Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On the Road to a Doc, Part IV: Decay, Ruin, Neglect, Immiseration

(stills from videofootage from the town of Pidhajtsi, state of Ternopil)

"My mother used to work in a conservatives factory during Soviet times that employed over 100 people. After the collapse, the factory continued to work for some years, until it closed. It was said that the managers had a difficult time adjusting to the new environment, to market conditions, but everybody knows that what really happened is that they got rich by mismanaging their business. When the factory closed, they sold much of the equipment, and the conservatives section has never reopened. There was also a bakery and mill, that have reopened, but they are privately run and don’t employ as many people as they used to. Behind me is the building where they used to sell their products. This is a perfect example of the decline in the small towns of Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union, especially in Western Ukraine."

–Oksana Kolodnytska, 23 yr. old school teacher in Pidhajtsi who has a mastery of English and French, who is working on mastering Spanish, and who reads German, and who receives a $60/month wage that she shares with other members of her family, who survive mostly as subsistence and cash-crop farmers. She made this comment in English. She has never been outside of Ukraine.

The building in the background is the mill that was run down and then reopened as a private enterprise. The owners would not let me film inside.

Sunset over the fields during fall harvest this past Oct., 2005, in Pidhajtsi; try to make out the woman walking her cows.

A stencil that appeared in Kyiv around UPA day. The letters read UPA, the Ukrainian initials for Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which was an organization that fought both the German and Soviet occupations of Ukraine during WWII. UPA was active in Western Ukraine until the early 1950s. Many of those people descended from UPA veterans and supporters were for the OR. (Note: anyone who may think that UPA was an anti-Semitic institution, and who may think that many of the descendants of UPA veterans and supporters that became involved in oranizing behind the OR are in large part today neo-Nazis, simply needs to become better informed.)



Anonymous said...

The National Alliance website looks OK, but one of the ones they link to is a little worrying. The Gaidamaka site sports such pearls as:

"Іноді навіть не треба створювати речення. Достатньо обмежитися голим схематизмом. Набором прізвищ. Актуальних прізвищ на межі асоціативного ряду.

Бжезинський, Олбрайт, Сорос, Березовський, Гельман, Павловський, Сурков, Путін, Абрамович, Нємцов, Вексельберг, Тимошенко, Бєлковський, Ющенко, Чумаченко, Порошенко, Червоненко, Жванія, Третьяков, Мартиненко, Мороз, Рабиновіч, Волков, Симоненко, Коломойський, Тарута, Ахмєтов, Суркіси, Пінчук, Медведчук, Леваєв, Фельдман, Кравчук. Нікого не забули? Головні, так би мовити, фігуранти. Що об’єднує їх? Що розділяє? Чого і скільки серед них у відсотковому відношенні? І головне – чого від них очікувати?

Запитань накопичилося багато. Чому за результатом свої діянь вони так подібні одне на одного? Протилежні тексти – однаковий результат. А чому, власне, результат однаковий? Можливо, результат однаковий тому, що фігуранти підібрані відповідні?

Вищевказану сукупність слід аналізувати тверезо, без зайвих емоцій. І робити висновки. Раціональні радикальні механістичні висновки. Під час викидання сміття виконувати танго недоцільно. "

Odd, to say the least.

I guess the name of the site was well chosen, with the history of Uman in mind.

Stefan said...

Sorry about the delayed response, been rather busy and out of sorts. . .

Thanks for looking into the website; in my haste to make a point, I didn’t even think to look up the National Alliance site. That is, in my haste to counterattack segments of the Left or progressive community in the West for an all too frequent traffic in the stereotype of a uniquely virulent form of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, I foolishly did not look up the website that was advertised on the stencil. That was dumb. Or foolish. But the point that remains is that the UPA can not be simplistically looked upon and dismissed as an anti-Semitic organization, or even as an organization of anti-Semites, even if many of its members no doubt held anti-Semitic beliefs.

