Scholars with expertise in research areas including Ukrainian Studies, Social and Political Science, Economics, Cultural Anthropology, Ethnology, Ecology, and Modern Languages including Psycholinguistics and Translation Studies are invited to submit essays for a new edited volume on the narratives of Ukrainian self-concept, independence, and nation-building during the thirty-year period since the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence in 1991. Living the Independence Dream: Ukraine and Ukrainians in Contemporary Socio-Political Context (2023) is intended to comprise the first chronologically coherent, theoretically integral, and culturally inclusive model of the formation of independent Ukrainian nation from 1991 to the present day—from the time when the centuries-old dream of independence became a largely challenging reality, unexpected even for the dreamers in many respects, to the present-day political, economic, and military struggle for independence and survival of Ukraine as a state. Given that several leading studies in the field, which appeared recently, have focused on individual historical events of the period and/or separate aspects of political events and social life in contemporary Ukraine (Riabchuk 2021; Yaremchuk 2021; Yermolenko 2020; Gumenyuk 2020; Bojcun 2020; Hryb 2020; Vynnytsky 2019), but no attempt has yet been made to take a holistic, multidisciplinary look at the thirty-year period of independence as an advance towards the realization of collective dreams, the editorial board especially welcome research of historical, ecological, economic, and socio-political narratives that have shaped and reshaped the independence dream of Ukrainians as a post-Soviet nation.
“What is the trick of our imagination that transforms this mundane crowd into the ideal ‘people,’ the bearer of all possible virtues, the object of worship, celebration, and sacrifice?” wonders political scientist Mykola Riabchuk in his essay “A Nationalist’s Lexicon [Three Essays on Identity] (Obieg, 2017, No.3). Member of the Ukrainian Helsinki group and MP in the post-Soviet period, a prisoner of conscience who spent 25 years in Soviet concentration camps, Levko Lukyanenko defines the idea of Ukraine as the most important ideological value (“From the khokhol to the Ukrainian: reflections,” 2018, p. 6). For many Ukrainians, 1991 became a crucial point when the ages lasting dream of their independence came true. The image of the future life in independent Ukraine was then almost identical to folklore images of Ukraine as the land of milk and honey. During the subsequent decades, however, their expectations of the bright future met everyday disappointments, anxiety, and uncertainness, and at a later period the war with a “brotherly” country and subsequent territory losses. The concepts of “independence,” “good neighbor,” and “happiness,” among others, have fallen apart, or been significantly shaken and reconsidered.
This volume will examine the dynamics of self-understanding of the Ukrainian society from 1991 until the present day. It aims first to incite a new debate about the agency and subjectiveness of Ukraine as independent state and secondly to analyze new messages, meanings, and values that have been formed in the minds of Ukrainian citizens during the last thirty years.
The research questions include, but are not limited to the following topic-specific criticism:
- The rise of independent Ukrainian state on the world map has led to changes in historical narratives. How have the changes in the non-Ukrainian and Ukrainian national narratives after the disintegration of the USSR impacted national/state identity in Ukraine?
- In the early 1990s, historical figures who had been depicted in the Soviet historiography in a negative way re-entered Ukrainian narrative and societal consciousness as national heroes, and the process of “monuments revision” started. What kind of the policy of memory should be applied to assure successful state-building dynamics in Ukraine?
- Since 1991, educational, scholarly, and media texts, as well as the entire semiotic space in Ukraine, got changed together with the value system and national/state identity. What is the character of the thirty-year process of changing Ukraine, i.e., a transformation from the Soviet obedience to authority, or total surrender to the state (when obedience would have become “both first and second nature,” as Joseph Brodsky put it (“Less Than One: Selected Essays,” 1987, p. 9) to the values of self-respect, sustainability, resilience, enrichment, and well-being?
- The economy of independent Ukraine in the thirty-year period has gone through significant swings of promise and relapse that have brought subsequent swings of happiness and despair to the general populace. What the Happiness Index, the Human Development Index, and other well-established international indices that attempt to allow for a ranking of countries, can tell us about the expectations and values of Ukrainians?
- Recently, the hype policy as a cultural model shows the signs of imposition and manipulation of people's consciousness in Ukraine, which is contrary to the fundamental desire of human being for individual freedom. Does the hype put under the risk certain values of Ukrainian national identity and make Ukrainians more vulnerable? What is a substantial difference between the national idea and the national dream, or a national fantasy? Why most of the Ukrainians have preferred to vote for a dream (phantasy) over a national idea?
- Commitment, identity, and dreams of independence are intertwined in the "system of mirrors" of national self-awareness, if we use the metaphor of the outstanding Ukrainian poetess of today Lina Kostenko from her lecture "The Humanitarian Aura of the Nation, or the Defect of the Main Mirror". What is “normality” versus “hybridity” with reference to “national identity,” if perceived as a dynamic and developing category?
- Ukraine is struggling to acquire its own agency, subjectiveness, and messages both in the real world and the historical past. How have the Ukrainians’ image of the “self” and their visions of nation and state changed in the past thirty years? How important is the feeling of (lack of) justice versus the Rule of Law for Ukrainians as a driving force of the revolution on granite, orange protests, and revolution of dignity?
- A lot of the world political leaders, for instance Christina Freeland PC MP, have expressed their personal reflection on a nation’s dream of independence, particularly as “the nightmare” of Vladimir Putin. How does the outer world view the Ukrainian ethos of resistance and the Ukrainian concept of dignity, its personalistic element and social dimension? What qualities of the national character in the post-colonial Ukrainian state have been considered as a social priority: the “noble” victimhood and civil passivity, or the self-rule and self-determination?
- The war for Ukrainian territorial integrity and survival as a state means for Europe shifting the “wall” further East. The societal evolution process that started three decades ago have led to the modernization of national symbols and revolutionary events in Ukraine. These are the processes that last for quite a long period of time. How inclusive has the semiosphere of Ukrainian dreams of independence become for the culture(s) of a particular nation or nations, regions, or ethnic groups living on the territory of Ukraine—as Ukrainian citizens and members of the post-Soviet Ukrainian political nation?
Essays should draw on appropriate Ukrainian Studies theoretical apparatus and, in addition to the above topics, conform either (1) to the model of a historical survey of certain concepts, values, and meanings comprising the semiosphere of Ukrainian societal life during the post-Soviet period, after the independence dream came true, or (2) to the model of a socio-political, economic, cultural, etc. microhistory of how specific concept(s), idea(s), or value(s) function in a certain period of time and interact with other concept(s), idea(s), and value(s) of Ukrainian citizens.
Following an initial selection process by the volume editorial board, authors of longlisted abstracts will be invited to submit a full-length essay by January 2022. Essays should range in length between 5,000 and 8,000 words. Following double-blind peer review and subsequent contributor revision, publication in print with Vernon Press should take place no later than Summer 2023.
Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words, excluding bibliography, to the editor (Prof Dr Lada Kolomiyets) at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org by June 15, 2021. The language of publication is English but abstracts in Ukrainian will also be considered. Any enquiries should be sent to the same address.