European University Viadrina (Frankfurt/Oder)
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One of the biggest Soviet industrial centers, a city of more than a million people in southern Ukraine, Dnipropetrovsk (today Dnipro), was closed to foreigners beginning in 1959 because of the secret rocket production in the city. It was also considered ‘Brezhnev’s city’ because the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was born nearby and began his career there. How was nationality, cultural and language politics performed and perceived in Soviet Ukraine in the 1960-70s? How was ‘Soviet’ connected/bordered to ‘Ukrainian’ in official discourse? How did the socialist realist novel ‘The Cathedral’ by Oles’ Honchar became an ‘anti-Soviet’ text, and what did that mean for the biggest closed city in Soviet Ukraine?
The Maidan and the war in the Donbas are reshaping the symbolic landscape of large industrial cities in the southeast of Ukraine. The example of Dnipropetrovsk recently being renamed Dnipro illustrates these current developments, which are not limited to “decommunisation”. We see the removal of Soviet monuments and the renaming of streets, but also the emergence of new memorial sites and commemorative rituals dedicated to the dramatic events of recent years.