Slavonic item of the month : July 2014

The Russian and Ukrainian publishing markets have been quick off the mark to produce books which relate to the ongoing Ukrainian crisis.  For this month’s feature, we look at two specific examples, one from each country, and we also look at how library catalogue subject headings might be used for material on events in Ukraine.

Euromaidan and Crimea have become major subjects in the Ukrainian and Russian book markets, and the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine will no doubt follow suit as soon as manuscripts can be found which fit the bill.  The speed with which publications have appeared certainly make the University Library’s Slavonic book selector cynical, but the importance of our collections containing examples of books published in immediate reaction to such extraordinary events is not in doubt.

The front covers of Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandera (left) and Nebesna sotnia (right)

The front covers of Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandery (left) and Nebesna sotnia (right)

The two main examples featured here both relate to the Euromaidan protests which ultimately led to Ianukovych’s removal as president of Ukraine.  Through their covers, they are immediately illustrative of the extremely diverse views of the Maidan – were the protestors violent fascists or patriotic defenders?  The book on the left is Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandery : ot demokratii k diktature (The Stepan Bandera Euromaidan : from democracy to dictatorship; C203.d.7080), a Russian-language study of right-wing extremism in Ukraine by Stanislav Byshok and Aleksei Kochetkov.  The book on the right is Nebesna sotnia : antolohiia maidanivs’kykh virshiv (The heavenly hundred : an anthology of Maidan poems; C203.d.7081), a volume of poems collected in memory of those who died during the Euromaidan protests.  The Molotov cocktail and bat in the hands of the protestor in the first have turned into a spear and a shield showing the Ukrainian trident in the second.  While the first is surrounded by fire and anarchy, the second marches with a companion – presumably towards the Berkut, the loathed riot police.

The front cover of Nebesna sotnia (C203.d.7081)

The front cover of Nebesna sotnia (C203.d.7081)

Nebesna sotnia contains over 200 poems, primarily in Ukrainian but with a few in Russian and one in Belarusian.  In the compiler’s introduction, she writes that the authors represented in the book are “not only professional writers but also ordinary Ukrainians who, possibly, have now written the one and only poem they’ll write in their lives.”  The poems are accompanied by monochrome reproductions of Maidan-related art works, also produced by professionals and amateurs.  One shows Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine’s most important cultural figure, whose 200th birthday is celebrated this year, with a baseball bat held on his shoulder, a hard hat on his head, and standing with a pugnacious pose in front of a Ukrainian flag.

While the contents of Nebesna sotnia make almost no reference to the mid-twentieth-century Ukrainian resistance movements OUN-UPA, Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandery makes the link between them and Euromaidan explicit in its very title – Stepan Bandera was a major leader of the OUN (Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists).  The role of Ukrainian nationalists during World War 2 remains an extremely divisive and difficult subject and is a major propaganda factor in the current unrest.  Patriotic heroes fighting for independence, pitiless fighters and Nazi collaborators – names of people such as Bandera can be used as a compliment or condemnation.

Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandery views Bandera negatively and see the modern Ukrainian right-wing extremist parties Svoboda (Freedom) and Pravyi sector (Right sector) as his natural fascist descendants.  The book studies the rise of the far right in Ukraine from the break-up of the Soviet Union through to Euromaidan.  As a purely curious aside which readers might find interesting, the website of the foundation under whose auspices the book was published (Narodnaia diplomatiia (National diplomacy)) has as the geographical domain element of its website address the letters “su”, rather than the expected “ru” (for Russia).  The “su” stands for – the Soviet Union.  There are an incredibly large number of .su websites, the vast majority presumably registered long after the Soviet Union itself no longer existed.  To give a sense of currency, a search for Путин (Putin), specifying the .su domain results in nearly 3 million hits on Google – a fraction against the 47 million in the .ru domain, but impressive nevertheless.

The front cover of Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandera (C203.d.7080)

The front cover of Evromaidan imeni Stepana Bandery (C203.d.7080)

At the time of writing, no Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH) covering recent events in Ukraine have been released, so we must make do with existing headings and, ideally, make a note of records to which we would add more specific headings as and when they become available.  Nebesna sotnia has already got one (Ukrainian poetry – 21st century) since multiple-author anthologies are commonly given such headings.  This expresses what the book contains but not what it is about.  LCSH reflecting the actual subject of a literary work are fairly rarely used (although this tradition is changing), mainly employed only when the work is about a specific person (eg Andropov, IU. V. (Iurii Vladimirovich) – Fiction, as the books featured last month have) or a specific event (World War, 1939-1945 – Drama).  When a specific heading for Euromaidan is added, we will add that to this book’s record, with the form subdivision Poetry.

The Russian book will also have the eventual Euromaidan heading added (without any form subdivision).  In the meantime, Ukraine – Politics and government – 21st century is the closest we can come.  A look behind the scenes in the Library of Congress file of proposed subject headings shows that a specific heading has been put forward (Ukraine – History –Euromaidan, 2013-2014), but its form may well change as it is debated by subject indexers before inclusion in the formal list, so we must hold back from using that form now.

Books on recent events in Crimea have also started to be produced, such as Aleksandr Shirokorad’s Bitva za Krym (The battle for Crimea; C208.c.5897).  Crimea’s own authority form currently remains Crimea (Ukraine), and presumably this would only change to reflect Russia’s integration of Crimea if certain western governments chose to recognise the March 2014 referendum.  As the record linked to shows, the LCSH we’ve used therefore stem from Crimea (Ukraine) and include one in which we’ve applied a standard subdivision allowed for countries and regions, Annexation to … followed by the name of the country which has taken control, so: Crimea (Ukraine) – Annexation to Russia (Federation).  Note that Russia (Federation) is the form for post-Soviet Russia – Russia stands for pre-Soviet Russia.

Books about the current conflict in the east of Ukraine will no doubt come on sale before very long.  Again, no specific headings to cover the conflict have yet come through, so the books’ records would likely include some existing LCSH about local or national politics and others about Russian/Ukrainian relations.

The Slavonic item of the month feature aims to celebrate, through examination of particular pieces, the diversity and riches of Cambridge University Library’s Slavonic collections.  It has been running since April 2013.  Items featured in previous months can be found here on the Slavonic webpages.

– Mel Bach

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