Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s Images in Modern Collective Historical Memory of the Ukrainians and their Neighbors

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Vitaly Vasylovych MASNENKO


The figure of Bohdan Khmelnytsky serves as important identifier for self-consciousness of Ukrainian community within national coordinates. Simultaneously with this, there are such Khmelnytsky’s images which support imperial consciousness. In both cases we are speaking about action rather than persistent myths. So, the article deals with the problem of the functioning mechanisms of construction/deconstruction of hetman's images in modern collective historical memory of the Ukrainians and their neighbors

The study can be regarded as scientific novelty for the results. With the proclamation of independence of Ukraine there is a new stage in identifying the potential of the image of Bogdan Khmelnitsky. In particular, it is widely used in official politics of memory. But it continues to save the ambivalence and ambiguity in the interpretation of its semantic meaning: from the «father of Ukrainian state» to anachronistic «unifier with Muscovy». However, in the majority of cases, the latest images of Khmelnytsky in Ukrainian collective historical memory are positioned as the antithesis to the Great Russian imperial myths. Sociological surveys prove this tendency and domination of the modern image of Khmelnytsky in national pantheon. The commemorative canon of his honoring was also formed. It's characteristically for independent Ukraine that memorization has a new kind of motivation. Monuments to Khmelnytsky were erected primarily as to Ukrainian military leader and statesman.

The main contribution into mythologizing of Khmelnytsky’s image belongs not to historians, but to politicians and the media. There were also political speculations around the image of Hetman, especially among separatist political forces in the Crimea and Transnistria.


More proper is the thought about nationwide respect, than national love to the great hetman. His image became too bronze-colored so less dynamic. Historical memory of neighboring with Ukraine peoples, especially, Poles, Russians, Belarusians and Jews, largely retains traditional ideas about the Ukrainian hetman. They are quite tenacious imperial Soviet myths and their variations.

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