Mykola Riabchuk. East Slavonic „Ummah» and the Problem of Emancipation. On the „Weak» Identity of Belarusians and Ukrainians

The article problematizes the notion of Belarusian and Ukrainian national identities as arguably «weak», «unformed», and «immature». This common wisdom is based on the fact that the three-phase process of nation-building (in Miroslav Hroch’s terms) had not been completed in Belarus and Ukraine throughout the 19th — early 20th centuries, and was eventually interrupted and even rolled back by the Bolsheviks. As a result, the traditional ethnic national identity still remains marginal in Belarus and in most parts of Ukraine. Its limited appeal to the majority of the population is broadly perceived as a sign of its weakness, even though within its core group this identity is actually very strong. Since independence, however, the new, alternative type of national identity has evolved in both countries based on regional patriotism of the local, essentially imperial («East Slavonic») population and its etatist loyalty to the newly acquired state. The paper argues that this «Creole”-type identity (as opposed to the traditional «aboriginal») is increasingly strong in both Belarus and Ukraine, and may lead either to a profound split of both societies (a kind of «Olsterization») or to a development of some overarching national identity — if civic values manage to make significant inroads within the both groups.