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government and society

Formation of the nation

16.08.2013 | Oleh Polishchuk

Successful state-building was the last missing piece for becoming a full-grown nation

Ukraine succeeded as a state, and this opinion belongs not to some Ukrainian politicians, but can be found in conclusions of authoritative international experts. The latest release of Failed States Index compiled by the American Fund For Peace in cooperation with the Foreign Policy magazine, opens with Somalia and closes with Finland.

Our country is on the 113th line of 177 and has the best consistency rating of all CIS countries (for example, Russia is 83rd, Belarus – 86th, and Kazakhstan – 108th). In the FSI 2012 Ukraine is located below the two countries from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (Turkey – 85th line, and Mexico – 98th) and three European (except for the CIS) – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia. Our rating is only slightly inferior to the results of Brazil and once the most prosperous Republic of South Africa, and times better than that of China (76th) and India (78th).

To an extent, Ukraine was lucky that at the turn of the millennium and in the time of the newest state-building we do not have aggressive neighbors capable of armed intervention. However, Ukrainians also avoided internal civil wars, which is the main indicator of our consistency in the process of nation formation. The concept of “political nation” is broader than ethnic frames, it is, as well as its concomitant ideology of nationalism, was created two hundred years ago during the French Revolution, which created a new type of political practice. The masses were brought to the political arena, their interests were identified with the interests of the state, and the idea of popular sovereignty was finally legitimized. The first Ukrainian example of submission to the will of people of all events took place at the dawn of statehood, when on December 1, 1991 90% of Ukrainian citizens took part in all-Ukrainian referendum and supported independence. And the climax of actual Ukrainian democracy is still the “Orange Revolution” of 2004, during which the whole world clearly identified the presence of our political nation.

The most successful post-colonial countries are those where the processes of disintegration caused by resistance to metropolitan assimilation and leading, eventually, to the collapse of empires, were moved to the rails of internal integration. Ukraine did such “homework” quite successfully. The practice of a symbolic nature, or, as such phenomenon was called by the British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, the “invention of tradition”, which has been common for all Ukrainians during the last 22 years of independence, may serve as its proof. An important element of such plane of nation formation is the respect to certain symbols, events and historical figures, which is a key component of the national consciousness.

All over the country people have been admiring Taras Shevchenko and Bohdan Khmelnytsky since the Soviet times. Since the early 1990s, nowhere in Ukraine there have been any idiosyncrasy to the blue and yellow national flag, presence of trident in all forms and documents, and the nation’s magnificent anthem Ukraine Has Not Yet Perished is sung at football matches equally in Lviv and Donetsk. Even the largest political force of the first decade of Ukrainian independence – the Communist Party – was unable to prevent the recognition and honoring of national symbols and attributes and replace them with the USSR paraphernalia. Here we may provide an example of neighboring Belarus, where the rise to power of Alexander Lukashenko returned the symbolism of the Belarus SSR and launched an offensive on the Belarusian language and culture, thus putting an end to the national revival at the grassroots.

While in the Soviet times the word “Ukrainian” meant only the ethnicity, 22 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union it means citizenship, regardless of ethnic origin. By the way, in the constitutional law of most European and American countries, the term “nation” means “the community of all citizens”, and in international law the word is synonymous to the nation-state (which in general is reflected in the title of the UN – the United Nations). So in that regard Ukrainians caught up in political development with the advanced nations of the world. Such result was mostly achieved by purely technical means – elimination of the “fifth column” in the passport. One of the consequences of such progressive decision was, for example, the fact that the number of people calling themselves Ukrainians has grown (now it is estimated at approximately 80%) during the years of independence, and the number of people calling themselves Russian (current estimates – 15%) has dropped. And taking into account the fact that in most regions Ukrainians made more than 90% of the population in the All-Ukrainian Census of 2001, we may speak of formation of a mono-national state in Ukraine, which drastically reduces the level of threat of internal conflicts and splits.

In the meantime, some external and internal forces try to divide Ukrainian society based on language and through the attitude to certain episodes of recent history. It is a purely artificial process, but with the involvement of a large variety of modern technologies and large-scale financial resources, as well as the necessary condition of curtailing of democracy. So an adequate response to these challenges is a matter of honor for Ukrainians as a political nation. After such examination Ukrainian nation formation will be a completed process.

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