In This Review

Memory Crash: The Politics of History in and Around Ukraine, 1980s–2010s
Memory Crash: The Politics of History in and Around Ukraine, 1980s–2010s
By Georgiy Kasianov
Central European University Press, 2022, 420 pp

Kasianov’s nuanced and impartial chronicle of the politics of history in Ukraine considers two competing versions of that country’s national history: a “Soviet nostalgic” one that stressed continuity with the Soviet period and a nationalist one that emphasized Ukraine’s suffering at the hands of the Soviet government. This competition of historical memories became a grave obstacle to building a unified nation in Ukraine, where the different perceptions of the past sometimes worked to draw dividing lines between the country’s regions. The competition evolved into a confrontation and, after the uprising that unseated the Russian-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, gave rise to a forceful campaign to eradicate traces of the Soviet past, including the dismantling of Soviet monuments, the renaming of cities and towns, and the adoption of memory laws mandating “correct” assessments of historical events. The radical rejection of the Soviet past further alienated those constituencies that did not accept the Ukrainian ethnonationalist narrative and its heroes. The deepening divisions within Ukraine and repeated political crises made the country more vulnerable to Russia’s 2014 incursion, when Russia annexed Crimea and stoked a separatist insurgency in the eastern Donbas region. “The war over the past,” Kasianov writes, “can easily become the ideological basis for a real war.”