Heroic Masculinity in Post-Soviet Ukraine: Cossacks, UPA and “Svoboda”


  • Tetyana Bureychak Visiting Fellow, Centre of Gender Excellence, Linköping University
  • Olena Petrenko Lecturer at the Chair of East European History, Ruhr University, Bochum




Abstract: Revisiting the national past and searching for new heroes has become a common trend in many post-communist states, including Ukraine. An aspect that commonly remains invisible when imagining national heroes is gender. Cossacks and fighters of the UPA (Ukrains'ka povstans'ka armiia; Ukrainian Insurgent Army) exemplify some of the most common historical models of Ukrainian heroes. Although the two warrior groups represent rather different historical periods and are treated as national heroes in different ways, this paper seeks to uncover commonalities between them, while pointing out their specificities. In particular, the analysis here looks at the mechanisms that mythologize and naturalize Cossacks and the UPA as an integral part of the current discourses on national identity and hegemonic masculinity. Separately, we focus on the role played by the far-right party, the All-Ukrainian Union “Freedom” (“Svoboda”) in these processes. The paper also addresses broader processes of renegotiation of the national historical narrative and promotion of its androcentric heroic version, which strengthen gender neotraditionalism and social hierarchies in post-Soviet Ukraine.

Keywords: Masculinity, Cossacks, Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Gender


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