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CDU/CSU | 11Jun2015 | Timothy Snyder  [19:20]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVAC3e8rP9U  [02:30:53]

Russia and Ukraine -- Historical background of a European conflict
Russland und die Ukraine -- Historische Hintergr�nde eines europ�ischen Konflikts

CDU/CSU-Fraktion im Deutschen Bundestag

[W.Z. This 2.5 hour video is mostly in German. However, we have summarized the English-language lecture of Timothy Snyder between [00:16:25 -- 00:35:45]. The other English-language speaker is Verkhovna Rada deputy Oksana Syroid between [01:13:30 -- 01:20:15], [02:00:30 -- 02:06:15], [02:19:25 -- 02:21:08].

[00:16:25 -- 00:17:52]
Ladies and Gentlemen. It's a particular pleasure to be here. I have the luxury as an outsider that I don't have to criticize the German debate. Instead, I can praise the German debate for existing at all. Germany is one of the few European countries where the debate on Ukraine continues. I can't say that I am always pleased or impressed by every argument that is made but I think that it is an extraordinary thing that one continues in this country to try to understand what this conflict is all about. It's my firm belief that history can help. Not because history leads us to some direct political conclusion, but because history can help us to avoid some of the most fundamental mistakes. Even if we all understood history perfectly, we would disagree about what policy to Ukraine or policy to Russia should be. But there are some fundamental things, I think, maybe then we would be able to share. And I would like to start with what I take to be fundamental.
[00:17:52 -- 00:19:32]
Ukraine has a state, has a language, has a culture that has a history. Historians can, and will, disagree about interpretations of that history. No doubt, even today in these 15 minute presentations you will hear accents fall in different places. What cannot be denied, however, is that the history is there. The history exists. And what I want to make clear in the first few minutes of my presentation today is that the history of Ukraine is not only a history of war. My concern, when I speak about the history of Ukraine, as a history of the battlefield, as a history of civilian deaths, which, of course, it is in the twentieth century, -- my concern is that this will make Ukraine more distant to you than it really should. The interesting thing about Ukraine -- and this is why the work of the Deutsche-Ukrainische Historische Commission will be so important -- is that so many aspects of its history are familiar. Ukraine -- like Germany, like much of the rest of Europe -- has a history of medieval conversion to Christianity. It has a history of medieval urban law, which was continued to the Grand-Duchy of Lithuania into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It has a history of the Renaissance. The Kyiv Mohyla Academy was the oldest institute of higher education in east Slavic lands. When this part of Ukraine was incorporated by the Russian Empire, it was the largest educational institution in the Russian Empire.
[00:19:32 -- 00:21:34]
Kyiv-Rus-Ukraine has a history of reformation of Protestants and Catholics, but also, of course, of Orthodox. It has a history of three-sided, or even more complicated, reformation. The Jewish history of Ukraine is, perhaps, the richest history in all of Jewish history. The only possible competitor is Poland. The whole history of the Shtetlakh(?) -- the whole history of the Jewish town -- was built in Ukraine. Jewish history, which is, of course, the central part of European history makes no sense without Ukraine. Ukraine had wars of religion beginning in 1648, just as the wars of religion in central Europe stopped. And, of course, Ukraine also has a history of national ideas and national movements. What I am trying to say, before I speak of the wars and the suffering in the twentieth century, is that there are many chapters of Ukrainian history -- all of which will be familiar to any German, any European with the most basic of historical education and some of which are extraordinarily interesting. So, while I am going to be speaking mainly of the history of the Great War -- of the Second World War -- of the reasons why Germans might want to feel a sense of responsibility for Ukraine, I also want to emphasize that there is a brighter -- and perhaps a more interesting history of Ukraine -- that in a better moment when we didn't have to be concerned with the war that is taking place now in southeastern Ukraine, we might be reading about medieval or renaissance or reformation Ukraine -- that the history of Europe itself is enriched by this country. Or, to put it in a different way, in so far as Germany is better than everyone else at carrying on historical discussions, it can only be the case that adding Ukraine to European history will make these discussions more interesting. This is not just a matter of informing policy, it's simply a matter of  conclusion aha(?). These are things that every European should -- and I am confident that at some point will -- know.
[00:21:34 -- 00:25:53]
That said, the moment when Ukrainian history does start to become exceptional is the beginning of the twentieth century. Not because there are no national movements, there are. The Ukrainian national movement goes back to the 1820's and 1830's. It goes back to Romanticism, the same as the German national movement does. In the nineteenth century, there is a fairly broad Ukrainian national movement. During the First World War, far more people die for Ukraine independence than die for the independence of pretty much any other east European state. The fact that it's not achieved changes our perspective. Right? Because we think of history in national terms, so the fact that there is no Ukrainian state after the First World War means that we forget about the history of Ukraine during the First World War. And what I would like to stress in the next couple of minutes is that the experience of the First World War on the territories of today's Ukraine was excruciatingly intense. It contained many of the moments which will be familiar to you, but also a whole series of other events . Now, as I say, there was a national movement in Ukraine. It was much like the Czech national movement. When empires fell apart, the national movement tried to form a