School history curricula and textbooks presented the Holodomor as the biggest tragedy for Ukrainians in the 20th century. As a form of cultural memory, the Holodomor lives on in dozens of movies and thousands of studies, and is extensively covered in the media. In addition, around seven thousand Holodomor monuments and memorials commemorate the event and its victims, and the legislatures of nearly two dozen countries in Europe and North America have acknowledged it as a genocide.
Ukrainians are familiar with the concept of genocide also in connection with other tragedies that occurred on Ukrainian territory: Every fourth victim of the Holocaust is from Ukraine. Unlike in Western Europe, most Jews exterminated by the Nazis in Ukraine were killed where they lived. The extermination of Ukrainian Jews therefore is called the "Holocaust by bullets".
Official politics of memory in Ukraine has focused on making the Holodomor the primary historical marker of Ukraine on the world stage (in effect copying the experience of constructing a global memory of the Holocaust) and placing it at the center when forming the Ukrainian historical identity. Until the mid-2000s, the Holocaust was absent in Ukrainian history textbooks; it was only presented in the world history textbooks as an external, European event. Therefore, it was not possible to measure how much Ukrainians know about the Holocaust in their country. Although sociologists have conducted about a dozen opinion polls on the Holodomor since 2006, no survey about the Holocaust was undertaken until 2021.
Moreover, the promotion of the Holodomor as a constitutive Ukrainian historical event resulted in a bizarre (however hidden) victimhood competition. In fact, the number of victims of the Holodomor was deliberately exaggerated within this competition paradigm. To come out "on top," it had to exceed six million, thus the numbers were inflated to the unbelievable seven or even ten million. It is worth mentioning that the Ukrainian academic community by in large did not support this questionable undertaking.
Russia has played a tremendous role in shaping the Ukrainian historical consciousness, with Ukrainian elites considering Russia as a constitutive Other.
Promoting the cultural memory of the Holocaust in Ukraine was primarily the work of non-governmental organizations funded by Western donors. Ukraine only started officially commemorating the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2011.
However, the situation has recently begun to change. In 2016, the word Holocaust–previously nearly absent from the vocabulary of top Ukrainian politicians–began to be heard at the highest political level. Special sections on the Holocaust in Ukraine suddenly appeared in the school textbooks and curricula. In 2019, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky personally supported a grandiose memorial project at Babyn Yar, which was initiated by private investors.
In 2021, the first opinion poll devoted to the Holocaust marked an impressive change: 81 percent of respondents in Ukraine identified the Holocaust as an integral part of Ukrainian national memory.
However, the combination of glorification at the state level of organizations and figures of the Ukrainian nationalist movement and commemoration of Holocaust victims pertains to the most acute problem. The Ukrainian nationalists not only held openly anti-Semitic positions during World War II (following the narrative of Judeo-Bolshevism), they also collaborated with Nazis in exterminating Jews.
Finally, it was only during Russia’s war against Ukraine that the Ukrainian state officially recognized the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars by Stalin as genocide of the Crimean Tatar people. Until 2016, Crimean Tatars themselves commemorated May 18 as the Day of Genocide of Crimean Tatar People, while state bodies neglected to observe this anniversary.