Interactive Mapping: Turning on Location

What should one make of the Leninfall story? Was the demolition of the Lenin monuments just an unfortunate episode, a passing spasm of symbolic violence fueled by social upheaval and resulting in the loss of part of the country’s cultural heritage (some of the monuments, such as the one removed in Kyiv, had unquestionable artistic value)? Or did it reflect a broader change in society and its perception of itself and its past? And if the latter is more true than the former, then what does that memory shift tell us about the direction taken by Ukrainian politics and society since the time of the EuroMaidan and the Revolution of Dignity?

None of these questions can be adequately addressed without taking into account the spatial dimension of the Leninfall. Taking place in the midst of Ukraine’s most profound political crisis since the demise of the Soviet Union, the Leninfall was as much the outcome of political strife as were the wars of historical memory. Politics and memory had been closely interlinked in Ukraine at least since the Orange Revolution of 2004, and both have had very strong regional components. Regionalism in Ukrainian politics and memory had been strengthened by the Revolution of Dignity and the loss of the Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine to Russia-led separatist projects, which also mixed politics and memory, as evidenced by the “Novorossiia” project, rooted in the imperial past, and the creation of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics, inspired by the Soviet experience and endowed with the Soviet legacy.

The exploration of the regional dimensions of Ukrainian historical identity and the politics of memory based on that regionalism is the main objective of the “History and Identity” module of the MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine Project developed by the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University. This module is the result of collaboration with two main partners: the project titled “Region, Nation, and Beyond: An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconsideration of Ukraine” under the leadership of Professor Ulrich Schmidt at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and a project undertaken by the Razumkov Center in Kyiv under the title “The Formation of the Common Identity of Ukrainian Citizens in New Circumstances: Peculiarities, Prospects and Challenges.” Some information for the module was provided by the Institute of National Memory of Ukraine. [1]

revolution of dignity webmap

The maps developed by MAPA Project Manager Kostyantyn Bondarenko and MAPA Research Fellow Viktoriya Sereda are based on a spatial analysis of the data produced by two surveys conducted in Ukraine in March 2013 and March 2015 by the University of St. Gallen Project with the support of the Swiss National Foundation and the Wolodymyr George Danyliw Foundation, as well as a December 2015 survey conducted by the Razumkov Center and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands under the auspices of the “Social Transformation in Ukraine and Moldova” project. The first two surveys included 6,000 respondents aged 18 and above, while the third covered more than 10,000 respondents of the same age category.

The discussion that follows is based on the data and maps produced on the basis of the above-mentioned surveys. Both the maps and the databases, including the formulation of survey questions and responses to them, expressed as percentages of all responses, may be consulted on the module page of the MAPA website. The MAPA maps reproduced below represent one or more layers of the spatial information available on the website. Although the MAPA-produced maps and layers of information provide the basis for this discussion, it also draws on maps and data produced by other mapmakers and projects acknowledged in the footnotes.

While this paper focuses mainly on the Leninfall and seeks primarily to offer preliminary answers to the questions formulated at the start of this section, it is also designed as a demonstration of the possibilities inherent in GIS-based mapping and spatial analysis based on it and is presented as an invitation to further research into the spatial dimensions of Ukrainian memory politics and Ukrainian society at large.

[1]  “History and Identity,” MAPA: Digital Atlas of Ukraine.