state. The reasons why this national movement failed have to do with the large number of very powerful projects that surround Ukraine. But let me give you the chronology. The First World War begins with the Russian Empire advancing into the Hapsburg Monarchy. As it advances into the Hapsburg Monarchy, where is it advancing? -- into Galicia, into the territory that's now western Ukraine. And what does it do? It expropriates the Jews who live there, who in the Hapsburg Monarchy could own property. In 1915, the Russian Army is driven back. What does it do then? It deports tens of thousands of Jews from the territory of today's Ukraine, which was then, of course, the territory of the Russian Empire. In 1917 - 1918, we have the Russian revolution, which for Ukraine is a moment where Ukrainian independence is declared. But it is also, of course, the moment of the beginning of the Russian civil war. Now, from the point of view of these territories -- the Western Russian Empire -- Ukraine, also Belarus, the Baltic states -- the Russian civil war is like the First World War all over again. The First World War is over in the West, it continues with a similar scale and rate of killing for another several years in Ukraine -- in the Western Russian Empire. And this war that we call the Russian civil war -- correctly because it is in the Russian Empire -- takes place largely in Ukraine, largely in Southern Ukraine. And a huge number of the casualties, military and civilian, are inside Ukraine. So inside Ukraine in 1918-1919 you have a revolution and a counter-revolution. A war between the Red Army and the counter-revolution army known as the White Army. You simultaneously have a Ukrainian national army trying to found a Ukrainian national state -- fighting at one time or another against both of these armies. So you have a three-sided civil war. During this three-sided civil war, pogroms are committed against Jews by all three sides, although predominantly by the Ukrainian national army. When the Red Army defeats the White Army and defeats the Ukrainian Army, the Ukrainian Army then allies with Poland in 1919. And Poland and Ukraine together defeat the Red Army, which is the last time the Red Army will be defeated until Afghanistan. Right? In 1919-1920, the Polish Army --  with Ukrainian allies, which is often forgotten -- defeat the Red Army, first at Warsaw and then drive the Red Army back. Now, this is an extraordinarily important moment. I am not going to try to make it more dramatic for you than it needs to be, but you might remember that where the Red Army was going to after Warsaw was Berlin. So if there is anyone, who thinks that wasn't a good idea, you might remember that the trail of the Red Army westward is littered not just with Polish but with Ukrainian corpses. Ukrainians are buried in Polish cemeteries all the way to Warsaw, because the Ukrainian Army was then fighting the Red Army, just like the Polish Army was.
[00:25:53 -- 00:27:38]
What this brings though, is not a clear national victory. So, in general in Eastern Europe, whether you won a war or lost a war did not decide whether you got national independence. It had almost nothing to do with it. It was basically a matter of chance. The Ukrainians were involved in winning this war against the Bolsheviks, but they are not rewarded with national independence. Instead, the territory of today's Ukraine is divided -- mainly into two pieces. Most of it becomes the Soviet Ukraine, the western part becomes part of Poland. This is the treaty of Riga of 1921. Now, why is this so interesting and important? It is interesting and important for a couple of reasons. The first is that this means that the Soviet Union is established as a state with a boundary as opposed to being an international revolution. The second reason this is important is that everyone at this moment acknowledges that there is a Ukrainian nation. This is what I find so interesting. It is very strange to be a historian in 2015 and listen to people deny the existence of the Ukrainian nation; whereas a hundred years before even the Bolsheviks were perfectly aware that there was a Ukrainian nation. They had just been defeated by a Ukrainian army on the battle field. They were perfectly aware there was a Ukrainian nation and that is why the Soviet Union was established as a federation of nations. Right? That is why it is not an international revolution. Why there is a Ukrainian Republic in the west of the Soviet Union. Because everyone at the time -- Lenin, Stalin, you name it -- knew that there was a Ukrainian nation. Even Joseph Volt(?), who was then reporting from Ukraine, wrote to people in Berlin articles saying and I quote, "Ukraine is a nation that certainly deserves its own state."
[00:27:38 -- 00:30:24]
Now, being part of the Soviet Union was, of course, not the same thing as being an independent nation state. To put the matter very simply what it meant was that the Ukrainian territory of the Soviet Union -- this western territory, this very sensitive territory, this borderland territory from Moscow's point of view -- was at the center of the Soviet effort to modernize. At the center of the Soviet effort to prepare for war. And although these are not strictly speaking wars, I am going to mention them because they are related to wars. There is the war against the kulak in the early 1930's. The attempt to prepare the Soviet Union for conflict with the capitalist world, which is particularly painful in Ukraine. Ukraine is regarded as strategically sensitive, but it is also the place in the Soviet Union along with southern Russia that produces the most food. And therefore when agriculture is collectivized, Ukraine suffers the most and more than 3 million people starve unnecessarily. [Snyder never uses the term Holodomor.] The second round of preparation for war -- the great terror of 1937 and 1938 -- leads to the execution of some 700,000 Soviet citizens. I would emphasize all across the Soviet Union, but disproportionately in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people who live in Soviet Ukraine are more likely to die in the terror in 1937and in 1938 than anyone else. And when the war comes -- and these are the main remarks and the ones with which I close -- when the war comes in 1941, Ukraine is at the center in three different ways. The center of the Second World War, of course, is