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Post-Soviet Ukraine: from an "Unexpected Nation" to the Unwarranted War

Class at Faculty of Social Sciences |


The course covers post-Soviet developments in Ukraine that made a way from an “unexpected nation” (Andrew Wilson), which was reckoned by many observers a temporal historical contingency doomed to disappear, to a strong and resilient polity successfully resisting the Russian aggression. It is aimed to critically address the existing interpretive frameworks of Ukraine’s recent history, among them: the transitology / democratization paradigm (Ukraine as a (poor) democratic student with largely dysfunctional weak institutions); patronalism (Ukraine as a captured state ruled by oligarchic elites); the civilizational approach (Ukraine as a “cleft country” (Samuel Huntington) / battleground of the West and Russia / Eurasia); nationalism studies (Ukraine as an alleged site of emergent aggressive nationalism). As an alternative to those largely misleading and one-sided interpretations, a more nuanced contemplation of developments in several important spheres is suggested, with a special emphasis on convergences and divergencies from the neighboring states, which defines the idiosyncrasy of the Ukrainian national project.

The course is structured through the main domains / topics of strategic importance, where the transformations of the political system via regular changes of power-holders set the stage, and economic developments create the preconditions for a changing social structure. The country’s socio-demographic profile and its regional diversity would be discussed in terms of the fluid national identity of the citizens, on the one hand, and the transformations of language and memory policies of the state, on the other. The last part of the course is dedicated to the Russian war and Ukrainian resistance, where several aspects will be covered: the Maidan of 2013-14 as a trigger; the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the Russian invasion; post-Maidan reforms and the EU integration; the 2019 elections as a political landslide; the full-scale invasion of 2022; war-induced forced migration and IDPs.

The course has an interdisciplinary character combining theories and methodologies from contemporary history and social sciences. It provides a deeper context to the current situation in Ukraine disclosing the roots of the war and the patterns of resistance, and discussing the specificity of Ukraine’s national project in the regional and European context.