Iuliia Skubytska has received her PhD in History from the University of Pennsylvania in August 2018. Currently, Iuliia is working as a grant manager at a Ukrainian NGO Internews Ukraine and uses her time in Ukraine to start a new research. In it, she examines the transformation of the identity of a late Soviet intelligentsia woman residing in Kharkiv into a devoted Ukrainian patriot.
Defending the Right to Remember:
Eastern Ukrainians and the Politics of De-Communization
This paper is a deeply contextualized examination of the effect de-communization laws had on people living in Eastern Ukraine. This paper contends that decommunization laws have negatively affected interviewees’ attitudes to the Ukrainian state primarily because radical rejection of the Soviet political project was experienced as an intrusion into interviewees’ personal memories that shaped their personal identities. The new legislation strengthened the feeling of alienation from the Ukrainian political project among those who, as of 2015-2016, did not develop a sense of belonging to it. What was worse, however, is that people loyal to Ukraine started feeling that their identities did not fit into an image of a good citizen publicly portrayed by the country’s leadership. Often, this feeling developed into a fear of prosecution. Through an examination of the rhetorical devices my interviewees used to reflect on their experiences of being Ukrainian citizens, this paper analyzes how the policy of de-communization has contributed to a deepening divide between the country’s Eastern regions and central authorities, a trend that has already affected the outcome of the recent Presidential elections in the country and is likely to change the shape of Ukraine’s new parliament to be elected in July.