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22 July 2023

My Encounter with Early Modern Ukraine

Ukrainian Historical Review
My Encounter with Early Modern Ukraine

In this article Canadian historian reflects on his intellectual biography and on the changes in the field of early modern Ukrainian history during the last fifty years. He emphasizes the role of academic communities of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University in his formation as a historian of early modern Ukraine. His affiliation with the Ukrainian chairs at Harvard and intellectual guidance of Oleksander Ohloblyn and Omeljan Pritsak played an especially important role in this regard. Having completed a thesis on the abolition of the Hetmanate’s autonomy in the late eighteenth-century Russia Empire, in the early 1990s he became a director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies where in cooperation with Frank Sysyn and Serhii Plokhy he founded an informal laboratory of early modern Ukrainian history. Zenon Kohut’s research in the 1990s and 2000s has been focused on the Russo-Ukrainian unity myth on the one hand and on the preconditions of the Ukrainian distinctiveness in the early modern period — on the other. It led him to the examination of the early modern Ukrainian history writing and identity-building. He was one of the first who demonstrated Ukrainian contribution to the emergence of the “traditional scheme of Russian history” — an imperial narrative in which Ukrainians and Russians are treated as offshoots of the same people sharing a common historical legacy, a common Orthodox faith, and, therefore, a common national destiny. Kohut’s studies of the early modern Ukrainian historiography and political thought focused on the evolution of such concepts as fatherland and nation. His pioneering works on the emergence and evolution of the Little-Russian identity in the Hetmanate conceptualized these developments as an important stage in the early modern Ukrainian nation-building. The article concludes with the presentation of Kohut’s ongoing project — a monograph on the political culture of Cossack Ukraine from 1569 to 1714 — which aims to synthesize his semicentennial research into the early modern Ukrainian history.

Source: Kohut, Z. (2022). My Encounter with Early Modern Ukraine. Ukrainian Historical Review. 1: 77–88

Source web-site: https://uhr.ucu.edu.ua/index.php/chasopys/article/view/10/7

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