Images From Ukraine

by Belle Waring on January 24, 2014

EDITED TO MAKE CLEARER: I don’t know what’s going on in Ukraine! My general inclination is to support the groups opposed to closer relations with Putin’s repressive Russia, but it’s clear even from the linked photos that there are fascists on the line vs. the riot cops as well. I strongly encourage you to read the comments from readers who are better informed than I.

I am not going to pretend to much knowledge about what has sparked the current outbreak of violent protests in Ukraine. Well, generally, it seems the citizens feel that the government of Ukraine wants to (insists on? Is being mumble*sort of arm twisted* convinced to?) maintain their country’s historically close relationship with Russia (soclose of a relationship) instead of making moves towards eventual EU membership. In November President Yanukovich turned down a trade pact with the EU, and Russia is continually complaining about the EU “meddling” in Ukraine’s affairs (it being in the near abroad and all one imagines). In any case, at the moment rioting has been going on for some days and has turned violent as some protestors have been shot by the police and killed. The Washington Post reports that opposition leaders and the government are in talks, and that two protestors have been killed, but many other sources online say it is as high as five. Basically I just wanted to share these photos with you. Most are originally from Gawker.

punkrock

You, unknown sir or madam, are officially, totally badass. Really. There may be a statue later.

testudo

Testudo! When something works, it keeps working.

ku-xlarge

Battle priest. They have a number of priests and monks who have been going to stand unarmed between the protestors and the police, and those are some brave men.

molotov

Again, people are bringing out the classics. This does look positively post-apocalyptic, Christ. I wish all these brave protestors well, and the many police officers who defected particularly so, since they are going to be easily recognized by their former colleagues. (They brought some of the anti-riot gear that the rioters have, and the rest they got from the police more directly.)

In more irrelevant anecdata, I explained to my daughters last night that the secret to a really good molotov cocktail is a little squirt of dishsoap into the bottle. A squeeze of Joy in there, and you’re on your way. It makes the resulting flames on arrival more…clingy kind of. Then they wanted to know how I knew this (no, they kind of just looked at me like, “moooom” when I said “do you want to know the secret to making a really good molotov cocktail!?”) I explained that my father’s karate sensei had served in Vietnam and he told us about it. They still looked at me. “We needed to perform an experiment! Because science! Our hypothesis was that Warren was right about how to make some great ones, and it was proven to be correct.” My dad about had a heart attack one time when he went into the barn/shack where we kept the hay and sweetfeed and saw about twelve ready to go lined up against the wall. By the hay. Nothing could go wrong there, really. Later I had cause to wonder what the hell US soldiers were doing with molotov cocktails.

{ 104 comments }

1

john c. halasz 01.24.14 at 2:46 am

Here’s some more pics:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/ukraine-riots-blazing-policeman-battles-3050724#.UuHKyIVOm_U

Not exactly funny stuff.

It’s hard for an outsider to make sense of what’s happening in the Ukraine, let alone “take sides”. But there is a large slice of the western Ukraine, traditionally called Galicia, which was never under Russian rule until after WW2, which is the hotbed of Ukrainian ultra-nationalism and anti-Russian sentiment. Ukrainians from other parts of the country tend to despise the “Galicians” because of, er, unsavory past associations.
You might want to look up the Svoboda (“Freedom”) Party to get a clue.

2

js. 01.24.14 at 2:55 am

Sort of along the lines that jch mentions, my sense of this is that there is in fact a a good but of popular support for the pro-Russian party/regime, so that it’s a little less evil govt. vs. The People than the US media esp. can make it out to be.

But I also don’t know much about this at all, and mostly getting this from reading a bunch of Jonathan Steele in the Guardian when the whichever colored revolution was going on several years ago.

Great photos tho.

3

christian_h 01.24.14 at 2:59 am

Well john c. that is right – there are outright fascists among the opposition. It is also the case that the Ukraine has long been a nationality oppressed by Russia (something Lenin for example was very much aware of), and that anti-Russian sentiment is somewhat understandable in this context. As always it seems important to walk and chew gum at the same time, as a Western leftist (in my case) observer – to neither collapse into revolutionary illusions, nor into a geopolitical “anti-imperialist” opportunism.

Also as always thanks to Belle for the post. I wish I could write like that.

4

Bruce Wilder 01.24.14 at 3:15 am

Isn’t roughly half the population of the Ukraine, linguistically and culturally Russian?

5

Dan Nexon 01.24.14 at 3:57 am

Ukraine has Russian-speaking Russians (e.g., lots in the Crimea), but also many Russian speakers who identify as Ukrainian. Yanukovich’s whiplash policies on the EU and Russia have alienated a significant part of the population. Very complicated politics going on.

6

Omega Centauri 01.24.14 at 4:14 am

Russo-philes and Russo-phobes largely separated regionally. Not a setup conducive to harmony, particularly when the Bear is being seen to apply pressure.

7

Belle Waring 01.24.14 at 4:30 am

Maybe I should make an even greater admission of ignorance? I can’t edit the post right now, so I’ll have to do so here. I’m aware there are fascist groups represented in the opposition; you can see some of the Soviet-flag-burners in pix at the Gawker article have what appear to be pro-Nazi flags. Well, again, I don’t totally know that either, but if a siknhead in the states had that flag he’d be a racist/white power type. Nor did I mean to make light of the situation! I wanted to show you some amazing photographs. If I fucked this up in doing so, please go ahead and school me. BUT what do y’all think the US soldiers in Vietnam needed Molotov cocktails for? Photographs from the war always seem to suggest they were pretty well set up in that particular line, even if a lot of soldiers abandoned their shitty rifles in favor of captured AK-47s.

8

Tyrone Slothrop 01.24.14 at 4:34 am

I quite like how the first photo is named punkrock—it seems perfectly apt for that (stunning) capture of dude(tte) lighting up with some garage band incendiaries…

9

Peter T 01.24.14 at 4:35 am

Belle

Maybe because a Molotov thrown at/into a hut will force the occupants to vacate, and be safer to the thrower than a grenade? Or maybe, as Henry V is said to have remarked, “War without fire is like meat without salt”?

10

QB 01.24.14 at 5:10 am

The unedited version of the question is: What do y’all think the US soldiers in Vietnam needed Molotov cocktails for, given their access to essentially infinite quantities of fucking air-delivered fucking napalm?

11

SoU 01.24.14 at 5:11 am

also feeding in to all of this is the fact that the economic situation in the country is actually, by a number of measures, worse than it was ‘back in the old days’. the sense of promises unfulfilled, precipitated by the immediate cause in shady dealings by the politicians, has really come to a head.

it is hard to get a solid grasp of what is really at stake because there is no easy narrative to spin, nor any coherent political platform by the protesters. my dad works with a number of young men in Kiev and he tells me that they are all involved in the protests somehow. he relayed an interesting anecdote of one of his coworkers – a westward-looking ‘liberal*’ type – hunkering down with a right-wing, Ukraine-first nationalist. when protest turns to battle it makes strange bedfellows i guess.

also interesting is seeing the linguistic jostling of Kiev vs Kyiv start up again a bit (for example my dad will not spell it Kiev anymore) – another simple reminder of how deeply political something as simple as a name is .

* i have no idea what this term means in the Ukrainian context. Also, re: ‘making light’ and all, because i can’t resist: http://goo.gl/NdJbTQ

12

LFC 01.24.14 at 5:26 am

I’ve no particular expertise on this, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if (some) American soldiers in Vietnam used a range of homemade (for lack of a better word) weapons, from knives to molotov cocktails to other things, in addition to the more standard equipment. Of course there were relatively few setpiece battles in the Vietnam War; it was a war fought often in difficult terrain and with brutality on both sides (cf. Henry F.’s post here on Nick Turse from a while back, not that I’m necessarily 100 percent endorsing Turse whose book I haven’t read) and in that context people are prob. going to use odd weapons.

