Home > Holodomor | Ukrainophobia | Demjanjuk | d&d (Furman, Odynsky, Katriuk) | Zuzak Letters |

Ukrainian News | 27Sept2012 | Taras Kuzio

Tymoshenko and the Ukrainian Diaspora: passivity and irrational hostility

September 27, 2012 – 10:57 pm

Taras Kuzio
Ukrainian News/Ukrayinski Visti, 13-26 September 2012.

Developments under Viktor Yanukovych should be sufficient to show that nationalists and others in Ukraine and the diaspora, encouraged by then President Viktor Yushchenko, were very wrong to call for a vote against both Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko in the second round of the 2010 presidential elections.

The adoption of the new language law in July reversed twenty years of nation-building by returning to russification policies in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the imprisonment of opposition leaders is the first example of political repression for a quarter of a century before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as Soviet leader in 1985.

In adopting the language law and returning to Brezhnev era political repression, President Viktor Yanukovych will be remembered in Ukrainian history as the new Volodymyr Shcherbytsky who ruled and russified Soviet Ukraine in the last two decades of the USSR. Yanukovych’s first three years in power will be viewed in the same manner by future historians as the 1971-1972 pogrom of Ukrainian culture, language and dissent.

The adoption of the language law came on the back of the appointment of the Ukrainophobe Dmytro Tabachnyk as “Education Minister” who reintroduced Soviet ideological tirades against Ukrainian nationalism as “fascism” and removed any mention of the Orange Revolution from school textbooks. In addition, Yanukovych signed the “Kharkiv Accords” that extended the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol until the middle of this century, became the first Ukrainian president to no longer seek NATO membership, and appointed Russian citizens as Minister of Defense, Chairman of the Security Service (SBU) and head of his personal bodyguards. Ukraine’s integration into the European Union (EU) is frozen because of selective use of justice against the political opposition.

[W.Z. Although Dr. Kuzio's description of the deteriorating situation in Ukraine and the comparison of Viktor Yanukovych to Volodomyr Scherbitsky is valid, I feel that his constant harping on Yulia Tymoshenko is counterproductive to the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Virtually everyone now agrees that Ms. Tymoshenko would be preferable to Mr. Yanukovych, but she is in jail and cannot participate in these elections. Criticizing the Diaspora is unlikely to have any positive influence on the elections or the situation in Ukraine. Secondly, Dr. Kuzio seems to have a phobia about "nationalists" -- presumably the "Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists" that have struggled for Ukraine's independence and have been the target of the GPU/NKVD/KGB/FSB for so many years. Personally, I would hope that every citizen of Ukraine and every member of the Ukrainian Diaspora would consider himself/herself a Ukrainian "nationalist".]

Nevertheless, the Ukrainian diaspora in the US and Canada remains divided and, in some cases, continues its irrational hostility towards Tymoshenko.

I believe there are four factors behind this:

Firstly, lack of prioritization of politics. As I have written previously (Ukrainian Weekly, July 29, 2012), politics and political science in the Ukrainian diaspora and Ukrainian academic institutions are not a priority. Despite the massive attack on democracy and Ukrainian language and culture, the Canadian Ukrainian Congress (KUK) [Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC)] has not supported civic organizations like the Committee Group for Democracy in Ukraine (CG4DU).

“KUK has dropped the ball on this as it has in keeping the general community motivated with rallies. They could have organized rallies in support of demonstrations in Ukraine during Euro 2012 and would therefore have received Canadian media exposure, which normally is very hard to obtain,” a CG4DU activist commented. “They refused to support or have any interest in the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine which organized 3 demonstrations throughout last summer in front of the Toronto consulate when Yulia Tymoshenko was on trial. We are too small a group to continue to do this and the result was that the momentum burnt out.”

KUK-national did not provide any financial support to CG4DU and believed their activities were misplaced. CG4DU reported on the first anniversary of its formation last month that “discussions with established diaspora organizations failed to yield results” (see report on their activities at http://world.maidan.org.ua/2012/canadian-group-for-democracy-in-ukraine-marking-the-first-year-of-activities).

