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Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    David R. Marples(Author)

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In 2004, world attention was focused on Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution', which appeared to herald a new and promising era for independent Ukraine. Though such hopes proved over-optimistic there is no question that Ukraine has embarked on the process of nation building. But a new nation needs a national history and in this sphere, there has been sustained debate over the interpretations of the recent past. David R. Marples examines these narratives through a wide variety of books, scholarly and newspaper articles, and school textbooks, focusing on some of the most difficult events of the Stalin years in narratives from 1988 to 2005.His focus is on some of the most tragic events of the 20th century: the Famine of 1932-33, the consequences of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, integral nationalism and the war roles of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and the Ukrainian-Polish conflict of 1943-47. How has this new history been formed? To what extent have the villains of yesterday become the heroes of today? And how does the modern state view these events and to what extent to they define the national outlook of contemporary Ukraine?

David R. Marples teaches at the Department of History & Classics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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Book details

  • PDF | 363 pages
  • David R. Marples(Author)
  • Central European University Press; 2nd edition (March 1, 2009)
  • English
  • 6
  • History

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  • By Yaroslava Benko (Mandrivnyk) on July 1, 2010

    The full title of this monograph is Heroes and Villains: Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine. Author David R. Marples is a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta, Canada, and a Director of the Stasiuk Program for the Study of Contemporary Ukraine, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, since 1996.Professor Marple's numerous awards include: SSHRC Major Research Grant, 2009-2012 (History, Memory, and World War II in Belarus); University of Alberta Senate, Beyond These Halls Award, Individual-Faculty, 2009; Delta Khi Teaching Excellence Appreciation, 2009; University Cup, 2008; Faculty of Arts Undergraduate Teaching Award, 2008; The Philip Lawson Award for Excellence in Teaching, June 2007; Promoted to University Professor, September 2006; Killam Annual Professorship, 2005-06; Alberta Centennial Medal, 2005; Appointed Honorary Lieutenant Colonel, 6th Intelligence Division, Canadian Armed Forces, April 2005-2008, 2009-2012; Recipient of the 2003 J. Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research; SSHRC major research grant, 2003-2005; SSHRC major research grant, 1996-1999; McCalla Research Professorship, 1998-99; Faculty of Arts Research Prize for Full Professors, 1999; Shevchenko Gold Medal, Ukrainian Canadian Committee (national), 1999; and, Listed in Canadian Who's Who and The Dictionary of International Biography.Heroes and Villains is the twelfth book that Professor Marples has authored; it was published by Central European University Press in 2007. The cover design is by Sebastian Stachowski; the cover photography is by Lubomyr Markevych.The cover depicts a monument in Kyiv (made in 1947 by sculptor Vuchetich) to Russian General Nikolai Vatutin, a Soviet military commander during World War II who was born near Kursk, Russia in 1901 and who died near Kyiv, Ukraine in 1944. The inscription is in Ukrainian: 'To General Vatutin from the Ukrainian people.' Since other Soviet heroes all have inscriptions in Russian, Bohdan Fik, in his 1997 article, posits that the reason for the Ukrainian inscription may have been that he was killed by nationalist Ukrainians. Panteleimon Vasylevs'kyi, in a related article, agrees with the reason behind the assassination of Vatutin. According to the nationalist version of events that slowly took shape after Ukraine became independent, the hero of the war became regarded as an enemy of Ukrainians.Fik wrote in 1997 about what he perceived to be Vatutin's crimes against Ukrainian youth born from 1924 to 1926. According to Fik, Vatutin (at the time, a commander in the Red Army in charge of liberating Kyiv) dispatched 250,000 Ukrainian young men from the Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Kyiv, and Poltava regions to certain deaths in the cold waters of the Dnipro River. In the 1980s, some Moscow newspapers reported that those who could not swim were shot so that they "did not instinctively drown others when crossing the river at Kyiv." As a result, writes Fik, UPA sentenced Vatutin to death for crimes against the Ukrainian people--his cortege was attacked on the border of Rivne and Zhytomyr oblasts. Vatutin was wounded, had his leg amputated, and later died of gangrene in a hospital.Professor Marples writes that Vatutin's case is interesting because of the juxtaposition of two heroic narratives during the war: that of the Ukrainian nationalists and that of the Soviets. Apropos is the selection of that particular photo, too, since the narratives within are complemented throughout with not only heroes and villains, but also with contradictory characters, with evincing evidence, with viewpoints at variance, and with the manifest and the masked competing--opposite sides of a spectrum presented on a platter for digestion and deliberation.Heroes and Villains is, as Professor Serhy Yekelchyk (University of Victoria) states: "an innovative and courageous study of how postcommunist Ukraine is rewriting its Stalinist and wartime past by gradually but inconsistently substituting Soviet models with nationalist interpretations." This study is grounded in journalism and reading of Ukrainian scholarship from the last two decades and delves into issues such as the Great Famine of 1932-33 (the Holodomor), the role of the Ukrainian nationalist insurgents (OUN-UPA) during World War II, UPA's conflict with the Red Army and Soviet Security Forces, and the Ukrainian-Polish conflict.Dr. Yekelchyk is a Ukrainian-Canadian historian of Ukrainian and Russian history. He received his B.A. from the University of Kyiv and his M.A. from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In the early 1990s, he did research in Australia, then moved to Edmonton to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Alberta in 2000. He was a postdoctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor