Thursday, May 26, 2005

Photo: Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko in front of the Presidental Administration building in Kyiv, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004.

Just thought this photo went well with the piece below. . .

On Putin's East-West Germany Comment, Tymoshenko's Tribulations, and Comparisons to Chavez's Venezuela

Greetings All,

The following thought below occured to me earlier today, and could be used as a talking point for explaining the difference between the Russian and Ukrainain languages and cultures, and for explaining why Ukrainians are so sensitive about not conflating the two as one, and why it is NOT nationalistic of them to be so thusly sensitive:


Russian talk about brotherly togetherness is as delusional as was the German insistence on forging a singular great German family. The Germans have learned to give up their imperialist delusions over their Germanic cousins; when will a government come to power in Moscow that respects the independence of Russia's East Slav cousins? When will Russia actively decolonize its mentality as the Germans have more or less done since WWII? The Putin regime shows no sign or will of taking Russia down that path. "The collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe. . ."

But to shift gears a little to address a related topic, I listened to an interview with an editor of the Nation (on
; the interview was done back in February), a so-called Russia expert, who labelled Yulia Tymoshenko anti-Russian, which is code for "nationalist." Argh. As far as I am concerned, she is strongly demanding that Russia give up its imperial ambitions and imperial hubris and treat Ukraine as an equal. If that is nationalism, so be it--but it is not an anti-Russian stance. She is not against the Russian language, speaks it as her first language, is for the creation of the Single Economic Space with Russia (in a real sense and with an eye to fair trade and not just free trade, while what the Russian government thus far is really talking about is a mere customs union that will heavily benefit and favor Russia, of course; a NAFTA for Eurasia).

SO WHY do Eastern Europeans and Central Asians who stand up to the 800 lb. guerilla of the region so frequently get labelled "nationalist" by people on both the right and the left in the West?? That's a major topic for discussion that could have the following title (and I am actually working on a piece with this name): "The Post Soviet World: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it."

The Point therefore being:

If Yulia Tymoshenko was named Julia Rodriguez and was taking such a populist stance in Mexico as she is in Ukraine; and was standing up to American machinations in Mexico as she is standing up to Russian machinations in Ukraine; and was demanding more equality in relations between the US and Mexico as she is demanding there be between Ukraine and Russia; she would be praised by the left in the West (and demonized by the right)--much like how Hugo Chavez is at present.

For those who don't know, Hugo Chavez is, contrary to what some other Ukraine bloggers have been writing (, not a dictator but a popularly elected president of Venezuela who continues to enjoy widespread support, and who came to power backed by an anti-oligarchy movement that promised to stand up against the regional 800 lb. guerrila--i.e., the US--and to initiate social programs to help average Venezuelans rise out of poverty, in part by taking over and redistributing and in some cases outright renationalizing the assets of the oil oligarchy of that country. Chavez--or the policies for which he stands--is widely popular in Venezuela, as Tymoshenko is in Ukraine.

(I'm afraid that the bloggers on the aforementioned site have fallen prey to the propaganda of Chavez's opposition to the same degree that Jonathan Steele has to that of Yushchenko's opposition--for Chavez, although not perfect, just as Yushchenko certainly is not, and prone to making some errors like Yushchenko, is still a populist, and the opposition against him is as credible as is the bunch of oligarchs that are bunching together in opposition to Yushchenko.)

The situation in Venezuela is familier to the situation in Ukraine, except that the oligarchy in Ukraine has much of its basis of power and wealth in coal and iron while in Venezuela it is oil, and Ukraine's oligarchy was backed by Russia and Venezuela's was backed by the US. And both the US and Russia are becoming increasingly authoritarian states (Russia indeed is further along), and Ukraine is courting American support to get out from the Russian sphere, while Chavez courts Russia to get out of the American sphere. So of course the American and Western European left goes bizerk criticizing the Orange Revolution and Yushchenko-Tymoshenko team for Ukrainian acceptance of US help, labels Yushchenko a neoliberal and nationalist, and waxes gah-gah over the Chavez-Russia cooperation, while the right goes bizerk over Chavez's meetings in Moscow and calls him a dictator, and then strangely praises the US's work with populists in Ukraine who are pulling Ukrainian soldiers out of Iraq. And of course there are pundits out their complaining that the populist attacks on the roots of oligarchic power being led by Chavez and Tymoshenko are hurting growth in Venezuela and Ukraine--oh the oil industry is hurting, and all the talk about reprivatization is weakening Ukraine's industrial sector--and therefore are spouting off rumors of corruption within the ranks of the populists themselves in order to discredit them (although there certainly is a degree of corruption even within the populist camp, of course). . .

Its a dangerous game being played on all sides:

The US is supporting a populist regime in Ukraine that it may in the end not much care for, while Ukrainians are working with an ally that may set the propaganda and political machine working against them, as they already are against Tymoshenko (i.e., the recent Washington Post piece criticizing her populist government, which I will write about again later. . .).

On the other hand, Chavez is already ten thousand times the democrat that Putin is, but Venezuela's progress definitely does not stand to be checked by Russia if the relation goes sour as the US can start to trump Tymoshenko. (And I am very concerned about Yushchenko's comments about her, but again more later. . .)

In either case, both Yushchenko and Chavez and the governments and the movements of which they are the nominal leaders are still much more concerned with building democracy and with serving the interests of the average citizens of their nations than either governments and leaders in Russia and the US. The Putin and Bush administrations serve the corporate interests of their nations and then leave the rest of their peoples to scramble for what might come trickling down. As Bush once joked at an annual meeting of top business people and politicians, "Some call you guys the elite; I call you my base." Hence pundits of certain persuasions complain about the social programs supported by Tymoshenko and Chavez; they are not so good for the profits of elites, especially of foreign investors.

Interesting (perhaps enraging) to see, in this case, Yushchenko trying to reign Tymoshenko in a bit: perhaps he is doing so just to make the US and foriegn investors a little less nervous and jumpy, but still has a populist heart like Tymoshenko (or Chavez). I hope so--he proved himself to be quite shrewd in playing such political games in the course of the OR. But I still am not sure what to make of him yet--a true populist, or a neoliberal in the end.

(And by the way, publius pundits, if you are reading, one of the pillars of your argument that Chavez is a dictator is your accusation that Chavez is stacking his administration full of loyalists; well, I agree in general that this is a bad thing, but I must point out to you that Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have done the same thing, and that the Bush administration is exhibiting itself as perhaps the most billigerent of any administration in terms of demanding the right to stack the federal government full of loyalists everywhere, to such an extent that it sought to put an end to the filibuster--the final check on any administration's ability to stack the government with loyalists.)