[W.Z. The link indicates that the initial members of this group were Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, Andrij Zhalko-Tytarenko, Myroslava Oleksiuk and Marta Onufriv -- all of whom I hold in high regard. A 23Sep2012 press release calls upon the Canadian government to apply selective sanctions against individuals and politicians associated with the repressive/regressive regime in Ukraine. Nevertheless, I am rather surprised that an "activist" would bad mouth UCC for failing to provide financial and moral support to their organization.]

Last month, the KUK-national statement on the anniversary of independence ignored the most important political element of Ukraine’s backsliding: the incarceration of political opposition leaders. A CG4DU activist asked “Why is this? Is this a policy (by KUK-national)? Is this a deliberate obfuscation or just an inability to understand Ukrainian politics?”

Indeed, one has to ask why KUK-national has been so weak in condemning political repression in Ukraine. Alexander Motyl writes in a World Affairs blog (August 27, 2012): “Now, if there’s anything Yushchenko knows, it’s that the case against Tymoshenko has been motivated exclusively by politics and nothing else. The former president also knows that, if the Yanukovych regime were genuinely interested in weeding out political and economic malfeasance, he, his wife, and his brother would probably be the first to be put on trial -- and that Yanukovych and his two sons would be a close second.”

Some KUK activists have preferred to continue to attack Tymoshenko rather than seek to defend political prisoners while those with pro-Tymoshenko views have been ostracised since the 2010 elections. Yushchenko has an irrational hostility towards Tymoshenko, as seen in his Wall Street Journal op ed published on the anniversary of Ukrainian independence, but why does this pathology continue to exist among some members of the Ukrainian diaspora?  [KUK activists? ostracized? pathology? -- weasel words.]

The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), in the same manner as Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute (HURI), has no active programs on Ukrainian contemporary politics, economics and international relations and in the first case does not invite experts. The last issues of Journal of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) and Harvard Ukrainian Studies (HURI) were published three and five years ago respectively.
This disinterest contrasts with a lack of prioritization of Ukrainian politics outside diaspora organizations and academic institutions. Since the 2010 elections, for example, I have received invitations to speak on four occasions to the US government, twice to train US diplomats transferring to Kyiv, twice to speak to the Canadian parliament and government, twice to brief the Japanese government and 25 (!) times to give lectures to academic and think tank audiences in North America and Europe.

Disinterest in Ukrainian politics translates into Ukrainian diaspora organizations and academic institutions exerting little influence over discussions, publications and policy making on, and towards, contemporary Ukraine.

Secondly, Tymoshenkophobia. In 2009, a senior Ukrainian-Canadian activist said he hoped Ukrainians would not vote for that ‘Jewess’ (a reference to Tymoshenko). This repeated a commonly heard theme in Galicia that Tymoshenko is Jewish that I witnessed in leaflets in Ivano-Frankivsk in the second round on the day of the 2010 elections (in actual fact, her father’s name is Grigoryan, a typical Armenian name).
The focus on Tymoshenko’s ethnic origins is surprising in view of the fact that there is practically zero focus on Yanukovych who is of Belarusian-Polish descent and from the Sovietized region of Donetsk. Such irrational inconsistencies are not explained by political science and require recourse to psychological analysis and may be additionally an outcome of gender bias.

Thirdly, naivety about Yanukovych and personal and business ties. Meeting with Ukraine’s leaders has a long tradition among senior Ukrainian diaspora leaders encouraging them to keep quiet on human rights violations in exchange for much coveted photographs with the president. A Ukrainian-Canadian activist commented, “Senior KUK leaders never seem to be critical of Yanukovych and some argue that he is like Leonid Kuchma, playing at being pro-Russian but would soon become a Ukrainian patriot.”

Why does this school believe Yanukovych could become a Ukrainian patriot but Tymoshenko could not?

“Kremlinological” views of the Party of Regions and Ukrainian oligarchs split between “good doves” and “bad hawks” have long been touted by other more well-known Ukrainian-American apologists on the pages of the Wall Street Journal and Kyiv Post. Yet, to argue that Vladislav Kaskiv, head of the State Agency for Investment and National Projects of Ukraine who has family connections to a senior Ukrainian-Canadian leader, and Economy Minister Petro Poroshenko, are examples of “good guys” and “patriots” in the Yanukovych camp is a reflection of extreme naivety about Ukraine.

