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Culture

Understanding culture is central to the study of history, as historical events are shaped by the specific cultural contexts in which they arise, and knowing these circumstances can help us to better appreciate and discern the significance of these events. Understanding the culture of politics, economics, relationships, gender, religion, and all the ways they intersect is the essence of proper academic history. Culture is not just about art; it is about people – their practices, beliefs, traditions, heritage, lifestyles, or values. The theme of Culture aims to focus on institutions and the infrastructure of culture, as well as on experiences people have within specific social/historic worlds. We develop modules and sources on media and imagination, ideology and religion, science, sports, and fashion. Even though culture arguably includes all of human activity, for us it is important to locate culture in space and time, and to pay attention to its urban dimension.

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Primary Sources

Documents (10)

Image for “A Collective of Individuals.” Booklet of the Volyn Amateur Film Studio, 1987
“A Collective of Individuals.” Booklet of the Volyn Amateur Film Studio, 1987
The source provided below is a promotional booklet from the Soviet amateur film studio “Volyn,” located in Lutsk. Unlike studios that were under the authority of and funded by trade union organizations, this studio was affiliated with the oblast department of culture. The booklet highlights the achievements and activities of the studio. This type of publication was widely circulated and exchanged at competitions and festivals of various levels. The presence of such printed materials could further indicate the level of financial support for the studio.
Image for Program of the amateur film competition “For You, Motherland, Our Hard Work,” Kharkiv, 1974
Program of the amateur film competition “For You, Motherland, Our Hard Work,” Kharkiv, 1974
This program is part of the multi-stage film selection for the Soviet-wide competition “For You, Motherland, Our Hard Work.” It features a compilation of works from the most active studios in the Ukrainian SSR at the time, including film titles and authors’ names. It provides information on the gender and social distribution within the amateur filmmaking movement, as well as its geographic spread. It is striking to note that most listed authors are men. Characteristically, each name is accompanied by a profession, though not always accurate, highlighting the diversity of individuals involved in amateurism. Attention can also be drawn to the film titles and their formats. Many amateurs utilized the professional 35mm format,...
Image for Resolution on work of Lviv oblast amateur film studios, clubs, and cinematographers, 1986
Resolution on work of Lviv oblast amateur film studios, clubs, and cinematographers, 1986
This document is a resolution of the Lviv Oblast Council of Trade Unions regarding the organization of an oblast seminar for leaders of amateur film studios, clubs, and cinematographers. It is a common example illustrating the degree of formalization and bureaucratic structuring within the coordinated amateur film community during the Soviet era. In its contents, we discern a distinct chain of command prevalent within the inter-republican hierarchy: the Ukrainian Republican Council of Trade Unions — the Lviv Oblast Council of Trade Unions — the Lviv Oblast Club-Laboratory of Trade Union Cinematographers — People’s Film Studio (one among several).
Image for Galician Holiday Cooking in the Letters of the Hlynskyi Family, 1890s-1920s
Galician Holiday Cooking in the Letters of the Hlynskyi Family, 1890s-1920s
The letters presented here are from the correspondence of the Hlynskyi family: the Greek Catholic priest Isidor Hlynskyi, his mother Yuliia Hlynska (née Bilynska), and Anastasia Kuzyk, the housekeeper in Isidor's household. They discuss various topics, including the festive menus of church celebrations in the Galician village of Butsniv near Ternopil, where Isidor Hlynskyi served as a priest from 1887 to 1931. The author of the first two letters, dating approximately from 1890 to 1892, is Yuliia Hlynska, the widow of the priest Kuprian Hlynskyi, Isidor's mother, who lived in Cherneliv-Ruskyi. These letters are written in Ukrainian and transcribed in Latin script. The choice of the Latin alphabet was likely influenced by Hlynska's...
Image for A letter from Olha Barvinska, a teacher at the Lviv school, to her father, 1893
A letter from Olha Barvinska, a teacher at the Lviv school, to her father, 1893
This letter is part of the correspondence between its author, Olha Barvinska (1874-1955), and her father, Oleksandr Barvinskyi, an influential Ukrainian politician. The Barvinsky family lived separately at the time. As an ambassador to the Austrian parliament, Oleksandr was permanently in Vienna while his family lived in Lviv. This letter, among other things, contains an interesting story about Olha's teaching career, which began almost immediately after she graduated from the city women's teacher's seminary. In September 1893, Olha started working as a Ruska (Ukrainian) language teacher at the city's incomplete secondary school. In the letter below, the author describes her invitation to work at the first Ukrainian women's private educational institutions in Lviv,...
Image for Excerpt from a 2013 interview with Lviv Puppet Theater actress: War, Gulag, Space Race
Excerpt from a 2013 interview with Lviv Puppet Theater actress: War, Gulag, Space Race
This is an excerpt from an interview with an actress in Lviv made in 2013. This actress talks about her wartime experience under German occupation and touches on the various cultural institutions she attended during the war. She went to the Lviv Opera Theater, run 1941-1944 by famous actor and director Volodymyr Blavatsky, who had worked with Kurbas’ Berezil and created a name for himself in avant-garde theater in Poland. He left for the west in 1944. She notes Lesia Kryvytska, an actress who worked in interwar Poland, Nazi-occupied Lviv, and then settled at the Maria Zankovetska Theater in postwar Lviv. She also mentions studying ballet at the Opera’s dance studio. Her mention...
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Images (5)

