Sovietness as Part of the Identity of Modern Ukrainian Cities (EN)

The history of the Soviet period has always been a very complex and emotionally tense topic for Ukrainians. Not least because it was, and is, the subject of constant manipulation and

speculation by Kremlin propaganda; particularly since the Russian military intervention that led to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and even more so after the full-scale war in 2022.

Russian propaganda has specifically claimed the Soviets as Russian. As a result, the Soviet erais no longer perceived as a part of Ukrainian history, but instead mostly as the Russian present. This leads to growing intolerance and hatred in society towards heritage associated with this time.

Due to such manipulations, many Ukrainians are eager to get rid of the cultural heritage of the country´s complex colonial past. But it is also the past of a country that even during totalitarian decades not only preserved its subjectivity, traditions, culture and language, but also created a unique Ukrainian-Soviet cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately, this is now rapidly disappearing.

The Soviet period is an integral part of the identity of modern Ukraine. For several generations of Ukrainians, personal and collective life took place in Soviet public spaces. Yet today, when issues are raised concerning the preservation of cultural palaces from the 1960s and 1980s, for example, the first aspect to attract attention is their Sovietness as an expression of an ideology. However, it is important to understand that for local residents, these are first and foremost places where turning points in their personal histories took place. For example, they are the place where many people got married.

In my lecture, I would like to talk about two Ukrainian cities that were built during the Soviet era. They have no other history of foundation than the Soviet one. One is the city of

Slavutych, built after the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, at the end of the Soviet Union. The other is the city of Sieverodonetsk, built during the first five-year period of

Soviet rule in Ukraine. These are completely different cities with distinctly different experiences of accepting and rejecting their identities. I would also like to present some contemporary art practices that took place in these two cities between 2015 and 2019 in terms of how they contributed to the understanding of the cities’ identities.