Ye. Bystrytsky. Cultural Revival: Myth and Reality // Political Thought. — 1993. — N. 1. — P. 130-132.

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VI. Cultural Revival: Myth and Reality

If consolidation and further establishment of Ukraine as a fully developed and legitimate nation-state on the current political map of the world is deemed an absolute political goal today, then the fact that its first post-communist leaders blatantly ignore the political significance of the cultural domain looks like one of the main contradictions of present-day Ukrainian society. For nearly 2-years of de jure independent statehood, the nation's legislature has not adopted a single law bearing directly upon cultural life. During the same period the Government of Ukraine has issued only two enactments: one setting up the Foundation of Culture and Arts under the auspices of Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, and the other, setting up the National Commission on the restitution of Cultural treasures to Ukraine whose sphere of impact is limited as compared to the overall range of cultural activities.

Actual negligence of cultural issues, undoubtedly, runs contrary to frequent references to "cultural" arguments. In spite of numerous appeals to the sacred words of national-cultural revival, to the development of Ukrainian spirituality and to the restoration of "nationalistic" thinking — which dominate the bulk of public rhetoric today — the reality of political actions with regard to culture is, at best, an ideological myth of unceasing concern for culture. The situation is all the more controversial since the sphere of culture has been, and still is, the chief factor for assuring the legitimacy of the present authorities and political system.

National-Cultural Idea and the Legitimacy of Present Political Power in Ukraine

The new power, notwithstanding the threatening current economic situation, still enjoys sufficent public confidence to remain legitimate. Legitimacy of power means that the majority of the population accepts the present political regime and system as right and lawful. Legitimacy is ultimately the public recognition of the acting power structure and institutions.

As long as the current political system is oriented towards democratic foundations and norms for managing social life (through free elections, referenda, freedom of speech and independent press), the problem of legitimacy will keep arising for it. Within the framework of our national-democratic oriented political system (at least, according to social transformations theory), the idea of national rebirth and cultural identity of Ukrainian society provides an actual foundation for legitimacy in Ukraine. Thus, it was the constant championing of national-cultural self-determination of the Ukrainian nation that distinguished the program platform of one of the most active, popular and most influential political forces of the "reconstruction" period — the Rukh organization. It is no coincidence that practically all the provisions pertaining to the nationalist issues and the necessity to develop Ukrainian culture (see section "Culture. Language. Science"), spelled out in Rukh's First Program, are in wide political circulation today, including the new authorities' political glossary.

As new political systems encounter more and more problems, however, the concept of culture as the basis of national-cultural revival eventually loses its original legitimizing force. Political weakening of Rukh, with its reputation staked upon nationalistic issues, which were presented as "the foundation for the existence and progress of the Ukrainian nation", is indicative of the political limitations to the concept of culture solely in terms of conservative ideals of national-cultural revival and originality.

Conservative and Democratic Aspects of National Cultural Revival

Post-Communist political power in Ukraine ideologically exploits only the conservative aspects of national cultural revival. As a particular political action, it manifests itself in an all-encompassing support for cultural movements and initiatives aimed as restoration, explanation and interpretation of the body of customs, traditions, folklore and ethnic manifestations of cultural life. This support has been predominantly conceptual (officials ritualistic attendance of cultural festivities, concerts and performances) and ideological (that is, it has become part of the power structures' rhetoric in program documents). In this case the notion of conservatism is not synonymous with the absolute positive conserving of cultural traditions, which is the only possible way to assure their national attainment. What is meant by political conservatism' is that attitude by current authorities' towards the cultural sphere, or the consolidation of the original legitimizing of a revived national culture underdeveloped thus far under the present "democratic" conditions. This conservatism perpetually tends towards cultural self-isolation, followed by economic and political isolation.

During the "reconstruction" period, the idea of returning to the foundations of Ukraine's life was perceived by many as the basis for national existence, as the ultimate justification to the right to an independent state (including independence in economics), as the reason for Ukraine's originality to advancement, and as the basis for the nation's direct participation in global affairs without any intermediaries. The disintegration of the Soviet Union did not occur according to the formula of economics' priority over other forms of social life. The decomposition of the monolithic social structure did not follow along lines between economically self-sufficient regions. Instead, the division took into account national and territorial borders between cultural worlds which had historically arisen within certain periods of history. Thus, the concept of a national culture does not mean conserving only the reconstruction of the original national social identity. When properly developed, it ultimately points to a separate human community whose boundaries are delineated by the peculiarities of a given culture or cultural identity.

In modern Western European democracies cultural identity loses its conserving attitude with regard to reviving national cultural. National features of cultural life are viewed as something evident, something that exists without taking special political efforts to conserve and reproduce them. As to the main basis for the legitimization of power, it is found in the democratic acceptance of the political system and power structure.

The single national democratic nature of social transformations in Ukraine, however, does no give reasons to be guided by any one political interpretation of culture, be it conservative or democratic. Actual controversy in contemporaty political elites' attitude to culture may be described as either a priority of conservative contents of culture at the expense of limiting democratic transformation in society, or stressing democratic meaning of cultural identity as a formal precondition for organizing modern society and, consequently, inevitably losing public support that has been generated during the course of the "reconstruction" period. Ukraine's legislative and executive power provide plenty of examples of contversy and conflict. Higher echelons of legislative power tend to cultivate the conservative aspect of culture more often, whereas, in cases when executive power is confronted with the necessity to interpret the idea of national cultural independence in democratic terms (for example, because it is being treated by the prospect of losing needed economic links with the other regions of the former Soviet Union), it is often disposed to stress the formal interpretation of cultural independence.

Priority of a Democratic Interpretation of Culture and a Down-To-Earth Protectionism of Ukrainian Idea on Part of Politicians

The association of a democratic interpretation of culture with hopes for speedy economic progress, on the one hand, and the need for a conservative interpretation as indispensable to the legitimacy of any Post-Communist power in Ukraine, on the other hand, leads to a synthesis — political model for resolving this actual controversy. First and foremost, appropriate political actions are implied providing they are useful and sincere interference in cultural affairs, and not only theoretical or rhetorical support on the part of policy makers and legislators.

Democratic orientation in treating culture as a real issue of political activities implies pertinent laws and specific executive measures towards the introduction of more liberal legislation concerning the basic feature of national culture (a state language, various ideological attributes, reducing the consumption of current information from other national states, etc.). At the same time, the inalienable political significance of reviving national culture calls for political support in a democratic framework. This support may be manifested in the form of sensible economic protectionism to all basic elements of Ukrainian culture rendered weak and lifeless by centuries of colonial dependence.

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