Image for View on the Monument to the Soviet Constitution, Lviv 1940
View on the Monument to the Soviet Constitution, Lviv 1940
The monument to the Soviet constitution, or the Stalin Constitution, was built in Lviv in October 1939. The authors were the sculptor Serhyi Lytvynenko and Kyiv artist Mykhailo Dmytrenko, it’s possible that, the artists adapted the project, originally conceived in Moscow, to the new city conditions. The sculptors Yevhen Dzyndra and Andryi Koverko carried out the project, but the participation of Lytvynenko’s student the young sculptor Yakiv Chaika is also a possibility. The monument was made in the ceramic-sculpture factory, which opened on Muchna St. in 1939. The location for the monument was chosen in the city centre, the “island” on the boundary mark of the Hetman embankments, between Yahellon’ska st. and Holy...
Image for Members of the cinema club in the village of Novooleksandrivka, Ukrainian SSR, during a film shoot, May 1981
Members of the cinema club in the village of Novooleksandrivka, Ukrainian SSR, during a film shoot, May 1981
In addition to film studios, which predominantly comprised adults, the network of amateur filmmaking also encompassed groups tailored for children and teenagers, typically organized within houses of culture or schools. Oversight of these groups was typically carried out by representatives from People’s Studios and local film clubs. The archival caption of this photograph reads as follows: “Members of the cinema club at the House of Culture in the village of Novoaleksandrovka, Belovodsk district, Voroshilovgrad oblast, during a film shoot. From left to right: students Naydysh A, Petrov P, the club’s leader Kolesnik V. I., student Burian V. — village Novoaleksandrovka, 15 May 1981, by Y. Khromushyn (outdoors against the backdrop of a river).”
Image for Film amateurs of the steam locomotive and car repair plant, photograph dated of 1956
Film amateurs of the steam locomotive and car repair plant, photograph dated of 1956
“The initiators of a film studio at the steam locomotive and truck repair plant (from the left to the right) Slutskyn S.S., Art Club Director of Tool and Inventory Shop, Skybalo G.L., Director of Radio Broadcasting Center, and Zirka A.V. are looking through the first shots of the new film about the plant, Lviv December 7th, 1956". This archival record accompanies this photograph in the Central State Audio/Visual and Electronic Archive (until the recent times called Central State G.S. Pshenychnyi Filming Archive) in Kyiv. Despite it is the official representation of film amateurs that was probably created for the purpose of media publications, careful analysis of the details makes it possible to discern...
Image for Wall newspaper of Kostyantynivka’ bottling plant, 1967
Wall newspaper of Kostyantynivka’ bottling plant, 1967
This wall newspaper is part of a series of wall newspapers from the Kostiantynivka bottling plant, created in 1967. The series consisted of 13 excerpts dedicated to local participants in the fights against the White Guards after the First World War. Thirteen newspaper issues reveal the plant's history, explain its name "13 Executed Workers Plant", and call for the publication of photographs and memories related to the confrontation with the White Guards. The presented here example tells the story of the family of Bobylov Aleksandr Semenovych and Bobylova-Chumychkina Mariia Semenivna, who were participants in the revolutionary movement. In 1918-1920, Kostiantynivka underwent numerous power changes, seized first by the White Guards and then by...
Image for Photo of the physical exercises, Lviv, 1927
Photo of the physical exercises, Lviv, 1927
The photo is from Stepan Haiduchok collection. It is one of the series of photos of physical exercises. The format is adjusted to the composition: five women stand in one row and demonstrate the body positions as part of dynamic exercises (bending forward, arm stretching, steps). The static vertical lines of the trees in the background contrast with the movements of women. The expressiveness of the composition is built on tonal and texture contrast. The composition is divided in half by the horizon line. The background of the photos' lower part (grass) has a neutral tone, so the dark skirts and light legs are distinctly presented. Conversely, the background of the upper part...
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Modules (1)

