FROM THE “GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR” TO THE “UKRAINIAN DIMENSION OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR”: A CHANGE IN THE NARRATIVE IN SCHOOL HISTORY TEXTBOOKS
The article analyzes changes in the interpretations of events during the period 1939–1945 that have occurred in the writing of Ukrainian school history textbooks since 1991 (World history textbooks are not considered here). There was a gradual rejection of the concept of the “Great Patriotic War” inherited from Soviet historiography, superceded by the introduction of the concept of the “Ukrainian dimension of the Second World War”. The article examines approaches proposed by European scholars for evaluating history textbooks. These comprise multiple viewpoints based on the analysis of various sources of the formation of critical thinking, perspectives that enable the development of tolerance and avoidance of one-sidedness. It has been pointed out that while sharing guidelines for multiple views and critical judgment, Ukrainian scholars also emphasize the need to provide a complex of knowledge “on behalf of science” necessary for young people in order to promote their sense of identification with the country (N. Yakovenko); solidly grounded knowledge so as to provide them with conceptions about their connection to their society and their past (Y. Hrytsak), and to counter and critically reflect on the fundamental Soviet myth that remains the core component of ideological colonialism in Ukraine – namely the myth of the “Great Patriotic War” and the “Great Victory” (L. Zashkilnyak).
The article shows that the first Ukrainian textbooks corresponded chronologically and conceptually to the Soviet narrative about the “Great Patriotic War”. However, each new generation of textbooks – by authors who are experts on this subject, and written following updated and improved teaching programs – presented the events of the Second World War more adequately, gradually abandoning Soviet mythology, employing the newest teaching methodologies and various sources. The previously documented process of the formation of the “Ukrainian dimension of the Second World War” – designed to remove the Ukrainian educational space from the mythology of the “Great Patriotic cultural and educational space. Moreover, Ukrainian textbook authors faced a powerful opposition by a segment of the Ukrainian political elite – communists, supporters of ideas from the “Russian world” (“Russkiy mir”). Among these were many MPs, scholars, educators, and cultural activists. They criticized various textbooks, accusing the authors of distorting the truth and in denial of the “Great Victory”.
The article seeks to identify the key factors underlying the creating and continuous improvement and rewriting of history in Ukrainian textbooks: social transformation, political freedom, ideological and cultural diversity, intellectual courage, the possibility for free discussion, and the need to shape a new sense of Ukrainian identity to link citizens with the country.
Keywords: historical education, narrative, history textbooks, historiography, mythology of the “Great Patriotic War”, the Ukrainian dimension of the Second World War.