One need only recall the infamous images from Morley Safer’s 1965 (?) 1966 (?) broadcast of the village being deliberately burned to realize that a molotov cocktail or two might have been, um, “useful.” Would be interesting to know whether the other side used them as well…

13

LFC 01.24.14 at 5:29 am

QB @10
You can’t necessarily always call in an air strike. (Except, maybe, in the movies, which doesn’t count.)

14

Alex K. 01.24.14 at 6:46 am

The latest round of protests is a reaction to the Ukrainian parliament (the Rada) passing a law restricting freedom of speech and assembly, modeled on Putin’s recent laws. “Parliament’s vote on the law… was taken by a sudden show of hands that caught the opposition off-guard.” (Reuters)

Naturally it infuriated a lot of people. Ukraine is a patchwork of regions with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, although homogenized to a degree by Soviet rule. But even in the Russian-speaking areas in the South and the East, Putin’s Russia does not look an attractive option to most of the young and educated voters. It has nothing to offer besides cheap gas and possibly oil.

Kiev/Kyiv is largely, perhaps predominantly Russian-speaking, yet it’s the core of the protest movement.

15

Warren Terra 01.24.14 at 7:22 am

I’m a bit lost why you’re so flip about the violence. I admire the courage and resolution of the protesters, and of the priests seeking to impose nonviolence by interposing themselves – but molotov cocktails aren’t remotely the joke you’re treating them as.

16

Ben 01.24.14 at 8:37 am

“what the hell US soldiers were doing with molotov cocktails”

It’s for the “Shit, we’re out of grenades, but not enemies. Now what?” moment.

Soldiers learn how to make and use improvised weapons because ammunition is heavy and runs out quickly. You can fire all the ammunition you can carry in a few minutes.

You can’t just shout “time out, we need more bullets”, you know.

17

Sasha Clarkson 01.24.14 at 8:47 am

“Well, generally, it seems the citizens feel ……”

The whole point about this is that you can’t generalise. My late mother was born in Kiev, and although I have had no contact with family there for about nine years, I do have some knowledge.

The citizens of Ukraine are bitterly divided by religion, perceived ethnicity (language) and region. None of the old politicians are clean. In particular, Yanukovich is a corrupt thug, but he still managed to beat the charismatic, but extremely divisive, Yulia Tymoshenko in the last presidential election.

The economic situation for many is desperate, and some people see the EU as a panacea. In real terms what is on offer is very little: membership is a long way away. Also, there are big fears in the industrial east Ukraine that even association with the EU will damage/destroy the heavy industry upon which it relies.

Personally, I do not believe that the Ukraine can stay together as a country. My guesses are these: the catholic Western Ukraine will undoubtedly become part of the EU eventually, if the EU still exists. The Orthodox eastern/south-eastern Ukraine will voluntarily become part of Russia. Crimea will become independent, possibly associated with Russia. The question in my mind is what will happen to the central region around Kiev, which is pulled two ways? I do not know, but it’s worth remembering that Kiev was the first capital of Russia. Putin will not lightly let it slip out of his orbit.

I could write a longer essay, but all I will say is that the situation as a whole is a lot more complex, and potentially dangerous, than our news media suggest.

18

Belle Waring 01.24.14 at 10:13 am

Tyrone: I thought it was punkrock (I failed in re-naming the third image). Everyone: I don’t think it would be jolly funtimes to get hit in the face with a molotov cocktail. I believe that in titling the last autobiographical section I indicated it was just irrelevant points from my own experiences. I was not the main Anarchist’s Cookbook user during our teen years, my bro and his two besties being extraordinarily talented in that regard, but a great number of things were set on fire and blown up and uhhm. Destroyed. No one got seriously hurt. I was suddenly thinking, “hey, why?” on the US soldiers in Vietnam question precisely because I thought that napalm was pretty much our go-to weapon there, but reading more I see, yeah, someone had to drop it on something, and that something might be you. Also, flame-throwers are heavy. I imagined napalm was something an individual Marine could and did carry around somehow.

19

Phil 01.24.14 at 10:30 am

I was always puzzled by how my (late) mother-in-law, who grew up in rural Ukraine, was fluent in Polish & counted Poles among her closest friends. Then I read somewhere that Polish was historically the main language spoken in a lot of Ukraine, and not just the western borderlands. The Ukrainian language, meanwhile, is more or less mutually comprehensible with Russian, and I’m sure a lot of Russian speakers regard it as a ‘dialect’ of the mother tongue.

Putting all that together, I wonder how strong and well-rooted purely Ukrainian nationalism is – not “Ukraine as little brother to Russia” or “Ukraine as part of a modern Europe”, but “Ukraine for Ukraine”. (This would also explain the relative prominence of neo-fascists.) It could be, as Sasha says, that this is one political contest which ultimately can’t be resolved within the existing state.

I wouldn’t call Belle’s OP flippant, incidentally. (Digressive, maybe. Hard to imagine, I know.) Violence isn’t necessarily a sign that things are really kicking off in a big, let’s-get-this-settled, no-going-back, gentlemen-in-England-now-abed sort of way – sometimes it’s just a horrible waste. But when things do kick off in a big (etc) way, you do tend to get violence – and heroism. I thought that was what Belle was responding to.

20

Jesús Couto Fandiño 01.24.14 at 10:45 am

If we are going to dismiss any kind of situation because between the groups protesting there are some that are fascist ,then well, whats the use? “Oh yes the goverment is implementing ACTUAL policies that are very much the stuff of totalitarian regimes, but hey, there are fascist there so screw it, this whole protest is a sham”

Maybe things are more complicated than that? Maybe, just maybe, Ukranians are dealing with their own problems and stuff instead of this view of everything being a Western media lie for dont-know-what-reason? Maybe they need our support on BOTH fronts, the goverment & the rise of fascists taking advantage of the crisis?

21

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 11:26 am

My impression talking to Ukranians about it down the years, and more specifically on this over Xmas at home, was that theyre generally quite conflicted over the two relationships, they value the one with Russia and the EU – each has its own benefits and history behind it. But I dont know really.
It all looks very manafactured though doesnt it? The pictures, the made for TV tactics etc Im not saying it is, (or saying this to take a position one way or the other), but during the colour revolutions in the 00s there was a lot of transnational actrivist groups (iirc) going from country to country with tactics, pr ideas etc (again afaicr) Is that happeneing again?

22

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 11:31 am

In fairness though, a lot of Ukranians living outside the country are generally (more than likely) going to be better disposed towards the EU, so maybe people arent that conflicted domestically and it falls along regional lines. So my anecdote is probably worthless.

23

Jesús Couto Fandiño 01.24.14 at 12:05 pm

Ronan(f), I dont know how “manufactured” can things be when the parlament approves a law that, in a list of “interesting” changes, has things like

- Churches and NGO should not be part of “extremist activities”
- “Mass disruptions” will have 15 years of jail for protestors… and then they get the mobile providers to SMS to people in protests spots a message about how they are “registered as participating in…”
- Automatic pardon for riot police abuses in the past.
- “Distribution of extremist material” = 3 years in prison

etc. Maybe the Ukranians on both sides of the conflict right now may feel the thing is a bit more “real” than “manufactured” giving what they are risking – brutal crackdown or a molotov to the face.

24

Metatone 01.24.14 at 12:09 pm

I know quite a few Ukrainians in London – and the regional/linguistic divide on this issue appears quite noticeable.

I’d be inclined to echo Sasha Clarkson @17 – this is a quite severely split country and one is tempted to suggest that given the pressures, some kind of split could eventually be on the cards. I’d caution however that most of the surrounding countries (including the two “powers” – Russia and the EU) are nowhere near ready for (or to settle for) a split…

25

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 12:18 pm

Ok jesus, perhaps my phrasing was sloppy. During the colour revolutions(iirc) there were very well organised activist groups who brought ideas and tactics country to country and marketted the revolutions regionally and internationally. This is from what I remember. I’m not trying to overplay what role they played in causing the unrest then or now, just wondering (from someone who might know) whether this reality still exists.
And small groups *do* help ‘manafacture’ unrest, dont they ? At times? They can latch on to specific events, elections, new laws, crackdowns etc and try and push a particular political positon. This is only afaict. This doesnt seem to be a mass popular uprising, and Im a little sceptical (wihtout knowing) that Ukraine is divided to this extent along regional, religious etc lines. (although the divisions might be there, and they could potentially becoming relevant)
Anyway, I dont know so Im leaving it there.

