Heavenly fighters for Ukrainian civil society: the cultivation of democratic culture through the memorialization of the Revolution of Dignity




Murray, Emma

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The 2013–2014 Revolution of Dignity in the capital city of Kyiv was an overwhelming popular demonstration of the Ukrainian public’s desire for a western-oriented, democratic, and European future for Ukraine and its rejection of the Russian-oriented loyalties that have troubled the country since gaining independence in 1991. The western choice embodied by the revolution—which resulted in violent deaths, countless injuries, and the overthrow of the corrupt presidential regime—lingers in the form of memorials that serve not only as reminders of the violence, but as evidence of the continued affirmation of this choice. I argue that the sociological construction of the revolutionary Heavenly Hundred Heroes and the participatory commemorative practices dedicated to such demonstrate how memorialization can foster the transition away from the corrupt authoritarian past toward a democratic future through the promotion of civic engagement. I employ the perspective of memorialization paired with a post-colonial framework to explain how the revolution is remembered by the Ukrainian public, analyzing the key interactions between civic identity formation, hybridity, memory, sites of conscience, and transitional justice to demonstrate how commemoration strengthens the culture of democracy. The examination of three different types of memorialization—grassroots, official, and the site of conscience—demonstrates the different ways in which memorials serve as sites of discourse and engagement for Ukrainian society. The ongoing attempts at the reforms promoting transitional justice demonstrate that memorialization of the revolution, in strengthening the culture of civic engagement, helps promote democracy. In Ukraine, civic engagement fostered by memorials positions them as crucial components of transitional, post-colonial spaces.



Ukraine, Euromaidan, memorialization, Heavenly Hundred Heroes, revolution