The $750bn plan looks like an audit written for 19th century nationalists
This week Ukraine released a comprehensive draft of its proposed recovery plan, which includes a $750 billion price tag. President Zelensky has called on the world’s democracies to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction, with a deal that contains everything from infrastructure and healthcare to farming and nuclear energy and much, much more. It is ambitious, to say the least.
Not only is this a plan for Ukraine’s physical reconstruction, but also included in this proposal is a detailed plan to forge a stronger unified Ukrainian national identity. Like if a McKinsey audit was written with the goals of 19th century Romantic nationalists in mind.
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For example, one plan from the “Youth and Sports” working group sets out in three stages a path to solving the problem of “insufficiently formed Ukrainian national and civic identity.”
Stage 1 — to be completed this year — sees a unified narrative on the formation of Ukrainian identity being created. Stage 2 — from January 2023 to December 2025 — sees the level of Ukrainian identity in the country reaching 85%. And, finally, stage 3 envisions “the field of national and patriotic education” aligned with EU standards by 2032.
The “Culture and Information” working group, for its part, proposed a far more comprehensive agenda. It calls for a sharp acceleration of the process of Ukrainian nation-building that began in 2014, taking the Maidan Revolution of that year and the Russo-Ukrainian war as the new foundational myths of the modern Ukrainian nation-state.
Ukraine, like Poland and some other countries in the region, has an official Institute of National Memory tasked with shaping and preserving national memory. It played a prominent role in drafting controversial decommunization laws in 2015, putting Ukraine’s historical memory on a collision course with Russia’s, with Putin presenting his regime as the defender of the memory of what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.
Under Ukraine’s recovery plan it would likely play an even larger role, not just shaping perceptions of distant history but building new narratives based on events we are all living through today.
The recovery plan calls for the dismantling of 99% of Soviet memorials targeted by decommunization laws by the end of the year, as well as 70% of those that are “Russian imperial markers.” By the end of 2025 it hopes to see the “symbolic space of the country completely devoid of communist and colonial markers,” and by 2032 the change or update of “90% of historical and local lore museums.”
Soviet memorials, devoid of their old purpose, are being swept away. New statues will be erected in their place. Along with countless national and local memorials to the Russo-Ukrainian war, a Museum of the Revolution of Dignity is called for by 2032, as is the creation of a National Pantheon, or a Memorial of Ukrainian Heroes.
“The true history of Ukraine, freed from the myths of the Russian narrative, is part of European history,” the culture and information policy working group concluded. The goal is now to build a “conscious, consolidated society, resistant to propaganda, positioning itself as a part of the European and the democratic world community.”
Ukraine struggled for decades to forge a unified national identity in the wilderness of post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Russian aggression has changed that. One Ukraine — brought down by Soviet missiles and Russian delusions of grandeur — is being destroyed before our eyes. Another is emerging victorious on sovereign Ukrainian territory, and it has a plan to rebuild Ukraine in its image. Now we just have to fund it.