In This Review

Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine
Burden of Dreams: History and Identity in Post-Soviet Ukraine
By Catherine Wanner
Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998, 288 pp

For Ukraine to reinvent a national identity, it must reconfigure its cultural identity. Easier said than done, given the stubborn cultural residue of Soviet ways and attitudes, the many divisions within Ukrainian society, and the competition from denationalized, modern norms of pop culture. An anthropologist, Wanner is particularly sensitive to realities seen from the bottom up, namely, how the average person responds to the efforts by elites to mobilize collective historical memory and redirect cultural values in schools, public commemorations, and physical symbols. She tells the story through the concrete lives of specific individuals, not through the medium of statistics, making the story all the more engaging. Although fascinating, however, her analysis is also distressingly inconclusive -- which may, alas, parallel reality.