Perpetrator Studies Network


World War II as an Identity Project: Historicism, Legitimacy Contests, and the (Re-)Construction of Political Communities in Ukraine, 1939–1946

By Oleksandr Melnyk.

This book explores the relationship between history, legitimacy, and violence in the building and breaking of nations and states on the territory of contemporary Ukraine during the Second World War and in its aftermath. At its center are various institutions of the Soviet state. Other states and rival political movements also enter the picture insofar as their acitivities influenced Soviet policies. Methodologically, the study shifts attention from a limited body of normative texts and their creators within the Soviet political and cultural elite to a wider array of practices, organizations, and players engaged in power struggles and production of knowledge about the past in different social domains. Specifically, it brings into focus groups not normally thought of as participants in the production of Soviet memory discourse, notably NKVD officers, Soviet archivists, Ukrainian nationalists, Nazi collaborators, and former partisans in the German-occupied territories.

The book not only demonstrates the complexity of nation-shaping processes, but also restores agency to some seemingly powerless actors.

Dr. Oleksandr Melnyk studied History at the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto. He held post-doctoral fellowships at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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