the German-Soviet war -- the war of 1941 -- and Ukraine is in the center of that in three different ways. The first -- and this may be the most important part and as you can correct me, but I think this is the part which is most often forgotten in Germany -- Ukraine is at the center of German war planning. From the point of view of Hitler, the whole point of the Second World War was to win lebensraum and what lebensraum meant was above all things Ukraine. Ukraine was going to be the territory which made Germany autarchical, which allowed Germany to become a world power, which would allow Germans to purify themselves as a race, but also sustain themselves as a people into the indefinite future. Lebensraum meant Ukraine, which meant that Ukraine was treated as a colony. Hitler spoke of Ukrainians as people who could be pacified by giving them -- I'm quoting now -- a few beads, as one gives to colonial peoples. Hitler said that once Ukraine was conquered all that Germans would have to do was to put up loudspeakers on poles in each village and play music on Saturdays and Ukrainians would dance around the poles and therefore be happy. The image was a purely colonial one.
[00:30:24 -- 00:31:21]
The second way that Ukraine is at the center of this war is in the way the war was actually carried out. All of the territory of today's Ukraine was occupied by German and allied forces for a good deal of the war. By comparison only 5% of the territory of today's Russia -- 5% -- was occupied. The totality of Ukraine was occupied for much of the war. In absolute terms, the civilian fatalities in Ukraine were probably greater than civilian fatalities in Russia. In relative terms, they were hugely greater than the fatalities in Russia. And, of course, these fatalities include the Holocaust. [Snyder never uses the term Holodomor, but always uses the term Holocaust.] Right? The center of the Holocaust next to Poland is Ukraine. And insofar as there is German discussion and a sense of  responsibility for the Holocaust as an event, this must concern these inhabitants of Ukraine as well.
[00:31:21 -- 00:33:00]
The third way that Ukraine is at the center of the Second World War has to do with its end, that is, with the victory of the Red Army. The victory over the Wehrmacht is largely the credit of the Red Army, which took most of the casualties and inflicted most of the casualties. But, of course, the thing to remember is the Red Army was a Soviet army. In fighting on the Western Front it was a disproportionately Ukrainian army, because as it took horrible losses, it recruited from the territories where it was. Right? The southern part of the campaign of the Soviet forces were called the Ukrainian front. Not because the army was made up of ethnic Ukrainians, but because that's where the war was taking place -- in Ukraine and in Belarus and, of course, it reached eastern Europe. So, one is aware in Germany that Germany was liberated by the French, the British, the Americans. One is not aware that more Ukrainians died fighting the Wehrmacht than the Americans, by far. More Ukrainians died fighting the Wehrmacht than the British, by far. More Ukrainians died fighting the Wehrmacht than the French, by far. More Ukrainians died fighting against the Wehrmacht than the British, the French and the Americans combined. Combined. As far as I know, no one in this country has pointed this out during these debates about historical responsibility. And it seems to me to be relevant, which is not to take away from the achievement of the Red Army as such, nor from the Russians, who were the only people who died in greater numbers on the battlefield than the Ukrainians. It is to point out that the Soviet army was an international force which included a very large number of Ukrainians.
[00:33:00 -- 00:35:45]
Now, when we keep these things in mind, then we have a chance to come clear about one thing which I would like to be very explicit about. There are such things as historical mistakes. There are interpretations that differ. There are things that are mistakes and one mistake is to say Russian and mean Soviet and to say Soviet and mean Russia.  That is simply a mistake and one that is made too often in this country. If one wants to talk about Soviet institutions, one uses the word Soviet. If you are going to switch over to national terms, and use the word Russian that then means Russian. And if you are using national terms, you have to also use the national term Ukrainian and Belarusian. Saying Soviet and meaning Russian and saying Russian and meaning Soviet is simply a mistake. It's like saying Austrian and meaning German or something. It's simply a mistake. Right? That's a mistake you wouldn't make. Right? That's a mistake you wouldn't make. And interestingly, you would feel guilty about it. Right? OK. So you should feel guilty about getting other kinds of terms(?) confused as well. So, where I am leading you with this is a very simple point. The point -- and this is now just a suggestion -- is that there is a blind spot in the German historical debate. In all of the ways that the Germans have taken responsibility, which for me are exemplary. Right ? Which for me are exemplary, ??? is why I became a historian. The attempt of Germans to take responsibility and to consider the past is in many ways exemplary. But there is a big blind spot and that blind spot is precisely in Ukraine. And I worry that it's more than a blind spot. I worry that there is a tradition of colonial thinking about Ukraine, which until it is recognized as such can not be overcome. The temptation to say there's no country, there's no language, there's no state, there's no history that's a colonial temptation. And when the idea of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is revived -- as it has been from Russia in fall and in spring, as you all know -- that is an invitation to a colonial discussion. Right? The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is an invitation to a colonial discussion between Russia and Germany. That's one way of talking about the past. I would like to think that here in Germany and in Europe, in general, we have found a better way to talk about the past and I hope in the 15 minutes that I have been given to you, I've succeeded in conveying a little bit of how I think that discussion might look. Thank you very much for your attention.

