Tragic Past, Agreeable Heritage: Post-Soviet Intellectual Discussions on the Polish Legacy in Western Ukraine

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This study examines intellectual arguments present in the public debate on the difficult history of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands. It focuses primarily on discourses put forth by the Ukrainian (first and foremost, West Ukrainian) party of the dispute. As subordinated to the nation-centric historical accounts, but an increasingly important theme opened for multiple uses, the historical diversity of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands has become an object of intellectual reinterpretation in Western Ukraine since the 2000s. Framing this intellectual asset in terms of multicultural heritage (bahatokul’turna spadshchyna) has signaled the effort of the Ukrainian intellectuals to inscribe the local—and, at the same time, transnational—past to a coherent national narrative. On the way, however, it proved to be the case that the multicultural “universes”—in particular, the Polish one—resist the seamless inclusion into the fabric of Ukrainian-centric historical accounts due to unresolved memory conflicts rooted in the events of World War II and the post-war period. One of them is the Polish-Ukrainian controversy over interpretation of the anti-Polish action of 1943-44 in Volhynia and Galicia, whose turmoils demonstrate, among other things, that a lack of mutually compatible intellectual conceptualizations of the shared past may undermine the trustworthiness of gestures of political reconciliation. Nevertheless, opening up the topic of Polish-Ukrainian violence that was suppressed during the Soviet period allowed West Ukrainian memory actors to start talking about the multicultural heritage as a public good that deserves public attention. Nevertheless, in the author’s opinion, it is still unclear whether in the near future the narratives on the dismembered Galician polyethnicity will appeal to the cultural imagination of wider audiences or will instead remain an exclusive asset of elitist custodians.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science
  • History
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-76
JournalCarl Beck Papers
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

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