Open Access

Popular and Scholarly Primordialism: The Politics of Ukrainian History during Russia's 2022 Invasion of Ukraine


While nationalism theorists have mostly rejected primordialism, politicians and the wider public typically have a primordialist and essentialist understanding of national history. On the eve of Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin invoked several primordialist tropes so as to justify military action, which is unsurprising in a politician. Yet Western scholars criticizing Putin's historical narratives in newspaper editorials or in scholarly talks posted to YouTube only rarely suggest modernist or social constructivist historical narratives. Several posit counter-primordialisms instead. Primordialism, then, enjoys more support than is widely realized, even among scholars who ought to be familiar with its problems. Meanwhile modernist theorists of nationalism, however popular among nationalism theorists, require more vigorous promotion in academic circles.