Kyiv Post | 26Nov2009 | Editorial

Truthful history

This month Ukraine simultaneously commemorated one of its biggest tragedies, the Holodomor, and a major victory, the Orange Revolution. Sadly, just like there are those who deny that the Holocaust happened, people -- ranging from ordinary individuals to influential world leaders -- are still in denial over these two historic Ukrainian events.

Russia’s leadership and its allies in the European Union, as well as the Party of Regions led by presidential candidate Victor Yanukovych, deny that the Holodomor amounted to nation-crushing genocide against Ukrainians. Similarly, the Party of Regions has recently stepped up its campaign denying that fraud took place during the 2004 presidential elections, triggering the Orange Revolution when millions of Ukrainians could not stomach the idea of an election stolen on behalf of Yanukovych.

Ukrainians, their neighbors and the rest of the world should confront those who falsify, minimize and deny the past. A clear understanding of history is a prerequisite to future progress.

The Holodomor famine that was orchestrated in 1932-33 by Josef Stalin is commemorated every last Saturday of November. Records show that up to 10 million people died, leaving many more survivors scarred with memories of mothers eating the limbs of their own children to survive. On presidential orders, the State Security Service opened its archives of records of these events a few years ago, and other countries -- such as Canada -- have recognized the Ukrainian interpretation of the famine. Despite the official records and accounts of surviving witnesses, there are plenty of people who still deny that the Holodomor was genocide.

Denial of the 2004 election fraud is also back on the political agenda, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Ukraine’s Supreme Court ruled that the fraud in the Nov. 21, 2004, second round of voting was so rampant that it was impossible to tell who won the presidency. Although the Central Election Commission declared Yanukovych the winner, the international community (with the exception of Russia) did not recognize the result.

But more importantly, millions of Ukrainian people came out into the street because they believed that their basic constitutional right, the right to elect their nation’s leader, was stolen. Their voices are the verdict that matters. Because of this peaceful uprising, Victor Yushchenko was propelled to presidency in a repeat vote on Dec. 26, 2004.

History cannot be changed. But its lessons have to be learned and its victims remembered. A brighter future depends on those of us who are alive today to accurately remember the nation’s triumphs and tragedies. The voices of those who offer false and distorted versions of history should be drowned out with the truth. Understanding the mistakes and crimes of the past is a prerequisite to not repeating them.