National Identity and History Writing in Ukraine
By Taras Kuzio
Nationalities Papers, Vol. 34, No. 4 (2006)
Introduction: The writing of history has a direct influence upon national identities. This is especially the case when historical writing and interpretation are contested, as they are among the three Eastern Slavic peoples (Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians). Where contest- ation is high, as in the Ukrainian–Russian relationship since the disintegration of the USSR, the writing and interpretation of history also impact upon their domestic and foreign policies and, most notably, their inter-state relations. Russian elites and the majority of Russians do not look upon Ukraine and Belarus as “foreign” countries.
This article focuses on one aspect of the contestation in history writing between Ukraine and Russia; that of the medieval state of Kyiv Rus. The article surveys four different “schools” within Ukraine for the study of the medieval state of Kyiv Rus: Russophile (traditionally known as Russian imperial), Sovietophile (Soviet), Eastern Slavic, and Ukrainophile (Ukrainian National). The use of the term “school” to define different interpretations does not signify a coherent group of historians, but rather a broad set of ideas and interpretations.
Two of the four schools are the traditional Russophile and Sovietophile. The former emerged in the Tsarist empire and re-emerged in post-Soviet Russia. It also established a dominant position amongst Western historians of Russia. Sovietophile historiography existed primarily in the Soviet era, although allegiance to it has continued among radical left political parties in post-Soviet states. Within the former USSR, the Sovietophile school of history has only been reintroduced in Belarus by Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s since his election in 1994. The Sovietophile school has many aspects that make it similar to the Russophile. It prioritises Russia as the leading Eastern Slavic nation and also accepts that there was a transfer of power after the collapse of Kyiv Rus to Vladimir-Suzdal, Muscovy, and the Russian empire. This translatio of the Kyiv Rus legacy is a core concept of Russophile and Sovietophile historiography.