So back to Ukraine and Russia, what the Left needs to learn regarding the situation in Eurasia is:

1) Not to begrudge the people of poor nations for accepting US assistance. Activists in the West may be able to get jobs to support their livelihhod and fund their efforts, but the people of Eurasian nations suffer from an unemployment rate of 30-55%, depending on season (which comes from unofficial statistics that are more reliable). They also get paid $30-60/month on average, while in the past in Ukraine, one could either not get paid some months, or not in the total amount. Furthermore, the average person (at least I can say so in Ukraine) is not a mere stooge of the US. Attitudes toward the US tend to be more like those of other European nations: healthy skepticism about its real intentions. But thank you for the money, anyway!

2) Start learning what the real, grassroots sentiments are on the ground in Eurasia, and start learning the real historyof grassroots resistance to authoritarianism in this part of the world. The peoples of Eurasia want regime change, and will use whatever help they may get. Popular sentiment was not engineered via US manipulations such as media campaigns and organizing. The anti-authoritarian movement, I know for sure in Ukraine, has a very long history that one might argue goes back to the mid 19th century. The groups that were active in Ukraine--PORA! (It's Time!), Znaju (I know), Chysta Ukrajina (A Clean Ukraine), Svoboda Vybory (Freedom of Choice Coalition) did not emerge from a vacuum; the people who led the charge in organizing them were not hand-picked by the United States; the people who joined and supported the anti-authoritarian movement and participated in its actions did not do so because they were nationalist extremists nor Islamic fundamentalists (now talking about Central Asia), and neither were they convinced by US propaganda to join the anti-authoritrian, pro-democracy movements. They simply had had enough: DOSIT! (The Ukrainian equivalent of the slogan ENOUGH! or BASTA! that one hears at populist rebellions around the world.)

3) Many on the Left, especially in the EU, need to stop looking at Russia as a buffer against US interests in Eurasia. The Russian state has historically been just as, if not more, authoritarian and manipulative in its "sphere of influence" in Eurasia as the US has been in Latin America. Furthermore, Russia under Putin is heading in an even more authoritarian direction, and is looking backward nostalgically on Russia's lost empire and influence. Russia is governeed by an increasingly authoritarian regime nostalgic for Empire: it is not presently ruled by a democratizing regime willing to encourage the decolonization and democratization of its nation's instiutions and mentality. However, there is a real pro-democracy movement in Russia that needs our attention and support, and let's hope that this movement will also be predominantly anti-imperial or anti-chauvinist.

4) Thus, in a connected issue, segments of the Left must stop defending Russia's right to a sphere of influence. I have listened to far too many comments in which people defended a supposedly poor, bullied Russia's right to a sphere of influence against US and Western manipulations. Is anyone complaining about Chavez's attempt to cooperate with Russia against a US sphere of influence as they complain about Yushchenko's cooperation with the US against Russian manipulations? Why for some Lefties is Russia deserving of a sphere, but anyone or nation in Latin America who resists the US is a hero? Does anyone on the Left defend the US's right to a neo-imperialist "sphere of influence?" So why do such resistors of Russia in Eurasia so oftenly get the pleasant label of "nationalist" in the West, while a Bolivian who resists the US is considered heroic?

5) I want to again emphasize that I think democratization of Russia is not only possible, but absolutely necessary. The single most important event in European history for generations would, to my mind, be for Russia to undergo its own variant of the Orange or Rose Revolutions--and this seems were things might be heading in Russia for 2008. Democratization and Decolonization of Russia is a real possibility. Dreamers must dream, doers must do, and the skeptics and apologists for the way things are can just step aside.

6) Then a few points specifically about Ukraine:

a) I want to emphasize that the political conscience of the average Ukrainian is, contrary to what many pundits and intellectuals have been saying about Ukrainians for generations, quite very high--much higher than is the political awareness of the average American, at least. Few Ukrainians en masse but for a critical mass of those in the eastern part of the country, believe what the media or the political leadership tells them--definitely before, and it seems also after the OR. Most people have their own sources of news, or their own favorite opposition or non-mainstream newspapers. Granted that some of these papers are barely more than tabloids--but such papers are in the minority. The do-it-yourself, activist and political press--i.e., the or alternatives to the state and oligarchic press--is vibrant in Ukraine, and people do tune in. It is interesting to note that in a country with far less freedom of press than in the US, so many more people actually do seek out and turn to the available alternatives to the corporate and political establishement dominated press than they do in the US. Furthermore, my experience in Ukraine exposed me to what I called, in my Orange Revolution writings, Ukraine's "spoken-word information network." Even before the OR, people talked to each other about what they read in the alternative or opposition press or what they heard from someone who had acccess to the opposition Channel 5 (which is available only via satellite in most parts of Ukraine), or repeated information that they learned from their town's or village's local party offices, regardless of which party they were members of (and the US did not establish all of these parties and all of these papers and Channel 5 itself, and then sold them all on pro-Yushchenko propaganda, which they then disseminated throughout the country. . .). Membership in political parties is quite high in Ukraine. Through this network (which really simply is neighbor telling neighbor what they knew), especially during the OR, I was hearing things that I just could not beleive were true. But later, everything I heard would be confirmed on the internet or somewhere else in print. As one commentator on Channel 5 said during the OR, "Even today, the word still travels faster than the image," after telling viewers about how a group of election observers in the town of Donetsk had been attacked and their cameras smashed.

Furthermore, in the course of conversations with many people during and after the 17 days of the OR, I learned that the irony of the Bush administration defending free elections was not lost but on a few people in Ukraine. And in general, most people who asked my opnion on Bush usually asked hesitantly, and when they found out my opposition to his administration, most people usually started saying things like: "The war in Iraq is for oil;" or, "Bill Clinton was more of a statesman" (but note, I am not a big Clinton fan myself); etc. Popular opinion in Ukraine is against the warin Iraq whether one was for Yushchenko or Yanukovych, and Ukrainian attitudes towards the US tend to be typical Euroskepticism about things politically American--they have no problem with pop culture or American people. And this is not just a hangover from Soviet times; Ukrainians are Europeans which means they value public transportation systems and social programs and arts, etc., over a rampaging capitalism with very little time or care for such things. Very few people told me that they had the US in mind as the model society toward which their post-OR government stear Ukraine. But that is a mute point, since the stated goal of many during the OR was that Ukraine should and very well can achieve so-called "European standards" and join the EU, which means a more social democratic system than in the US: i.e., European values are for a more regulated capitalism and social programs. Furthermore members of the OR political leadership, most especially Yulia Tymoshenko, are populists with an agenda for social programs (for which they will increasingly come under fire by American pundits, as Tymoshenko has by a Washington Post article). Such is what the vast majority of Ukrainians care about: they want the government to improve the infrastructure, rebuild the system of universal healthcare, do public housing works, etc. They don't care too much at present about the profits of foriegn investors. They want reprivatization to proceed along rather radical lines; they want back some of the wealth that has been stolen from them these past fourteen years through investment in some of the above matters. In short, popular opinion is more captured by the heart and soul of Yulia Tymoshenko, who outshines Yushchenko at present in any popularity contest. And one is supposed to believe that these masses of Ukrainians were duped by a US campaign? Yushchenko might turn out to be less of a populist than people hoped for, but it is far too simplistic to say that the masses of Ukrainians rallied around him because the US told them to or manipulated them into doing so. They knew the risks involved--but what was the alernative? No matter which way you cut it, Yushchenko and gang are FAR, far BETTER for Ukraine than Yanukovych and gang would have been, US opinions on the matter aside. And furthermore, no one has stopped fighting for a better Ukraine: the altrernative press to the governmental and oligarchic press is active as ever in criticizing the new authorities, and PORA! is keeping its presence felt, especially vis-a-vis the whole Zvarych affair, in relation to which, by the way, I think Yushchenko is taking a deeply disappointing and troubling position. . .

