Gender issue and the process of nation-building: the case of Ukraine



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Tartu Ülikool


Gaining independence in 1991 has brought many challenges for the new Ukrainian state. Among those challenges was a struggle to find new national identity. As an attempt to do so, a look back to the pre-Soviet times, particularly to the values of “traditional Ukrainian family” was used as a chance to go back to the national roots. Consequently, a highly essentialist approach both to nation and to gender issues, e.g. division of duties in family, has become very popular and influential in Ukrainian public and political debates. The aim of the paper is to analyse how these issues – process of nation-building and gender issue – interact and affect each other. The thesis is theoretically framed by Brubaker’s concept of “nationalizing states” and the role of gender issue in the newly independent states. The study is empirically based on the speeches, interviews, statements and other political texts of the most influential Ukrainian politicians of the time of the first three Presidents – Leonid Kuchma, Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych. The political texts of the political elite expressesing opinions on the process of nation-building, finding Ukrainian national idea, together with views on gender roles and women’s position in the society are chosen for critical discourse analysis. The analysis concludes that regardless the fact that Ukrainian politicians of different parties try to distance themselves from each other, their views on the above mentioned topics are very similar and highly essentialist. Thus, women are supposed to contribute to the construction of the Ukrainian nation through giving birth to children and children’s patriotic upbringing, together with taking care of their husbands and inspiring them to great achievements in the sake of Ukraine.