Good Ukrainians vs Petliurites: The Ukrainian Revolution as a Soviet, Young-Adult Tale


  • Serhy Yekelchyk University of Victoria



Abstract: Using as a case study Vladimir Beliaev’s popular young-adult novel The Old Fortress and its two film adaptations, this article examines evolving Soviet representations of the Ukrainian Revolution. Its main focus is on the cultural construction of “Petliurites” as the “other” of Soviet Ukrainian identity. The article demonstrates that the Stalinist model of historical memory required a strong Ukrainian nationalist enemy in order to highlight the heroic deeds of the positive protagonists, who are encoded as pro-Russian or culturally Russian. By the 1970s, Soviet cinema turned to satirical depiction of the weak nationalist enemies, but the portrayal of Soviet Ukrainians also became more ambiguous, with few markers of ethnicity. Like Soviet Ukrainian culture in general, the book and the films presented Taras Shevchenko’s legacy as the central field of contestation between the nationalist and Soviet versions of Ukrainian identity.

Keywords: Vladimir Beliaev, Cinema, Propaganda, Symon Petliura, Identity, “Other”


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