sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

January 27, 2015

Ukrainian History Revision Circa 2014

Filed under: politics, Soviet Union, Ukraine — Tags: , , — edge of the sandbox @ 10:44 am

One of the key functions of Ukrainian Prime Minister is to travel the world asking for money.  And so on January 8 Arseniy Yatsenyuk found himself in Germany, giving an interview to the German channel ARD in which he said:

We all remember the USSR invasion of Germany and Ukraine. We must not allow this [again]. And no one has the right to rewrite the results of the Second World War, and that is what Russian president trying to do.

That must explain Babi Yar.  RT columnist Bryan McDonald thinks Yatsenyuk’s comments reflect his West Ukrainian heritage:

I’ve heard similar remarks before and the location was Western Ukraine, where the PM is from. Yatsenyuk hails from Chernivsti, widely regarded as the region’s second cultural capital, after Lvov, which is viewed by many as the nationalist stronghold.

[…]

West Ukrainians believe that they lost the war. Their side was defeated. Put simply, Yatsenyuk is merely a product of his environment. However, this time he expressed publicly a view that was probably previously restricted to private discourse. It’s possible that he felt a German audience might have been sympathetic to his position. If so, that was a huge misread of the German people.

Maybe, although my guess is that Yatsen’s comment reflects the view of the world from inside the Kiev radical bubble (incidentally, the bubble is set to burst within a month or two).  You see, Yatsenyuk, who came to power in march last year and looks like a hare is mad as a hatter.  I don’t think Ukrie Prime Minister knows where he stands on anything; instead he channels various opinions heard around the capital.  Prior to the revolution, this member of the more western-oriented “orange” parties made deals with the pro-Russian Party of Regions and a recently surfaced video shows a slightly younger Yatsen speaking admirably about Putin:

“Putin saved Russia,” reasoned Yatsenyuk. “I don’t know what I would do in his place […] when you have a great ungovernable country.”  He then discussed his countrymen’s love for a strong hand.  What, you never heard that thesis?

This wild card was hand-picked by State Department’s Victoria Nuland, who, in her defense, didn’t have much to work with — Ukrainian politics being a sad sad scene.

That Yatsenyuk, who claimed that he misspoke never apologized is not surprising because Russians and Ukrainians are not big on apologies.  But even if he misspoke, if he really meant to say that after the Nazi occupation Ukraine was under Soviet occupation, he’s still dealing in revisionism.

Yatsenyuk’s statement is two-fold: he claimed that Russia was the aggressor and Ukraine an innocent victim of Soviet occupation.  Lets start with the second part.  USSR annexed eastern Galicia, the westernmost Ukrainian region, in 1939 following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.  In that region, the followers of Ukrainian Nazi Stepan Bandera fought a bitter guerrilla war against the Soviets long after the war was over.  But this is just Galicia.

Early Soviet history in Ukraine was, to put it mildly, checkered: first they promoted Ukrainian culture through korenization, next they starved 3 million peasants.  And yet, less than 10 years after Holodomor, 4.5 million ethnic Ukrainians fought in the Soviet Army.  So when we talk of WW2 subplots, such as the German women “Russians” following the fall of Berlin, keep in mind that some of the rapists surely were Ukrainian.

This iconic WW2 photograph shows a Soviet officer leading his men into battle. The offecer is believed to be an ethnic Ukrainian Alexei Yeryomenko

After the conclusion of WW2, when in Russophone cities Holodomor was at most a faint memory, Ukrainians enjoyed a kind of honorary Russian status.  Ukraine was a recipient of Kremlin’s territorial “gifts”, most notably Crimea and Galicia. The Soviet Union was heavily economically invested in Ukraine, particularly the eastern part.  Year after year newsreels hailed a record Ukrainian harvest and record Ukrainian industrial production and historical programs on TV glorified the miners of Donbass.  (In the years of independence Donbass became a run-down region of a failed state, which goes a long way to explain the mess it’s in now).

The percentage of Ukrainian Communists was relatively high and Politburo members were drafted from the “republic”because, as Conservapedia explains:

Other reasons explained the relatively high percentage of party membership among the Belorussians and Ukrainians. These two East Slavic nationalities are culturally close to the Russians. In addition, the central party apparatus has sought to demonstrate that political opportunities for Belorussians and Ukrainians equal those for Russians.

