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Will Zuzak | 28Feb2014 | to Jackson Doughart,  [2] Amelia Glaser,  [3] Jackson Doughart reply

Stumbling into an ethnic quagmire in Ukraine

Dear Jackson Doughart:
via Email: [email protected]

I do not understand from whence your Ukrainophobia arises. Perhaps you are being subsidized by Vladimir Putin or Benjamin Netanyahu? The many articles on your website indicate that you are obsessed with circumcision, Near East, Israel Boycott, Anti-Judaism, Iran, Philo-Semitism, Israelis, etc. So perhaps you have been influenced by people who hold antipathetic views towards Ukraine and Ukrainians. To correct your erroneous views, I have added critical comments in the color fuchsia in the link to the text of your article. The main points are summarized as follows:

- The Christian, Judaic, Islamic and all other religious organizations in Ukraine support the Maidan.
- The "Russian-Ukrainian ethnic conflict" within Ukraine is minimal. The Maidan has always been ethnically -- and linguistically -- inclusive.
- The "regional language" law was rescinded because it did not conform to the 2004 constitution.
- How can you ignore the "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine" article by Timothy Snyder?
- Since Stepan Bandera was arrested on 03Jul1941 and spent most of the war in Sachsenhousen concentration camp, your accusations against him are unfounded.
- The lectures of Ivan Patrylyak titled "Relations between OUN-UPA and Germany" provide a very detailed account of the Ukrainian Independence Movement from the 1930's until the end of World War Two.
- Your demonization of Oleh Tyahnybok and the Svoboda party confirm your status as a Ukrainophobe. (See "Solidarity against Terror".)
- The majority of the Ukrainian citizens of Jewish origin support the Maidan, although there are still many that support Russian annexation of Ukraine. (See article of Amelia Glaser.)
- By definition, a revolution is not a democratic event. However, the goal of the Maidan revolution is to establish a democratic corruption-free society.

Disrespectfully yours
William Zuzak; 2014.02.28
[Archived at http://www.willzuzak.ca/tp/ukrainophobia/zuzak20140228Doughart.html ]

National Post | 27Feb2014 | Jackson Doughart

Stumbling into an ethnic quagmire in Ukraine

The argument over foreign intervention has become so radically simplified, so founded on theories and principles and ignorant of facts, that it has lost all grasp of reality. There is no better example of this than the present calamity in Ukraine, where Western internationalists have juxtaposed their narrow conceptions of liberal democracy and human rights onto a conflict that has little to do with either.

What’s really at stake here is a long history of ethnic division. Yet few commentators on the issue mention that Ukraine is not solely populated by Ukrainian nationals. The eastern and southern regions are populated by ethnic Russians, who speak Russian, identify with their co-ethnics in the motherland to the east, and are Orthodox Christians by confession. The ethnic Ukrainians, in contrast, speak the Ukrainian language, identify as a distinct nationality, and adhere either to Ukranian [Ukrainian] Orthodox Churches or to Ukrainian Catholicism, a form of Christianity which observes the rite of Greek Orthodoxy while maintaining full communion with the Holy See.*

[W.Z. The vast majority of Ukrainians of the Christian faith are Orthodox -- UOC-Kyiv Patriarchate, UOC-Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Church. The Judaic, Islamic and all other religious organizations support the Maidan.]

Western observers frequently propound a moral distinction between the pro-Europe sympathies of the ethnic Ukrainians and the desire of the ethnic Russians to join a more definite Russian sphere, with greater influence for the government of Vladimir Putin. But this moral distinction is practically moot: the question of West-East economic orientation is the result of the ethnic cleavages, not the cause thereof.

[W.Z. The attempt of Mr. Doughart to cast the Maidan as a Ukrainian-Russian ethnic conflict is wrong. Except for Crimea, the majority of citizens in all oblasts are of Ukrainian ethnic origin. Nevertheless, Ukraine is a multi-ethnic state with substantial numbers of Tatars, Poles, Jews, etc. The Maidan has always been ethnically -- and linguistically -- inclusive.]

What’s really happening today, as a rerun of the Orange Revolution of 2004-2005, is a clash of ethnic nationalisms, not a pursuit of democracy over tyranny. The Ukrainians want to maintain control over the entire state to preserve its territorial integrity, to claim the resources of the east, and to ensure that their co-ethnics in the Russian areas remain under their sovereignty. Of course, this is a legitimate ambition, but it has nothing to do with liberalism or human rights.

