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Unmaking Imperial Russia

Unmaking Imperial Russia: Mykhailo Hrushevsky and the Writing of Ukrainian History

Serhii Plokhy
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 700
  • Book Info
    Unmaking Imperial Russia
    Book Description:

    From the eighteenth century until its collapse in 1917, Imperial Russia – as distinct from Muscovite Russia before it and Soviet Russia after it – officially held that the Russian nation consisted of three branches: Great Russian, Little Russian (Ukrainian), and White Russian (Belarusian). After the 1917 revolution, this view was discredited by many leading scholars, politicians, and cultural figures, but none were more intimately involved in the dismantling of the old imperial identity and its historical narrative than the eminent Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky (1866–1934).

    Hrushevsky took an active part in the work of Ukrainian scholarly, cultural, and political organizations and became the first head of the independent Ukrainian state in 1918. Serhii Plokhy'sUnmaking Imperial Russiaexamines Hrushevsky's construction of a new historical paradigm that brought about the nationalization of the Ukrainian past and established Ukrainian history as a separate field of study. By showing how the ‘all-Russian’ historical paradigm was challenged by the Ukrainian national project, Plokhy provides the indispensable background for understanding the current state of relations between Ukraine and Russia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8294-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    The eleventh edition of theEncyclopaedia Britannica, which appeared in print in 1911 and presented the pre–First World War compendium of Western knowledge about the world, introduced Kyiv (Kiev) to its readers as a ʹcity of Russia.ʹ¹ Some eighty years later, following the dissolution of the USSR, the fifteenth edition of theBritannica(as revised in 1993) referred to Kyiv not as a Russian city but as the capital of Ukraine.² The history of Kyiv was also treated quite differently in these two editions of theBritannica. If the authors of the eleventh edition claimed that ʹthe history of...


    • [Part 1 Introduction]
      (pp. 17-22)

      When Muscovite Russia was turned into a modern state through the efforts of Peter I, his associates and successors, it took on the name of the Russian Empire. Thus the modernization of Russia took place under an imperial banner, and that coexistence of two contradictory projects under the auspices of a single state could not but affect another modernizing project of the day – the creation of the modern Russian nation. Peterʹs appropriation of the name ʹemperorʹ for himself and ʹempireʹ for his country in 1721 brought a new name but not a new self-image to the Muscovite elites, who...

    • Chapter 1 The Historian as Nation-Builder
      (pp. 23-91)

      Hans Kohn, a Western pioneer in the study of East European nation-building, maintained that East European nationalisms differed profoundly from their West European counterparts because of their orientation toward the past. ʹNationalism in the West,ʹ wrote Kohn, ʹarose in an effort to build a nation in the political reality and the struggles of the present without too much sentimental regard for the past; nationalists in Central and Eastern Europe created often, out of the myths of the past and the dreams of the future, an ideal fatherland, closely linked with the past, devoid of any immediate connection with the present,...

    • Chapter 2 The Delimitation of the Past
      (pp. 92-152)

      In 1853, once the shock of the Revolution of 1848 and the ʹspring of the nationsʹ had receded in the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian historian and adviser to the imperial minister of education Josef Alexander Helfert undertook to formulate an official view of the meaning, role, and tasks of national history (National geschichte). In a pamphlet titledOn National History and Its Current State of Cultivation in Austria, he wrote: ʹIt is true that mankind is divided into a great number of tribes that differ as to language and colour. But according to our ideas, national history is not the...

    • Chapter 3 The Construction of a National Paradigm
      (pp. 153-212)

      Not unlike the old scheme attacked by Hrushevsky, his own outline of Ukrainian history was rooted in the historiographic tradition of the medieval and early modern chronicles. Indeed, the tradition of treating the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia as the successor to Kyivan Rusʹ was initiated by the compilers of the Hypatian Codex and the authors of the Galician-Volhynian Chronicle, a portion of the codex that was written at the end of the thirteenth century and covered events from 1201 to 1292.¹ This scheme was later employed by Ukrainian chroniclers of the early modern period, especially Feodosii Sofonovych,² and was followed and...


    • [Part 2 Introduction]
      (pp. 213-214)

      The Revolution of 1917 in the Russian Empire was a turning point in the unmaking of imperial Russia. It redefined relations between the all-Russian, Great Russian, and Ukrainian projects, as well as between dominant discourses on the one hand and historical paradigms and narratives on the other. Among the main victims of this restructuring was the all-Russian project, as the Bolsheviks – the new masters of the former Russian Empire – came to accept, not only in theory but also in practice, the division of the all-Russian nationality into three separate nations: Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian.

      As the Russian imperial...

    • Chapter 4 Negotiating with the Bolsheviks
      (pp. 215-280)

      In March 1924 Mykhailo Hrushevsky and his family returned to Kyiv from their period of emigration in Central Europe.¹ Seven years had passed since Hrushevskyʹs return to Kyiv from exile in Russia in March 1917. In retrospect, the difference between the two returns was enormous. If in 1917 Hrushevsky made his way to Kyiv to lead the Ukrainian Revolution, in 1924 he came back as a symbol of the defeat of the Ukrainian cause in that same revolution. From the very beginning, Hrushevskyʹs return to Ukraine was a matter of political contention. His former colleagues in the Ukrainian Party of...

    • Chapter 5 Revisiting the Revolution
      (pp. 281-345)

      What impact did the revolutionary and Soviet experience have on Mykhailo Hrushevsky as a historian? The question is best addressed by looking at the new volumes of his magnum opus, written in the 1920s.

      The Soviet-era volumes of theHistorycontinued Hrushevskyʹs discussion of the Khmelnytsky Uprising. Long before Hrushevsky, the Khmelnytsky era and its aftermath had been considered one of the most important periods in Ukrainian history. It was also endowed with particular significance for Hrushevsky. The Khmelnytsky Uprising featured prominently in all-Russian historiography, since it marked the point at which Ukrainian history reentered the imperial narrative, having virtually...

    • Chapter 6 Class versus Nation
      (pp. 346-414)

      For most of the 1920s, the Marxist historical narratives and the Ukrainian national narrative articulated by Mykhailo Hrushevsky existed side by side. Throughout the period, numerous conflicts and negotiations took place between these narratives. The rise of Marxist historical narratives in the USSR created a completely new situation with regard to competition between the Russian imperial, Russian national, and Ukrainian national narratives. Since the new Marxist historiography developed largely in conflict with the dominant Russian imperial narrative, it initially aligned itself with non-Russian historians in opposition to the old imperial school. From the very beginning, however, there were profound tensions...

  8. Conclusions
    (pp. 415-422)

    For more than a hundred years, from the last decades of the seventeenth century to the latter part of the eighteenth, the historical identity of educated Russian society took shape under the influence of the historical narrative composed by the monks of the Kyivan Cave Monastery and published for the first time in 1674 under the titleSynopsis. By the 1830s theSynopsishad been reissued more than a dozen times, becoming the most popular historical work in the pre-nineteenth-century Russian Empire. The image of the past presented by the author(s) of theSynopsiswas that of a common history...

  9. Appendix: Who Is Hiding the Last Volume of Hrushevskyʹs History?
    (pp. 423-430)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 431-546)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 547-588)
  12. Index
    (pp. 589-614)