b) This election campaign and subsequent Orange Revolution really was not, at its root, about a competition between a Western versus a Russian or Eastern Choice, nor was it driven or that deeply complicated by an east-west divide within Ukraine, even if these things did play an important but secondary role. Let me explain, since this is an assertion that goes against the grain of many of people's deepest assumptions about the elections and situation in contemporary Ukraine. Both Yushchenko and Yanukovych had Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking supporters in both the western and eastern parts of the country, albeit with different proportions; nonethless, at least 60% of Ukrainians voted for Yushchenko in just about every round. The east-west divide within the country is an artificial divide first made and then continued by a historical parade of authoritarian and rapacious governments (imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet) that have needed tactics of divide and rule to maintain their power and the wealth of their elites (the USSR was a class society). The tactics of divide and rule in Ukraine have been based on manipulating and politicizing Ukraine's multiethnic and multiligual situation, especially by toying with people's fears and anxieties about the status of the Russian language in Ukraine and about Ukrainian cooperation with Russia. There is no issue here: Russian is in many ways still the dominant language in Ukraine, given its prevalence on television, in print press, on pop radio and other parts of the entertainment industry (such as Western films and books coming dubbed and translated mostly into Russian only), and it still enjoys widespread us in the government; and all of this in addition to the large numbers who are primarily Russian-speaking in the home, whether they are ethnically Ukrainian or Russian or mixed. Yushchenko's stance and the whole post-OR government's stance is one of linguistic pluralism/populism, Russian propaganda that says he's against the Russian language aside. Furthermore, Ukraine continues to look toward Russia as its number 1 trading partner. Thus, the Yanukovych camp was talking about MUCH more than cooperation; they were talking about what one scholar, Taras Kuzio, called the "Belarusynization of Ukraine;" i.e., of Ukraine taking the path of Belarus' of heading toward actual re-intergration with Moscow, since the power of the oligarchy rested on close ties to an increasingly authoritarian Russian government. And most people saw this, and rejected it. But this is not an anti-Russian stance in general; it fact, it is quite pro-Russian in the sense that it sends a message to Russia that Ukrainains value democracy, not just in Ukraine but hopefully somday in Russia, too. Therefore, none of this anything to do with wanting to cut ties with Russia tout court, but with the desire to distance Ukraine from any authoritarian oligarchy, or any "government of bandits." It has to do with demanding equality between democratic nations. And the reason for all this was simple: continuation of ties between the current regime in Russia and the status quo regime as it obtained these past fourteen years in Ukraine meant keeping in power a rapacious oligarchy that, while manipulating people in Ukraine to think ill of one another and in terms of either khlib (Ukrainian for bread) or khleb (Russian for bread), were stealing and preparing to keep on stealing the dough. With Yanukovych and the present Russia, fewer people would have any bread to eat, and 60% of Ukrainians (in the civic sense) woke up to this fact. The rest of them, that 40% or so in mostly the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, are like the millions of Americans, especially lower class Americans, who support the radically right wing social agenda of the Republicans against their own best interests. One could copy the title and motivation of the book What's the Matter with Kansas? and very much so write a book entitled What's the Matter with the Donbas?--and make it a book in which one asks why so many workers in eastern and southern Ukraine support the parties and platforms of Ukraine's oligarchs. Kansas has its Republican Proletariat, and Ukraine has its Regions of Ukraine Proletariat: working people working for an agenda that is against their interests and for those of corrupt elites, or oligarchs. (Yes, I do think that the Bush administration is quite corrupt, as was the Clinton administation, too; today there is narly a difference between a Republocract and Demopublican; there is no true Left in mainstream American politics, and certainly the real Left is nowhere to be found on mainstream television. . .).

Thus, the reason why I say that the OR did not at its roots have to do with a Western v. Eastern choice is because if Russia was under a pro-democracy and anti-chauvinist government and had supported Yushchenko--and no doubt the US then would have supported Yanukovych or remained silent in matter--Ukrainians would have drawn closer to Russia. It was bread, and who was going to for the moment support people in the fight against the dough-snatchers, that mattered in this election most. And one can read above what I wrote about the strong populist tendencies of many of the leaders of the OR, most especially Yulia Tymoshenko.

Of course, it does matter, on the other hand, that Russian power was supporting the dough-snatchers and that he West weighed on the side of the people in this conflict; and it does matter that Ukrainian-speakers do feel marginalized in their own country, and now feel hope that after the OR, their country will take a more pro-active stance regarding the Ukrainian language and culture. But none of this has anything to do with being simplistically pro-Western and anti-Russian. All but the most intolerant of Ukrainians look upon the Russian people and language as an enemy nation; most continue to regard Russia and Russians as kin--but as cousins, not brothers. They look forward to wide-ranging social-democratic reform and a united Europe that is not limited to a Germanic and Central European world, but will also some day include a unique East Slav world of which Ukraine is definitely and should proudly be part, CULTURALLY speaking. Its just that 60% of Ukrainians don't like Putin's government and Putin's pundits any more than liked the Ukrainian oligarchy and its pundits. Seperate the people from the government, please.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

On the Revolt and Massacre in Uzbekistan (Links)

Tick-tock, tick-tock: I have been stating that this part of the world is going to play increasingly across headlines in the West (see the last few paragraphs of my inaugural essay part I below). . .I don't mention this to inflate my own ego, but just to make another loud call that people--activists especially--start to wake up and learn about this region, about Eurasia. . .

