From ‘Cultural Rescue’ in the Chornobyl Zone to Historic Preservation: The Crisis of Identity and Cultural Heritage Policy in Post-Soviet Ukraine
For nearly a millennium the territory and people of Ukraine were subjects of empires from east and west, broken only by brief periods of highly –contested independence and statehood in the mid-17th century and in the immediate aftermath of World War I. For more than 300 years much of the country was under the domination and colonial control of the Russian Empire; in the 20th century it was brutally brought into and forcefully subdued within the Soviet Union. With the collapse of the USSR in 1991 Ukraine was among the first of its member republics to declare independence.
For centuries the Ukrainian lands were cultural battlegrounds; its people struggled, with various degrees of success and failure, to maintain their cultural identity separate from their colonial masters. The struggle has intensified since independence, as the Russian/Soviet and Ukrainian cultural identities vie for dominance. To a large extent the official government policy towards cultural heritage and identity has wavered from one extreme to the other, but can at best be described as ambivalent; at worst as destructive.
Myron Stachiw will discuss his observations and experiences in Ukraine with cultural heritage issues over the past 24 years, ranging from museums to ethnographic research in the Chornobyl Zone to the state of historic preservation in contemporary Ukraine.