On a leafy street in the Ukrainian capital, just steps from the ornate building that houses the country’s parliament, sits what is perhaps the nation’s most powerful weapon in its protracted battle of ideas with Russia. There, tucked away in a once beautiful tsarist-era building, are the offices of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute. It is a tiny government agency with a massive mandate: to counter decades of Russian intellectual disinformation.
Officially, the institute’s mission is to help Ukraine overcome the legacy of totalitarianism endemic to former communist regimes. The goal is an essential one, since the Soviet Union rewrote the national history of its constituent parts during the decades of the Cold War. In doing so, it suppressed the national identities and subverted the rich cultures of the countries it dominated. Reclaiming the national narrative has therefore been a key priority in many post-Soviet states; in Poland, Romania, and elsewhere, a growing coalition of like-minded groups has taken up the mission of remembrance.
But Ukraine’s National Memory Institute is unique, because it is carrying out its work in a country that now finds itself once again at war with Russia. The past year and a
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