at the University of Michigan the following year. Since 2001, Dr. Yekelchyk has taught at the University of Victoria at both the Department of History, and is now Chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies. Much of Dr. Yekelchyk's recent wok focuses on Stalinist culture and political life.As Professor Marples states: "The efforts to reinterpret the events of the Second World War in order to create heroes out of 'villains' and to reexamine former heroes accordingly are incomplete. Many of the versions of the past are unclear and subjected frequently to new interpretations. Moreover, the war years are the most difficult in terms of historical memory because new narratives often coincide and clash with the results of new archival research. To date, despite a plethora of articles that seek to reshape the image of the OUN and the UPA, the impact of Soviet propaganda has still not been entirely eradicated."In the opening of the Preface, Professor Marples states that albeit independent Ukraine emerged in August, 1991 and was ratified by a national referendum in December, 1991, the roots of the modern state are to be found under Mikhail Gorbachev in the period of Perestroika with the emergence of civil society. It was at that time that Ukraine began the process of building a new nation: accepting existing borders and eventually agreeing to be a non-nuclear state with its own currency and constitution.As the title states and as Professor Marples expounds, Heroes and Villains examines the construction of a national history. Several interpretations of the past and several national histories are, arguably, existent. In Ukraine's case, the Soviet narrative is the one in place--albeit it's clearly obsolete and has been superseded. Nonetheless, that Soviet interpretation has remained influential in certain regions of Ukraine, particularly those of the south and the east--and, that Soviet interpretation continues to influence the way the residents of Ukraine perceive their state.The focus of this volume is limited to the 20th century and what Professor Marples considers to be the most formative period: 1928-1953 (the years under the leadership of Stalin and their impact on the Ukrainian SSR [as Ukraine was then termed] and independent Ukraine). That period of Ukraine's history represents it's most tragic and one of the most profoundly influential in forming contemporary thinking about the modern nation and its relationship to the past for it's during this period that the most tragic and dramatic experiences took place: the Holodomor (the Famine of 1932-33), the impact of the Nazi-Soviet Pact wherein Ukraine's western territories were incorporated into the USSR, the Purges; the German invasion; the national insurgency in the western regions during which bitter fighting resulted as conflicts between several players occurred: "the retreating Germans, the advancing Red Army, the local Polish population, and the local Ukrainians."Dr. Marples readily admits that a monograph concentrating on discourse and narratives about events, rather than the 'reality' of what actually occurred will face some criticism, and he address those concerns in the Preface.The backbone to this monograph is the question: 'how are these events portrayed in contemporary Ukraine?' Since the modern state seems predicated on the way it views its past, this is the raison d'être. Two common elements of Ukraine's association with her past are introduced: victimization and glorification. Professor Marples elaborates and articulates both sides, saying explicitly: 'one could argue, however.' Defining moments for modern Ukraine are postulated by Professor Marples as those which may have occurred in the Stalin period, but he also states that there were other events which could be fitted into the general pattern.In the Contents are included: a map of Ukraine; a 12-page Preface; two-pages of Acknowledgements; Chapter 1: Independent Ukraine Reviews the Past; Chapter 2: The Famine of 1932-33; Chapter 3: The OUN, 1929-43; Chapter 4: Making Heroes: the Early Days of OUN-UPA; Chapter 5: UPA's Conflict with the Red Army and Soviet Security Forces; Chapter 6: The Ukrainian-Polish Conflict; Chapter 7: Writing New History in Ukraine; Chapter 8: Assessments; Conclusion; a 22-page Bibliography (newspapers, journals, and periodicals); and, a 27-page Index.The Acknowledgements chapter recognizes that research was funded by a major grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Special thanks are given to the librarians and the staff of the Central Scientific Library, Kharkiv V.N. Karazin National University; the Kherson Honchar Oblast Archives; and the European Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. Materials and references were supplied by author and Professor Terry Martin (currently the Loeb associate professor of the social sciences at Harvard University, also affiliated with the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, his grandmother grew up in the Russian empire...lived through the revolution in 1917-19) and author and Professor Mark Von Hagen (formerly of Columbia University, he teaches Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian history at Arizona State University).Heroes and Villains is a meticulously prepared, objective observation of Ukraine's past in which opposing sides are presented in an unbiased manner utilizing scores of sources as the heroes and villains who created a national history in Ukraine are examined and discussed. Five stars plus for riveting reportage in an impartial, courageous study, which monitors journals, monographs, and the media, and offers a survey of school textbooks from 1987-88, while conveying both sides and providing analyses.Addendum: Readers, you're invited to visit each of my reviews--most of them have photos that I took in Ukraine (over 600)--you'll learn lots about Ukraine and Ukrainians. The image gallery shows smaller photos, which are out of sequence. The preferable way is to see each review through my profile page since photos that are germane to that particular book/VHS/DVD are posted there with notes and are in sequential order.To visit my reviews: click on my pseudonym, Mandrivnyk, to get to my profile page; click on the tab called review; scroll to the bottom of the section, and click on see all reviews; click on each title, and on the left-hand side, click on see all images. The thumbnail images at the top of the page show whether photos have notes; roll your mouse over the image to find notes posted.Also, you're invited to visit my Listmania lists, which have materials sorted by subject matter.

