About Soviet Ukraine

“To Reflect the History of the Party as it was” : The Ukrainian Branch of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Critical Times (1945–1949)

in Official History in Eastern Europe (Eds. : Korine Amacher, Andrii Portnov and Viktoriia Serhiienko),

Fibre – Deutsches Historisches Institut, Osnabrück – Warsawa, 2020, pp. 65-86.

Info about the book.

“People say of us: because you work in the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute that means you are on the gravy train and that you do not do anything”. This paper aims to reconsider the Kyïv Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute (IMEL) as an institution defined both by its function and the way in which it functioned. It is focused on the crucial 1945–9 period. These five years encompass the Institute’s recovery from the war and the tightening of Stalin’s rule in the form of Zhdanovism. This short period had a particular resonance in Ukraine in redefining the entanglement of national and Soviet identities especially in the field of history. This paper will first tackle historiographical questions, shedding light both on the working methods of historians and on the conceptual debates between them. Then the focus will shift to their activities, from writing books and reviews to participating in social agitation. Finally, the staff of the institute will be studied because the role of individual characters and their career interests appears to be as important as their ideological motives. This paper will also shed light on the major crisis faced by the Kyïv IMEL during these years, a crisis which obliged the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine to intervene, with the personal involvement of Lazar’ Kaganovich and Nikita Khrushchev.

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Constructing a Revolutionary State. The Example of Soviet Ukraine in Early 1919

slides of the presentation here.

The Ukrainian Experiment: State-Building in Practices (1917–1922),

Workshop at the German Historical Institute in Paris, 12.12.17

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Commemorating an Event That Never Occurred: Russia’s October in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s

Text here

in Jean-François Fayet, Valérie Gorin and Stefanie Prezioso (ed),

Echoes of October International Commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution 1918–1990,

Lawrence & Wishart, London, 2017.

In Ukraine, the Bolsheviks faced a real challenge in promoting their revolution in the 1920s. As the Party History journal wrote in its first issue in 1922: ‘There was no October in Ukraine in the real meaning of the word’ for the main events occurred in Russia. Thus there was a pressing need to legitimate Bolsheviks’ power once the Civil War ended in 1921. They could not avoid using October, as it was the central motif in the new power’s mythology throughout the Soviet Union. However, on the other hand, they also had to carefully consider how to make this a date both politically and nationally appropriate for Ukrainians, and how to make it a popular Ukrainian holiday.

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Making Revolutionary Proletarians out of Ukrainian Peasants : Bolsheviks’ Implementation of Class Struggle in the Countryside in 1919

at Historical Materialism’s Tenth Annual Conference « Making the World Working Class » (7-10 November 2013, SOAS, London)

Between February and April 1919, tens of agricultural communes (kommuny) are created in the newly conquered Kharkov region. With the support of the bolsheviks’ party, communes became forms of political and social mobilization of the lowest class of the rural society. Landless peasants and day-laborers viewed themselves as proletarians, discussed endlessly about the contribution of their communes to a socialist economy yet to be built or about the revolution in Germany. Hence they showed their willingness to be a part of the great workers’ uprising taking place in Europe then. These first communes were swept away by the advance of the white army within a few months and the coming back of the Reds in 1920 did not bring a new bloom of communes. Both Soviet and western historiography assert that the “communards” are uprooted or outcast, and since 1991 the communes’ rejection by the majority of peasants is unanimously presented as another proof of the failure of the bolsheviks’ implementation of class struggle in the countryside. I would like to challenge this statement on the basis of archival material giving some insight about poor peasants’ self-consciousness.

Some slides on the topic here.