Resource June 30, 2015

Meet the Journalist: Sarah Topol


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As war rages in Ukraine, what do the country's post-Soviet dueling identities mean for its future?

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Statue of Stephan Bandera in Dubrovych. This square used to have a statue of Lenin in it, now in its place, there’s a statue of Stephan Bandera, a hero for nationalists and leader of the OUN. Image by Sarah Topol. Ukraine, 2014.

Ukraine today is caught between competing realities, trying to define its place in the world order while being pulled in opposite directions by greater geopolitical powers.

At its core, the current conflict comes down to identity construction after the country's independence in 1991. In Ukraine's east, the horrors of Soviet rule are ignored in favor of nostalgia for a simpler past and nationalism fueled by the Kremlin, drawing the population closer to Russia. Meanwhile, in central and western Ukraine identity is created in antithesis to Soviet rule—using USSR history as a scapegoat and pivoting the population toward Europe.

Journalist Sarah Topol traveled to Ukraine to explore complex issues of identity and national security. She looked at language, history, literature, and art, but found it impossible to pinpoint a single national Ukrainian identity.