Accepted paper:

The east-west divide remade: public protest, nationalism and imagined futures in Ukraine


Julia Holdsworth (University of Hull)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the experiences of Russophone and Russophile populations in east and south Ukraine and considers the different ways that the ongoing divisions are imagined and the consequences for those who consider themselves as the ‘losers’ in the 2014 Ukrainian protests.

Paper long abstract:

This paper, based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Donetsk, an industrial city in Eastern Ukraine, discusses processes of nation building and state formation in Ukraine in light of recent protests and political changes. Ukraine is divided geographically into a broadly Russophile east and a Ukrainophile west. This split encompasses linguistic, political, ethnic and ideological elements which have continued to be deeply divisive. Since Ukraine gained independence from the USSR in 1991 many commentators have noted that the extent to which Ukraine is able to mould a common nation out of the people within its borders is crucial to its survival as a separate state. This is particularly problematic as Ukrainian nationalist policies have tended to centre on demonstrating their separateness from Russia (Hryn'iov, 1995) as Russia is, and has historically been, imagined as the most significant 'other' in the creation and maintenance of a Ukrainian nation. In this paper I draw on the 2014 events in Ukraine to elaborate two interlocking elements: the consequences for Russians and Russophiles living in an increasingly Ukrainianising state, and the consequences for Ukrainian nationalism of such a large and influential Russian presence. Through this I explore the tensions, coalescences and fragmentations that are once again being revealed and consider, in particular, the consequences for those who might be considered the 'losers' in this process: especially Russophile populations in eastern and southern Ukraine.

panel IP03
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