History of the 20th Century in European Media:
A Study Of Narratives on Defining Historical Events for Ukraine's Role in Global Processes
Research topics
Holodomor;
Ukrainian avant-garde (1910s-mid-1930s), Executed Renaissance (1920s-1930s);
WWII (Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the role
of Russia in WW2, the historical and geopolitical implications of the Yalta conference, anti-Soviet uprisings in Central and Eastern Europe);
Democratisation in the post-Soviet region;
Chornobyl.
Number of articles by topics
Number of articles
Holodomor
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
The Russian media largely copied the Kremlin's narrative, which portrayed the Great Famine of 1932-33 as affecting several regions of the USSR, not just Ukraine.

Calls by the Ukrainian authorities to the international community to recognise the Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainians are condemned as a form of historical revisionism.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
During 2018-19, the Polish and German media consistently portrayed the Holodomor as genocide organised by Stalin and the Soviet authorities.

Some German publications described the Holodomor as a "central trauma to Ukraine's national memory" and a "central element of Ukrainian national identity."

Although the analysis of the French media showed a general understanding of the scale of the Great Famine in Ukraine, there was no consistent attempt to describe this tragic event as an act of genocide. At the same time, the Holodomor was often referred to in the British media as a mass murder or genocide committed by the Soviet authorities.

In the studied European countries, the Holodomor remains perceived as a purely Ukrainian issue.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Ukrainian media</strong><br /></div>
Ukrainian media
There are pointed out the coordinated efforts to rethink the Holodomor as an event that had historical consequences for the entire European continent. In 2018, the peak values of the number of mentions in the media coincided with the 85th anniversary of the Holodomor, as well as the recognition of the Holodomor as genocide by the US House of Representatives and the Polish Senate.

In 2019, the frequency of mentions gradually decreased after the election of the new President of Ukraine.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
The Russian media largely copied the Kremlin's narrative, which portrayed the Great Famine of 1932-33 as affecting several regions of the USSR, not just Ukraine.

Calls by the Ukrainian authorities to the international community to recognise the Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainians are condemned as a form of historical revisionism.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
During 2018-19, the Polish and German media consistently portrayed the Holodomor as genocide organised by Stalin and the Soviet authorities.

Some German publications described the Holodomor as a "central trauma to Ukraine's national memory" and a "central element of Ukrainian national identity."

Although the analysis of the French media showed a general understanding of the scale of the Great Famine in Ukraine, there was no consistent attempt to describe this tragic event as an act of genocide. At the same time, the Holodomor was often referred to in the British media as a mass murder or genocide committed by the Soviet authorities.

In the studied European countries, the Holodomor remains perceived as a purely Ukrainian issue.
Left
Right
The Chornobyl disaster
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
The Russian media paid little attention to this topic.

The negative reaction of the Russian media to the HBO series suggests that video production may increase the effectiveness of cultural diplomacy against Kremlin-supported narratives.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
Intensively covered in 2018 and 2019.

More mentions in 2018 are related to the book "Chernobyl. The History of the Nuclear Catastrophe" by Serhiy Plohiy, as well as the growing popularity of "black tourism" and internal environmental problems.

In 2019, the peak values of the mentions coincided with the release of the HBO series "Chernobyl" and greater interest in visiting the crash site.

The analysis revealed a meaningful discussion about the negative role of the Soviet culture of concealing information.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Ukrainian media</strong><br /></div>
Ukrainian media
It was a common mention that the catastrophe became a catalyst for the collapse of the USSR and the declaration of Ukrainian independence.

A number of materials were published with expert assessments of the incident and the liquidators' stories about facts previously unknown to the general public.

In 2019, the disclosure of the truth about the Chornobyl disaster, current problems and prospects for the development of the exclusion zone and a general analysis of the current state of nuclear power plants in the country were widely covered.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
The Russian media paid little attention to this topic.

The negative reaction of the Russian media to the HBO series suggests that video production may increase the effectiveness of cultural diplomacy against Kremlin-supported narratives.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
Intensively covered in 2018 and 2019.

More mentions in 2018 are related to the book "Chernobyl. The History of the Nuclear Catastrophe" by Serhiy Plohiy, as well as the growing popularity of "black tourism" and internal environmental problems.

In 2019, the peak values of the mentions coincided with the release of the HBO series "Chernobyl" and greater interest in visiting the crash site.

The analysis revealed a meaningful discussion about the negative role of the Soviet culture of concealing information.
Left
Right
Ukrainian Avant-guard and Executed Renaissance
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
Poroshenko's statement on Malevych as a "Ukrainian" artist was perceived as an attempt to "appropriate" Soviet cultural achievements and separate Ukraine from the Russian cultural space.

Kazymyr Malevych and Oleksandr Dovzhenko were mentioned as "Russian" or "Soviet" figures, without mentioning their dissident, anti-Soviet position as artists.

<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
All Western European media called the movement a Russian or Soviet legacy. None described it as the "Ukrainian avant-garde."

The artist Kazymyr Malevych was mentioned as a representative of the Russian avant-garde movement in various countries, with the important exception of the Polish media.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Ukrainian media</strong><br /></div>
Ukrainian media
There is no "holistic" understanding of the specifics of the "Executed Renaissance" generation.

The Ukrainian avant-garde and the "Executed Renaissance" are generally used as "synonyms for patriotism". In this case, the names of Kazymyr Malevych and Oleksandr Dovzhenko are most often mentioned as separate artists, rather than as typical representatives of the movements.

In 2019, there were more mentions related to the Poroshenko's statement that Malevych was a "Ukrainian" artist.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
Poroshenko's statement on Malevych as a "Ukrainian" artist was perceived as an attempt to "appropriate" Soviet cultural achievements and separate Ukraine from the Russian cultural space.

