ISSUE 2-2009
Богдана Костюк
Геназдь Саганович Михаил Видейко
Тарас Шульга
Grzegorz Motyka Petr Vagner
Владимир Воронов
Pavel Vitek

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Petr Vagner | Historian, the Czech Republic | Issue 2, 2009

Each nation has brought with itself several problematic topics having their roots in history. Each nation handles these historical themes in a different way. Observing different national approaches to their history we can create, more or less, three groups of nations with different attitudes to own history.

Nations belonging to the first group have only minimum problems with their history and historical events are first and foremost object of historical surveys and discussions. These debates can be often very heated but they practically do not have any impact on social consciousness and political situation in country. This group consists predominately of nations which are, due to their continuous and autonomous development, certain in their history and first of all do not have any problems with historical embedding their statehood. Speaking about Europe most nations from Western and North Europe belongs to this group and as well Russia.

Second group is composed by nations for which some moments of their history, particulary a contemporary period, can be object of serious discussion having sometimes possible political impact. However, such impact does not have a fatal outgrowth on politics in long-term perspective.

Let´s give in this context an example of internal and also external discussion about fate of Sudeten Germans after WWII in former Czechoslovakia and later in the Czech Republic. During first half of 90´s of XXth century this topic could sway electoral preferences of relatively important group of people, particulary in Czech borderland. Only using words like expulsion or resettlement of Sudeten Germans was then able to divide Czechs in different politically coloured groups standing face to face.

Certainty of these states in history is strong enough not to doubt about own statehood. To this group we can assign most Central European states.

Finally, there is third group of nations whose problems with own history represent a painful burden in their current political and social development. Certainty in history of these nations is not too high yet. This is, primarily, caused by fact that their statehood was disrupted. At the same time, for different reasons, process of formation of modern nation during XIXth century was not finished successfully.

These nations managed to found their own states, often very early, but later they were not capable to preserve these formations. Their states were destroyed by stronger rivals or were divided among their neighbours. A nation as such had a lot of problems to keep its indentity. This group is represented by states which were part of tsarist Russia and later of U.S.S.R.

The occasion to reestablish own states emerged after fall of tsarist empire. Attempts to do it were accomplished but new states did not last too long. Tsarist regime was changed by Soviet regime which initially created illusion of independent development of nations in frame of U.S.S.R. Part of national elites accepted this illusion and this fact complicated and is complicating proccess of true emancipation these nations and states until today.

New chance for these nations emerged after fall of U.S.S.R. Several of former Soviet republics used their chance very quickly (Baltic states) others, on the contrary, are facing substantial problems with their independence every day. An array of current problems which is necessary to solve is very closely linked with strong impact of history on situation in newly founded states. Ukraine is a very typical representative of this complicated state of matters.

Strong influence of history in today´s Ukraine is mainly affected by two substantial causes. Firstly, Ukraine is going through a period of emergence and confirmation its statehood. It means through period when development of each nation and its statehood is very strongly influenced by history and this as such is very closely connected with politics. Similar development was typical for national revival in Central Europe of XIXth century and creating new states on the same place after Great War.

Secondly, inhabitants of today´s Ukraine territory, who are called Ukrainians, are consisted of different groups of people whose ancestors lived in first half of XXth century and several centuries ago in different states. These groups brought with them in common newly created state different cultural, political, social, historical and religious traditions. Ukraine has not had time yet to melt these groups in entity having similar wishes and targets at least.

Particulary second point has caused that some groups of Ukrainians have problems with new Ukrainian state in shape in which it exists. Part of them regret fall of U.S.S.R, others find difficult to accept the end of building of communism with its „famous“ trust in upcoming day and in opposite others do not have any problem either with independent Ukraine or market economy.

These and other circumstances are creating situation when history and historical events are not only object of discussion among specialists or people interested in such topics and they become the burdens strongly affecting climate in whole society. A lot of historical themes have potential to divide Ukrainian society however observer from outside could find it strange.

Let´s take into consideration only one example for all others. After moment of final truth when Polish society got clear evidences about crimes commited by Soviet communist regime in Katyn we could hardly find in Poland anybody who would defend Soviet version of events. This tragedy for Poland has considerable consolidating potential, whereas, in Ukraine, facing crimes much more horrible, we cannot find similar stance. There are specialists or political parties refusing such evident crime and each attempt to explain great famine in Soviet Ukraine 1932-1933 as holodomor used to be cause of tension in politics and society. However, this situation can be understandible and maybe explainable considering remarks made above such state of things is not standard and asks remedy.

Therefore originated project which is going to excavate historical burdens in contemporary Ukrainian society. It can be only a small contrribution to solution of problems which Ukraine is facing. Saying „Historia magistra vitæ“ can have its own value for behaviour human beings but it is impossible to lead nation forward seeing mainly in hindsight. Therefore such project can have only limited importance nevertheless it need not be useless.

Heading to the old question „what shall we do“ it is possible to make an effort to collect all „suspicious“ events in Ukrainian history, try to find and to explain their explosive potential and consequently to offer way how they could be managed. Of course, it would not be wise to assume that in this way it could be possible to remove Ukrainian problems with history as political matter but it is possible to pretend to start discussion leading, slowly but surely, to the moment when history leaves only history.

More information about project see in section Interview

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Grzegorz Motyka
Владимир Воронов
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