Call for Papers: "Cities in Limbo: Katerynoslav–Dnipropetrovsk–Dnipro and Aleksandrovsk–Zaporizhzhia"

Call for Papers: Special Issue of the East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies "Cities in Limbo: Katerynoslav–Dnipropetrovsk–Dnipro and Aleksandrovsk–Zaporizhzhia"
Guest Editors: Oleksandr Pankieiev and Volodymyr Kravchenko (Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta)

Today, the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro share many common characteristics. Yet, they differ in many aspects, not only from other cities of Steppe Ukraine but also from each other. This special issue will examine these commonalities and differences from the viewpoints of a diverse range of disciplines and approaches.

Scholars tend to agree that Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro (called Dnipropetrovsk from 1926 to 2016) were created almost at the same time, as a result of the integration of Steppe Ukraine territories into the Russian Empire after Catherine II’s destruction of the Cossack Sich, but there is still no firm agreement on the exact dates or contexts of the founding of these cities. This debate has extended beyond academic circles, spilling out into political and public arenas. It has become an integral component of many old and new historical mythologems—for example, “New Russia” (Novorossiia) versus the land of the Zaporozhian Cossacks (Loca deserta or Dyke pole).

The development of the two cities in the nineteenth century unfolded at different paces. As a gubernia capital, Katerynoslav (today, Dnipro) became an economic powerhouse and the epicentre of cultural life and education in the region. But it was still a pale version of the initial plan put forward by the Governor-General of the gubernias in Southern Ukraine in the last quarter of 18th century Grigorii Potemkin. Potemkin envisaged a magnificent city with wide streets and a Transfiguration Cathedral bigger than the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. The long-standing ambition for Katerynoslav (Russian: Ekaterinoslav) to become the Athens on the Dnipro River was not realized. This was not the first time the big dreams for the city were not achieved.

Although Aleksandrovsk (Zaporizhzhia) remained a quiet and humble provincial town with few significant developments, it was populated with people who carefully preserved the memory and legacy of Cossack times through local folklore and traditions. Its proximity to the largest Mennonite colonies in the Russian Empire shaped many aspects of everyday local life.

In Soviet times, cities lived double lives. On the surface, they were heroes of the canonical socialist labour competition. Dnipro even earned a reputation for “forging party cadres for the Soviet Union.” This legacy remained relevant for the first decade after the USSR disintegrated and Ukraine gained independence. But under the surface, there was constant turmoil and different social movements, which were manifested in the art, the literature and in other media of the city. At that time, Zaporizhzhia wandered in an identity maze, trying to navigate through its past (its main claim to fame in the West was its rampant pollution). In the 1990s, Zaporizhzhia presented an unusual mix of Cossack, Russian imperial, and Soviet elements to the outside world.

Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia have a history of relations with each other, with Aleksandrovsk (Zaporizhzhia) often placed in a subordinate or uezd status in relation to Katerynoslav (Dnipro). The ongoing war in the Donbas has had an enormous impact on the cities’ outlooks. Being on the front lines of the war, they have had to face all the identity problems they have accumulated since they were founded under the Russian Empire.

For this special issue, authors are encouraged to explore the following issues or other relevant themes connected to the multifaceted nature of the two cities of Dnipro (Dnipropetrovsk) and Zaporizhzhia:

  • Public spaces, landmarks, and architecture and their places in the formation of urban identities;
  • Local and national heroes and antiheroes and the making/unmaking of urban, ethnic, and civic national identities;
  • Correlations between place and regional and national identities of city inhabitants;
  • Historical myths and city legends; 
  • Development of scholarship and science; 
  • Environment and social movements;
  • Images of the cities in literature and cinema; 
  • Official and underground cultures;
  • Social and linguistic landscapes of the cities;
  • Manifestations of religions and beliefs;
  • Russian imperial and Soviet legacies;
  • Frontline cities;
  • Provincialism.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 400 words to Dr. Oleksandr Pankieiev ( by August 15, 2020. Authors whose abstracts are approved by the guest editors will be invited to submit complete manuscripts of up to 10,000 words, including references, by January 31, 2021.

For more information on East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies, see For submission guidelines, please refer to