Despite the fact that it was not an independent nation, Ukraine was awarded its own seat in United Nations General Assembly.  Marriages between a Russian and a Ukrainian were not considered intermarriages, and when the ambitious Russo-Ukrainian offspring talked about which “nationality” to chose for their Soviet passports, it was often said that the Ukrainian one is preferable because with Soviet affirmative action Ukrainians had easier time being admitted to Moscow Institute of International Relations.  I don’t know why that would matter at all — one would need serious connections to get into that school anyway.

My point is not that it was such a privilege to live in the Soviet Union, but that Ukrainians were a Soviet people.  In fact, it took two decades to slowly turn parts of Ukraine away from communism and Russia.

In 2009 “Orange” politician Yulia Tymoshenko laid a bouquet of red roses wrapped in St. George’s ribbon on the tomb of the unknown soldier to commemorate 65 years of victory in WW2. Until a year ago, general consensus among Ukrainians was that the Nazi menace was worth fighting.

Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had brief periods of independence during first, the Khmelnitsky uprising and then the civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution.  They were set free in 1991 and are yet to complete their 40 years in the wilderness because… the first part of Yatsen’s comment.

After the victory of “Euro”maidan, on the recommendation of revisionist historian Volodimyr Viatrovych, the head of Ukraine’s Institute of national Memory, the country abandoned the annual May 9th festivities commemorating victory in what was previously known as Great Patriotic War.  It opted for May 8 observation, as customary in the West, but, unlike in the West, under the slogan “Never again” and the symbol of red poppy.

The red poppy, as in Memorial Day, supplanted Soviet and Russian St. George’s ribbon that stands for the masculine valor of WW2 victors. In early 2014 the ribbon became associated with anti-Maidan, and Ukrainian nationalist had no problem ceding the symbol. They began to refer to the pro-Russian side, with their orange and black striped badges, as “colorado bugs”

Last year ordinary Ukrainians no longer felt comfortable wearing St. George’s ribbons and only those with hard core communist and separatist tendencies joined VE Day parades.  During one such festivity in the southern city of Kherson, the Kiev-appointed governor opined that Hitler liberated Ukraine.  A local newspaper reported the event under the headline “Communist Wrestled Microphone from [governor] Odarchenko And Broke It”.

Screenshot of Khersonskie Vesti with above-referenced headline. Ukrainian publications previously disappeared their articles after I linked to them.  Free discourse, ya know

Ukrainian nationalist say that since Soviet history was fictitious, their rewriting holds the truth. Does it?  A family friend of ours regularly posts nationalist entries on his social media.  One of them was about Jews allegedly serving in the UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in WW2 comprised of Stepan Bandera followers, which proves that those were not anti-Semites or Nazis but a national-liberation movement.  So I looked up the little Putinist mouthpiece called Defending History, and surprise: UPA was running concentration camps for Jewish professionals.  Again, the man who posted the fable about the UPA Jews is a friend of the family who stayed with us in California.  He harbors no prejudice against Jews; he’s simply misinformed and confused.

Or take the following freshly pressed tweet:

 

A resident of Galician town of Ivano-Frankivsk, using some sort of amalgam of Russian and Ukrainian, denied Ukrainian responsibility for the 1941 pogrom in Lviv: “In 41 there was Soviet Union, then the fascists, that’s basically the same”.  The pogrom was the work of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists who were eager to demonstrate to their anti-Semitism to German masters.  Ukrainian internet is swarming with examples like this one.

It’s true that Ukraine is not the only European country with a neo-Nazi problem and that Russia itself has a serious Nazi issue.  But Russia is not trying to join the EU, and if Ukraine is to enter the organization, it would enter it not despite the problem but thanks to it.

On second thought, Ukraine will not enter the EU, and it has nothing to do with Nazis.  Germany is unable to absorb the Ukrainian economy, and that’s all there is to it.  It would be nice if somewhere along the way Merkel could lecture them on Holocaust revisionism.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] lands.  This, however, is Soviet Ukrainian history, the one that New Ukraine turned its back on last year.  In fact Ukraine now celebrates Defender of Fatherland Day once known as Soviet Army Day, on the […]

    Pingback by Where Putin Doesn’t Go (And More About WW2 Ukraine) | sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — January 30, 2015 @ 5:20 pm


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