Book highlight from “Zero Point Ukraine” by Olena Stiazhkina
Part 1 of “Zero Point Ukraine” highlight from the chapter entitled “Unexpected outcome” considered the myth of the “Great Patriotic War” as the starting point for the new Russian empire. Part 2 focused on Ukrainian resistance as the continuation of the national liberation struggle. Part 3 outlines the new international situation after WWII. If you continue visiting our Blog Page you’ll be able to read further two parts of the highlight.
A window to escape the Soviet Yoke
The new international situation had an unexpectedly high detrimental impact on the empire, when in Winston Churchill’s words, “from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” Firstly, this new international situation provided a much broader access to the outside world for Soviet citizens compared to the 1930s. Secondly, the material out of which Stalin’s regime attempted to forge this “curtain” was not a monolith. At least not a monolith of iron: through the holes in it, Western/trophy films, music, the “enemy voices” of radio stations, thoughts about relatives left behind, American food parcels, etc. infiltrated. Thus, the Western world seeped into the seemingly sealed Soviet world in a gradual, yet systematic manner. At the same time, beyond Soviet borders, the new generation of the Ukrainian diaspora arose and formed a strong horizon for the consolidation of the idea of Ukrainian independence.
“Among many other things,” writes Anne Applebaum, “the year 1945 marked one of the most extraordinary population movements in European history. All across the continent, hundreds of thousands of people were returning from Soviet exile, from forced labor in Germany, from concentration camps and prisoner-of-war camps, from hiding places and refuges of all kinds.” Stalin’s regime tried to control this process. On the one hand, it vigorously fought to return its subjects to the motherland. On the other hand, to gain the new status of “father/gendarme” of the European states of the so-called “people’s democracies” (later on the Eastern Bloc), the Kremlin had to “let go” of those who wished to get/get back citizenship of Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia—the countries that provided these territorial gains. Not only 1945, but also the years that followed, were marked by “consideration of departure documents” for those who were citizens of Poland and Romania (till 1939–1940) and of Czechoslovakia (till 1945). In addition, attempts to return those who defected to the West were made in another direction—by pressuring the former allies to hand over Ostarbeiters, prisoners of war, OUN members and UPA fighters.
During the post-war years, a strict, yet cumbersome bureaucratic system, for all its faults, was a source of rejected appeals to throw off the Soviet yoke and opened a “window” to escape, which was used not only by Poles and Romanians, but also by Ukrainians and Jews. “Both Polish and other anti-Soviet elements (Ukrainians, Jews) use the illegal passage to Poland, taking advantage of the channel of evacuation for former Polish citizens (counterfeit evacuation cards and papers for business trips),” stated the report of March 26, 1946 by Hrushchetskyi, the secretary of the Lvivl Oblast party committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine, to Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the highest party body of the republic. To “defect” became one of the ways to throw off the Soviet yoke. In order to “close” this option and to stop the legal flow of citizens out of the USSR, inter-state marriages, even with citizens of socialist countries, were banned by the resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of February 15, 1947. Marriages to foreign subjects, concluded before the resolution was issued, were nullified. Still, the idea of “defecting” remained a tempting one for some Soviet people till the dissolution of the USSR.
10 Winston Churchill, speaking in Fulton, Missouri, March 1946.
11 Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain. The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944–1956 (London: Allen Lane an imprint of Penguin Books, 2012), xxv.
12TsDAHO Ukrainy, f. 1, op. 23, spr. 3953, ark. 1.
Coming up soon: the next section will focus on the emergence of new Ukrainian communities across the world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Professor Dr. Olena Stiazhkina studied history at Donetsk National University. Since 2016 she is Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Ukrainian History in the second half of the XX century at the Institute of History of Ukraine at the National Academy of Science of Ukraine. Previously, she completed an internship at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM, Austria) and held a professorship at the Department of Slavs’ History at the Vasyl Stus Donetsk National University (Ukraine).
Olena Stiazhkina is a member of the Ukrainian Oral History Association, the Ukrainian Association of Research in Women’s History, and the PEN Club Ukraine. Her previous books include Women in the history of Ukrainian Culture in the Second Half of the 20th Century (Donetsk: Skhidny Vydavnychy Dim, 2002), Gender Relations in a Modern Society (Donetsk: Skhidny Vydavnychy Dim, 2006), A Person in the Soviet Province: Evolution of Failure (Donetsk: Noulidzh, 2013), Stigma of Occupation: Soviet Women of the 1940s in Self-Vision (Kyiv, Dukh I Litera). Her papers have been published by, among other outlets, Indiana Press, University of Tulsa, Istorychni i politologichni doslidzhennia, Nauka. Relihiya. Suspilstvo.
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ABOUT “UKRAINIAN VOICES” BOOK SERIES
Olena Stiazhkina’s book is Volume 10 in the “Ukrainian Voices” book series.
The “Ukrainian Voices” book series includes English- and German-language monographs, edited volumes, document collections and anthologies of articles authored and composed by Ukrainian politicians, intellectuals, activists, officials, researchers, entrepreneurs, artists, and diplomats.
The series aims to introduce Western and broader audiences to Ukrainian explorations and interpretations of historic and current domestic as well as international affairs.
The purpose of these books is to familiarise non-Ukrainian readers with how some prominent Ukrainians approach, research and assess their country’s development and position in the world. The series was founded in 2019, and the volumes are collected by Andreas Umland.
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