by Olena Palko
While most studies of Soviet culture assume a model of diffusion, according to which Soviet republics imitated the artistic trends and innovations born in Moscow, Olena Palko adroitly challenges this centre-periphery perspective. Rather than being a mere imposition from above, Making Ukraine Soviet reveals how the process of cultural sovietisation in Ukraine during the interwar years developed from a synthesis of different – and often conflicting – cultural projects both local and Muscovite in orientation.
Engaging with a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including literary and archival material, Palko grounds her argument in the cases of two celebrated and controversial Ukrainian artists: the poet Pavlo Tychyna and prosaist Mykola Khyl’ovyi. Through this unique biographical lens, Palko’s skilled analysis of cultural construction sheds fresh light on the complex process of establishing and consolidating the Soviet regime in Ukraine. In doing so, Palko offers a timely re-assessment of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and adds nuance to current debates on the relationship between national identity, the arts, and the Soviet state.