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Розділ: Новини

In a recent seminar at the Kennan

Institute, Frank Sysyn, Director of

the Peter Jacyk Centre for

Ukrainian Historical Research,

University of Alberta, and Sergei

Zhuk, currently a Title

VIII-Supported Research Scholar at

the Kennan Institute, discussed

the recently established

commission on the harmonization

Russian and Ukrainian textbooks.

January 30, 2003

Johnson's RussiaList

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Kennan Institute event summary

Harmonization of Russian and Ukrainian textbooks: A

new beginning or a return to a lamentable past?

Sysyn explained the historical background to the harmonization

movement, and noted that President Kuchma's creation of the joint

Russian-Ukrainian harmonization commission along with other

decisions stirred controversy in Ukraine. Zhuk provided background

regarding the paradoxes of Soviet and Russian historiography and

discussed the Russian view on harmonization.

Sysyn discussed the recent opposition to President Kuchma's

establishment of the harmonization commission. He explained that in

an open letter released to the public, the Ukrainian intelligentsia

argued that the decision to have a joint commission came out during

the so-called year of Ukraine in Russia, and that because it is

obvious this was a politically motivated decree, it is not the

appropriate basis for discussing textbooks. Opponents argued that

the heads of the commission would be the vice premiers of the two

countries, neither of whom were historians and therefore quite

incapable of dealing with history textbooks.

Sysyn stated that he is not fundamentally against the idea of a

harmonization process, however he is concerned about who is

carrying out the commission and when it is being done. He explained

that the current Ukraine-Polish commission on harmonization has

worked quite effectively.

Historians and scholars discuss and debate various topics, and while

there is not always agreement overall it seems to effectively be

moving forward.

Sysyn noted that the situation between Ukraineand Russia is very

different. Russiahas a government that has not fully accepted

Ukrainian independence and Russian scholars, in contrast to Polish

scholars, have only just begun to examine Ukrainian historical issues

seriously. In addition, Ukraineis "economically weak and politically

unstable, and it has a government whose authority is questionable to

say the least."

Finally, Sysyn concluded, there are many unresolved questions

within Ukrainian society. He explained that most societies in Europe

have codified national myths, however, in Ukraine, there are varied

and sometimes conflicting views of past, and therefore an internal

Ukrainian dialogue is needed.

Zhuk discussed trends in Russian historiography and Russian

textbooks. He explained that the prevailing view of provincialism

plagued early attempts to revise history textbooks. Zhuk noted that

the first, but highly unsuccessful, attempt to publish new textbooks

for schools in Russia took place in 1988. Subsequent mass

publications of various history textbooks created problems for the

centralized state education system that had always followed one

theoretical framework and one textbook. He continued by stating that

textbooks on Ukrainian history have tried to incorporate details of the

Ukrainian past, but many aspects of the Soviet legacy still exist in

history textbooks.

According to Zhuk, theoretical and professional debates over

center-province relations have complicated the recent efforts to

harmonize Russian-Ukrainian textbooks. He concluded that the

prevailing provincial view limits dialogue on the harmonization of

history textbooks, and "the apparent theoretical and professional

provincialism and isolation of the post-Soviet historians after the

collapse of communism combined with the new conditions of

nation-making will push them further in the direction of nationalism

and unfortunately, cultural provincialism."

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