The Enigma of Ukraine: Culture or Nation State?

By M. Raphael Johnson. Ukraine is little studied, known or understood in the West. Some claim she is a part of Russia, others Poland; others deny her a unique cultural status or even deny a unified “Ukrainian” culture. Others know nothing of her at all.


For the beginner, the very first thing one must know to understand Ukraine is her precarious political position, that is, the delicate condition of her independence as a separate nation. Ukraine is best understood by the fact that she continually struggled for independence throughout her history, surviving numerous attempts at cultural and physical genocide only occasionally referenced in contemporary historiography.

Simply put, Ukraine has not been independent as a state for any significant period of time from the 12th century until nearly the present day. It is precisely this notion of national suffering that has been the primary ingredient in the development of Ukrainian nationalism and her self-image. The result is that Ukrainian nationalism is the most fierce and pronounced among any in Europe or the world. [Read the entire article as PDF…]

Taken from
The Barnes Review, September/October 2002: The Enigma of Ukraine: Culture or Nation State?