26

Phil 01.24.14 at 12:54 pm

IMO the ‘manufactured’ – or orchestrated – protests tend to be the ones with flags and flowers more than the ones with bandanas and molotovs. If full-on rioting qualifies as “made for TV tactics”, what doesn’t?

27

john c. halasz 01.24.14 at 1:03 pm

I don’t know how much of the history is exactly relevant to what’s taking place now, but here’s a potted history of the Ukraine.

In the generations after the original Kievian kingdom was devastated by the Mongol invasion, the Poles and Lithuanians began to move in, bringing their settlers together with the conquering nobility. The two formally merged in the mid-16th century forming the Commonwealth Kingdom of Poland, which encompassed what is now most of Poland, the Baltic states, Byelorussia and virtually all of the Ukraine down to the Black Sea, (though the Tatar Khanate of Crimea was then a regional power constantly threatening the south.) In the mid-range Polish and Ukrainian populations were mixed, though in separate villages. Then in 1648 the Ukrainian cossacks rebelled against the Polish crown, beating the Polish armies decisively in two battles. But as the Hetman awaited a delegation from the Polish king, the Poles counterattacked and beat the cossacks, so, in desperation, the cossacks switched their allegiance to the rising Principality of Muscovy, and part of the Ukraine became fatefully Russian territory. Then the CKP began to spin apart in the 18th century, until it disappeared at the end of the century in 3 successive partitions between Prussia, Austria and Russia, with most of the Ukraine becoming Russian, while Galicia with its main city Lvov becoming part of Austrian Poland. (The Russian Czars liquidated the Ukrainian cossacks in the course of the 18th century, and imposed “Russification” in the 19th). After the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks ceded a large amount of western territory to the Germans in the Treaty of Brest Litvosk. And after WW1, Galicia become part of Col. Pilsudski’s reborn Polish Republic. But during the Russian Civil War, Lenin and Trotsky attempted to regain their lost territories and a Russo-Polish war ensued with the Galician Ukrainians fighting on the Polish side with the Bolsheviks losing badly, (while Stalin was left to do his business further south). Only after WW2, were the borders adjusted according to Stalin’s perogatives, with Poland, now a Soviet satellite state, being moved 1/3 west into formerly German territory, as the German population was expelled and the Galician Polish population was expelled likewise. Hence the western Ukraine was intensely anti-communist and anti-Russian, and it’s likely that most of the Ukrainian collaborators, including the Ukrainian Waffen SS units were recruited from there, which would be why the more Russified parts of Ukraine, partly through Soviet propaganda and partly through actual historical memories of the horrors, (since much of the action on the Eastern Front occurred there), would tend to be wary of the “Galicians”.

Of course, the other huge trauma for the Ukrainians would be Stalin’s forced collectivization/Anti-Khulak campaign, which brought about mass starvation and atrocities, though that presumably applied to Russia, as well, though, since the Ukraine had the richest agricultural land, it likely had the most well-off peasants.

So there are plenty of reasons for Ukrainians to feel variably both traumatized by and attached to Russia. But Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian are Eastern Slavic languages and basically mutually intelligible with each other, (whereas Western and Eastern Slavic languages of mutually unintelligible and Eastern and Southern Slavic languages only partially mutually intelligible), and they are all nominally Eastern Orthodox Christians, though there are sharp differences over lines of ecclesiastic authority and allegiance. So the differences that are inflamed are not really large. About 18% of the population is ethnic Russian, but, because of past suppression, most ethnic Ukrainians, 78% of the population, speak Russian. (And, of course, many classic Russian writers, such as Gogol and Akhmatova, were actually Ukrainian).

After the Cold War, the Ukraine was economically devastated by “shock therapy” and looted by an oligarchic elite, just like the rest of the FSU. (Yulia Tymoshenko was one of those oligarchs before she entered politics). But the Ukraine inherited the legacy steel industry in the east from the Soviet Union, which is one of its principal exports. However, their exports were devastated during the 2008-2009 global crisis, (whereas Russia had large reserves from its high-priced oil and gas exports). Hence Yushenko, who assumed the presidency with the “Orange revolution” was soundly defeated and Tymoshenko lost to Yanukovych, who has his base in the east. Which sets up the current political and economic crisis or impasse. The EU proposed agreement actually offered very little, except for high-sounding “idealism” and the vague attraction of belonging to “European civilization” and escaping the clutches of Russia. (And given how the EU has treated its own members, e.g. the Greeks, the Ukrainians should probably be very wary of its promises). Most likely, it would result in the Ukraine becoming a backward colony of the EU and a dumping ground for surplus EU goods, whereas most of the Ukraine’s exports go to Russia and the rest of the FSU and are not of sufficient technical quality to be exported to the EU. Putin, though no doubt partly motivated by Great Russian chauvinism, quite rightly informed Yanukovych that the EU agreement would result in Russia sharply raising tariffs against Ukrainian goods, since otherwise Russia too would be swamped by EU exports via the Ukraine. And, in turn, he offered a $15 bn loan, without which the Ukraine would shortly default, and a sharp cut in NG prices. So Yanukovych’s volte-face was not unreasonable under the circumstances. But most Ukrainian citizens probably feel torn and are out of sympathy with both the opposition and the government and the corrupt and incompetent leadership of all parties. Between a rock and a hard place.

28

Cheryl Rofer 01.24.14 at 1:17 pm

I put together a history of Ukraine here, with maps. John @27 has some more details, although I don’t agree with all of them.

29

Cheryl Rofer 01.24.14 at 1:19 pm

Here’s a fact sheet from the EU on the association agreement.

I’m glad to see that nobody so far in this thread has compared what is happening in Ukraine to Baltic independence in 1991. It’s a theme that has appeared on Twitter from some who should know better.

30

SusanC 01.24.14 at 1:40 pm

I also don’t know what’s going on the Ukraine, but the reporting of it reminds me of how much the media distort politics. There are plenty of examples in Britain where the protestors have some kind of political argument, but the newspaper reporters/newpaper readers aren’t interested in it, so the protestors end up doing something photogenic to get attention. In the Ukrainian case: newspapers seem more interested in getting photos of the guy in a suit of armour (who looks like like a LARPer), Orthdox priests in regalia etc. than actually explaining the Ukrainian politics.

I’m not sure how significant it is, but in nearly all the photos of the clergy they’re facing towards the protestors and with their backs to the police. This may be because the photographers are with the protestors (hence can only get a facial shot when the priest is turned towards them), or it may be indicative of where the church’s allegiance lies, despite claims of neutrality. (Over in Russian, weren’t Pussy Riot protesting in part againt the pro-Putin tendencies of the Russian Orthodox church?)

31

Jon 01.24.14 at 1:46 pm

Good chapter on Ukraine in Norman Davies’ book Vanished Kingdoms.
At the very least, it gives a sense of how complex and fluid European national identity is.

32

Matt 01.24.14 at 2:17 pm

Sasha at 17- I’m mostly sympathetic to your account but curious why you think this bit:
Crimea will become independent, possibly associated with Russia

Crimea was, of course, never part of “traditional” Ukraine, being independent and then part of Russia, and only now part of Ukraine because it was “given” to the Ukrainian SSR by Krushchev at a point when no one thought that made any difference at all. My understanding is that most of the population there is “ethnic Russian” (insofar as that means anything- these categories are even more dubious than most, I’d claim) and Russian speakers, and many, many Russians feel strongly about Crimea being “really” part of Russia. Given this, I’d find independence surprising, though of course it’s hard to know, and there may be lots of things I’m missing.

33

MPAVictoria 01.24.14 at 2:24 pm

Thank you for that John. Really interesting summary. I now feel slightly less ignorant.