Accordingly, the ethnic Ukrainians have pushed language policies akin to those pursued by nationalists in Belarus and Estonia (both former Soviet Republics with Russian minorities), and not dissimilar to the efforts of the Quebec government in the 1970s here in Canada. Such policies cement the titular nation’s language as officially superior for the whole territory and manipulate education policies to promote its interests.

[W.Z. Belarus has virtually lost its native language. Fortunately, since declaring independence in 1991, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have managed to resurrect their native languages. During the Tsarist and Soviet Russian Empires, the authorities implemented Russification policies to try to eradicate the Ukrainian language. During the Yanukovych regime, repression of the Ukrainian language was once again increasing.]

Just last weekend, the law recognizing Russian as a “regional language” in eastern courts was abolished, making Ukrainian the sole official language for the entire country. Under such circumstances, who could blame the ethnic Russians for seeking the protection and influence of the neighbouring super state?

[W.Z. After his election as president in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych unlawfully changed the 2004 constitution to give himself dictatorial powers and methodically started implementing a brutal police state enforced by terror. On 22Feb2014 the Verhovna Rada rescinded the 2010 constitution and reverted back to the 2004 constitution. The "regional language" law was ultra vires and was rescinded. Nevertheless, the new government has repeatedly assured the citizens of Ukraine that any new language law will not discriminate against any language.]

Western liberals have also admonished the ideology of the Russians to justify their blanket support for the ethnic Ukrainians (or “the Ukrainian people”, as they would say). For instance, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder, writing in the New York Review of Books, believes that Putin’s meddling in Ukraine reflects his desire to form a Eurasian Union, a Russian-dominated counterweight to the European Union that would be animated by “National Bolshevism”, an intellectual movement re-synthesizing nationalism and socialism.

[W.Z. It is surprising that after reading Timothy Snyder's article, Mr. Doughart continues promoting his own Ukrainophobic views. (See "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine" addendum to letter to Amy Goodman or the original .)]

Whatever the merits of Snyder’s analysis, the projection of anti-fascism onto this conflict is incorrect, especially given the equally sordid elements on the ethnic Ukrainian side. The All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda, an ultra-nationalist party, holds 8% of the seats in the parliament for the entire country, and thus represents a much larger minority among the ethnic Ukrainians. The party’s stronghold is the western city of L’viv, which is home to numerous monuments to Stepan Bandera, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during the Second World War, a Nazi collaborator, and a participant in the mass murder of Ukrainian Jews.

[W.Z. This is pure unadulterated disinformation promoted by the NKVD/KGB/FSB for the past 70 years. After declaring Ukraine's independence on 30Jun1941 in Lviv in the face of Hitler's opposition, Stepan Bandera was arrested on 03Jul1941 and other OUN leaders on 11Jul1941. Because they refused to rescind their Declaration of Independence, Bandera was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for the duration of the war. Thus, it was physically impossible for Mr. Bandera to be guilty of the accusations heaped upon him. (The English-language translation of the lectures of Ivan Patrylyak titled "Relations between OUN-UPA and Germany" are archived at http://www.willzuzak.ca/cl/videolinks/patrylyak20121217cdvrua.html . These lectures provide a very detailed account of the Ukrainian Independence Movement from the 1930's until the end of World War Two.)]

The Svoboda claims descent from Bandera, and just last month held a march in his honour. The party’s leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has announced in the Ukrainian parliament that the country is secretly controlled by a Jewish mafia.

[W.Z.  Modern Ukrainophobes cannot resist the temptation to demonize Oleh Tyahnybok and the Svoboda party. The speech of Mr. Tyahnybok to the Maidan on 29Dec2013 titled "Solidarity against Terror" (and the English-language translation thereof) clearly indicate his main concern is the return of the Soviet terror apparatus and the exponential growth in funding of the repressive forces of Berkut and the Ministry of the Interior. As for the "Jewish Mafia", it is a documented fact that there are many people of Jewish origin in the Verkhovna Rada, the Yanukovych administration and in governmental institutions. A large number of Oligarchs are of Jewish origin. I would suggest that the majority of Ukrainian citizens of Jewish origin support the Maidan, although there are still many, such as Mikhail Dobkin and Hennadiy Kernes from Kharkiv, that support Russian annexation of Ukraine. (See the article of Amelia Glaser appended below.)]

