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The Controversial Hero Figure of the Ukrainian Cossack Hetman Ivan Mazepa: Demonization and Idolization of Memory Die umstrittene Heldenfigur des ukrainischen Kosakenhetmans Ivan Mazepa. Dämonisierung und Heroisierung der Erinnerung

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The figure of Hetman Ivan Mazepa cannot be put in the same line with the leaders of Cossack uprisings. Mazepa was no rebel like Stepan Razin or Kondratii Bulavin. Moreover, the Cossack uprisings of Petro Ivanenko, Semen Palej and Kondratii Bulavin were crushed cruelly with his help. His early career began with his election as Hetman and he succeeded in reuniting the two parts of Chmel'nyts'kyi's territory under his hetmanate. When Ivan Mazepa went over to Swedish King Karl XII some years later, during the great northern war, he was denounced as a traitor and the Russian Orthodox Church imposed on him an anathema.

The personality of the Hetman still polarizes today: In Russian historiography, Mazepa is considered as the prototype of a traitor, in the national Ukrainian narrative he is honored as a heroic figure. The question of who the Ukrainian Hetman Ivan Mazepa actually was is not so easy to answer, because historical facts and the heroic appearance diverge. It is a fact that the figure of the Hetman was undergoing numerous political, cultural, linguistic, literary, and sexual transgressions in its development and certain notions and stereotypes established themselves in the collective memory. Until today they determine the image of the Hetman.

The present article questions the origin of certain stereotypes, portrays the role of propaganda actions and the media in demonizing the image of Mazepa and highlights the importance the works of Voltaire, Byron, Hugo and Julius Słowacki had for the idolization of Mazepa. Finally, the question is investigated in how far this hero figure is a constituent part of modern Ukrainian nation-building.
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Language: German

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • The Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas ("East European History") present the discipline in its entire breadth; for thematically focused articles the emphasis lies on the territory of the former Russian Empire and the former Soviet Union. A double-blind review process with international experts ensures adherence to the annals' recognized high quality standards. An extensive section devoted to reviews informs the reader about current trends in German and international research. In addition, the editorial board publishes an electronic review supplement under the title jgo.e-reviews at
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