From Little Russia to Ukraine

Wednesday, 17 May 2017, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
The idea of Ukraine as a European nation was first formulated in the late 18th century within the Russian Empire. But to become a modern nation, Ukrainians had not only to secede from the Russian Empire, but also to break away from Poland, which, despite its loss of independence in the partitions (1772-1795), remained the dominant social, cultural and political force in the area inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians to the west of the Dnieper River. After 1795, the Poles strove and fought to build a modern European nation and state that would encompass the territory of old, pre-1772 Poland.

Thus, a fundamental conflict ensued between two nation-building projects, even though each aimed to create a modern-“European” -nation. That conflict (which included a Polish-Ukrainian war in 1918-1919) was influenced in important ways by Polish-Russian relations on the one hand and Ukrainian-Russian relations on the other. It was not settled until after World War II, which produced a new map of Ukraine and a new map of Poland, placing that new Poland in what would soon come to be known as  “the Soviet Bloc.” In the following decades, the Poles fought to become free from Moscow and the Communist system Moscow had imposed on them, and in that struggle they chose to support the Ukrainian cause and to view Ukrainians as an ally.

Roman Szporluk is Professor of Ukrainian History Emeritus at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Michigan. He is a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev, Ukraine. His research focuses on modern Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish history, and on Marxism and nationalism in Eastern Europe. He is the author of Formation of Modern Nations: Ukraine, Russia, Poland  — published in Ukrainian in Kyiv, 2013 (original title: Formuvannia modernykh natsiy: Ukraina, Rosiya, Pol’shcha). His publications further include: The Political Thought of T.G. MasarykCommunism and Nationalism: Karl Marx versus Friedrich ListRussia, Ukraine, and the Breakup of the Soviet Union; and In search of future time.
From May to June 2017 he will be a Visiting Fellow of IWM’s program “Ukraine in European Dialogue”.

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