Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine

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Ukraine is the largest new state to appear on the map of Europe this century. With a population of more than 50 million people and a territory larger than France, the new Ukrainian state faces many challenges, not least of which is to forge a national identity after years of Soviet rule. Burden of Dreams examines daily life in Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine, showing why Ukrainian nationalism and its program of Ukrainianization have appealed to the largest Russian diaspora and to millions of Russified Ukrainians. Focusing on schools, festivals, commemorative ceremonies, and monuments, Catherine Wanner shows how Soviet-created narratives have been recast to reflect a post-Soviet Ukrainocentric perspective. In the process, we see how new histories are understood and acted upon. This reveals regional cleavages and the resilience of cultural differences produced by the Soviet regime. For some people, the system they criticized yesterday is the one they long for today. The struggle to remember or to forget is particularly intense in post-Soviet societies. Burden of Dreams is especially valuable for showing us the monumental task facing a Ukrainian state that is seeking to craft cultural solidarity after years of Soviet rule.