34

Alex K. 01.24.14 at 2:55 pm

I wouldn’t exaggerate the West-East tensions. Outside of the Crimea – which was transferred from the Russian Federation to Ukraine 1954 – I don’t believe many Ukrainians wish to join Russia. Those I have met in the past 10 years, mostly young to middle-aged and educated, from different regions, mostly bilingual Russian/Ukrainian, think of themselves as Ukrainians, not Russians.

Catholicism, mostly of the Greek rite, is strong in the west of Ukraine, but Catholics seem to only account for 10%-15% of the population at most. 60-70% are Eastern Orthodox. But there are at least three major Orthodox denominations there, one under the Moscow patriarch (albeit autonomous) and at least two self-governing (albeit not in communion with most other Greek Orthodox churches).

35

DaveL 01.24.14 at 3:05 pm

My understanding is that the eastern part of the country is more pro-Russia, the western part more pro-EU. The eastern part is mostly Orthodox and has more ethnic Russians. The western part is Catholic and has fewer ethnic Russians. The electoral map from the last election showed Yanukovich’s party carrying everything east of a north-south line through Kiev, and the opposition everything west (going by memory). I have read that the Ukrainian oligarchs would prefer association with the EU because it’s a better long-term financial deal for them.

I have Ukrainian neighbors who were originally from Kiev, and their feelings about Russia, Yanukovich, and Putin cannot be repeated in a family blog. Like many western-looking Ukrainians, they think Russians are basically barbarians.

36

Jerry Vinokurov 01.24.14 at 3:23 pm

I have Ukrainian neighbors who were originally from Kiev, and their feelings about Russia, Yanukovich, and Putin cannot be repeated in a family blog. Like many western-looking Ukrainians, they think Russians are basically barbarians.

As a Ukrainian immigrant myself, I can tell you that this isn’t far from the opinion held by pretty much the entirety of my family. They didn’t like the USSR, but they hate Putin just as much.

37

Alex K. 01.24.14 at 3:39 pm

DaveL, you’re oversimplifying things. The 2010 election map (google “Ukraine electoral map”) shows the pro-Yanukovich areas to be in the South – the steppes around the Black Sea – and the East. Whether they would still back Yanukovich now is questionable.

The ethnic boundary between Ukrainians and Russians is fluid – it is very much a matter of self-definition and mentality, not even of language as many Ukrainians speak Russian as the first language. Millions of Russians have surnames ending in -enko(v) and -chuk, indicating Ukrainian ancestry. Likewise, millions of 19th-century settlers in the steppes north of the Black Sea were not Ukrainian (recall The Dead Souls) but it does not mean their descendants are not “real” Ukrainians.

Consider Yulia Timoshenko. Her mother is Russian and her father is of Jewish and Latvian descent. Yet Yulia was born and reared in Ukraine and speaks – I am told – excellent, educated Ukrainian although it is hardly her mother tongue.

38

donquijoterocket 01.24.14 at 4:10 pm

Interesting to note the speculation about identification with the EU considering Germany is one of the leading powers of the EU and there is considerable history with Germans immigrating to the Ukraine. My maternal grandmother originated among the population of a small great plains town that identified itself as german-russians.

39

Anarcissie 01.24.14 at 4:38 pm

Here’s a (to me) interesting crossing between this discussion and the one about the National Security State: http://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2014/01/24/the-text-that-changed-the-world/.

40

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 4:40 pm

Anyone know what role the priests are likely to be playing in all of this ? Would they be more likely allied to the regime or protesters ?

also, a few links down the bottom here to stuff on the Orange revolution

http://www.princeton.edu/~mbeissin/research1.htm

41

Ben Alpers 01.24.14 at 4:54 pm

jch@27, in his narrative of Ukrainian history, kind of leaves out the years 1939-45, when, first, the Soviet Union occupied what was then eastern Poland (including what is now western Ukraine), and, then, Germany occupied entire territory of what is today Ukraine (though jch mentions Nazi collaboration with Ukrainian nationalists). Stalin got to redraw his borders first from 1939-41, and then, again, in 1945.

Also I think one should always emphasize that throughout this history there’s generally been a disconnect between the name of the political entity controlling this region and the ethnicities of the regions inhabitants. Indeed, I know there’s a long scholarly debate about the ethnic identity of the rulers of the Kievan kingdom with which jch starts his narrative (the Kievan Rus’). At least when I was last studying these things (in college in the ’80s) one leading theory was that they were Vikings from Scandinavia.

More significantly, the difference between rulers’ ethnicity / name of ruling entity and ethnic identities of inhabitants was more or less necessary fact given the incredible ethnic diversity of the region, especially before World War II. A visitor to late 19C or early 20C Galicia would have encountered Poles, Ukrainians, (Yiddish-speaking) Jews, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Rusyns (Byelorussians), Armenians, and Roma living there. This diversity became more of a problem with the rise of the idea of the nation-state in the 18th and 19th century. There simply was no “natural” way of allocating Galicia, e.g., to a state based around a single national identity. Over the course of the 20th-century, a series of genocides significantly reduced this problem, however.

42

Sasha Clarkson 01.24.14 at 6:17 pm

Matt@32

The reason I mentioned that Crimea might become “independent”, is that the population there, although Russian speaking, was historically descended from Tatars. It is already autonomous within Ukraine. Should Ukraine break up, I would guess that its eventual destination would be as a republic in the Russian Federation.

In Ukraine proper, there are three regions: Western Ukraine which is separated from the rest by the Catholic/Orthodox fault-line (like Serbia and Croatia), Central Ukraine, including Kiev, where they tend to speak Russian in the towns, and Ukrainian in the country, and Russian Eastern/South-Eastern Ukraine. To complicate matters, there are three different Orthodox Churches. although the Moscow patriarchate has the greatest number of adherents.

As for the languages, both Russian and Ukrainian are descended from the classic East-Slavonic, now preserved as Church-Slavonic, and which has a role analogous to that of Latin (until recently) in the Western Church. Ukrainian speakers call the Russian language “Muscovite”. To my ear, the two languages are more similar than, say, southern English and Geordie. Also, southern Russian dialect and Ukrainian have a lot in common, eg pronouncing a “g” as “h”.

There are many many historical hatreds and insults. Russians as “barbarians” may be the Galician/catholic view, but historically, Russian was the language of the educated classes, although many could speak both. For a sense of what life was like in WWI Kiev, I recommend Mikhail Bulgakov’s “White Guard”.

And let us not forget the pogroms: my own grandfather was, I’m afraid, a Petlyurist: something of which I am not proud.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Guard
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petlura

43

john c. halasz 01.24.14 at 6:35 pm

@42:

The Crimean Tatars were deported by Stalin as German collaborators when the Soviet Army recaptured the peninsula. Probably half died in the process. For added rigor, a month later he order the deportation of Greeks and Armenians. The Tatars were officially exonerated under Khrushchev and some started drifting back, but especially returned after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Still, their property has since been taken over by Slavs and thus they’ve been scarcely welcomed. They’re currently about 12% of the Crimean population which is 60% Russian.

44

Sasha Clarkson 01.24.14 at 6:50 pm

Thanks John (@42) I (mistakenly) thought there were more, as a distant cousin of mine had married one.

45

Jeff Martin 01.24.14 at 7:00 pm

John Halasz has offered an excellent summation of the history, as well as the more immediate genesis of the political crisis, but I thought that I’d toss in my two cents FWIW. Full disclosure: my wife is a former Ukrainian national, albeit of Russian/Georgian/Central Asian extraction; most of her ancestry is Russian, and she identifies with Russia culturally; my in-laws live in Sevastopol.