So here are some links to articles about the situation in Uzbekistan, from Radio Free Europe and the Eurasian Daily Monitor:

1) Don't believe the media hype: these protests are not purely nor even mostly about people wanting to set-free and defend a group of Islamic fundamentalist prisoners; they are about the poor economic conditions obtaining in Uzbekistan, the most populous of Central Asian nations. The attempt to paint the rebellion as pro-Islamicist is a result of the fact that the US finds the current regime in Uzbekistan to be an ally. There is an important US military base in Uzbekistan used for operations in Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan's president being a close ally, it is important for the US propaganda machine to represent their ally's opponents as a bunch of radical Islamic fundamentalists. But what is motivating the rebellion in Uzbekistan is mostly the same kinds of things that motivated people from Serbia, to Georgia and Ukraine, to Kyrgyzstan and hopefully someday both Belarus' and Russia itself. Its really lucky for the people of Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan that their respective pre-revolution leaders--Milosevic, Shervardnadze, Kuchma Akaev--were not US allies, if you know what I mean. . .

Two articles on this:

From Radio Free Europe (RFE), entitled "Uzbekistan: Economic Concerns Primary in Andijon":

From the Eurasian Daily Monitor, entitled, "Masses Reject Charges of Islamic Extremism":

2) About an Uzbeki opposition journalist's arrest, from RFE:

Check out the links to other articles you will find on the RFE pages.

Eurasia is a frustrated region of the world whose webs of government power, grassroots sentiment, and Western and Russian power are anything but simple and clear cut: the interesting thing to think about is why did protest lead to massacre here; and why isn't the US strongly condemning the massacre and strongly lauding the opposition, and instead sees its pundits making a stink of fundamentalism.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Russia Off the Deep End on VE Day

The photo is from the book Harvest of Despair by Karel C. Berkhoff

The initial invitation of the Putin administration to the heads of former Soviet Republics to come to Moscow for VE day already was arrogant enough; the uproar of politicians, pundits and other supporters of the Putin administration over the initially polite decline to participate in the Moscow festivities by two Baltic heads of state and the Ukrainian president is even worse, putting the lie to the myth that the current Russian government and it’s pundits seek to build a democratic, post-colonial Russia that will be cooperative with an EU now on its borders. The logic of the invitation—“We defeated the Nazis together, so we should celebrate together”—is a chauvinist ploy that thankfully was recognized as such by the leadership of the Baltic States and of Ukraine. As ploy, it is part of an increasingly desperate attempt to win major ideological capital for Russian neo-imperialism after the major set back of the Rose and Orange Revolutions and of the rebellion in Kyrgyzstan. The main target audiences for the Russian and Russophile uproar over the refusal to participate are members of the Russian diaspora and those non-Russians with an aged Soviet mentality in Russia’s so-called “near-abroad,” and Western pundits vulnerable, for a variety of reasons, to the Russian version of things. The goal is to win leverage from the EU over the Baltic States and destabilization of Ukraine, which is beginning its long gallop out of Russia’s reach. The rationale is that without a unified sense of Eastern European history that places the emphasis on the role of the Great Russian people in the course of all its major events, there can be no future empire for Russia, and no neo-imperial influence in the near-abroad at present. Crucial to holding that vision of history together is the old Soviet ideology of WWII, which Putin’s administration is making clear is also part of Russia’s post-Soviet inheritance. The conclusion: Putin’s government has no intention of engaging with nor encouraging a process of decolonizing Russia’s mentality and foreign policy, even after the Rose and Orange Revolutions. As Putin has recently said, “The greatest catastrophe of the Twentieth Century was the collapse of the Soviet Union,” and “Russia and Ukraine are like East and West Germany.”

Togetherness is not the word that most people (or most non-Russians) in the Baltics and many in Ukraine would use to describe the monumental struggle against Nazi Germany (although in Ukraine, the situation is much more complicated. . .). Togetherness suggests far too much a notion of people struggling together out of free and goodwill; what happened in WWII was cooperation that was the result of necessity. But I don’t even want to engage the issue on this level: what is most appalling is that with this whole issue, the Russian government and its pundits are attempting to dictate how the Baltics and Ukrainians should recall their own past; in this case their own experiences of WWII. Moscow used to tell them not to remember their real history in Soviet times, and now Moscow is doing so again. “Forget about all that that was specific to your experience! Remember how you fought with us, your Big Brothers and Sisters! Come to Moscow!”

People want the chance to remember the real history. They want to be left alone to finally rebuild their own memories of the past, and to build their own futures. This is especially important to Ukraine, which still lags far behind the Baltic States in de-Sovietizing how history is taught and how the past is remembered. Thank you Yushchenko for choosing to stay in Ukraine. (And even though I think it would have been much better for Latvia’s Freiberga to not have broken Baltic solidarity on this matter and chosen to stay in Latvia tomorrow—Monday, May 9, 2005—she is admirably at least trying to make a point of her visit to Moscow: “Our History of that period is not Your History. And do You even know Your real History?”)

As for what the pundits are saying, it is despicable the way they are repeating all of the old Soviet myths about rampaging Baltic and Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazi program; about the partisans, and about those who joined anti-Soviet units formed under German tutelage (and unfortunately these are largely Western myths, too; Westerner culture traffics in so many stereotypes about rabid Eastern European collaboration with the Nazis, too). That they are bringing all this up in reaction to the refusal to come to Moscow with the sensibility of, “Ah-hah! We told you that they in the end were anti-Semites, Nazi collaborators and nationalists!” only makes them look ridiculous. It shows how small is their human dignity and their understanding. They seem to have forgotten that there would be no issue if Putin had not made the invitation in the first place, and if the pro-Putin pundits did not make such a big stink of the refusal. The Putin government probably expected the refusal, anyway, and they probably hoped that they could, by dragging into the open all these old Soviet spook stories about wicked, fascist partisans, throw egg in the face of the post-OR authorities in Ukraine, and of their old adversaries in the Baltics.

