Today, Ukraine celebrates Statehood Day for the first time. Does the country really need it?

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The mere fact that we did not have our own sovereign national state, similar to France or Britain, does not mean that the Ukrainian people did not have statehood at all.
Photo: ВВС

Photo: ВВС

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This year, on July 28, Ukraine starts celebrating its Statehood Day. Serhii Hromenko, a Candidate of historical sciences and expert at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, narrates how he feels about the introduction of a new national holiday in Ukraine, whether there are similar dates in other countries, and how Statehood Day will help us in the Russian-Ukrainian war.

This year, we will celebrate Statehood Day for the first time. On the one hand, it may seem strange that the Day of Statehood is tied to St. Volodymyr’s Memorial Day when we celebrate the Baptism of Rus’ (because no one knows the exact date of this event). On the other hand, in the context of the current war between Russia and Ukraine, in particular over the inheritance of Kyivan Rus’, it’s obvious that such emphasis on the tension between Russia and Ukraine will play as an advantage for Ukrainians. Also, in principle, it cannot be said that we have too many historical holidays. Especially, due to the fact that this day, July 28, is already a holiday, so we do not introduce any dissonances into our calendar. The number of days off does not change.

We need to see in what format the state will propose the celebration of this holiday and then draw conclusions about how we will honour it next year.

I would like to note that Ukraine is not the only country that has a Statehood Day. In particular, Statehood Day in Lithuania, which is our old ally and whose experience we can benefit from, is celebrated on July 6 precisely in honour and memory of the coronation of Mindovg – the first king of Lithuania. They tied this day to their historical date, 1253, while we tie it to the X century.

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A similar tradition still exists in Croatia, where Statehood Day was timed to 1990, commemorating the meeting of the first democratically elected multi-party parliament. There is also the Statehood Day of Montenegro, tied to the 19th century, to the declaration of independence in 1878. That is, Lithuanian Day is the direct predecessor of the Ukrainian day – it refers to ancient history, from which Lithuanians can build their statehood.

Therefore, there is nothing innovative here. It cannot be said that today’s president of Ukraine invented the current holiday «from the ceiling» and that it has no analogues.

Will this holiday benefit Ukrainians? It’s quite obvious that the state and specialized institutions did not tell the Ukrainian people enough about its history – even in recent years. Therefore, every holiday that allows us to look into the X century and better navigate our own history is definitely a positive thing. On the other hand, one holiday does not solve anything – without educational activities, a change in the teaching paradigm at school, and without the daily popularization work conducted by state institutions.

Ukrainians had their own statehood in the times of Rus’, as well as the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and in the Cossack times. There were literally several periods of statelessness associated with the Russian Empire, when Ukrainian lands were in the status of administrative units, like any other lands in this empire. But in Old Russian and other periods, Ukrainians had their own signs of grassroot self-governance, their own set of laws that sometimes worked even in other states, their own political traditions and institutions.

The mere fact that we did not have our own sovereign national state, similar to France or Britain, does not mean that the Ukrainian people did not have statehood at all.

Translated by Vitalii Holich

The author’s column is a reflection of the author’s subjective position. The editors of «Tvoe Misto» do not always share the opinions expressed in the columns, and are ready to give those who disagree the opportunity for a reasoned answer.

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