A good percentage of the trouble in Ukraine results from the confluence of the endemic corruption of the country, in which all of the oligarchs have participated, and continue to participate, inclusive of Tymoshenko, and the desperate economic circumstances in which the country finds itself. About the corruption, there is really no need to elaborate, since anyone familiar with the history of the FSU is already conversant with it. About the economic desperation, well, the Ukraine is depopulating more rapidly than just about any other nation on Earth right now; there simply aren’t many jobs available, and those that are available often literally do not pay. It is quite common for someone to take a job – my brother-in-law, with a Master’s in engineering, has had this experience about half a dozen times in the past two years – and work for a month or two, without pay, get the run-around when inquiring about said pay, and then quit when the pay is not forthcoming. While I don’t have hard economic statistics ready to hand, the problem is less that of the archaic industries inherited from the Soviet past as the corrupt cartelization of the economy, the lack of any effective (labour) counterweight to the power of the oligarchs (capital), and the grotesque maldistribution of wealth. Since the political class and the oligarchs are essentially the same people, or their cronies and running dogs, there is an impasse for those desirous of reform. Klitschko should be exempted from this criticism, though it’s worth noting that, while wealthy, he lacks the requisite material basis for true power in the country: he’s not worth hundreds of millions of dollars, since he does not own, say, gas assets, like Tymoshenko, or industrial assets, like Yanukovych. His power, such as it is, rests on personal charisma alone.

Another factor contributing to the problem is the nationalism of the Western Ukrainians, who may or may not be, depending on cultural affiliations, the numerical majority in the country. We’ve all heard the cliche that Ukraine is a divided country, which it obviously is. The trouble is that the Constitution apparently mandates that the government maintain a “Ukrainian national identity” for the country as a whole; in practice, this entails triumphalist nonsense such as compelling Russian students, who are citizens of Ukraine, to attend classes given in Ukrainian, to defend their theses in Ukrainian, to take their examinations in Ukrainian, etc., where this is not the language they speak, and to Ukrainianization of Russian names (my wife’s legal name in the US, unless we are to go through the process of having it officially changed, will not be her actual given name, because her Ukrainian passport bore the Ukrainianized name when she arrived here), among other things. Such things may sound petty, and it may sound petty to complain of them; but imagine what Canada would be like if either the English or French had gotten the upper hand, and attempted to coerce the other faction into compliance with its traditions; or imagine what the US would be like if English-only laws were enacted by some reactionary Republican government. The point is that nationalist politics are resulting in chauvinist policies, and that many of the Western Ukrainian nationalists really are motivated by a desire to shaft the Russians, and Russophilic, in the country.

As for the EU association accord rejected by the government… My mother-in-law was on Skype just yesterday with a friend in Latvia; in the course of their conversation, they discussed the present political turmoil, whereupon the mother-in-law’s friend expressed her delight at residing in an EU-member state – this, after Depression-level unemployment, a catastrophic collapse of real wages and living standards, and the emigration of hundreds of thousands from that tiny nation (the friend, FWIW, is shivering in an apartment building with no heat; it was turned off because they residents have no money to pay the bill) – because, and I quote, “No one can push us around anymore.” The false consciousness was staggering, I must confess, even as someone accustomed to American conservative fare. “No one can push us around anymore.” Well, I suppose no one is pushing you around if the ECB, German banksters, Polish businessmen, the odd Swedish bankster, and your own indigenous oligarchs are “no one”. But the Russians aren’t telling you what to do, so the rest is just a brute force of nature, I suppose. In reality, the same thing would happen in the Ukraine, the above-linked ‘fact-sheet’ notwithstanding; we should no more credit a document put out by some EU agency, touting the benefits of economic association, than we should credit the claims that NAFTA, TPP, etc. will usher in a new era of shared prosperity, or that the Clinton-era financial deregulation bills would modernize and improve financial services, and unleash creativity and prosperity for all. Still less should we credit such nonsense after the past six years of economic crisis in Europe, as country after country is subjected to neoliberal structural adjustment, to the detriment of every single one of the victim states. The whole object of the accord is to liberate capital to wash over the Ukrainian black-earth steppes, as it has been liberated in most places over the past two generations of deformation; as in all other countries, those who prosper will be the fortunate and connected, with the others left to fend for themselves as their industries are looted and shuttered, and their jobs obliterated. A relationship of radical economic inequality obtains as between the EU and Ukraine. Do we really imagine that, in such circumstances, this time will be different?

There remains the motivations of the protestors, and those advocating for EU association. They wish to escape the punishing corruption of Ukraine, the economic deprivation; they wish to send certain cultural signals; and some wish to do dirty their political and cultural enemies, because of stuff that happened before any of them were born. Most of this is magical thinking. EU membership has not saved the countries of the periphery from their own corrupt political and financial elites; still less has it preserved them from depression. In fact, the fundamental structures of EU inhibit the policies those countries would need to escape their predicaments. I mean, seriously: did EU membership prevent Greece from imploding, the rich from welshing on their taxes for 40 years, and from – great patriots that they are – spiriting their wealth out of the country when it was hinted that they might have to pay tax? Why would the Ukrainian case turn out any differently, merely because EU! Not Russia!?

Finally, apart from the demographics of the factions in Ukraine, the Russians and Russophilic Ukrainians tend to be much more cynical about the political system, both within Ukraine and with regard to Russia itself; they accept that all of the Ukrainian political elites are corrupt, and they perceive that Putinism is no answer, that it amounts to, “you vote, they decide”. The Western Ukrainians still gloss over the corruption of their own political leaders, like Tymoshenko, and imagine that association with the EU will enable them to root out the corruption that remains – which they attribute to their opponents. In this regard, they’re much like the Yellow Shirts in Thailand.

46

The Temporary Name 01.24.14 at 7:16 pm

jch@27, in his narrative of Ukrainian history, kind of leaves out the years 1939-45, when, first, the Soviet Union occupied what was then eastern Poland (including what is now western Ukraine), and, then, Germany occupied entire territory of what is today Ukraine (though jch mentions Nazi collaboration with Ukrainian nationalists).

A distant relative of mine is in Chortkiv, in the lucky position of having been a fireman, and so was useful to the various invaders ordinarily interested in killing local officials. He describes the first Soviet invasion and resultant horrors, and then speaks somewhat wistfully of the Nazis, who opened the prisons to show everyone in town the what savage tortures the Russians were employing (meanwhile shipping off the Jewish population, which my relative duly allowed was a bad thing). Then the Russians came again and that was very very bad.

David Duke has an honorary degree from this very large institution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interregional_Academy_of_Personnel_Management

47

DaveL 01.24.14 at 7:19 pm

Alex K. @37: Thanks for pointing to actual maps (as I said, I was working from memory). I don’t think I was too far wrong, if you look at the 2012 parliamentary election map and the 2010 presidential election map. There is an obvious line that separates Yanukovich’s supporters from his opponents, and the supporters are on the Russian side of it.

Further, I agree completely that the various cleavages in Ukrainian society are not hard and fast lines. However, in the main they all reinforce each other to produce “russophiles” on the east and “westernizers” on the west of the line. As we all learned in Poli Sci 101, reinforcing cleavages in a society are dangerous.

(Also, not to pick on you as it seems to be one of the more common talking points about this conflict, but minimizing language as a cleavage because most Ukrainians speak Russian as a primary language would come as news in any number of places, even “western” ones such as Ireland and Scotland.)

Sasha Clarkson @42: “Ukrainian speakers call the Russian language “Muscovite”. To my ear, the two languages are more similar than, say, southern English and Geordie.”

My Russian teacher told me I had “a Ukrainian accent.” I tried hard to get rid of it as it was clear she did not consider it a good thing.

On the more general topic of city dwellers speaking the higher-prestige language (which is often the conqueror’s language), it’s a phenomenon that goes back thousands of years and nothing to be surprised by. In the case of Russian and Ukrainian, which are, as you say, very similar, it’s more like the situation where you had to speak the Received Pronunciation to work at the Beeb or get ahead in London back in the day (still helpful, I suspect, but to a much lesser extent).

