The Un/Executed Renaissance : Ukrainian Soviet Modernism and Its Legacies

The Ukrainian culture of the 1920s proved to be not only the most effervescent and seminal creative period in Ukraine’s twentieth-century history, but also a distinct phenomenon in the landscapes of both modernism and Soviet culture. Ukrainian Soviet modernism enjoyed the intertwining of various aesthetic sensibilities, combining the exploration of selfhood and engagement with mass audiences, the making of urban literature and drawing upon rural culture, and the radical break with artistic conventions and continuity with (national) cultural traditions. At the same time, the Ukrainian culture of this period fermented at the intersection of several aspirations, primarily between the assertion of national culture long suppressed in the Russian Empire, participation in the shaping of the nascent Soviet project, and a more intensive dialogue with Western European cultures. This crisscross brought about a sui generis multifaceted culture. In the climate of increasing political pressure in the Soviet Union, this rich hybridity went hand in hand with a multi-layered yet fragmented self, which was caught between different projects of identity-in-the-making: communist/socialist, Soviet, Ukrainian, and European. This essay provides an innovative reading of the Ukrainian Soviet culture of the 1920s and its legacies in contemporary Ukrainian culture and politics.

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Essays of the Forum Transregional Studies

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