Addenda as of 19Jun2015:

Courtesy of Roman Korol, a standalone video is available at

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bLDQYv4wM50  [19:13]

It's very good except he states that Ukrainians were responsible for most of the anti-Jewish pogroms.
I addressed this video with a comment on Facebook as follows, which may be of interest for your Ukrainophobia records: 
"Notably I refer to Dr.Snyder's judgement that Ukrainians were responsible for most of the anti-Jewish pogroms in 1914-1920. This is squarely contradicted by Ukrainian historian Dr. Matthew Stachiw (Ukrainian Free University) who lived during that time in Ukraine. Dr. Stachiw writes that provocative anti-Jewish pogroms were employed by the Bolsheviks as one of the forms of the struggle against the Ukrainian People's Republic. He writes that the Ukrainian government tried to fight the emergence of criminal elements, but could not manage to eliminate them entirely, principally because of the military aggressions of Soviet Russia [does this not ring a bell, in light of current 2014-2015 events?]  Reference: "Ukrainians and Jews - a Symposium", 1966, New York, Ukrainian Congess Committee of America, ch. 1. The book is available here http://www.halychyna.ca/Misc/Ukrainians-and-Jews.pdf , 199pp. Dr. Stachiw's report is confirmed by the testimony of my father, who served as a member of the Ukrayinski Sichovi Striltsi (USS) and subsequently the UHA in the period 1915-1920, and survived."

In a second comment I also wrote:
"From memories of my father, one of the popular slogans of the погромники (the thugs carrying out the pogroms) was: "Бий жидів, спасай Росію!" ("Beat the Jews, save Russia!") -- an illustration of the typically Bolshevik nature of the pogroms. For, indeed, would Ukrainians, fighting for Ukraine's sovereignty, be interested in "saving Russia"? I think not."

Courtesy of Victor Rud, the following comment has been added:

Bill, as good as Snyder is, his statement that the majority of pogroms were by the Uke is off the wall.  Trotsky's Red Army regularly engaged in false flag operations, dressing and using people who spoke Ukrainian to impersonate Petliura's troops, and then themselves committing the pogroms.  Besides witnesses to this who were still alive some 35 years ago and who I remember speaking at length with, I was shown a copy of a telegram of instructions from Moscow on this. Clearly, can't vouch for its authenticity, but facially it seemed legit.  A recent disclosure of Russian general staff plans to invade Ukraine includes a repetition of the same thing, with Russians to wear the uniform of Ukes and to commit atrocities against Ukes in Donbas. I also knew the surviving daughter (then living in Wash DC) of Arnold Margolin, whose name you may recognize as perhaps the most prominent Jewish member of Petliura's gov't.  His daughter told me innumberable times how her father would protest, vehemently, against accusations of anti-semitism on the part of Petliura or his gov't. 

Snyder is weak on WWII as well .
The translation is fantastic and necessary.