Russia needs to stay out so that these countries can work out their own version of the past. I am intimate with this issue myself. My father’s family is from the Ternopil region of Western Ukraine; my mother’s family is from the Poltava region of Central Ukraine. My father was born on the road while his parents and two sisters were fleeing the Red Army’s advance back into Ukraine; my mother was born in Germany because her parent’s had been Ostarbeitere (workers who were forcibly taken from home to work in munitions plants in Germany). My father has an uncle who fought at the Battle of Brody as part of the SS Galicia division (a division of Ukrainians formed under the SS that was organized ONLY to fight the Red Army and had NOTHING to do with the Holocaust, and whose members thought they would later form the chore of an independent Ukrainian Army; see the snippet I include below about them); my mother has an uncle who also fought at Brody, but with the Red Army. My father’s uncle survived the battle, even though his unit suffered 70% casualties as the Germans used the Ukrainian and other non-German units as canon-fodder; my mother’s uncle died at that battle. One member of my mother’s family once said to me that my father’s uncle killed her uncle; my father’s family is proud of his contribution to the struggle for a free and independent Ukraine. Some members of my father’s family refer to Central and Eastern Ukrainians as Moskali (derogatory term for Russians and what could be called “Russified Ukrainians”); some of my mother’s family say Western Ukrainians are all Banderivtsi (a name of one partisan group that Soviet propaganda painted as pro-Nazi and fascist). Members of both sides voted for Yushchenko. Upon learning this, some of my family in Western Ukraine admitted that things were more hopeful in Ukraine than they thought. With my Poltava family, the process of coming to the decision to vote for Yushchenko also came with the admittance that perhaps what they know of their own history and of Western Ukrainians was also a lie. Whatever be the case for them, the Russian government and Russian pundits should stay out of it: they must let Ukrainians—which I use here not in the ethnic sense but in the civic one including Ukrainian citizens of every culture and language—work out their version of the events of the past. And Western Ukrainians must have the first chance in their life to tell their stories openly in Kyiv (HELLO Symonenko!).

That is precisely what Russia is afraid of; and the invitation and the uproar is just more manipulation, is just the same as Putin’s open support for Yankovych.

For two good, recent resources that deal comprehensively with the complexities of the history of Ukraine during WWII:

Check out the book Harvest of Despair by Karel C. Berkhoff, published just last year. It covers the history of parts of Western and Central Ukraine under German occupation (the area of the Reichskomissariat).

Get a copy of Slavko Nowytski’s recent documentary, Between Hitler and Stalin: Ukraine in WWII: The Untold Story.

Also check-out the pamphlet written some years ago by Myron Kuropas, as he sought to combat 60 Minutes for a segment in which it made use of all the lies, distortions, and exaggerations about Ukrainians who fought briefly on the German side during WWII that the Russian government and its pundits, both in Ukraine and in Russia and elsewhere, are now repeating. It is entitled, Scourging of a Nation: CBS and the Defamation of Ukraine.

My next piece will be on the myth of widespread Eastern European collaboration with the Nazis. I will ruminate on the following question: Why is the general image of France during WWII in the Western mind of the Resistance and of Ukraine of widespread collaboration and anti-Semitism, when Ukraine had an active and large resistance (the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought both Nazis and the Soviets and had possibly up to 100,000 soldiers at its highpoint, and thousands of others actively supporting it as doctors and other supportive staff throughout most of Western Ukraine and many parts of the central regions) while most of France was governed by an actively collaborationist government of Frenchmen, and Jews were rounded up and deported to death camps there, too. I don’t deny that some Ukrainians participated in the slaughter, but I am tired of Ukrainians being singled out as particularly wretched, more so than Germans or French or Dutch (Anne Frank was betrayed in Amsterdam, mind you), etc., during the course of WWII.

Some websites about the anti-Soviet, anti-German partisan army, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA, from the Ukrainian initials): (this site is quite detailed)

And oh, that snippet about that SS Galicia division; its from Kuropas' pamphlet mentioned above, pp. 9-10:

The so-called Galician Division (Himmler forbade the use of the term “Ukrainian”) was established in the summer of 1943, when the German army was already beginning its retreat from Soviet territories. The rounding up of Ukraine’s Jews, begun in 1941, was essentially complete before the division was raised. The only Ukrainian Jews who did survive until 1943 were those being sheltered by other Ukrainians.

[In 1943] tens of thousands of Jews were still in hiding throughout the General Government [western Ukraine], the Eastern Territories and the Ukraine. But German searches for them were continuous.

The Galicia Division, properly identified, at first, as the SS Volunteer Division “Galicia” became, from June 1944, the 14th Volunteer Grenadier Division of the SS, 1st Galician. According to Ukrainian and German sources, the division was unique because (1) it was strictly a combat unit and so played no role in the management of concentration camps or death camps; (2) its Ukrainian members wore a lion rampant [lion symbolism is associated with Galician history and especially with the city of L’viv; Stefan] instead of an “SS” on their right collars during most of the life of the division; (3) its ranks and titles were those of the Wehrmacht [the German Regular Army that pre-existed the rise of the Nazis; Stefan] rather than the SS; (4) it was accompanied by Ukrainian chaplains who attended to the spiritual needs of the troops; (5) it was kept separate from other German forces; (6) it was created with the proviso that it never be used against the Western Allies but only against Soviet forces on the Eastern front. [2]
The Galicia Division fought the Soviets in a major engagement near the Ukrainian town of Brody. Decimated, its remnants went west. In early 1945, its survivors were regrouped into the 1st Division of the Ukrainian National Army, under the leadership of General Pavlo Shandruk. These Ukrainians all believed that the military training and experience they were receiving under German tutelage would allow them to establish a Ukrainian army capable of freeing Ukraine from the Soviets. Some of these Ukrainian veterans did indeed stay in Ukraine, joining the ranks of the underground. Other moved west where they fought with the French underground against the Nazis. Most ended up marching into northeastern Italy where the Ukrainian National Army surrendered to British forces. . .

These were the kind of men who held a reunion in Brody during the summer of 1994.

So ends the Kuropas passage (Sorry, I didn't include the notes). . .and these are the kind of men that want to stand on Kyiv’s Independence Square on May 9, 2005.

Us’oho najkrashchoho (All the Best),


PS--I suppose one should also do a piece on the complexities of this matter in Ukraine, or about how those who are still beholden to the Soviet view of the UPA, OUN, and Galicia Divison are now potential pawns of the Russian neo-imperialist propaganda, just as those are who believe the Russophile propaganda that Yushchenko is a nationalist who will close Russian language schools and who wants to run the Russian language out of Ukraine. Truth is not relative, but one does have to deal with the reality of those whose grasp on the truth is. . .

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Zvarych Controversy, The Reputation of the Diaspora and Expat Community in Ukraine, and Other Related Thoughts

Propaganda sticker made by PORA!: "FACTS (A Newspaper): They Lie"

PORA! has recently made a similar sticker that says "Zvarych Lies!"

