Before Ukraine Became Independent Cultural Studies Essay

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Before Ukraine became independent in 1991, it was controlled by many different nations. From the Kievan Rus province, to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, and then finally the Soviet Union; Ukraine has stood for its independence more than once, but persevered to attain what was rightfully theirs in 1991. After Ukraine fought for freedom in 1917, they became Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922 to its breakup in 1991. Once the Soviet Union went under, Ukraine demanded its freedom, and recognition as an independent country.

Ukraine was one of the few provinces of the Soviet Union to rebel and lead to the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, it was an important pawn in the dissolving of the Soviet Union. The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus met and signed a document, the Belavezhskaya Pushcha, which declared the Soviet Union to no longer exist, and bring into the world the Commonwealth of Independent States. (

Since being relieved of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has attempted to make itself a unique country. They have since established the Ukrainian language, which is the official language of the state. According to Orest Subtenly (3), "Ukrainian is a Slavic language and Cyrillic alphabet", this was introduced "when Ukraine was under Kievan Rus' power". Since that introduction back in the 12th century, it has remained the dominant language, but only recently the official state language. states that, "67% of the Ukraine population speaks Ukrainian", the decline of users occurred because during the Soviet Union's tenure over Ukraine, they imposed two bans on the country which attempted to wipe the language out. It did not succeed as people still practiced and taught the language in secret, and many of the remote areas of Ukraine were unaffected. However, the Soviet Union did succeed in creating a very strong influence on the land. According to, Russian is the second largest, most spoken language in the country. Other languages in the country include Romanian, Polish, Hungarian, and English, but are not as country-wide as Russian and Ukrainian. Very recently the New York Times reported that Ukrainian Parliament passed a bill on language back in the summer of 2012. The article says that the bill states "reaffirming Ukrainian as the country's sole national language, but allowing local and regional governments to grant official status to Russian and other languages spoken by at least 10 percent of their residents" ( The reason for this bill to be introduced and then pass is because people in Ukraine are still "uncomfortable with the Ukrainian Language", and more comfortable with others, however the opposition stated that it "violated their constitution and threatened the degree of Ukrainian language staying their national tongue" (

Ukraine's economy, since its independence, started slow, but has picked up speed in the 21st century. Leonora Fauxman (33) reported that they have everything they need for a prosperous economy: "expansive farm land, a solid industrial production, a massive amount of natural resources, a hard working work force, and a top-notch education system." They rely heavily on exporting their goods to other countries for profit. Ukraine has a number of exports available for purchase by countries that are in need of materials. Accroding to Subtelny (346), they are a force in "crop farming, timber harvesting, coal, ironstone, complex ore and mineral deposit mining." With their rich farmland, they provide the world with necessities needed for basic cooking: grain, sugar, flour, and sunflower seeds are the main agricultural yields. Ukraine's main trading partners have become Russia, Germany, Turkey, Italy and the United States of America. According to Fauxman (63), Ukraine was the "second most important economic power in the Soviet Union during its inclusion there." Ukraine was incredibly important in the agricultural and military industries. With Ukraine's fertile black soil it produced a hefty amount agricultural output. Subtelny (346) noted that Ukraine's farms supplied the Soviet Union with substantial quantities of meat, milk, grain, and vegetables to supply their other provinces and their military. Ukraine also played an import role in supplying the Soviet Union military with its diversified heavy industry supplied equipment and raw materials to industrial and mining sites in other republics of the former Soviet union.

Ukraine has an abundance of art forms specific to their Ukrainian culture: from traditional instruments for songs, to popular actors and directors, and notable writers. Since Ukraine is located between Asia and Europe, it was a crossroads for cultures to mesh. Subtelny (381) suggested that this resulted in "a rather heavy, gloomy presence, or a heavy, rambunctious joyous harmony". During the Soviet Union reign of Ukraine, the traditional music of Ukraine was kept alive by the people of Ukraine who moved west, to the United States. The Soviet Union tried to oppress whatever traditional music was popular in the area. During the Soviet Union, there were time periods where one particular genre was popular than the other. noted that in the 1930's - 50's, Jazz took the scene; 1960's - 1970's, Vocal and instrumental pieces were all the rage; and the 1980's - to the 1990's Russian Rock was what the kids were into. If the Ukrainians would perform any other kind of genre, certain genres were censored, and often forbidden. The Ukrainian people would often partake in these genres to be able to produce the music they wanted to.