I shall try, definitely, to be more careful in the future. What I was really trying to say, aphoristically, with that post was this: I was trying to engage all of those who saw a kind of anti-Semitic conspiracy behind the OR. That is, I was trying to engage in an aphoristic way those people, like those Guardian writers, who argue that neo-Nazis ran Yushchenko’s campaign. I also wanted to engage with people like the writer observing the OR from Lviv who felt that it was appropriate to begin his/her article about the OR by making reference to the fact that the Holocaust happened in Lviv. When the Berlin Wall fell, was it appropriate to talk about how the Holocaust took place in Prague, Berlin, Warsaw, or Budapest from the opening paragraph (i.e., the mentality of, “Oh wow, all this happening in the main zones of the Holocaust?”)? Was that a decent and relevant starting point for discussing the Velvet Revolution?

I do not at all mean to suggest, however, that anti-Semitism is not a problem in Ukraine. One can read here (I’ll post it tomorrow, at Orange Dykun) what I once wrote about the problem.

No doubt there were organizers behind Yushchenko that held anti-Semitic views, as no doubt many of those behind Yanukovych are also anti-Semites. Anti-Semitism is undeniably a big problem in Ukraine, and I did not and do not intend to pretend that the situation is otherwise. Anti-Semitism is a grotesque fact of life in Ukraine--as it is elsewhere--but the movement supporting Yushchenko was not generally motivated by, nor was it organized on, principles of anti-Semitism.

The claim that it was thusly so all amounts to a cheap shot engaged in by people all too eager to discredit, mostly from their armchairs mind you, what was happening in Ukraine in Nov.-Dec.of 2004. Such people are the ones who I wanted to address-—there were so many snap experts on Ukraine who, already predisposed to see nothing but sinister workings going on behind the OR because of US involvement, picked up all the most simplistic and stereotypical notions about Ukraine and the WWII era, which led them to believe that anti-Semites must be running the OR in Ukraine with US help, for the US is indeed guided by a foreign policy sinister enough that it would not hesitate to work with rabid anti-Semites. That is, many of the OR’s critics picked up on stereotypes based on what other non-experts, or on what those who have feigned expertise on Ukraine, have poorly and oversimplistically written about what took place during the war in Ukraine.

Many of these writers (about Ukraine and WWII) were more or less motivated for a variety of reasons by a desire to discredit the national liberation movement in Ukraine, of which UPA was a major part. As regards segments of the Left, the motivation (to discredit the national liberation movement) was out of some foolish allegiance to the Soviet Union (such allegiance demonstrates to my mind that such people are or were mere stooges of their own ideology, and that a foolish consistency is indeed the hobgoblin of every small-minded Leftist). Also, as far as some of the OR critics go, it seemed to me that when one could not be convincing enough that the OR was not a populist revolt but a "postmodern coup" or a "franchised revolution" organized and purchased by the US, then the tactic was to make the OR out to be a populist revolt in the worst of possible senses; i.e., try to show that it was not a progressive uprising, but a preeminently regressive, anti-Semitic, and fascistic one. Thus there was all the stupid hoopla raised by some OR critics over Pora!'s agit-prop depicting an activist's boot stomping on an image of Kuchma-as-beetle as well. Did these critics mean to suggest--by complaining that this was a preeminently fascistic imagery that betrayed Pora!'s supposedly fascist and/or anti-Semitic fundamentals--that no Leftist would ever depict Bush as a bug getting smooshed? Come on! Kuchma, and the forces he represented, was an insect leaching off society whose power needed to be smothered!

Either way, whether the critics deliberately mislead themselves due to their ideological allegiances or their own ignorance, or deliberately mislead people because they were so eager to say that Yushchenko was a bad neoliberal, too many of the OR's critics made very problematical use of the issue of anti-Semitism in Ukraine to make out the OR as the work of a bunch of US-backed, radical anti-Semites descended from WWII-era folk.

For one of the most balanced (and also one of the most recent) accounts of Ukraine during WWII, check out Karel C. Berkhoff's 2004 book entitled "Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule." He does not discuss UPA, as his book is focused on parts of central and eastern Ukraine, but it is still very instructive as per the issues I have just raised, which I intend to raise again in my OR doc.

Thanks for the comment that became a prod to clarify my position.