Thesis Eleven: Monash-initiated journal articles on contemporary Ukraine

Emeritus Professor David Roberts
Emeritus Professor David Roberts

In October 2016 Issue 136 (1) of the journal Thesis Eleven contained a special section on contemporary developments in Ukraine. Thesis Eleven is an international peer-reviewed interdisciplinary scholarly journal of the social sciences. One of the journal’s commissioning editors, Monash Emeritus Professor David Roberts, proposed that the journal publish a group of articles reflecting on contemporary developments in Ukraine in the context of the Euromaidan revolution and the subsequent Russo-Ukrainian war.

The outcome is a group of three articles by authors from the United Kingdom, Ukraine and Australia. The table of contents, together with abstracts of the articles and photos of the authors, are below:

Marko Pavlyshyn (Monash University), “Introduction: Special section on Ukraine” (49-53).

Dr Kataryna Wolczuk
Dr Kataryna Wolczuk

Kataryna Wolczuk (University of Birmingham), “Ukraine and Europe: Reshuffling the boundaries of order” (54-73). This article applies the concept of the boundary of order to examine the multi-faceted and complex relations between the EU and Ukraine. The focus is on geopolitical,institutional/legal and cultural boundaries in order to conceptualize the EU’s reluctant engagement with Ukraine. Yet, notwithstanding the EU’s refusal to offer Ukraine membership, it softened the legal boundary to placate Ukraine’s demand for inclusion. Furthermore, the cultural boundary has become blurred through references to Europe as a discursive benchmark of ‘normality’ in Ukraine, and Ukraine’s Europeanness as evidenced in its support for so-called European values. Overall, it is argued that different boundaries are subject to conflicting dynamics and that Russia has, inadvertently, contributed to a diminution of the boundaries between the EU and Ukraine.

Professor Marko Pavlyshyn
Professor Marko Pavlyshyn

Marko Pavlyshyn, “Literary history as provocation of national identity, national identity as provocation of literary history: The case of Ukraine” (74-89). Empirical research into political sentiments gives force to the proposition that, in the context of the 2013–14 Euromaidan and subsequent war, Ukrainian national identity, for most of its history predominantly ethno-cultural, has undergone changes justifying its qualification as ‘civic’. In this article I discuss the ethno-cultural orientation, conventional during the 19th and 20th centuries, of Ukrainian literary history, a scholarly genre that has a tradition of promoting the cause of Ukrainian nation-building; I identify contemporary examples of discourses in the literary sphere – literary works themselves, literary anthologies and the public statements and debates of writers – that embody or applaud civic identities akin to those in evidence on the Euromaidan; and I reflect upon the values, inclusive and multicultural, that a Ukrainian national literary history rhetorically in harmony with post-Euromaidan sentiment would evince.

Dr Volodymyr Kulyk
Dr Volodymyr Kulyk

Volodymyr Kulyk, “Language and identity in Ukraine after Euromaidan” (90-106). Language has traditionally been an important marker of Ukrainian identity which, due to a lack of independent statehood, has been ethnic rather than civic. The contradictory policies of the Soviet regime produced a large discrepancy between ethnocultural identity and language use. In independent Ukraine this discrepancy persisted, as increased identification with the Ukrainian nation was not accompanied by a commensurate increase in the use of the Ukrainian language, even though the latter was predominantly valued as a symbol of nationhood. The Euromaidan and the subsequent Russian aggression further detached language use from national identity, as many Russian speakers came to identify strongly with the inclusive Ukrainian nation without abandoning their accustomed language or even adding Ukrainian as an active part of their communicative repertoire. The post-Maidan leadership refrained from an active promotion of Ukrainian for fear of provoking alienation among Russian speakers, but this policy exacerbates the disadvantaged position of the titular language in various domains and causes discontent among those viewing it as a crucial component of national identity.