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Commemorating the Future in Post-War Chernivtsi

Written by Svetlana Frunchak, this article apperead on the third issue of Vol. 24 of East European Politics & Societies in August 2010. 
 
Throughout the Second World War and the post-war period, the city of Chernivtsi was transformed from a multiethnic and borderland urban microcosm into a culturally uniform Soviet socialist city. As the Soviets finally took power in this onetime capital of a Hapsburg province in 1944, they not only sponsored further large-scale population transfers but also “repopulated” its history, creating a new urban myth of cultural uniformity. This article examines the connection between war commemoration in Chernivtsi in the era of post-war, state-sponsored anti-Semitism and the formation of collective memory and identities of the city’s post-war population. The images of homogeneously Ukrainian Chernivtsi and Bukovina were created through the art of monumental propaganda, promoting public remembrance of certain events and personalities while making sure that others were doomed to oblivion. Selective commemoration of the wartime events was an important tool of drawing the borders of Ukrainian national identity, making it exclusivist and ethnic-based. Through an investigation of the origins of the post-war collective memory in the region, this article addresses the problem of perceived discontinuity between all things Soviet and post-Soviet in Ukraine. It demonstrates that it is, on the contrary, the continuity between Soviet and post-Soviet eras that defines today’s dominant culture and state ideology in Ukraine and particularly in its borderlands.

 

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