48

TheSophist 01.24.14 at 7:22 pm

I was in Ukraine (Kiev, Lviv, Odessa) last summer, combining touristing with some research for a class on Europe since 1945 and a chance to play some chess. (The day trip to Chornobyl, a couple of hours NE of central Kiev, was every bit as amazing/heart-rending/eerie/thought-provoking as one might imagine.) It breaks my heart to see the destruction, the violence, the pain, on those very same streets that I remember as being full of light, of young couples strolling in the evening air, of ice cream stands on every corner… Even then, though, it was clear whenever I chose to wander more than a couple of blocks off the prosperous main boulevards or to take the subway out beyond the city centre just how much sadness and raw hurt lay just below the surface.

49

Randy McDonald 01.24.14 at 7:22 pm

Jeff:

“Such things may sound petty, and it may sound petty to complain of them; but imagine what Canada would be like if either the English or French had gotten the upper hand, and attempted to coerce the other faction into compliance with its traditions; or imagine what the US would be like if English-only laws were enacted by some reactionary Republican government.”

That’s not quite the case.

The language situation in Ukraine doesn’t represent a matter of individuals freely deciding on their language choice, but more the aftereffect of a couple of generations of totalitarian rule, including acts of genocide that happened to hit the Ukrainian-language community harder than the Russian-language one. There’s bilingualism but a lop-sided bilingualism, where Ukrainian-speakers tend more often than not to be fluent in Russian but Russian-speakers don’t have corresponding fluency.

Stephane Dion made the argument that Quebec’s language laws, mandating fluency in French in that province, may actually have saved Canada as a united state by creating a much less lop-sided bilingualism in the province where the large majority of Francophones in Canada lived. (I’d go further, and say that they helped create Quebec as an immigration society more open to others, by requiring immigrant fluency in French. If ethnic tensions are bad now, imagine what they’d be like in a scenario where, as pre-1970, immigrants didn’t necessarily interact much with Francophones.)

“As for the EU association accord rejected by the government… My mother-in-law was on Skype just yesterday with a friend in Latvia; in the course of their conversation, they discussed the present political turmoil, whereupon the mother-in-law’s friend expressed her delight at residing in an EU-member state – this, after Depression-level unemployment, a catastrophic collapse of real wages and living standards, and the emigration of hundreds of thousands from that tiny nation (the friend, FWIW, is shivering in an apartment building with no heat; it was turned off because they residents have no money to pay the bill) – because, and I quote, “No one can push us around anymore.” The false consciousness was staggering, I must confess, even as someone accustomed to American conservative fare. “No one can push us around anymore.” Well, I suppose no one is pushing you around if the ECB, German banksters, Polish businessmen, the odd Swedish bankster, and your own indigenous oligarchs are “no one”.”

Dismissing the Soviet annexation and occupation as irrelevant is an interesting rhetorical strategy. Unless the German businesspeople are busily deporting the Latvian peasantry to work camps in furthest Brandenburg while the Swedes are busily digging mass graves, that is.

50

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 7:23 pm

@45

It seems to be a matter of governance then (Inequality, corruption etc .. ), rather than deep seated ethnic differences ?
The EU (maybe not the euro) still seems to be the best avenue to resolve that, maybe (?), if the other options are Russia or reverting to nationalism. Which is why I think the EU (if not the euro though I dont know the polling) is still popular in Southern Europe, because they realise the alternatives are worse.

51

Jeff Martin 01.24.14 at 7:43 pm

Randy @ 49

I’m quite cognizant of the origins of the language situation in Ukraine, which is a function of the history of the region; is this regard, it is like the linguistic situation in any place one might care to name: people don’t choose their language, as they don’t choose their parents; they’re just born into it. Most of the Russians in Ukraine don’t speak Ukrainian, it is true; but they generally do understand it, both because they have to understand it to get around in the country, and to do business, and because they’re bludgeoned into it in school and university. It might, as you suggest, be an advantage for stability, but that would be in an alternate universe, given what is transpiring now. The actual motivations of the policy are not to increase stability and comity between the populations, but to make the Russians feel the way Mexicans would feel in the US, if they couldn’t obtain public services in Spanish. It’s part of a nationalist package of attitudes and policies; and while nothing could ever justify Stalin’s terror-famine (and yes, I’ve been to the Holodomor memorial in Kiev, and wept there for a while), that history doesn’t justify nationalist chauvinism. If the Ukrainians were interested in stability, they would refrain from advocating policies certain to alienate and antagonize the Russians in the country. What the country needs is a modus vivendi, not a hard binary. Not a free-trade accord that would undermine the industry in the Russian East. Not occasional threats to evict Russia from the Crimean ports, where most of the people are Russian. Etc.

Finally, the Russian and Soviet history may be relevant in the false consciousness of Latvians, but it is entirely irrelevant to the material welfare of Latvians in the present; it explains why they might wish to eliminate the possibility of “Russia pushing us around”, but it doesn’t obviate that they’ve merely chosen, objectively, to get pushed around by other masters, and are actually the worse off for it. Gotta serve someone. In reality in the Baltics, and hypothetically in Ukraine, people are free to harm themselves to escape some real or possible threat; the trouble in the Ukraine is that they’d be making that decision for Russians, who want no part of it, and would likely the bear the worst of it. In other words, it’s reasonably clear that cohesive nation-states can make such trade-offs for themselves; it’s not clear that they can make them for other peoples in a divided state. On the personal level, one can make that decision for himself; one is not entitled to make it for someone else.

52

Marc 01.24.14 at 7:45 pm

@45: I think that you’re understating the magnitude of Soviet-era repression pretty dramatically, especially for people who experienced the functional equivalent of genocide in the Ukraine. Mass starvation as a political tool tends to leave very long memories in the survivors.

53

Sasha Clarkson 01.24.14 at 7:55 pm

Jeff@45
A pretty comprehensive and accurate analysis. I believe that there is great anger about the economic misery, and that false hopes are being placed in the EU, encouraged by outsiders like John McCain, who neither understand nor care about the real problems.

Others, I suspect, hope that the EU will give the a chance to emigrate. The last time my mum was there, the brother of a friend begged her to find a foreign husband for his daughter, so she could have a better life. My mother, firmly but patiently, declined to get involved. Many Ukrainian nationals live and work in the Siberian oil and gas fields, visiting home when they can and sending money to relatives. These families naturally would prefer closer ties with Russia.

It’s a mess, and the EU is not offering a real solution to the misery. As Jeff says, look at Greece: the EU is destroying it now.

54

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 8:00 pm

Ukraine wouldnt be joining the Euro though, afaik ?I mean Greeces problems are its trapped in a currency union without any options (and ‘the EU are detroying’ it is ott imo) From what I can tell Ukraine in the EU would have to meet a number before EU membership – on human rights, representative govt etc – not insignificant by any measure, and surely a measure of oversight the Russians wouldnt expect.

55

Ronan(rf) 01.24.14 at 8:05 pm

correction….to meet a number *of tests* before EU membership

56

Randy McDonald 01.24.14 at 8:31 pm

Jeff:

“If the Ukrainians were interested in stability, they would refrain from advocating policies certain to alienate and antagonize the Russians in the country. What the country needs is a modus vivendi, not a hard binary. Not a free-trade accord that would undermine the industry in the Russian East. Not occasional threats to evict Russia from the Crimean ports, where most of the people are Russian. Etc.”

1. “Russian-speaker” isn’t the same as “Russian”. It’s entirely possible to be a Russian-speaker and to identify as ethnically Ukrainian (are Anglophone Irish mistaken in their professions of ethnic identity), and even possible to be ethnically Russian and identify with the Ukrainian state.

2. How, exactly, does trying to establish actual bilingualism in Ukraine necessarily harmful to the interests of Russians? This strikes me as especially noteworthy since the strategy of others seems to be not to emphasize free choice but to argue that there isn’t anything distinctive about Ukrainian culture and language, for instance, in the Russian government’s opposition to the dubbing or subtitling of films in the Ukrainian language. The recent statement of the Russian ambassador to France that Ukraine is as distinctive as a French province is indicative.

3. The list of grievances you raise–free-trade with the EU, Russian basing rights in Crimea, a different language policy–seems to conflate grievances of Russians within the Ukraine with the concerns of the Russian state.

