It was this “Ukrainian gaze” upon European geography that, in 1862, inspired the Ukrainian poet Pavlo Chubynsky to write “Ukraine has not yet died,” the song that would become the country’s national anthem. Like the borders of the nation it honors, the anthem has been periodically revised. The original version includes a verse lamenting Hetman Bohdan Khmelnyts’kyi’s unification of “Little Russia” and “Great Russia” in 1654, after he successfully won Kiev back from the Poles to found the Cossack Hetmanate, earning the moniker “Protector of the Cossacks”:
Oh Bohdan, Bohdan
Our great hetman
What for did you give Ukraine
To wretched muscovites?!
To return her honor,
We lay our heads
We shall call ourselves Ukraine's
For Ukrainian patriots, the song mourned an ancient national sovereignty subsumed by Moscow. After being banned for some 70 years by the Soviet Union, a revised version of the anthem appeared in 1991, the line about “wretched Muscovites” expunged.
In 2003, the Ukrainian parliament approved the official lyrics, and Chubynsky’s original anthem was further abbreviated. Though unofficial performances often include some of his lyrics, in the official anthem only the first verse and chorus of his original composition remain:
Ukraine’s glory has not yet died, nor her freedom,
Upon us, compatriots, fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish, like dew in the morning sun,
And we too shall rule, brothers, in a free land of our own.
In this finalized version of the anthem, the call to bloody battle was erased to make the song more palatable to allies in both the east and the west. It seemed to encapsulate a national identity on the verge of being defined not so much in opposition to Moscow, but rather by the challenges of democracy.
The following year, Ukrainians took to the streets in the Orange Revolution, which was sparked by fraudulent results in a presidential run-off election. In that uprising and in the Maidan Revolution a decade later, the national anthem emerged as a battle cry for protesters piling into Kiev’s main square. “Souls and bodies we'll lay down, all for our freedom, / And we will show that we, brothers, are of the Cossack nation!” Ukrainian performers and protesters chanted. According to historian Charles King, the word “Cossack” likely comes from the Turkic word “Kazak,” which means “free man.” The lasting image of Ukraine as a “Cossack nation” seemed aimed at preserving a triumphant national narrative of a free Ukraine.
In some ways, Ukrainians now enjoy more freedom than ever. They have been promised continued military aid from the United States and, eventually, visa-free travel to the European Union. With Western support, the country has been able, thus far, to avoid complete financial collapse. The “Ukrainian gaze” in much of the country is turned steadfastly toward Europe.