The accusations of dishonesty against Zvarych seem to be genuine, lest one think that somehow the "opposition" in Ukraine got to Columbia and NYU first, paid some bribes, and thus it was announced that this fellow lied through his teeth. But I am sad to see that neither Yushchenko nor Tymoshenko are pursuing this matter rigorously, in any open and transparent manner. Thankfully activists from PORA! are, living up to their promise to put pressure on anyone who engages in "lies, corruption, and communistic behavior," and they have put Zvarych on their blacklist ( in Ukrainian only). This helps to demonstrate, by-the-way, PORA!’s lasting importance and effectiveness as a grassroots organization—I think this is PORA!’s genuine future and effectiveness, and am quite surprised by comments in punditland, especially on other Ukraine blogs that I have read, stating that PORA! has or is destined to become obsolete. Hm. . .hardly!
But I want to make some general comments. To my mind, the Zvarych case should make us all think about two related issues: 1) the reputation of diaspora Ukrainians and Western expats (i.e., those without Ukrainian roots) in Ukraine in general, and 2) the related matter of abuses by the same people. To begin with the latter, what bothers me about Zvarych's case, beyond someone lieing to get into a position of power and influence, is that it might be the tip of an iceberg; and however small that iceberg might be, its one worth discussing.

In the case of Zvarych, it seems that he lied for mostly “patriotic” reasons; i.e., it seems that he lied not because he wanted to enrich himself at the expense of Ukraine and Ukrainians like the oligarchs do, but because he so desperately wanted to be part of building a post-communist Ukraine. Whatever be the case, his lies are indefensible. And I wonder just how many diaspora Ukrainians and Western expats are in Ukraine taking advantage of the good-faith and relative inexperience of Ukrainians and of their own privileges and status as “people from the West,” just in order to get ahead for not so glorious and patriotic reasons. People like this do a diservice to all the sincere diaspora Ukrainians and expats living in Ukraine, of which there are indeed many. So. . .is there are a problem of people from the West using their status and/or privileges as Westerners to manipulate the situation in Ukraine for the sake of their own power or influence or prestige? Maybe not that great of one. . .

Now, as for the former point, I know that I am not the only diaspora Ukrainian who was initially shocked or dismayed by the rather cold and unreceptive attitude that many—but certainly not all—Ukrainians have toward their diaspora kin. It was hard to be told over and over again that I was not Ukrainian in any way, shape or form, and that I was purely American, etc. Although I do not at all agree with the notion that I am not Ukrainian in any way, I do know quite well that I am very much so American, and that they are not, and that that sets me and all the rest of us diaspora (whether Ukrainian-American, Uki-Canadian, Uki-Argentinian or Australian) quite apart from our Ukrainian kin, no matter how hard we try to emphasize that we are quite Ukrainian in many ways, too. As far as I am concerned, we are Ukrainian-Americans or Canadians, etc., which means that we are neither plainly American (etc.), but also are definitely not plainly Ukrainian--we will ever only be Ukrainians with a dash; we will never be unqualified Ukrainians. (And those who come to Ukraine and whine about the conditions do a good job of making that abundantly clear, if you know what I mean!) Along with that, it was also hard to discover that a lot of Ukrainians also do not have such a high opinion of diaspora Ukrainians—and here we can add in Westerners in general and hence of the expats—because of many diapora Ukrainians’ and expats’ attitudes and behaviors while in Ukraine. So I want to talk about that for a moment, and ask whether diaspora Ukrainians and Western expats in Ukraine deserve the bad rap.

One of the major things that sets up this bad rap is the way in which a lot of diaspora Ukrainians and Western expats complain about the living conditions, the language situation, and the culture of customer service in Ukraine. Of course, not every diaspora Ukrainian and American expat who visits Ukraine comes and whines very vocally about these things, but there are plenty who do, and these complaints don’t fall on deaf Ukrainian ears—and often, the complaints are told directly to Ukrainians, and usually not without a bit of of condescension. And from some of my Ukrainian friends, I know that sometimes the Ukrainian listening to these complaints will completely agree with the person and will have no trouble accepting what is being said; but more often than not, the person, whether s/he agrees or not, will find something troubling in being told that the living conditions in their country are savage, or that the language situation is a mess and that Ukrainian speakers speak a too Russified Ukrainian, etc.

And I also want to say that I often felt annoyed at the gatherings of fellow Westerners in Ukraine because of the apparent hegemony of the view of Ukraine as a silly little, backwards country. Such things, along with the actions of people like Zvarych, really damage our reputation among a significant number of Ukrainians, and I can’t for one say that diaspora Ukrainians and Western expats are not largely at fault for that.

(By the way, I may not have had a wide enough experience with the diaspora and expat community in Ukraine, and mind you, I am certainly not talking about all the diaspora Ukrainians and American expats living in Ukraine. I did meet a folks here and there, particularly in L’viv, whom I thought had what increasingly seemed to me the gift of being able to accept, experience, and live in Ukraine on its own terms without judgment. Also, I had a fantastic time talking with some of the diaspora Ukrainians and Western expats that were regulars in the bar “Baraban” in Kyiv, which was the salon of the OR. However, people like these seemed to be in the minority; the majority seemed to me to be whiners. Thus, if my experience was too narrow and I am unjustifiably making an issue of an attitude that truly only afflicts a small minority of expats and diaspora Ukrainians in Ukraine, I will stand joyfully corrected!)

Of course, there are other reasons why diaspora Ukrainains and Western expats have somewhat of a bad reputation among some in Ukraine other than the diaspora Ukrainians’ and Western expats’ putting the proverbial foot in their mouth vis-à-vis their comments that make clear their very Western passions for their very Western creature comforts; but that does not mean that one is therefore free to go on putting one’s foot in one’s mouth, either. But before I continue, of course a lot of those Ukrainians who do have a negative image of the diaspora and expats in general do so as result of the anti-diaspora, anti-foreigner stance of the post-Soviet authorities, and also because some of them are resentful of what we have in the West that they do not. Of course, whether they are right or wrong to be thusly resentful, the diaspora Ukrainian or the Western expat certainly is not right in making condescending comments about the way things are in Ukraine that will only stoke the fires of that resentment. In the end, all the whining just proves that one is actually an Ugly American (or Canadian or _______ fill in your own blank), or rather, more a Westerner than a Ukrainian by virtue of one’s need for more creature comforts.
There is nothing wrong with having a difficult time adjusting to lower standards of living when one encounters them, I suppose; but one should also keep in mind that Ukraine by global standards is actually quite well off. Ukraine is NOT India NOR Subsaharan Africa; it is NOT a Third World but a Second World country. Furthermore, one can in Ukraine enjoy a Western standard of living, for the most part, but only in the cities and definitely not in the smaller towns and villages (which one can also more or less do in truly Third World countries as well). Thus, on the other hand, life for many average Ukrainians is much closer to how it is lived by most of the people of our earth than it is for an average Westerner, and thus travel to Ukraine is an important opportunity for any Westerner, whether diaspora or not, to learn some important things about the world we are living in. But I have learned that a lot of diaspora are generally shocked to see how their Ukrainian kin live. And of course, being relatively OK by global standards does not mean that there is nothing to improve. Of course there is: an Orange Revolution did happen in Ukraine for genuinely populist reasons, but I believe that unless one can really learn to accept and see things in Ukraine as closely to how a Ukrainian does or has to, you will have a really hard time understanding the real reasons for why the OR happened and where Ukraine may go from here, among other things. . .

