Featured Preview: The Role of Ukrainian Museums in the United States Diaspora in Nationalising Ukrainian Identity

As part of its call for contributions on art and ethnicity, the SEN web team is delighted to present a selection of articles related to the topic from SEN’s print issues.

We are pleased to present a preview of Adrienne Kochman’s “The Role of Ukrainian Museums in the United States Diaspora in Nationalising Ukrainian Identity” published in volume 8 issue 2 of SEN.

Article Abstract

Ukrainian museums in the United States diaspora have attempted to construct a culturally authentic history outside Ukraine itself where, for the better part of the twentieth century, Ukrainian artistic endeavors were defined within a russified Soviet framework. Established largely by third wave post-World War II Ukrainian immigrants interested in seeing an independent Ukraine, these museums have been a symbolic testament to democratic self-definition. A separate Ukraine pavilion at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago of 1933 set an earlier precedent in its representation of Ukraine as an autonomous nation. This affirmed later permanent museums which collected indigenous Ukrainian folk art and artifacts as well as modern art – created by native Ukrainians and those of the diaspora – in opposition to the official Soviet Socialist Realist canon. Ukrainian independence in 1991 and increased national awareness after 2004 elections realigned these museums’ mission from a cultural refuge to active participants in the new nation-building process.

Sample Quotes

“Ukrainian museums in the United States were essentially founded after World War II, by Ukrainian immigrants opposing the sovietisation of Ukraine. … In the United States alone a total of sixteen exist (Russnak 1996), primarily as small museums or galleries for folk art and as repositories for archival material of the local Ukrainian immigrant community. In Chicago, the Ukrainian National Museum was established in 1952 followed later by the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (hereafter UIMA) in 1971 and the Ukrainian Museum in New York City in 1976.” (p. 208)

“The representation of modern art has also been constructed as an opposition to sovietisation in Ukraine.” (p. 216)

“Alla Horska (1929–70) … was an artist who publicly opposed the Soviet government’s suppression of Ukrainian national identity during the 1960s and used her art to express her views.” (p. 217) … “On the order of  communist and university officials, the piece was destroyed the night it was hung. As a result of her continued efforts to raise national consciousness, Horska was murdered  by the KGB in 1970.” (p. 218)

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