The Platform Ukraine initiative continues to attract full audiences for their seminars. The topic of identity was discussed today from various angles.
Uilleam Blaсker, Lecturer in the Comparative Culture of Russia and Eastern Europe at UCL SSEES, said that in terms of variety of identities, Ukraine is very similar to many European countries, where people living in different parts of the country have different identities. Over the past years, the Government of Ukraine either had no cultural policy or was focusing on a Ukrainian-speaking identity, presenting it in an old-fashioned, rural-based folk culture, which didn’t appeal to many important parts of Ukrainian society, including some of the Russian-speaking population. It was clear that Maidan consisted of not only Ukrainian speakers, that there was a huge degree of Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Jews, Tatars, Armenians, Belorussians and many others. From Dr. Blaker’s point of view, Ukraine should now work hard to bridge the existing gap and support greater recognition of the diverse heritage of Ukraine. For example, Ukrainian literature should not just be about Shevchenko and Lesya Ukrainka, but include the works of prominent Ukrainian-born Tatars, Poles, and Jews etc. Ukraine should also reclaim its Russian language culture to counter the idea that Russian language culture belongs only to Russia. Examples here are Gogol from the past and Kurkov from today, and many other contemporary Ukrainian writers who choose to write in Russian language. Ukraine should also invest in promotion of its culture abroad; it has to modernise the way it is presented, should be more appealing and less centered on folk culture. Most importantly, Ukraine should support the development of new forms and not be stagnated as it is now.
Piotr Binder, from Poland, presented his research of the attitude of Poles toward Ukrainians. The research looks at the history, current events, and personal experiences. Historically, there are many events in Ukrainian-Polish relations that still have not been not discussed and still have not been not forgiven, and many generations reflect the burden of this generational memory. Current events haven’t shown a huge growth in Poles’ support, since they see the current situation as a threat to their own safety. Personal experiences are defined by a significant migration of Ukrainians into Poland. There are no official figures of how many Ukrainians actually live in Poland, but there were for example 200,000 officially registered Ukrainian workers in Poland in 2013. Piotr believes that there is a need to work on stereotypes, starting from those remaining from the WW2 and then those from the current events (Poles don’t understand much of the recent events in Ukraine).
Anna Shevchenko, Author of Ukraine Culture Smart! The Essential Guide of Customs and Culture, spoke of differences in Russian and Ukrainian mentalities. She said that the Russian mentality is built on vertical order, while Ukrainian mentality is based on ‘small-holding’ (same as some other nations in Europe, Lithuanians and Portuguese as an example). Ukrainians have an ability to self-organise and survive in small groups. This is what was particularly visible at Maidan – self organisation. Putin’s plans failed in Ukraine because the Ukrainian identity wasn’t understood.