Book highlight from “Zero Point Ukraine” by Olena Stiazhkina
The Part 1 of “Zero Point Ukraine” highlight from the chapter entitled “Unexpected outcome” considered the myth of the “Great Patriotic War” as the starting point for the new Russian empire. Part 2 focuses on Ukrainian resistance as the continuation of the national liberation struggle. If you continue visiting our Blog Page you’ll be able to read further three parts of the highlight.
Ukrainian resistance as the continuation of the national liberation struggle
However, tens of thousands of Western Ukrainians, convicted, imprisoned, and exiled in 1944–1952 “often had firm political and general convictions; they positioned themselves in the camps accordingly.” These firm convictions and the understanding that they were imprisoned in the name of and enemy state and not one of “their own” gave form—as for many Soviet captives—to a certain intention, a backbone in the captives: prisons and camps were perceived as a continuation of their previous struggle. Not confused about a presumed “injustice” or a possible “mistake of the system,” not atomized, not separated from each other by thoughts like “I am not guilty, but they may be,” not broken by unexpected and (as a number of convicts thought) undeserved arrest and tortures, the Ukrainian community (with a very few exceptions, having a fundamentally different psychological and mental attitude) had every opportunity to consider the objective of surviving in the GULAG or building their life in exile as a template for further struggle and victory. Understanding “why” and “who is the enemy” allowed the development and implementation of quite effective tactics and scenarios to counteract the repressive system. The role of national communities (Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians) in the GULAG uprisings of 1953–1954 is the best proof of the capacity and potential of the repressed Ukrainians, resources that were neither expected nor calculated on by Moscow.
“From the Ukrainian point of view, all those resistances were the continuation of the national liberation struggle,” said Stepan Semeniuk, a UPA insurgent, who participated in the Norilsk uprising. From the Ukrainian point of view, the fact that punishment of dissidents during the following decades was nationally targeted, meant that World War II for Ukraine was ongoing and would continue until Ukraine gained its independence. During the last decade of Stalin’s era and in the subsequent years, understanding of the ethnic character of punishment, why one was being punished and who the enemy was, created a foundation for the national solidarity of oppressed people, for practices of joint effort. This process manifested itself most vividly in the dissidents’ movement and in Crimean Tatars’ decades-long struggle to return home.
5 Oksana Kis, Ukrainky HULAHu: vyzhyty znachyt peremohty [Ukrainian women in GULAG: Survival means winning] (Lviv: Instytut narodoznavstva NAN Ukrainy, 2017), 73.
6 Oksana Kis defined the aims of such tactics while analyzing the fates of female Ukrainian prisoners of GULAG: “to overcome isolation and hunger for information (to prevent being lost among alien people); to conquer/master the place (to prevent being lost in the alien space); to overcome the monotony and ambiguity of time (to prevent being lost in the flow of time); to overcome emotional degeneration and despair (to prevent losing hope); to preserve the system of values (to prevent losing a moral compass); to maintain femininity and women’s practices (to remain a woman); to maintain one’s Ukrainian core (to stay Ukrainian).” Oksana Kis, Ukrainky HULAHu: vyzhyty znachyt peremohty [Ukrainian women in GULAG: Survival means winning] (Lviv: Instytut narodoznavstva NAN Ukrainy, 2017), 254–255.
7 Yurii Ferenchuk, Krov Kenhira [The blood of Kengir] (Chernivtsi: Bukrek, 2004); Yevhen Hrytsyak, Norylske povstannia [Norilsk uprising] (Kyiv: Vydavnytstvo imeni O. Telihy 1999); Lesia Bondaruk, “Z istorii Kenhirskoho povstannia” [From the history of Kengir uprising], Ukrainoznavstvo, no. 2 (2005); Lesia Bondaruk, “Ukrainskyi rukh oporu v radianskykh kontstaborakh u 40-kh—pershii polovyni 50-kh rokiv XX st.” [Ukrainian resistance movement in the Soviet concentration camps during the 1940s and first half of the 1950s] PhD diss. abstract (Lutsk, Lesya Ukrainka National University in Volyn 2011); Turganbek Allaniiazov, “Ukraintsi v osoblyvykh taborakh GULAG” [Ukrainians in the GULAG special camps], Ukrainskyi istorychnyi zhurnal, no. 1 (2018): 121–147.
8 “Yak ukraintsi peremohly stalinizm. 58 rokiv Norylskomu povstanniu” [How Ukrainians defeated Stalinism. 58th anniversary of Norilsk uprising], Istorychna pravda, May 31, 2011, https://www.istpravda.com.ua/digest/2011/05/31/41311/
9 On solidarity of oppressed nations see Yevhen Sverstiuk, “Dity riznykh narodiv” [Children of different nations] foreword in Inozemtsi pro ukrainskykh viazniv. Spohady [Foreigners on Ukrainian convicts. Recounts], сomp. Olena Holub (Kyiv: Smoloskyp, 2013); Yosyf Zisels, “Ukrainski ta yevreiski dysydenty: vid spilnoi borotby do samorealizatsii v natsionalnykh derzhavakh” [Ukrainian and Jewish dissidents: From joint struggle to self-fulfillment in their nation-states], Yehupets, 27 (2018): 3–38.
Coming up soon: the next section will focus on the new international situation after WWII.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Professor Dr. Olena Stiazhkina studied history at Donetsk National University. Since 2016 she is Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Ukrainian History in the second half of the XX century at the Institute of History of Ukraine at the National Academy of Science of Ukraine. Previously, she completed an internship at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM, Austria) and held a professorship at the Department of Slavs’ History at the Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University (Ukraine).
Olena Stiazhkina is a member of the Ukrainian Oral History Association, the Ukrainian Association of Research in Women’s History, and the PEN Club Ukraine. Her previous books include Women in the history of Ukrainian Culture in the Second Half of the 20th Century (Donetsk: Skhidny Vydavnychy Dim, 2002), Gender Relations in a Modern Society (Donetsk: Skhidny Vydavnychy Dim, 2006), A Person in the Soviet Province: Evolution of Failure (Donetsk: Noulidzh, 2013), Stigma of Occupation: Soviet Women of the 1940s in Self-Vision (Kyiv, Dukh I Litera). Her papers have been published by, among other outlets, Indiana Press, University of Tulsa, Istorychni i politologichni doslidzhennia, Nauka. Relihiya. Suspilstvo.
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ABOUT “UKRAINIAN VOICES” BOOK SERIES
Olena Stiazhkina’s book is Volume 10 in the “Ukrainian Voices” book series.
The “Ukrainian Voices” book series includes English- and German-language monographs, edited volumes, document collections and anthologies of articles authored and composed by Ukrainian politicians, intellectuals, activists, officials, researchers, entrepreneurs, artists, and diplomats.
The series aims to introduce Western and broader audiences to Ukrainian explorations and interpretations of historic and current domestic as well as international affairs.
The purpose of these books is to familiarise non-Ukrainian readers with how some prominent Ukrainians approach, research and assess their country’s development and position in the world. The series was founded in 2019, and the volumes are collected by Andreas Umland.
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