  • By Andrew Baldwin on March 16, 2014

    In this book, David Marples looks at how historians have dealt with some of the seminal events In Ukrainian history during the period that Joseph Stalin was the ruler of the Soviet Union, including the Famine of 1932-33, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the Ukrainian-Polish conflict in Western Ukraine and Eastern Poland. It is a quite different approach from standard works of history, where the historian makes his own judgments about what took place from competing narratives. Regardless of who is right or wrong, Mr. Marples points out, the big divergences in historical narratives are interesting in themselves, revealing how the regional, ethnic and generational divides in Ukraine tend to colour historical narratives.Although an interesting and novel approach, it does have the drawback that the same information is communicated again and again in different narratives, so even though Mr. Marples is a very good writer, it can be stiff going at times.Mr. Marples makes many excellent points in this history, but he sometimes pulls his punches, turning what should have been a statement into a question. For example, he notes that Stalin's letter to Kaganovich in August 1932, which many Ukrainian historians have taken as evidence of his bias against Ukrainians, actually reveals Stalin's paranoia about Poland and its intentions towards the Soviet Union, a paranoia that would manifest itself years later in the Katyn massacre of Polish officers. "If the Poles are taken into account as a factor in Stalin's thinking, then what impact does that have on the theory of the Famine as genocide?" The response, of course, is that it undermines it.On the issue of how many victims were claimed by the Ukrainian famine, Mr. Marples seems to waffle. He says that the Famine claimed as many or more victims as the Jewish Holocaust (p.304), which presumably means six million or more lives, but later he says: "At least 4 million starved to death in what was then the Ukrainian SSR." (See p. 302.) There is no attempt to justify these contradictory estimates, both of which are considerably higher than his colleague, John-Paul Himka, of from 2.5 to 3.5 million victims.Unlike some of the Ukrainian historians he discusses, Mr. Marples is not afraid to call the UPA assaults on Poles in Volhynia ethnic cleansing, and does not try to excuse those responsible as being "immature and angry men". He makes a strong case that the civil conflict that existed in Western Ukraine was largely the fault of the brutal Soviet repression, that backed away from the amnesties that they initially offered to Ukrainians who had fought in the UPA.This is a very good book. Although it will probably appeal more to a specialist than to a general reader looking for a backgrounder on 20th century Ukraine, a generalist reader who sticks with it will find much of value.


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