Alexander J. Motyl is professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark, as well as a writer and painter. He served as associate director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University from 1992 to 1998. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of Pidsumky imperii; Puti imperii; Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires; Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities; Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism; Sovietology, Rationality, Nationality: Coming to Grips with Nationalism in the USSR; Will the Non‑Russians Rebel? State, Ethnicity, and Stability in the USSR; The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929; and the editor of more than ten volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism. Motyl’s novels include Whiskey Priest; Who Killed Andrei Warhol; Flippancy; The Jew Who Was Ukrainian; and a work in progress, My Orchidia. His poems have appeared in Counterexample Poetics, Istanbul Literary Review, and New York Quarterly (forthcoming). He has done performances of his fiction at the Cornelia Street Café, the Bowery Poetry Club, and the Ukrainian Museum in New York. Motyl’s artwork has been shown in solo and group shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto; his art is represented by The Tori Collection.
I recently visited the western Ukrainian town my mother lived in. It’s called Peremyshlyany and it’s about 45 kilometers southeast of Lviv.
The town is a shadow of what it used to be. Back in the interwar period, Przemyslany (the Polish name) had a population of about 5,000, with Poles and Jews comprising about 90 percent and Ukrainians the rest. A railroad connected it to Lviv, or Lwow as it was then called, and the town appears to have displayed some class despite the difficult economic times. No less impressive was the political, cultural, and religious vibrancy of all three ethnic communities, each of which had a highly exclusionary sense of identity and all of which lived side by side, didn’t like one another too much, but more or less got along.
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