Perhaps the most laughably wrong assumption, however, is that the protestors are acting democratically. Though certainly no choir boy, Mr. Yanukovych came to power in an election that was judged by international observers as free and fair, giving him the mandate to pursue his economic and trade policies. From exile, he is more than right to characterize his deposition as a coup d’état. This isn’t democracy; it is mob rule.

[W.Z. By definition, a revolution is not a democratic event. However, the goal of the Maidan revolution is to establish a democratic corruption-free society.]

The actions of the Ukrainian protestors came to the present heights in part, though certainly not in whole, because of encouragement from the West. In consequence, democratic order in an ethnically-fractious country has been overturned, perhaps permanently, and certainly beyond the ephemeral enthusiasms of the revolution’s Western cheerleaders.

* Correction: The original publication in the National Post listed only Ukrainian Catholicism, while Ukrainian Orthodoxy ought to have been mentioned here as well.

Jackson Doughart is chair of the editorial board of the Prince Arthur Herald  http://princearthurherald.com/

[W.Z. According to Wikipedia, Barbara Kay (of Jewish origin) is a member of the Board of Governors of the Prince Arthur Herald. Her son, Jonathan Kay, is Managing Editor of the National Post.]

Tablet Magazine | 25Feb2014 | Amelia Glaser

After Yanukovych, Maidan’s Next Fight Will Be To Preserve a Ukraine Safe for Minorities

Russia has likened the protests to pogroms, but Jews have joined the movement because what’s at stake is an independent future

Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti -- Independence Square -- is a 20-minute walk from where I lived a decade ago. I was a graduate student, researching the historical interaction between the region’s subcultures -- especially Jews, Russians, and Ukrainians. I arrived expecting, from my readings on 19th- and even 20th-century Ukraine, these groups to be isolated from one another, and yet their circles, in an independent and rapidly modernizing Ukraine, overlapped.

It was a country where the late actor Bogdan Stupka could move audiences by playing Tevye the Dairyman -- in Ukrainian. In 2004, during the Orange Revolution -- triggered by protests against a fraudulent election “won” by Viktor Yanukovych -- my Ukrainian friends demonstrated alongside Boris Naumovich, an octogenarian veteran of the Red Army with whom I practiced speaking Yiddish. Now, a decade later, an equally diverse coalition has turned out for the past three months again to protest Yanukovych, who over the weekend was ousted from the presidency he took over in 2010, and who appears to have fled to the Crimea.

In independent Ukraine the region’s historically disparate ethnic narratives have converged to allow for a cosmopolitan coexistence. But conflicts on Ukrainian squares have historically reopened divides among the country’s ethnic minorities. In 1881, the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by revolutionaries led to the first major outbreak of pogroms against Jews. The failed 1905 revolution led to another wave of attacks. Literary accounts of the 1918-21 Ukrainian civil war describe the escalation from revolutionary protests to anti-Semitic violence. A voice from a chaotic crowd in Mikhail Bulgakov’s White Guard, set in Kiev in 1918, comes to mind: “We should go to the bazaar and beat up some Jews.”

It appears that those aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin are happy to stir up those old enmities. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has angrily called the leaders of the Ukrainian Maidan movement “armed extremists” and accused them of committing pogroms against the police. Over the weekend, Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman, of Kiev’s Chabad synagogue, urged Jews to leave the city and has even reached out to Israel’s Soviet-born Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, asking for support in the event of anti-Semitic attacks.

It would be convenient for Vladimir Putin if the protesters who have been in Kiev’s Maidan and on city squares across Ukraine all winter could be universally characterized as right-wing, anti-Semitic, ethnic supremacists—and, more to the point, if antagonism toward the country’s Jews could be shown to predominate in the country’s west, positioning Russia as the guarantor of their safety in the East. Make no mistake: It is indeed true that portraits of the Ukrainian nationalist hero Stepan Bandera hang near the Kiev barricades, and that some nationalists have been involved in the current revolution. It is also true that over the weekend a synagogue in eastern Ukraine was hit by fire bombs. But some reports suggest that much of the street violence that has occurred has been initiated by so-called Titushki -- thugs hired to turn a peaceful protest violent -- and that many of the deaths last Thursday were at the hands of snipers who shot at unarmed protesters. Last week’s escalation of violence helped Russia to justify making official announcements calling on the leaders of the “square” to “end the bloodshed on their end.”