Kazymyr Malevych and Oleksandr Dovzhenko were mentioned as "Russian" or "Soviet" figures, without mentioning their dissident, anti-Soviet position as artists.

<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
All Western European media called the movement a Russian or Soviet legacy. None described it as the "Ukrainian avant-garde."

The artist Kazymyr Malevych was mentioned as a representative of the Russian avant-garde movement in various countries, with the important exception of the Polish media.
Left
Right
Second world war
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
Russian media spread apologetic interpretations resonating with
two partially related Kremlin narratives:

  • The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a strategic necessity to curb the expansionism of Nazi Germany.
  • Accusations of Western sources of exaggerating the significance of the Pact for causing war and ignoring the Munich Agreement.

Some media publications point out that Ukraine has actually taken place within its modern borders thanks to the Pact.

There was little mention of the Yalta Conference.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
The discussion on the topic of World War II during 2018-2019 focused mainly on the geopolitical consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939) and only to a lesser extent on the Yalta Conference (1945).

German media focused on the causes and consequences of the war. The British media emphasised the role of Churchill and Britain during the war. The French media showed attempts to re-evaluate the events of 1939-45. Polish media focused on how Poland fell victim to two aggressors, Nazi Germany and the USSR.

Despite these differences, the analysis reveals a common narrative in the media in Britain, France, Germany, and Poland: the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact aimed to divide the European continent into spheres of influence between Nazi Germany and the USSR. It is significant that this narrative unites the entire continent, as it also dominates the Ukrainian press.

Only the Polish media raised the question of whether the Soviet Army should be considered an army of "liberators or enslavers". Thus, the analysis shows that to this day, Western and Eastern European nations have profoundly different views of history that divide them.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Ukrainian media</strong><br /></div>
Ukrainian media
The Ukrainian press often speaks of the Pact in connection with modern political processes (for instance, drawing parallels between the Pact and Nord Stream 2).

Ukrainian media do not use the Soviet-Russian term "Great Patriotic War", but exclusively use the term "World War II".
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
Russian media spread apologetic interpretations resonating with
two partially related Kremlin narratives:

  • The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was a strategic necessity to curb the expansionism of Nazi Germany.
  • Accusations of Western sources of exaggerating the significance of the Pact for causing war and ignoring the Munich Agreement.

Some media publications point out that Ukraine has actually taken place within its modern borders thanks to the Pact.

There was little mention of the Yalta Conference.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
The discussion on the topic of World War II during 2018-2019 focused mainly on the geopolitical consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (1939) and only to a lesser extent on the Yalta Conference (1945).

German media focused on the causes and consequences of the war. The British media emphasised the role of Churchill and Britain during the war. The French media showed attempts to re-evaluate the events of 1939-45. Polish media focused on how Poland fell victim to two aggressors, Nazi Germany and the USSR.

Despite these differences, the analysis reveals a common narrative in the media in Britain, France, Germany, and Poland: the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact aimed to divide the European continent into spheres of influence between Nazi Germany and the USSR. It is significant that this narrative unites the entire continent, as it also dominates the Ukrainian press.

Only the Polish media raised the question of whether the Soviet Army should be considered an army of "liberators or enslavers". Thus, the analysis shows that to this day, Western and Eastern European nations have profoundly different views of history that divide them.
Left
Right
Democratization trends in the post-Soviet region
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
In the Russian media, little attention was given to the topic during the period under study.

Negative opinions expressed with regards to the new president and the status of democracy in Ukraine.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
The prevailing view is that there is still a "gap" or "distance" between Western and Eastern Europe.

The lack of a narrative of "democratisation" is particularly noticeable in the Polish media. The historical controversy surrounding World War II weakens Western media readers' awareness of the history of the region's various countries up to the 20th century.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Ukrainian media</strong><br /></div>
Ukrainian media
The process of democratisation is portrayed as "incomplete." Some sources have linked democratisation in Ukraine to the Orange Revolution of 2004 and Euromaidan in 2013, while others believe that democracy in Ukraine is a given, as the country regularly holds free elections.

The Ukrainian media do not share the prevailing view in the Western media that Zelenskyi's election is a confirmation of the continuation
of Ukraine's democratisation process.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>Russian <strong data-redactor-tag="strong">media</strong></strong><br /></div>
Russian media
In the Russian media, little attention was given to the topic during the period under study.

Negative opinions expressed with regards to the new president and the status of democracy in Ukraine.
<div style="font-size:20px;line-height:50px;color:#000000;" data-customstyle="yes"> <strong>European media</strong><br /></div>
European media
The prevailing view is that there is still a "gap" or "distance" between Western and Eastern Europe.

The lack of a narrative of "democratisation" is particularly noticeable in the Polish media. The historical controversy surrounding World War II weakens Western media readers' awareness of the history of the region's various countries up to the 20th century.
Left
Right
General conclusions and
recommendations
Eliminating the "Russian perspective" as an interpretive lens requires many years of dedicated and consistent cultural diplomacy.

Cultural diplomacy institutions need to be aware of the most sensitive issues in the target country to find a common language and build a new dialogue on the political implications of the historical heritage.

The Ukrainian Institute should use common sets of meanings to reinforce the idea that Ukraine's past is part of European history.

There is still a "gap" in historical perception between Western and Eastern Europe.
To re-evaluate the history, culture and politics of Ukraine, it is necessary to look at the "European" elements of the history of Ukrainian culture through a postcolonial prism.

The promotion of relevant books and films can help raise awareness
of important historical events.

An additional strategy could be spreading video content on social networks, which includes "personal stories" of Ukrainians who still remember some of the most tragic pages of Ukrainian history of the 20th century.
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