Ukraine has a very rich cinema and movie life. They have a museum dedicated solely to the cinema lifestyle of Ukraine. It proudly displays the history of movies, from 1890's-2013 showing the advancements in filming styles, acting, and the ever important Computer Generated Imagery. states that they also hold many festivals for Cinematography which has awards for aspiring directors and critically acclaimed directors. One of the most important movies during the reign of the Soviet Union was a film by an Ukrainian which was called "Earth" which explored life, death, violence, sex, and other issues as they relate to the farm life of Ukrainian people. "Earth" was seen as a negative movie by Communism because it outlined the negative in society (ie. death). It was a strong movie because of the way it shed light on problems that the Ukrainian people faced in that time. (

Ukraine Literature played an important role in the way of inspiration and to fight censorship. Many of the up and coming writers of the 20th century were distraught by the Soviet Union take over. Florence Randal Livesay (12) stated that they "couldn't handle the corruption that Communism and Stalin brought to the Ukrainian people, and they committed suicide, defied the government, or even worse, were forced to write what the government wanted them to say, reducing their creative freedom!" When the Soviet Union freed Ukraine, the poets, novelist, and essayists resumed their free form thinking, creating works that they were not allowed to only a few years ago due to Communist censorship. They wrote poetry of love and death, novels of heroic triumphs over evils, and essays of the post-modern communist state. A famous poem written by Taras Shevchenko called "The Ukraine and it's Song" which was analyzed by Florence Randal Livesay (37) stated, "the world was to know the Ukraine of entity and the story as entity and not as a forgotten kingdom."

My understanding of the Modernization theory is that it is a term that refers to the advancement of a nation to modern standards. If a country is behind, and is then taken over by a more dominant country that is able to provide modern technology and advancements, it would catch up to the rest of the world. However, when the advancements takes place the culture within the country is at risk. The Colonizing power could demand that the colony do things certain ways, take up certain jobs, and forget old traditions. Dependency Theory on the other hand refers to how wealthy nations will take advantage of the poorer nations. The poor nations will have natural resources that the people will work to gather for low wages, and the richer country will come in and purchase those natural resources for low prices.

Since Ukraine's independence, it is not all that different from the United States. Of course there is the language barrier, but I would still be able to obtain a good education, jobs seem to be on the rise, and Ukraine is in the ballpark to become an economic power house. My upbringing may be different though. I would learn more about the Ukrainian way of music and dance, I would be reading Ukrainian literature, and would understand their hieroglyphic-looking alphabet. I would most likely be working as a farm hand or factory in my younger years, and then potentially pick a university to attend to attain a more prestigious position. You can't pick where you are born, and since I was born in 1994, I wouldn't mind being born in Ukraine, as they were no longer under Soviet Union rule. Ukraine is much better developed than say a third world country, so, no, I would not mind being a Ukraine citizen.


JSTOR: The Ukraine and it's Song

Livesay, Florence Randal. "The Ukraine and It's Song." Poetry Foundation 14.1 (n.d.): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

This journal deals solely on the literature of the Ukraine pre-Soviet Union and post-Soviet Union. It explains how the country was repressed and the consequences the individuals received if they went over boundaries set by the Soviet Union. He also analyzed works done by the poets that were repressed by the Soviet Union, and how they wished for a better nation.

JSTOR: Ukraine Business

Fuxman, Leonora. "Ethical Dilemmas of Doing Business in Post-Soviet Ukraine." Journal of Business Ethics 16.12/13 (1997): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.

This journal explained the fundamentals of the Ukraine economics. She showed tables of the most important exports that the Ukrainians produce and how they have become one of the top exporters of Europe. She also notes the environmental safety hazards that come across the productions as Ukraine uses "not environmentally sound" methods to produce products quickly.

Sources Cont'd

Newspaper: Ukraine's Language Bill

Herszenhorn, David M. "Lawmakers in Ukraine Approve Bill on Language." New York Times. New York Times, 3 July 2012. Web. 28 Apr. 2013

In this article, the New York Times reported that Ukraine's Parliament published a Bill that would make other languages that are not just Ukrainian, but other minority languages to become official. People of Ukraine have showed their disinterest in this recently passed bill by protests. The languages include Armenian, Belarussian, Bulgarian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Moldavian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Tatar and Yiddish.

Book: Ukraine History

Subtelny, Orest. Ukraine: A History. Toronto: Published by the University of Toronto in Association with the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1989. Print.

This book covered the languages, economics, and offered a small influence of music on the Ukrainian culture. His book explained the origins of the Ukrainian language of Slavic and the Cyrillic alphabet, even offering a English to Cyrillic alphabet and some words. In the economics he explained how farming exports have been their bread and butter when it comes to trade. Also, he mentioned how art is an influence of different cultures in the pre-Soviet Union eras.

Sources Cont'd

Country's website:

"Ukraine Travel and History." Ukraine Travel and History. Ukraine Channel, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013

This website is based out of Ukraine which offers insightful places to travel, but more importantly for this paper, an excellent source for music, economics, history, and culture. This website offered language information, approximately how many people use it, the type of music that the people would listen to under the Soviet Union, and how active Ukraine is in the movie industry.