The city of Drohobych became the venue for the panel discussion “National belonging of the intangible cultural heritage of the 18th-20th centuries: theory and practice”. The scholars from seven European countries discussed the problem how to return to the Ukrainian cultural heritage the iconic figures of the past who were either born or worked on the territory of modern Ukraine and the issue of purification of public spaces in the cities and villages from the imposed heroes of the moscow-soviet empire.

Taking examples from Austria, Italy, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and France the participants examined some practices of forming national heritage with the view how Ukraine should get rid of “alien names” from its cultural heritage and public spaces and whether it is necessary to delete those names in general. The panel agreed that the existence of “alien names” in cities and villages serves as ideological markers of the past which influences the formation of the national self-identification of Ukrainians.

In his speech, Prof. Leszyk Korporowych from Jagiellonian University (Poland) stressed that cultural heritage is an element of human rights and emphasized the importance of intercultural ties.

Prof. Giovanna Brogi at Milan University (Italy), in turn, understands the fact that Ukrainians want to destroy all symbols of the past oppression but called for a more constructive approach. She believes that there is no need to get rid of past names; they need to be processed/ interpreted differently. “Society should understand that these monuments have lost their value for now and they can be moved to other places of public space,” the professor explained.

Victoria Feibois, Associate professor at the University of Strasbourg (France), called to analyze all aspects of past practices and study the genealogy of cultural heritage. In her opinion, this will help us avoid cultural limitations in the study of cultural heritage. “We must study the past but live in the present,” says Ms. Feibois.

Stefan Purici, Doctor of Art History, vice-rector of Stefan cel Mare University of Suceava, shared his experience of overcoming the consequences of Soviet symbols in Romania, and professor at the Italian University in Udine, Emiliano Ranocchi, spoke about his experience of dealing with Mussolini’s legacy. Iryna Sklokina, a researcher at the Center for Urban History of Central-Eastern Europe, talked about the practices in Austrian museums regarding streamlining cultural heritage. And Professor Ihor Nabytovych at Marie Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland provided the example of Aleksander Fredro to illustrate the problems of identification in the so-called borderlands.

Examining Ukrainian practices, People’s Deputy of Ukraine Mykhailo Tsimbalyuk mentioned Mykola Gogol, who in public consciousness appears as a Russian writer, although he was born and worked in Ukraine and wrote many works in Ukrainian. But few people know about it, the politician believes. And the executive director of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, Vladyslav Berkovskyi, shared his experience of supporting iconic figures in the programs of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and assured that the Foundation will continue to do so in the future.

Prof. Nataliya Kryvda, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, informed the panel participants about the activity of the expert council under the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine on overcoming the consequences of russification. In her opinion, there is no such a thing as universal past. “We are reconstructing it according to the present-day demands; however this work needs to be intensified in order not to miss the “window of opportunities”.

A part of the discussion was to consider the criteria that attempted to identify belonging of famous figures to different cultures. In particular, Professor Volodymyr Masliychuk at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy addressed the ethnic origin of the “awakeners” and national separation, while Natalia Starchenko, Doctor of historical sciences, senior researcher at the Mykhailo Hrushevskyi Institute of Ukrainian Archeography and Source Studies at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, drew attention to the school curriculum. At the same time, Doctor Starchenko believes that we actually abandoned a whole period of Ukrainian history – the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Commonwealth of Nations, where there are many Ruthenian (Ukrainian) cultural markers: Gediminids, Jan Kysil, Lavryn Drevlynskyi, Yevstakhii Gizel. She proposed to choose the criteria for the formation of the pantheon and believes that they should be different for different historical periods, especially for the imperial one.

Ihor Serdyuk , Laureate of the 2020 Ivan Franko International Prize, Professor at the Poltava National Pedagogical University believes that we should return unknown names that played an important role in preserving culture in the past, because they “stitch” Ukraine together despite their local character. On the other hand, according to Prof. Serdyuk, we need to have experts trust restored so that society should listen to them.

Professor Taras Vintskovskyi at Odesa I.I.Mechnikov National University spoke about the Ukrainian political meso-elites of the revolutionary period of 1917-1921 and about the discussions and commemorative practices taking place in the public space of modern Odesa. Ihor Stambol, Candidate of historical sciences, Associate Professor at Borys Grinchenko Kyiv Metropolitan University, secretary of the Ukrainian Slavists’ Committee, drew attention to the importance of creating a biographical dictionary.

I.Franko researcher Sviatoslav Pylypchuk, Director of the Institute of Franko Studies at the Ivan Franko National University in Lviv, Prof. Mykola Zymomria and Prof. Halyna Sabat (Drohobych Ivan Franko State Pedagogical University) illustrated Ivan Franko’s position on various issues that were discussed.

During the event, Valentina Kyrylova presented the book Nomina and talked about her own criteria for those selected figures whose short biographies were included in the collection.

At the beginning, the panel participants were addressed with a welcome speech by Drohobych Mayor Taras Kuchma, Volodymyr Buhrov, Rector of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Michael Moser, President of the International Association of Ukrainianists, Iryna Hrymak, Head of the Lviv Regional Council, Prof.Mykola Pantyuk, Vice-rector of Drohobych Ivan Franko State Pedagogical University and Bohdan Lazorak, Director of the State Historical and Cultural Reserve “Naghuyevychi”.

All participants agreed that the law on decommunization was important but it did not fully complete its mission. The participants were also unanimous that the criterion-framework methods presented by the director of the Ivan Franko International Foundation, Ihor Kurus, should be discussed in the nearest future.

The panel discussion consisted of three parts. Ihor Kurus was the moderator of the discussion “Ukrainian experience of decommunization and decolonization of the national pantheon (practical cases)”. The second panel “Culture of memory, imperial heritage and debatable figures (experience of other countries – the Republic of Poland, Austria, Italy, Romania, Great Britain and France) was moderated by Andriy Shevchenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada (2015-2021), co-founder of Media Center Ukraine. And the third panel discussion “Historical figures and their identification in modern and future Ukraine” was moderated by Yaroslav Harasym, doctor of philological sciences, professor at I. Franko National University of Lviv.

The event was held in memory of Ivan Franko, on the 166th anniversary of his birth. 107 scholars, public and political figures took part in the panel discussion live and online. Among the participants were the poet’s great-grandchildren – Lyuba Halushchak and Petro Halushchak.

Co-organizers and partners of the event are the Ivan Franko International Foundation, Drohobych City Council, International Association of Ukrainianists, Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, Lviv Regional Military Administration, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, Drohobych Ivan Franko State Pedagogical University, State Historical and Cultural Reserve “Naghuyevychi”, Kyiv Museum of Prominent Figures of Ukrainian Culture, All-Ukrainian Association of Teachers of Ukrainian Language and Literature, Media Center Ukraine, Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, Information Agency “Hal-info”, Information web-site “Photographs of Old Lviv”.

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