So I’d like to set out here a kind of manifesto, or what I think one’s attitude as a diaspora Ukrainian or Western expat should be toward Ukraine and Ukrainians while one is in Ukraine:

For starters, one’s attitude should be one of non-judgmentality, and it certainly needs to be an attitude of not thinking that one needs to save Ukraine from Ukrainians. It has to do with giving advice when asked for it, and listening and learning otherwise. It has to do with not whining about living conditions in Ukraine, or the language situation, but accepting them and accomodating yourself as best as you can—for, how certain are you about your language ideology? Are you so sure that the word you just heard was Russian? And if so, so what? Many contemporary Ukrainians are not that bothered by the occassional word, and just because some Russian words have entered the lexicon, the language has not suddenly leaped into being Russian; Ukrainians in America often use English words; and Ukrainians in North America also often use phrases that are direct translations from North American English to Ukrainian that Ukrainians don't use; and so language changes, period.

This does not mean, however, that the Ukrainian government should not be more actively promoting the use of the Ukrainian language at an all-Ukrainian level: the general and robust use of the Ukrainian language, and the entrance of certain Russian words into the vocabularly, are related but not directly, and therefore are separate issues. Ukrainian speakers are speaking Ukrainian just fine in Ukraine, especially in the Western and much of the Central part of the country, and there is nothing wrong with people speaking Russian in the home and in public. Where the problem lies in terms of the language situation in Ukraine as far as I am concerned is with the fact that everyone who speaks Ukrainian can more or less speak Russian, but the vice-versa is not true. That needs to be changed, but not to the complete elimination of Russian either in the minds of Russians or Ukrainians of a future Ukraine. Multilingualism is one of the more fascinating aspects of Ukraine, and multilingual populism is actually Yushchenkko’s stance, despite the Russian chauvinist propaganda machine working against him. Also, it would be a shame if Ukrainian speakers lost their ability to be fluent in two languages, and I don’t know a single Ukrainian who resents actually knowing the Russian language. And of those I knew with whom I had explicit conversations about this, most said that what they have resented is that in Ukraine, the Ukrainian language has been treated as second to Russian, but not that Russian was bad. But so many diaspora seem to be plainly intolerant of Russian, period. This is the position of only a extremely right-wing minority in Ukraine, the same minority that rejected Yushchenko’s candidacy because of his policy of tolerance for Ukraine’s multilingual and cultural situation and because of his “American” wife. It seems to me that in general, such total and complete intolerance is not how most Ukrainian-speakers feel about the Russian language in Ukraine.

I think this is one instance in which Ukrainians have a much more progressive and open minded attitude than much of the Ukrainian diaspora; and its not the only instance in which Ukrainians in general seem to me to take a more progressive stance on an issue than their fellow Western kin. Nonetheless, almost every Ukrainian speaker I knew in Ukraine agreed that it would be to the benefit of Russian-speakers and of course of Ukraine in general if the level of fluency of Russian speakers in the Ukrainian language reached that of Ukrainian-speakers in the Russian language. And as far as I can see, such is the goal being set by the post-OR authorities, as well as is the goal of fluency in the national tongue toward which the governments in the Baltic states are working, regardless of what extremist and chauvinist Russian pundits and politicans are saying to and from the Russian diaspora. . .

But to return to our manifesto, a sincere diaspora or expat attitude also has to do with not whining about the culture of customer service in Ukraine or any other former post-Soviet nation but striving to understand and adjust to it, and therefore learning how to work with it, and by extension, with not assuming that everything the way it is done in the West is the best.

In short, all of this manifesto can be summed up by stating that the most important attitude of the diaspora or the expat is one of humility and willingness to live and learn.
None of this means, of course, that there is no role for diaspora Ukrainians or Western expats in Ukraine, and none of this means that Ukrainians are on the whole totally against or completely ungrateful or indifferent to us and what we can contribute to their nation's growth. NOT IN THE LEAST! But, whether you have Ukrainian heritage or not, it is THEIR nation! So I am talking about one's attitude toward work in Ukraine: the diaspora Ukrainian or expat should work with Ukrainians, not as their bosses (unless of course that is your business being there; but then, of course you should come at differences of approach without a condescending attitude about the way they have always done things. . .). One should not conduct one’s self as if one knows better simply because one has knowledge and experience from the West! And one obviously shouldn't take advantage of one's privilege as a Westerner and the goodwill of many toward all things Western simply to get ahead. Thus I propose that for now on, the term for whenever a diaspora Ukrainian or an American expat lies or otherwise takes unfair advantange of his or her status as someone from the West and the situation in Ukraine for the sake of personal advancement, Zvarychism, whether one was motivated by a patriotic feeling or purely out of personal greed. . .
However, to switch back to Zvarych for the moment: it might not be that he told his lies simply due to a patriotic feeling. His near resignation over changes in oil prices and imports/exports policy when his wife works for and makes her money at a firm that is affected by such policy changes smacks too much of the kind of corruption the OR was to stand against; his lies, her job and his threat to quit his job, all seem like "communistic behavior" to me.So this is an opportune moment for Yushchenko et al to clarify their stance on their call for the diaspora and expats to come and help build a post-OR Ukraine. They could be saying, with this opportunity, something like: "We are more open to our diaspora kin and to Westerners in general than any regime has been in the modern history of Ukraine, but we also ain't gonna be suckers, neither! And part of our goal of improving conditions in Ukraine is so that our women have no more motivation to marry themselves off to cruising Western men looking for trophy wives half their age in our country! We will not be exploited! Come work with us with dignity! We, after our OR, have our dignity again!" And then let's hope people will be doing more thorough background checks on everyone in Ukraine, and not just those with suspected ties to the oligarchy. . .
So, in extreme contradistinction to the extreme of Zvarych (who is an extreme example of the diaspora Ukrainian or Western expat gone bad) and Zvarychism, here's a story of an American expat who lives in a village not far from my ancestral hometown, my beloved Pidhajtsi. I was told that there is an American guy in a nearby village who had been a Peace Corps volunteer who fell in love, not just with a Ukrainian woman whom he married, but also with life in Ukraine in general. He has been living in Ukraine ever since getting hitched. His reason for staying and wanting to live out the rest of his life in rural Ukraine is, supposedly, because he says that the peace of mind he finds possible in Ukraine is no longer available in the West. . .
When I return to Ukraine, either in the middle of this summer or in the fall, I will definitely be seeking him out for an interview. Such is the ideal of love for and acceptance of the country toward which the diaspora Ukrainian and/or expat American should strive (without necessarily going to the extent of chosing to move to Ukraine) to my mind, and I will seek to create a term for this more positive orientation of the diaspora and expat toward Ukraine from his last name. It will denote the opposite of Zvarychism!
Perhaps I am being a bit too harsh on Zvarych; Zvarych loved Ukraine quite a bit, too. He did take that same courageous step of giving up his American citizenship and moving to Ukraine. But his lies and his seeming manipulations in relation to his wife’s business interests deeply tarnish whatever he has done that might be admirable. What was he thinking, I wonder, when he began his lies, and then continued them? Lieing to get ahead or into positions of influence and power, whether for the sake of Ukraine or for that of personal gratification (in Zvarych's case, it seems that both those things played a role), is not all that patriotic in the end: is it patriotic to abuse your privileges as a Westerner with statements like “I was a professor at Columbia,” for no Ukrainian could get away with such a flippant lie; and thus is it patriotic to abuse people’s goodwill and willingness to trust you, just to get ahead? And there is nothing wrong with personal gratification, so long as it achieved in a legitimate manner and within reason. . .