“Finally, the Russian and Soviet history may be relevant in the false consciousness of Latvians, but it is entirely irrelevant to the material welfare of Latvians in the present; it explains why they might wish to eliminate the possibility of “Russia pushing us around”, but it doesn’t obviate that they’ve merely chosen, objectively, to get pushed around by other masters, and are actually the worse off for it.”

1. Please define “false consciousness”. The Soviet occupation of Latvia is entirely relevant to Latvia’s contemporary reality, explaining everything from its relative lags in economic growth and democratic development to its ongoing ethnic divides and its military postures.

2. Can you explain how Latvia–and Latvians–would be better off as, say a Russian autonomous republic somewhat like Karelia, or a member of the emergent Eurasian Customs Union, than as a member-state of the European Union? I’d be interested in having your assumptions, as well as mine, unpacked.

57

roy belmont 01.24.14 at 8:48 pm

Didn’t one of the leaders (Yushchenko?) of the “Orange Revolution” actually turn sort of orange?
Because of being poisoned? By whom, and why?

58

The Temporary Name 01.24.14 at 9:30 pm

the trouble in the Ukraine is that they’d be making that decision for Russians, who want no part of it, and would likely the bear the worst of it.

It’s not as if Russia has gone out of its way to intervene “on behalf of” ethnic Russians before…

59

SusanC 01.24.14 at 11:10 pm

Still, it’s something of a compliment to the European Union that people are rioting to join it, rather than protesting against it (cf. Greece, UKIP, etc). It’s almost a Yakov Smirnoff[*] joke: “In Soviet Russia…”

[*] Born in the Ukraine

60

Cheryl Rofer 01.24.14 at 11:51 pm

@roy belmont #57: Victor Yushchenko was poisoned by dioxin during the 2004 presidential campaign. His face was badly pocked and scarred by chloracne. Here’s the New York Times account from 2004. Wikipedia collects the allegations. It appears that the incident has not been investigated enough to determine a legal basis for suspects.

RIA Novosti reported in 2012 that a new investigation “alleged that the Yushchenko dioxin poisoning could have been falsified to strengthen his positions during 2004 presidential elections.”

That looks to me to be of a piece with Tymoshenko’s conviction.

61

Peter Hovde 01.25.14 at 12:18 am

Has Hector truly been banned? We’re missing a fascist perspective on these events!

62

Jeff Martin 01.25.14 at 12:26 am

Randy @ 56,

It’s entirely possible to be a Russian-speaker and to identify as ethnically Ukrainian… and even possible to be ethnically Russian and identify with the Ukrainian state.

I wouldn’t deny the former proposition, though the latter is a bit more problematic, owing to the ambiguity of the term, ‘Ukrainian state’. There certainly are ethnic Russians in Ukraine who identify with the Ukraine as a nation, as a particular physical and cultural space in which they feel themselves at home; there are probably also some ethnic Russians who identify with elements of the political coalition opposed to Yanukovych; but this is where the identification likely stops. You won’t find many ethnic Russians who identify with Svoboda, the neo-fascist political organization which is part of this coalition, as it is more or less explicitly anti-Russian in orientation, and possibly spiritually descended from the Nazi collaborators of Western Ukraine; neither will you find many ethnic Russians who embrace the ‘Ukrainian national identity’ business, where this entails various petty forced Ukrainianizations, as mentioned above. In other words, many, even most Russians in Ukraine are happy to identify as citizens of Ukraine, though they are ashamed of their elites; but their conception of ‘Ukraine’ is of a multilingual, bi-national state, not one where the far west of the country imposes its national myth on the whole country.

How, exactly, does trying to establish actual bilingualism in Ukraine necessarily harmful to the interests of Russians?

‘Actual bilingualism’ is a slippery term here. If they were endeavouring to establish actual bilingualism, as I would employ that term, they would either offer all public services in both languages, or ensure that everyone in the country was taught both languages from childhood up. They’re not doing the former, and the latter is not exactly what is happening. Instead, there’s a sort of selective approach, as I mentioned previously. You don’t need to compel university students to defend their Master’s theses in Ukrainian, where this is barely even a second language, or to Ukrainianize their names in official documents; this is completely gratuitous. They could, I repeat, just teach both languages in school, and then let students take their exams and defend their theses in whichever language they had greater fluency in; virtually everyone in Lviv would pick Ukrainian; virtually everyone in the Crimea would pick Russian; Kiev might be a 60-40 Ukrainian split; and so on. And the names would have nothing to do with it – that they do that thing with the names shows that they are trying to impose an identity; it’s rather like telling them that they have to choose, that they cannot have the plural and complex identities that they do have.

This strikes me as especially noteworthy since the strategy of others seems to be not to emphasize free choice but to argue that there isn’t anything distinctive about Ukrainian culture and language..

Well, that’s not my position. Ukrainian and Russian cultures, and the languages, are related, but distinct. That Russia might be prohibiting the subtitling of films in Ukrainian is a kind of reflex from the olden times, when Russian was the language of a multicultural, multiethnic empire, and Russian culture the sort of cultural Big Other that held all the subcultures together; the policy, if it is such, is probably conditioned by reaction against Ukrainian nationalism. Tit for tat. It’s the same sort of petty nonsense that Western Ukrainians are themselves engaging in. Seriously, what’s wrong with either seeing a movie subtitled in your language, or getting to defend your academic work in your own language?

The list of grievances you raise–free-trade with the EU, Russian basing rights in Crimea, a different language policy–seems to conflate grievances of Russians within the Ukraine with the concerns of the Russian state.

There is no conflation. The majority of Ukraine’s industrial capacity is in the East, and it would be undermined by any sort of free trade accord with the EU; this would be adverse to the material interests of Russian Ukrainians, who are more numerous in the East, regardless of whether Russia took any interest in the process. The Russian interest comes in because Russia and Ukraine already have a customs arrangement, which Putin wants to deepen; if the existing arrangement were to stand unaltered, and Ukraine were to sign a free-trade accord with the EU, goods brought freely into Ukraine could be brought over the border into Russia – and Russia doesn’t want (backdoor) free trade with the EU. Russia would obviously prefer not to lose the trade it already enjoys with Ukraine; but free trade will do to Ukraine what it does everywhere, even if Russia relinquishes that trade with Ukraine. As for the basing rights, the majority population of the Crimea is Russian; the population of Sevastopol, where much of that part of the Russian Black Sea fleet is stationed, is probably better than 90% Russian. They don’t want Russia to depart. And why would they? The Crimea has never been, in any meaningful historical and cultural sense, a part of Ukraine. It was a part of the Tatar Khanate until Russia conquered it, and was part of Russia in the political sense until Khrushchev ‘gave’ it to Ukraine, basically because he was Ukrainian. Russia has not, so far as I am aware, articulated any sort of politically revanchist claims upon the Crimea; rather, Russia would simply like to retain the basing rights, and the people would prefer that Russia remain there, as the Russian presence sustains the local economy, at least along the coast.

The Soviet occupation of Latvia is entirely relevant to Latvia’s contemporary reality, explaining everything from its relative lags in economic growth and democratic development to its ongoing ethnic divides and its military postures.

I wouldn’t think to gainsay this. The false consciousness comes in with the belief among Latvians that EU membership will somehow rectify this; they have fundamentally misidentified the current structural and political causes of their economic backwardness, and, in consequence, have chosen a set of remedies that do not redress actual current problems. The Soviet legacy did bequeath to them a sclerotic economy, beset by corrupt oligarchs, etc., but the occupation is over – it was no longer the Russian state or regime, and Putin and his oligarchs, who held Latvia back, but those very Latvian oligarchs (and some of their economic relationships with Germany, Sweden, & etc.). And my point here is that EU membership is entirely compatible with the perpetuation in political and economic power of corrupt, insular, self-dealing elites, as witness the entire EU periphery, or, more broadly, that swathe of the globe over which neoliberal economic dogmas reign uncontested. As I indicated, the Latvians were entitled, in whatever sense of ‘entitlement’ applies to cases of national self-determination, to choose the de facto neoliberal bootheel over the hypothetical future Russian bootheel; as with white American conservatives, who blame their increasing economic immiseration on Mexicans, homosexuals, feminism, Obamacare, and whatever, and then vote for the running dogs of the plutocrats who actually are immiserating them, I’m entitled to observe that they’ve misdiagnosed the causes, and chosen the wrong cure.