The Soviet government aimed to profoundly transform the styles and structures of people’s everyday lives, encompassing housing, leisure, and work. Particularly ambitious projects were conceived and executed during the 1920s and 1930s. Workers were at the forefront of Soviet social policy, with the Bolshevik Communist Party depicted in Soviet discourse as the avant-garde of the proletariat, primarily serving the interests of the working class. 

Digital stories (1)

At the time of autonomy, the General Regional Exhibition was the third attempt by Galician elites to show their achievements in the industrial, economic, and cultural development of the region. The first such attempt took place in Lviv in 1877, the second in Krakow in 1887. In turn, the next one was to open its gates to visitors in 10 years in Lviv. The official countdown to the beginning of its opening began in June 1892, when the Main Exhibition Committee was formed. The monetary fund of the exhibition was filled with donations from county communities, government subventions and the Provincial Office, the City Council of Lviv, individuals, and organizations. Most of the...

Reflections

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Syllabi (19)

This course, created by Prof. Sonya Bilocerkowycz, will examine how Ukrainian writers, filmmakers, and artists depict experiences of war, displacement, ecocide, colonial resistance, and other urgent concerns. Not only that, but we’ll consider how thinking alongside the work of Ukrainian creators can help us strategize ways to address global challenges as well as issues in our local communities. In signing up for this course, students agree to read and write frequently, to share their thoughtful impressions with others, and to help foster an environment of respectful dialogue and collective curiosity.
Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has prompted many to reconsider Ukraine’s relationship to the question of what it means to “decolonize.” This present-day revaluation of Ukraine’s complex imperial inheritances has centered primarily on Ukraine’s historical relationship to the Russian Empire (and the Russocentric Soviet Union), often to the exclusion of Ukraine’s Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and other imperial inheritances. This tragic moment of reflection raises a number of bedeviling questions. How do we narrate a decolonial history of Ukraine? Is it possible, or desirable, to disentangle Ukrainian culture from empires of the past and present? Can we imagine a future political and economic order for Ukraine that is not wholly dependent upon more powerful...
This lecture course comparatively and transnationally investigates twentieth-century communism as a modern civilization with a global outreach. It looks at the global spread of communism as an ideology, an everyday experience, and a form of statehood in the Soviet Union, Europe, Asia (i.e.Mao’s China), and post-colonial Africa. With the exception of North America and Australia, communist regimes were established on all continents of the world. The course will examine this historical process from the October Revolution (1917) to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986), which marked the demise of the communist state. The emphasis is not just on state-building processes or Cold War politics but primarily on the social, gender, cultural and economic policies that...
The course explores the history of Russia as an empire from Peter I up to now in the methodological perspective of the new imperial history. What are the historical preconditions and sources of Russian imperialism and militarism? How did the small principality of North-Eastern Europe manage to create the largest empire in the world? To what extent the Russian Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries differed from European colonial empires as well as eastern imperial polities such as Ottoman Empire and China? How did the imperial nationalities policies emerge and evolve? What role did the competition between "great powers" play in turning Russia into an empire? The course attempts to answer these...
The aim of the course is to get to know how to analyze examples of visual culture, including: fiction films and documentaries, video, photography. Both contemporary and historical materials will be studied, together with theoretical texts and publications (from the area of film and media studies, anthropology, cultural studies and history. Although images are mostly seen, if you want to really know them and understand them really well, you must not only "see" them but also "read" them, that means to analyze them as a complex message/ text. That is why at our course we will firstly discuss some terms and categories, that would help us to read images such as: composition, convention,...
This course forms a part of Jewish History and Culture of East Central Europe in the 19th-20th Centuries summer school. The syllabus is availible only in Polish.
This course was a part of Jewish History and Culture of East Central Europe in the 19th-20th Centuries summer school. The syllabus is written in Polish.
In our mini-course we will explore cultural interaction between Jews and non-Jews (Ukrainians, Poles, Russians) in the borderlands of the Habsburg and Romanov empires. This is interaction that may have been conscious or unconscious, and may have involved encounter, appropriation, negotiation, exchange and destruction.