The scene that activists in both the West and the East of Ukraine describe involves diversity without ethnic violence. The Maidan demonstrators have been protesting not only Yanukovych, but also those who would like to see the country divided in two, which would both drastically weaken Ukraine and bolster a Russian imperial presence in the region. The Russian political theorist Aleksandr Dugin has suggested, “Moscow should get actively involved in the reorganization of the Ukrainian space in accordance with the only logical and natural geopolitical model.” Both the governor of the eastern Kharkiv region, Mikhail Dobkin, as well as the mayor of the city of Kharkiv, Gennadyi Kernes, are of Jewish origin, and both have joined Russian proponents of a division of Ukraine into eastern and western segments. Some Internet trolls have made anti-Semitic slurs, but the leaders of the Maidan movement have not.

A great number of protest organizers across Ukraine are Jewish intellectuals: artists, teachers, and academics among others, of varying ages. On Monday, Vadym Rabynovych, the president of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress and owner of the TV channel Jewish News 1, issued a statement characterizing the protesters’ relationship to the Jewish community as “tolerant and peaceful” and suggesting that claims to the contrary are merely provocations. Many prominent Jews have come out in support of the Maidan movement, among them the oligarch Victor Pinchuk, the journalist Vitaly Portnikov, and the artist Alexander Roitburd. My friend and colleague Anatoliy Kerzhner wrote to me of the pointed inclusion of Jewish events on the Maidan platform: Rabbi Hillel Cohen of one of the city’s Orthodox synagogues offered a prayer for peace, the Pushkin Klezmer Band performed Yiddish songs, and scholars lectured about Ukrainian Jewish history.

Some Ukrainian-born Jews who have emigrated to Israel and served in its army have returned to Kiev in order to help the cause by putting their military experience into practice. “Either ethnicity is not important to this struggle yet, or it is not important in general,” my friend Yury Yakubov, a 30-year-old designer from Kharkiv, told me. Moreover, a number of Ukrainian immigrants in Israel have voiced their support of the Maidan. A 10-minute YouTube video shows a string of candid speeches in Russian and Ukrainian by Ukrainian-Israelis in support of Ukraine’s ability to join the European Union as an independent nation. Another video pairs a Ukrainian rap song celebrating independence with images of Ukrainian Israelis holding signs in support of the Maidan.

Now that Yanukovych has left, what is at stake is the preservation not of an imagined Ukrainian ethnic sovereignty, but of a richly multiethnic territory -- a country that has over the past two decades worked to knit itself into existence and to acknowledge the complexities and antagonisms of the past. It is a country that encompasses multiple histories -- among them Jewish, Ukrainian, Polish, Soviet, Hapsburg, and Ottoman. It is a country where you can board a train in Kiev at night and wake up in formerly Hapsburg Chernivtsi, or in Catherine the Great’s Odessa, or in industrial Kharkiv. When Lavrov attempts to resurrect a history of pogroms with his comments about the Maidan he is effectively admitting that he still views Ukraine in 19th-century terms, as a satellite of Russia, which relegated its minorities to the outskirts of the empire, and where diversity was a liability.

Ukraine is still a new country, but its citizens, and particularly its young citizens, see the country’s diversity as one of its great assets. “Look, there is nowhere else we can go,” Yakubov said to me over Skype from Kharkiv last week, just after what has come to be known as “Bloody Thursday.” “So we have to fight for this.”


Amelia Glaser is associate professor of Russian and Comparative Literature and director of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Jews and Ukrainians in Russia’s Literary Borderlands. She is a contributor to the most recent issue of Polin, which was devoted to Jewish-Ukrainian relations.

Jackson Doughart | 28Feb2014 | to Will Zuzak

Mr Zuzak: I have no antipathy toward Ukrainians. It is remarkably disingenuous of you to see an article which doesn't confirm your existing opinion, and assume that its author is a bigot.

What I am opposed to is the common practice among Westerners, on both sides of the left-right divide, of seeing demonstrations on television and blindly assuming that there is nothing to see except a people resisting tyranny. There is more to this story than such a simplistic characterization. But what Western audiences tend to do is use foreign countries as a kind of plasma screen for their consciences, which are poorly informed by simply watching the CBC.

Your point that the demonstrations are not themselves democratic, but aim at democracy, is reasonable. It's also consistent with everything I said. What I am attempting to resist is the idea that the mere presence of demonstrations equals democratic action, which seems to be the assumption of much of the public.