On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. The war was legitimized by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin’s use of history and memory: Putin both denied the (historical) existence of a Ukrainian state, as well as expressed a wish for a renewed Russian Empire, including both Ukraine and Belarus. In the weeks ... (Show more)
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. The war was legitimized by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin’s use of history and memory: Putin both denied the (historical) existence of a Ukrainian state, as well as expressed a wish for a renewed Russian Empire, including both Ukraine and Belarus. In the weeks that followed, many aspects of the contested history of the region were invoked to make sense of the war. Analogies were drawn between the arrest of one of the best known survivors of the Leningrad Siege in Moscow, and the bombing of the site where the massacre of Babyn Yar took place led to the recalling the horrors of the Holocaust.
However, the man-made famine, displacement and violence inflicted by Moscow upon Soviet Ukraine in 1932–33, known as the Holodomor, is perhaps the most recalled and widely referenced analogy.
During the Soviet period, existence of this man-made famine was denied, while the heroic history of the Great Patriotic War prevailed over all other historical narratives. As a result, there was no space to engage with the famine, nor was it taught in schools (Kasianov 2014). This changed significantly after Ukrainian independence in 1991. Since then, the famine has become a central aspect in the national narrative of an independent Ukraine: featuring in films, the Ukrainian curriculum, and since 2006 officially recognized as a genocide by the Ukrainian state (Vsetecka 2021: 249).
This paper seeks to analyse different ways of teaching the Holodomor since the fall of the Soviet Union, with a particular focus on how a victim-perpetrator narratives and identities have developed. This paper will draw a comparison between ‘classic’ teaching material–school books–and ‘popular’ and informal teaching material (Lloyd Yero 2020), such as films and museum exhibitions. The school books can be viewed as a direct portrayal of both the Russian and Ukrainian state’s view on this particular history, and showcase how this narrative is taught in their schools. Films and museum exhibits, increasingly relied on in educational settings, will illuminate how interpretations of victimhood and perpetratorship are bolstered as well as nuanced in the cultural memory of the Holodomor. (Show less)