Olena Palko’s Making Ukraine Soviet: Literature and Cultural Politics under Lenin and Stalin (Bloomsbury Academic Press 2020) offers an intriguing investigation that zeroes in on the intersection of history and literature, politics and literature. The main focus of the book is comprised of two iconic figures in the history of Ukrainian literature: Pavlo Tychyna and Mykola Khvyl’ovyi. Through a complex and multilayered investigation of archival materials and historical documents, Olena Palko further advances the understanding of the formative years in the history of Soviet Ukraine. The two protagonists around whom the book seems to revolve offer additional venues for unraveling the highly entangled history not only of Ukraine under the Soviet Union but also of the Soviet Union itself. The theoretical framework of the book allows to consider multiple developments and influences that contributed to the specificity of the Soviet establishment in Ukraine. As the author of the book emphasizes, the conversation about the Soviet years in Ukraine asks not only for scrupulous reading of various documents but also for the acceptance of inherent ambiguities that the Soviet presence brought forth in Ukraine and beyond. Making Ukraine Soviet highlights the entangled and contested political and historical developments that took place in Soviet Ukraine, particularly during the first decade of the USSR; it also invites the readers to look at the writings by Tychyna and Khvyl’ovyi as an additional venue to not only better understand the milieu in which the writers worked but to also see how their writing responded to the environment that within a few years underwent profound and drastic changes.
Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures.
Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD candidate in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures, Indiana University