Fellow, Harvard University)
"Nativists vs. Westernizers. Problems of Culture Identity
in Ukrainian Literature of the 1990s"
January 18, Aleksandra Hnatiuk (Shklar Fellow, Harvard University)
spoke in the Petro Jacyk Program on the Study of Ukraine Seminar
Series (with co-sponsorship from the Canadian Institute of
Ukrainian Studies, Toronto Office) on Nativists vs. Westernizers:
Problems of Culture Identity in Ukrainian Literature in the
1990s. Dr. Hnatiuk introduced her talk by outlining the three
main cultural orientations prevalent in Ukraine today: 1)
European or pro-Western; 2) nativist or "pro-nation"; 3) pro-Eastern,
which most researchers and participants in the debate equate
with pro-Russian. She focussed her talk on the "between-East-and-West"
aspect of Ukraine's status and how this has affected the world
view of writers and their notions of cultural identity. Dr.
Hnatiuk concentrated on the minorum gentium--off-centre writers,
literary critics--and their reception of works by better-known
authors. According to Dr. Hnatiuk, the reactions of off-centre
writers were closely connected with the problems of the Europeanization
or Westernization of Ukrainian culture and the reconstruction
of Ukraine's cultural identity.
Hnatiuk's discussion of the nativist orientation showed that
its core arguments were over a hundred years old, echoing
the rift that had occurred a century earlier between "narodniks"
and "modernists." At that time, the issue of modernization
was very strongly linked to the "Europeanization" and "Westernization"
of Ukraine. She argued that it is not surprising that contemporary
Ukrainian intellectual and literary elites have resumed a
discussion that had been actively repressed. Their debates
became particularly intense in the late 1980s and early 1990s,
coinciding with attempts to reclaim and exonerate specific
cultural symbols that were formerly banned by the Soviet regime.
Literary life in Ukraine in the following years was injected
with an extreme dynamism, and young writers, as well as those
who were banned in Ukraine by censorship, were publishing
their works for the first time. In the course of just a few
years, several generations who had been opposed to the official
Soviet socialist cultture entered the literary stage. Although
it seemed improbable that the heated discussion about literature
could boil down to a couple of fundamental issues from the
past--namely, the juxtaposition of those in favour of modernization
with those in favour of traditionalism--Dr. Hnatiuk argued
that this in fact did happen. Modern Ukrainian intellectual
elites returned to the issues of modernization and Europeanization.
Hnatiuk provided her audience with a detailed explanation
of the development of the cultural debate in Ukraine, its
major players, and the effects that this discourse has had
on the development of a Ukrainian cultural identity. In her
analysis, she showed that the writers who played a central
role in this debate were treated by other participants in
the dialogue as if they were marginal. In fact, these "marginal
figures" have played a crucial role.