Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dream, er, Nightmare. . .

Had the following dream two nights ago (reproduced here with just a tiny bit of embellishment):

BjuT continues to boycott parliament which Yu finally chooses to disband, but the rump parliamentarians refuse the order to dissolve (as promised). So the 1993 Yeltsin v. Parliament incident repeats itself in Ukraine, but in Ukraine things are more complicated. It turns out that Yu i joho ljubi druzi have sold the pipelines to Gazprom. The Kremlin then sends Russian Spetsnas into Ukraine--in collusion with the rump Parliament--under the pretense of protecting the pipelines and guaranteeing oil and gas deliveries to Europe during Urkaine's crisis. A civil war breaks out and the Kremlin sends more forces to back forces within Ukraine's military that remain loyal to the parliament, with the claim that Yu's move to disband the parliament was undemocratic and that the Kremlin most help restore democracy to Ukraine. Guardian writers publish pieces that say, "We told you so, about those Oranges," while others chide that this is what the West gets for meddling in Russia's backyard.

The forces of the rump parliament win with the aid of the Russian army, and the parliament rams through more legislation reversing the constitutional changes and restoring full powers to the presidency, after which they declare Ya an interim president before new elections.

As the war raged, the US, the EU and the UN all meakly said that the fighting should stop and that a negotiated peace should be brokered, and the EU of course continued to feed at the trough of Russian gas while they all three thanked Russia behind the scenes for protecting the pipes. All three are quick to recognize the legitimacy of the Russian-backed Ya government (this time it is they, not Putin, who are humiliated), and they--due to the new geopolitics of the situation and their neverending realpolitik that trumps all idealpolitik or principled politics--accept the presence of a Russian "peacekeeping force" in Ukraine. A partisan war begins, yup again in Western Ukraine against occupation by Muskali (slang for Russians). So unfortunately, scenes from that damn video game that was created in Russia during the OR come to life. (The game goes like this: it is 2008 or so and the OR has failed and Ya is President and Russian troops are in Ukraine again; there is a partisan war in the West, and in the game you are a Russian soldier shooting down Western Ukrainian insurgents).

The funny or most dreamlike part of the dream is that I am flying around Ukraine on a magic carpet with a hooka pipe in the center, observing everything happening. With me are Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov, and Roman Szporluk (Professor of History at Harvard and former director of the Ukrainian Harvard Research Institute). Solzhenitsyn rambles on, saying such things as, "See, we told you nothing original comes from Ukraine. The Ukrainians are derivative, they copy us, they borrow our culture and tastes and call them their own. They copy what we, the Great Russians do, in history. The Great Russians are the true descendants of Rus', while Ukrainians--the Little Russians--are the offshoots, historical accidents. It is indeed time that the Little Russians returned home once more." Bulgakov sits there, only nodding his head but to mention once, "It takes a Russian writer from Ukraine to create something original--like Gogol, or myself."

Szporluk protests, mentioning first that Gogol had a rather tormented and unsettled/uncertain sense of his own identity and that one had obviously to admit that though he expressed himself in Russian, his inspiration was Ruthenian or "Little Russian," and that his Little Russianness accounted for a great deal of his originality as an author. Szporluk then went on to discuss first Nikolai Gogol's/Mykola Hohol's predicament and identity crisis as a perfect example of the predicament of colonial writers in the modern/colonial period, and then he discussed the history of colonial/post-colonial relations between Russia and Ukraine as per arts and culture, emphasizing how before the Muscovites incorporated Kyiv, there were no universities in Moscow and that there had been little high culture in Moscow that was not related to religion and icon painting. He went on to say--repeating in my dream a lecture he delivered the summer I studied at the Harvard Ukrainian Summer Institute--that Ukrainians would never be truly free to develop themselves as a nation until the two major Continental powers of the late modern period--the Germans and the Russians--stopped bullying Ukraine and figured out who they were as peoples. The German nation, he argued, was now more or less fully formed and settled within stable borders, and that it had succeeded in doing so because it had given up further imperial adventures on the continent and channeled its energies into the supranational EU project--which for Ukraine means that it could expect no more invasions from the West. But looking down from the carpet, he said that it was clear that Russia will not give up imperial ambitions and delusions and stabilize in this generation, and so Ukrainians still had a generation or more of struggle ahead of them before they could truly try to build a society and government of which they could feel proud.

I do not intend here to put the lion's share of the blame for Ukraine's troubles on Russia or the Kremlin--the ending to my dream suggests I might. . .

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