Thinking about the origins of any phenomenon in the material world, rational knowledge doubts any beginning. There will certainly be an argument in favor of the relativity of any hypothesis about the beginnings: you can always find something that preceded the beginning and gave rise to it, conditioned it.
How much more complicated is the task for researchers of the intangible world - the world of mental phenomena, including the phenomena of collective psychology. Nations and peoples, for example. The answer to the question about the essence and nature of such phenomena necessarily presupposes a vision of their origins. So, in essence, it turns out to be impossible to answer regarding the priority in a pair of "chicken and eggs" - that is, the manifested phenomenon of collective identity and ideas about its origin.
It is not for nothing that national memory is the cornerstone of national identity. It is most natural to describe the features and qualities of such an identity by presenting historical narratives. They contain heroes, saints, prophets, thinkers, enlighteners, etc. by their activity express the features of the nation, and the nation, in turn, self-determines, following and imitating the significant figures of its history.
It is somehow easier and more understandable to follow a person than to follow an abstract principle or a law of history. Touching in its literality, loyalty to the heroes of the story implies, however, reciprocity: honoring the hero, they count on his patronage.
The very structure of these relations is essentially feudal. It is not so important that the sovereign in this case is not a real person, but an image built by historians and other fighters of the discursive front. And the patronage that he can provide, of course, is not an act of his will from the next world (let the believers object). His patronage lies in the very fact of the stable presence of this image in the collective imagery, in the associative series, in the structures of joint commemoration.
There is no sovereign and no vassal, but there is a relationship between them; the same can be said for the symbolic patron of the nation. It is not so important in itself as the attitude of the people towards him, who recognized him as their patron. This attitude speaks, of course, of the people themselves.
After all, it's one thing if Genghis Khan becomes a symbolic patron, like among the Mongols and Kazakhs. Yasa (a law of Mongols - ed.) and his political and organizational decisions, created a social matrix with which these peoples still associate themselves. Even at the genetic level, he left an impressive mark among these peoples, deserving recognition, in a sense, and as their progenitor.
A completely different matter is Saint James or Saint Patrick, revered as heavenly patrons, respectively, of the Spaniards and the Irish. The ethical and metaphysical message conveyed by these saints turned out to be the most important in the collective memory and self-determination of peoples. Much more important than the organizational foundations and structures of statehood, and even more so is blood involvement.
The Founding Fathers of the United States were able to translate ethical ideals into organizational decisions, which determined their place in the pantheon of the American people. However, chronologically, and even in terms of commemoration practices, these images of American history clearly stand out from the “feudal” tradition. As heralds of Modernity, they open the trend of re-founding nations. But if in America such a re-foundation took place on a new land with a variable ethnic composition, then in the Old World the re-foundation did not reflect fundamental changes in geography and demography. But the political ideal and self-awareness of nations changed.
The clearest example is the cult of memory of Kemal Ataturk as the founder of the Turkish national state. Or ... Stepan Bandera as a propagandist of the national idea among Ukrainians in the middle of the twentieth century. Their descendants articulate their attitude towards this figure with the eloquent flash mob "Our Father Bandera". But still more stable and traditional for Ukrainians is the veneration of Old Man Taras, whose portraits have adorned the houses of ordinary villagers for centuries along with icons.
Moreover, Shevchenko, like Bandera, is a herald of modernity, a fighter for the re-foundation of Ukraine in accordance with the political ideal of the "Spring of Nations". And its foundation, its true sources, lie much deeper, in the archaic and feudal layers of its history. We are not Americans who arrived on a new earth as ready-made people of the New Age. We are the autochthons of this Ecumene. This is confirmed by the feeling of belonging to the origins, which are older than liberal ideas and national doctrine - to the heritage of Kievan Rus.
The memory of this heritage was either actualized (as in the time of Peter Mogila), then it was overwritten by other commemorative dominants (as in the era of the Hetmanate). The dynamics and logic of these changes are subject to research, as exemplified by A. Tolochko's brilliant book "Kievan Rus and Little Russia in the 19th century." And the attention to this topic in modern Ukraine is by no means accidental.
Its symptom, in particular, was the emergence of a new holiday - the Day of Ukrainian Statehood, which will henceforth be celebrated on July 28 (until recently - the Day of the Baptism of Kievan Rus-Ukraine). On this day, Christians honor the memory of the Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir. Its role in strengthening the foundations of statehood was manifested primarily in the fact of the baptism of Kievan Rus.
The emphasis on this historic event as a vector of the memory policy in Ukraine did not impress with the results. The Day of the Baptism of Kievan Rus-Ukraine was celebrated mainly by churchgoers (plus officials), but it never became a national holiday. Granting a day off on July 28 may improve the situation. However, this day will become a real holiday only when it is emotionally "appropriated" by the Ukrainians. The emphasis on the figure of Prince Vladimir can contribute to this in the best way. After all, people tend to react primarily to people: this is how commemoration structures are arranged.
It is interesting that Equal to the Apostles Vladimir is as much a Christian saint as Saint Patrick. But St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by young people around the world, and the Day of Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir is a relatively small group of older people and churchgoers. The first is traditionally associated with drinking alcoholic beverages (thanks to a separate permission from the Western Church!). Although it is Saint Vladimir who is credited with the well-known thesis about the role of alcohol in joy in Russia, few people these days commemorate him with honey and beer...
Perhaps the reason is the atheistic worldview of Ukrainians? However, the reputation of the most atheistic country in Europe does not prevent the Czech Republic from celebrating St. Wenceslas Day as a national holiday, the Day of Czech Statehood. And religious ceremonies are an important part of this holiday. As on St. Stephen's Day in Hungary. But these saints are very reminiscent of our Saint Vladimir in the mission of Baptism of their peoples that they have realized. And they were all practically contemporaries.
As the European experience shows, an appeal to the Founders does not pose a threat to the dynamics of development and the tasks of modernization. However, the pursuit of the elusive ideal of modernization inevitably fuels a counter-trend - a craving for roots.
Attempts to re-found Ukraine have been following one after another for more than the first century, and they cannot be called a failure. In any case, the Ukrainians have succeeded in the process of national self-assertion much more than the Catalans or Kurds. Is this why the rhetoric of the re-establishment of Ukraine still occupies an honorable place in the modern political agenda and is not going to give it up? Perhaps the conservative benchmarks of commemorative practices could counterbalance the inescapable revolutionary nature of the political agenda in Ukraine. Or at least recall the longue durée perspective, which is the absolute value of our Ecumene.