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Five Shifts in Ukrainian Jewish Relations

Hosted By: National Library of Israel USA (NLI USA)

The war radically changed Ukrainians as a people. Ukrainians reimagined themselves as Cossacks, not as unruly mercenaries at the boundaries of the southern steppe, but as urban, modern fighters, loyal to national sovereignty. The new Ukrainians discovered their multi-cultural character and embraced the multiple ethnicities that joined the defense of the country, first and foremost, the Jews. The xenophobic prejudices of the past, idiosyncratic to the early modern Cossacks, were left behind. Many Ukrainian Jews, predominantly urbanized and Russophonic, changed their attitude to and embraced the Ukrainian language, which became a symbol of resistance and survival. Ukrainians and Jews in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world joined efforts to poke fun at their enemies and at themselves, proving that the multi-ethnic Ukrainian nation was a strong-willed and free people. The war mobilized the all sorts of Putinverstehers and Ukrainophobes, especially among the Russophobic emigres in Israel and Germany, who joined the media-war seeking to present Ukrainians through the old-fashioned stereotypes based on biased historical narratives that conveniently ignore the societal changes in Ukraine over last thirty years.

A new conceptualization of the Ukrainian Jewish relations in historical perspective became a scholarly desideratum for pundits, researchers, and students. Without such a new vision one fails to explain the changes in Ukrainian Jewish relations over the last thirty years after 1991 in general, and during the Russian-Ukrainian War in particular.

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