Delegitimizing the Communist Past and Building a New Sense of Community: The Politics of Transitional Justice and Memory in Ukraine

In: International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity
Oksana Myshlovska
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This article studies the way in which the crimes of the communist regime have been dealt with since the late Soviet period, and the way the legacies of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) have been subject to reevaluation. During the Soviet period, policies such as the rehabilitation of victims of mass repression were initiated from above, while the documentation of human rights violations and revelations of mass repressions and death by hunger were undertaken by the dissident movement from below. Since the late perestroika period, the focus on the crimes of the communist regime has been used by the opposition in Ukraine in the struggle for the restitution of group rights. Affirmative action concerning the Ukrainian language, culture and history was seen as the restoration of historical justice. This resulted most recently in the adoption of so-called ‘decommunization’ laws, which has been a controversial and contested issue in Ukraine. The article discusses the factors that shaped the way Ukraine has handled the communist past and constructed new narratives, and reflects on the reason why a ‘politics of regret’ has not resonated yet with political actors involved in the state legitimization struggle.

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