To read more about the issue of Zvarych, see Taras Kuzio’s article at the Eurasian Daily Monitor at:
And also, for those who read Ukrainian, see what PORA! has been writing about the situation:

Friday, May 06, 2005

About My Comments on Mykola Mehyts' E-Gazette

Greetings Family and Friends,

This is a comment in which I try desperately to back-pedal from the comments that appeared, attributed to me, this week on Mykola Mehyts' e-gazette. If you do not recieve this e-gazette, you definitely should: it is a weekly bulletin of events about happenings in various Ukrainian communities in North America that is sent every Friday via email, and is a valuable (and new, only a few weeks old) resource for the North American Ukrainian diaspora, compiled by an excellent and worthy activist of the Ukrainian-American community, Mykola Mehyts. You can join the site by writing to Mykola at

For some time now, Mykola has been fishing for statements about what the role of the diaspora is in post-OR Ukraine, intending to publish them in his e-gazette. He wrote to me the other day wondering why I had not written anything yet, since I have had a few conversations with him about this topic in general, and could be expected to have a lot to say. I do have a lot to say, but I have not had any time to write a well-written piece on the matter. I have lot to say about the role played in the past by the diaspora and what it could be doing in the future that is both positive and negative. There are things that people of our diaspora have done that have me feeling awe-struck and proud, and then there are things that I am shocked by and critical of. However, what appeared on the e-gazette are only comments geared toward the things of which I am critical--and these are things that I only really learned about by going to Ukraine. These were comments that I voiced to Mykola over an email that I thought would be remaining PRIVATE between the two of us; I know he knows me well enough to know that I am not solely critical of the diaspora, and that I do see a big role--much bigger than my comments published on the e-gazette would lead one to believe--for us in post-OR Ukraine. I did not intend for my comments to him to be published, for they reflect only about HALF of what I have to say about the relation between the diaspora and Ukraine. I am dismayed that they appeared there as they did. Left alone as they appear there, they are a misrepresentation of my whole thought.

I understand that they were published as the result of miscommunication between Mykola and I. To try and mend the situation, I will write a statement that really reflects my full thoughts, both praising as well as critizing the diaspora, and will post here and will also ask Mykola to put it in next week's e-gazette as well. I think it will be a kind of Manifesto for diaspora action that will work well for me, and I hope maybe for others. . .

And one last thing: none of this should be a reflection on the character or integrity of Mykola Mehyts. I truly admire the work he does and has done in our Ukrainian American community. He is a mover and doer; because of his efforts (and those of others, but he initiated the thing) we have been holding an annual Ukrainian Day Festival these past few years for the first time in my living memory here in Minneapolis; we have an 1/2 hour Ukrainian Community radio show; and there are many other praiseworthy things that this fellow has done, such as help organize fundraisers for $ that was sent to Ukraine for the OR, as well as helping to organize pro-OR demonstations at our State Capital, as well as going himself as an observer to Ukraine during the elections, etc., the list goes on. This really was a misunderstanding. Mykola is a great guy and has my support!


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Links to Interesting Articles

Links to articles:

1) A Report (from Radio Free Europe) on the Status of Women in Central and Eastern Europe:

See my essay on life in Pidhajtsi (which I will try to post by the end of today, with a link to it), in which I devote a few lines to the issue of (extreme) gender inequality in Ukraine. In short, one can summarize the situation like this: women do all the real work of domestic work, which includes cooking, cleaning, mending, etc. (and mind you, clothes for the most part are washed by hand), while also doing household or farmstead chores that men do, and also working in the fields or working jobs, while the men. . . Well, they sometimes work jobs, come and go from the fields as they please, and then eat and drink or just rest or hang with other fellows the rest of the time while the women are doing the housework and watching the kids, etc. This is a generalization, and many women are lucky to have helpful men around, but as a generalization it points to the rule. And also, at a recent presentation I did in Minneapolis about "Life in Rural Western Ukraine and the Orange Revolution," a woman and friend of mine pointed out that the lot of women is largely the same in the US. Well, this is true only to a piont; no matter which way you cut it, gender inequality is far, far worse in Ukraine and elsewhere than in the US. This is one of the few moments in which I would argue that things in the US are more progressive. . .

That is, in general there seems to be much less alienation in Ukraine than in the West between individual family members, between neighbors, and between strangers, even; and of course between humans and nature. This of course does not mean its a paradise; being so close to others can also be suffocating and annoying, and one always has a neighbor that one just rather not see. But I do think these annoyances are a small price to pay for the relative lack of alienation and estrangment people feel between one another. HOWEVER, Ukrainian society does seem to me to make up for all this with extreme alienation between the genders. I knew few people who would call a member of the opposite sex a friend. Of course, not everyone in the West has close friends of the opposite sex as well, but my impression is that many more do in the West than in Ukraine. Always, my comments on such matters as this are not about absolutes but are comments about tendencies on a continuum. . .

2) An important article (from RFE again) about the lack of any real progress as of yet in terms of local level reform in Ukraine:

I will have to investigate this further, and comment later. But two things: before leaving Pidhajtsi, I heard frequent complaints about who was remaining in the county administration after the OR, and about some of those who were newly appointed. Some of the complaining was done out of jealousy, but some of it was legitimate critique. On the other hand, I am glad that my father's cousin, with whose family I spent most of my time, and with whom I frequently wandered putting up Yushchenko posters and in general canvassing, and who was instrumental in organizing buses to Kyiv and food and supplies for supporting those who went to Kyiv during the OR, and who spent 2 weeks in Kyiv himself, got a position in the county government. He has a reputation as a clean and honest man in town, in general.