The course consisting of five lectures focuses around interaction of text and image in modernist culture in CCE with a focus on Poland and its multicultural milieu. Two lectures break away from this framework, providing on the one hand a historical, longer perspective – and on the other locate the formal achievements of the avant-garde in today’s sociopolitical context.
From Lviv to New York City, walking tours are a unique form of teaching and public history, transcending the everyday interactions of the classroom. On an urban walking tour, students go to the city but the city also comes to them, often in unexpected ways. This course will provide students with a focused analysis of the walking tour as a tool for higher education and for public history.
Historians constitute a rather conservative breed, and of course some historians are more conservative than others. The comfort zone of a conservative historian is a document, that is a preserved text, especially one that has some kind of official provenance. Memoirs, testimonies, oral history — the conservative historian considers them at best to be second-rank sources, too subjective and uncertain. This kind of historian does not even recognize visual materials as sources and makes no use of them. But this is unfortunate, because we live at a time in which all sorts of information is presented ever more frequently by visual means. Our students have become accustomed to acquire information in a form...
This course covers the period from the partitions of Poland through the Russian and Habsburg Empires, the Soviet Union and interwar Poland. Students will familiarize with the geopolitical results of Russia’s westward and Austria’s eastward expansions and will focus among other overarching themes on the shtetl, the unique East European Jewish habitat; on Hasidism, a Ukraine-born popular movement of religious enthusiasm; on the interaction between Zionists and Ukrainian nationalists in Galicia; on the development of Ukrainization and Yiddishization (or Ukrainian and Jewish korenizatsiia) in the 1920s and the situation of Jews in Poland in the 1920s; on the Holocaust and its aftermath; on Ukrainians and Jews in the dissident movement; and on Jewish-Ukrainian...
This course forms a part of Jewish History, Multiethnic Past, and Common Heritage: Urban Experience in Eastern Europe summer school. The syllabus is available only in Polish.
This course forms a part of Jewish History, Multiethnic Past, and Common Heritage: Urban Experience in Eastern Europe summer school.
This mini-course introduces you to a field: cultural history. Cultural historians question how to analyze, articulate, and define how people ascribe meaning to various ideas, objects, and practices. You’ll acquire a “toolbox” of analytic frames useful for research in any field of study or cultural practice. For our “case study” of cultural history, we will delve into the history of the arts in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union from the late Imperial to the Stalinist period. This is not a comprehensive course on the arts in Russia or the Soviet Union, by any means. Rather, we will focus on the world of the arts by examining social, political and economic structures as...
The course offers a short introduction to some of the key concepts and literary and cultural practices that shaped the represenations of modern Jewish spaces in Eastern Europe as well as their contemporary reconstructions and exhibitions. While focusing on (Jewish) Poland and Yiddish culture, this course introduces critical tools for understanding and interpreting modern (Jewish) contructions and experiences of space and place.
In 1939, on the eve of the Holocaust, east European Jewry constituted the most important and culturally influential Jewish community in the world. As a result of half a century of mass migration, up to 90% of world Jewry either lived in Eastern Europe or were children of immigrants from there. Jews were particularly prominent in East European cities. In Galicia, for example, Jews constituted a plurality or majority of nearly every major city. (L’viv was an exception, where they made up “only” a quarter of the population.) This course will survey the modern history of this once vital community – social, economic, political, religious and cultural – from the Polish partitions until...
The field of social history has achieved the edge of its popularity in 1950-1980s. It was strongly connected with other disciplines, such as economics, demography, sociology, and allowed historians to reach a much wider range of research themes. Since the 1960s, the social history of the Jewish people became important and influential part of the studies. Historians were exploring the possibilities to study Jewish community with new tools and integrating different representatives of Jewish community – workers, women, immigrants, criminals - in a research. Since 1990s historians of Jewish past shifted their interest to cultural studies. However, in the last years, we can see an economic turn, which signifies the search for a...
The course explores the ways in which Jewish history and culture are narrated and visualized in the new museum and exhibitions projects in post-communist East Central Europe, and how those museums as public institutions, and curatorial interventions contribute to establishing, (re)shaping, countering or petrifying respective national narratives, the understanding of cultural difference and prejudice.