Constructing Identity and Power in History Education in Ukraine: Approaches to Formation of Peace Culture

Karina V Korostelina

National identities are usually treated as rooted in ethnic and religious attachments creating cultural continuity between traditional and modern meanings of nation (Smith, 1987, 1998), or as a product of modernity (Breuilly, 1994; Gellner, 1983; Hobsbawm, 1990; Mann, 2012). The former approach defines national identity as resulting from ethnic history, identity, religious and belief systems as well as dominant system of beliefs and conscious manipulation, including commemoration and symbolism. In the latter, nations are treated as invented by nationalism and are created from state centralization, homogenization of the periphery, protracted warfare and universal conscription, standardization of vernacular languages, the establishment of state-sponsored education systems and the development of mass literacy, print capitalism, intensified division of labor, the emergence of institutions of ‘high culture,’ increasing penetration of society by ideology, and mobilization of growing numbers of all classes. These two approaches differ in their treatment of the primordial factors in the process of national identity formation: do ancient traditions and customs underpin national identity or does it result from the construction of the modern state? The plausible reconciling answer is that the meaning of cultural symbols evolves and becomes contested in the process of the definition and legitimation of the modern state. Some traditions are utilized in the process of nation-building and some traditions, ‘which appear or claim to be old are often quite recent in origin and sometimes invented’ (Hobsbawm, 1990: 1). The past is always present in national identity but undergoes different levels

K.V. Korostelina (*)

School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Washington, DC, USA

© The Author(s) 2017

M. Carretero et al. (eds.), Palgrave Handbook of Research in Historical Culture and Education, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-52908-4_17

of interpretations through nationalist practices. History education becomes a tool that creates an attachment to national identity and acceptance of institutionalized cultural and political institutions.

This chapter uses this approach to analyze the construction of identity and power in history education in Ukraine. First it outlines the theoretical foundations of two major functions of history education—creation and redefinition of the meaning of national identity and support and legitimization of power—and shows the role of mythic narratives in this process. Based on semi-structural interviews with history teachers and observation in classrooms, the chapter presents the conflictive mythic narratives used by history teachers to develop particular connotations of identity and power. The chapter concludes with recommendations for the development of a culture of peace in history education.

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