Kaskiv, who in 2004 led one wing of the young NGO Pora (It’s Time) and was elected to parliament in 2007 in Our Ukraine, is one of the biggest traitors of the Orange Revolution and was one of the first to jump ship to Yanukovych. Poroshenko can be heard on the Mykola Melnychenko tapes professing his undying loyalty for Kuchma from whom he is pleading for money to split the Socialist Party in parliament. In 2005, as secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, Poroshenko undermined the Tymoshenko government and after the 2006 elections his unwillingness to allow SPU leader Oleksandr Moroz to receive the position of parliamentary chairman (rather than himself) led to the collapse of the orange coalition and unexpected return of Yanukovych as Prime Minister.

Kaskiv and Poroshenko, like parliamentary chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn, are three of the biggest chameleons in Ukrainian politics.

Fourthly, divisions among nationalists. OUNb, Svoboda (Freedom) nationalist party and other nationalists followed Yushchenko in calling for a vote against both candidates in the second round of the 2010 elections. Yushchenko’s reward has been to continue to live in the presidential palace (Yanukovych has no need for the presidential palace as he lives in his illegally privatized former state residence, the Mezhyhirya palace).
Today, OUNb  -- like all nationalist organisations in Ukraine and the diaspora -- is divided over Tymoshenko with many still having their doubts. According to an OUNb informant, a large group within OUNb -- upwards of forty percent -- support Tymoshenko.

Another twenty percent of OUNb members, primarily older generation OUNb members, retain a sympathetic view of Yushchenko because of his focus on the holodomor and OUN-UPA.

Thirty percent of OUNb members remain confused but lean towards UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform) led by Vitaliy Klichko because UDAR includes many disillusioned Yushchenko people, such as former SBU Chairman Valentyn Nalyvaychenko. This wing of OUNb members also supports former Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko who is running for parliament in Ukrainian Platform “Sobor”.
A final ten percent of OUNb members -- primarily young people and OUNb members in western Ukraine -- have moved from KUN (Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, a party established by OUNb in 1992) to Svoboda.

KUN was led by Yaroslava Stetsko until her death in 2003 when it was taken over by gas trader Oleksiy Ivchenko who headed Naftohaz Ukrainy in 2005-2006. Ivchenko was dismissed following a public outcry over corruption after he used the funds of this state gas company to buy a Mercedes car for a quarter of a million US dollars. Although allegedly a Ukrainian “nationalist”, Ivchenko supported the inclusion of the opaque gas intermediary RosUkrEnergo in the 2006 gas contract that tied Ukraine closer to Russia. KUN is running in the October elections in a de facto pro-Yanukovych nationalist bloc together with Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine and Yuriy Kostenko’s Peoples Party.

There have also been ideological changes within the new, fourth wave diaspora. Tymoshenko was greeted as a heroine at a meeting with the Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S. Congress in February 2007. But, in 2008-2009, attitudes towards her in the diaspora soured and since then the fourth wave Ukrainian diaspora have switched their support from Tymoshenko to Svoboda.

Since coming to power three years ago, Yanukovych -- as the new Shcherbytsky -- has destroyed Ukraine’s democratic gains from the Orange Revolution and resumed the russification of Ukrainian culture and language. By 2020, if Yanukovych remains in power for a second term, he will be president of Little Russia -- not Ukraine.

If the “proty vsikh” (against all) in Ukraine and the diaspora had not called upon Ukrainians to vote against both candidates in round two of the 2010 presidential elections Tymoshenko would not have been defeated by less than 3%. As president, Tymoshenko would never have appointed Ukrainophobe Tabachnyk as Education Minister or permitted parliament to adopt a language law reintroducing russification. Sevastopol would also not have been transformed into a de facto permanent Russian naval base. Under President Tymoshenko the EU would have signed and ratified the Association Agreement with Ukraine making the country’s integration into Europe irreversible, ruling out Ukraine ever joining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s CIS Customs Union and Eurasian Union.

There can therefore be no doubt that Tymoshenko was the only -- and therefore right -- choice in the 2010 elections. Nevertheless, after all the policies we have witnessed under Yanukovych some nationalists and other apologists in the Ukrainian diaspora continue to remain illogically hostile to Tymoshenko while others continue to remain na´ve about her.

Negative energy that continues in some quarters to be directed against Tymoshenko should be transformed into positive energy defending Ukraine’s democracy, human rights, culture and language. Only then will Yanukovych be defeated.