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Short essay topics

Nation and Memory in Russia, Poland and Ukraine, 1800 to the present

Short essay topics (Autumn Term)

  1. Are nations an invention of nationalists?

  2. How important is forgetting for nation building?

  3. Which role do historians play in processes of nation building?

  4. Do nations need enemies?

  5. When did Poland stop being the 'noble nation'?

  6. Did Russian nationalism strengthen or weaken the Russian Empire?

  7. To what extent have in 1910 peasants become Ukrainians, Poles or Russians? Choose one example.

  8. How important is literacy for nation building?
  9. Does a nation need a national opera?


1. National Literature and National Poets (Autumn Term, Week 8): Give a presentation on either an Ukrainian, Polish, or Russian author and discuss his relevance for the national project.

2. History Painting (Autumn Term, Week 9): Analyse one or a series of history paintings and their importance for constructing a national history.

3. National Music (Autumn Term, Week 10): Analyse a national opera (for example Ivan Glinka: A Life for the Tsar).

Short essay topics (Spring Term)

  1. “Nations are made in wars”. Discuss.

  2. How did the First World War change memorial culture?

  3. How important is the political cult of the dead for nation building?

  4. What effect did the First World War and the wars for independence 1918 – 1921 have for Polish and Ukrainian nation building?

  5. “Socialist in content and national in form”. Did the Bolsheviks solve the nationality problem of the Russian Empire?

  6. Which role did the Second World War play in Polish, Ukrainian, or Russian memorial culture?

  7. How do Polish, Ukrainian or Russian society remember the Holocaust?
  8. What role does history play in today's Russia, Poland or Ukraine?

You can either discuss the questions by focussing on one nation (Poland, the Ukraine or Russia) or you can compare two or three nations. You may also discuss the question in a more general sense but should, from time to time, refer to the Ukrainian, Polish, or Russian examples.