyed within education, the security forces, symbols, monuments and warding off territorial claims by neighbours.