Can you explain how Latvia–and Latvians–would be better off as, say a Russian autonomous republic somewhat like Karelia, or a member of the emergent Eurasian Customs Union, than as a member-state of the European Union?

I don’t really have to explain this, since I neither believe it, nor have asserted it. It hasn’t been on the table since the Soviet Union disintegrated. My argument is negative: the evidence of the EU periphery attests that EU integration isn’t the answer.

63

oldster 01.25.14 at 1:10 am

“You, unknown sir or madam, are officially, totally badass. Really. There may be a statue later.”

For what it’s worth, Belle, this did strike me as an irresponsible thing for you to say.

You don’t know whether this person is a saint or a sadist, a victim of oppression or a storm-trooper.

All you know is that they are engaged in an act that will probably lead to violence and destruction, possibly to human bodies.

If I knew that the agent was a Jew from the Warsaw Ghetto, and the bodies to be destroyed were those of Nazi soldiers, I would join you in cheering. If I knew that the agent was himself a Nazi, or a government agitator in plain-clothes (since those tactics are by now standard in these contexts), then I would rather not put up statues to him.

I just think your blanket approval of badassery whose moral valence you are entirely ignorant of looks like verging on protest porn. Whatever Ukraine needs right now, it is not people from far away treating their struggles as protest porn.

64

Ronan(rf) 01.25.14 at 1:47 am

“If I knew that the agent was a Jew from the Warsaw Ghetto, and the bodies to be destroyed were those of Nazi soldiers, I would join you in cheering.”

I dont know oldster, my reaction would be different – I couldnt ‘cheer’ if I was aware who was on the other side. Regardless of context.
These pictures are dramatic, but desensitized, created to get a reaction like ‘what a badass’ – more than likely put out by the protesters, who are up against the security services of a *police state*.
This is the reaction these pictures are designed to get, so it is the reaction they will get. I dont see why that should be unacknowledged.

65

Ronan(rf) 01.25.14 at 2:17 am

Peter Hovde

Coincidentally, I was looking at the comments from TNCs place for the first time in a while and he was booted out of there

66

Chaz 01.25.14 at 11:01 am

“Russia has not, so far as I am aware, articulated any sort of politically revanchist claims upon the Crimea;”

Putin and members of Putin’s government have repeatedly stated a desire to annex the Crimea. Also, you know, Ukraine. Plus, even if they hadn’t, given their actions in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, given Putin’s frequent bemoaning of the breakup of the Soviet Union, not to mention the history of territorial conquest by the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, how on earth can you be so generous as to presume the Russian government is not interested in (re)aquiring territory?

67

oldster 01.25.14 at 2:33 pm

Ah, just delete my 63, Belle. I just read the math thread and the nonsense you had to confront with some Lawrence dude, and I just feel stupid for hassling you about what you said.

In a different world I would get all defensive and ‘yeah but even if she does face constant random heckling at a much higher rate than the male posters, still *my* piece of random heckling was true and noble and well-intentioned,” but we’re not in that world so just delete it. And this.

68

P O'Neill 01.25.14 at 2:49 pm

It’s a bit odd that there’s a blogging meme now to post pictures specifically from Ukraine (see TPM) and not, say, Aleppo, Bangkok, or Cairo.

69

mrj 01.25.14 at 4:29 pm

I’d like to point out that just because your family friend served in Vietnam, it does not imply that he learned to make Molotov cocktails while there. Or if he did, that he ever used Molotov cocktails in combat. It may have been a similar experiment as your childhood experiment, just behind the barracks rather than in the barn.

Also, serving in Vietnam does not imply that he saw combat. He may have been an admin clerk in an office far from the front. To the best of my knowledge, most soldiers that serve overseas never see combat.

70

Marshal Tito 01.25.14 at 7:36 pm

Sock puppet post deleted

71

jwl 01.25.14 at 8:52 pm

About Crimea:

Numerous members of the Russian government have made revanchist claims about Crimea, including members of the parliament and the mayor of Moscow.

Crimea was historically settled by Crimean Tatars, who speak a Turkic language closely related to Turkish. As late as 1900, it was 35% Crimean Tatar who were the plurality. Stalin deported them all to Uzbekistan in 1944, in which 50% of them died. They were not allowed to return to Crimea until the fall of the Soviet Union, when Crimea was no longer ruled from Moscow.

Crimea is now 12% Tatar and their share is increasing rapidly as more repatriate from Uzbekistan and the much older Russian and Ukrainian populate decreases. Crimea has a significant amount of autonomy and the Russian-speaking majority uses that to attempt to prevent any linguistic or cultural flowering of Crimean Tatar or Ukrainian in the peninsula. Many retired members of the Russian Black Sea fleet live there and do not believe it should be part of Ukraine, but their influence is waning as they die off.

Russia could accomodate losing basing rights there – they have already built a new base in Russian territory on the Black Sea, but having the base there allows them to maintain a Russian linguistic and cultural hegemony. A lot of money is pumped into Crimea by organizations like the Moscow city government to maintain Russian influence.

Crimea is majority Russian-speaking because of a genocide, and Russia as the inheritor of the Soviet Union has never shown any remorse for that. To this day, Crimean Tatars are a repressed minority in Crimea and the Russian-dominated regional government there prevents them from regaining their former lands.

72

Jeff Martin 01.25.14 at 8:54 pm

Putin and members of Putin’s government have repeatedly stated a desire to annex the Crimea. Also, you know, Ukraine. Plus, even if they hadn’t, given their actions in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria, given Putin’s frequent bemoaning of the breakup of the Soviet Union, not to mention the history of territorial conquest by the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, how on earth can you be so generous as to presume the Russian government is not interested in (re)aquiring territory?

A Google search not two minutes ago yielded mixed results as regards Putin and the Crimea; first, Putin has volubly denied any intention of moving Russian troops into the Crimea, even in the event that the political situation in Ukraine deteriorates significantly; second, there are six-year-old reports, like this one, in which Putin is reported to have told Bush the Lesser that Russia would annex the Crimea and the Ukrainian East, in the event of Ukrainian accession to NATO. Now, I shouldn’t have to go into a lengthy discourse on how the US and Russia have been at odds in re: NATO since the end of the Cold War, how some US policymakers still see NATO as an anti-Russian alliance (among other things), and how Russia, cognizant of this, and mindful of Western connivance in the Great Barbecue of the Nineties, is chary of such things. I’ll lay my cards on the table: NATO should have passed out of existence within a few years of the end of the Cold War; since that time, it has served mainly as a fig leaf for atrocious US policymaking (Iraq, Afghanistan), and appears to have encouraged a former Georgian president to start a war he couldn’t win. And yes, I find imperial grubbing unseemly and destructive; but I have difficulty identifying the modal universe in which Russia’s mucking about in her near abroad has been more ruinous than American policy since 1990. Even adding in the Second Chechen War, the American body count is much higher. If one factors in the premature deaths resulting from the American-led shock therapy privatization, and its destruction of public services, the American body count is probably an order of magnitude higher. So yes, I find Putinism rather disquieting, but so disquieting as the American Empire.

As for Abkhazia, the Abkhaz fought a war with Georgia after the Soviet Union imploded – a pretty clear indication that they didn’t want to be part of Georgia, along with their ethnic cleansing of 250K Georgians. Since then, they’ve had an odd sort of unrecognized quasi-autonomy, probably hewing closer to Russia because they like Georgia still less.

South Ossetia is similar, in that the majority population didn’t want to be part of Georgia, endured a low-intensity civil conflict, and ultimately had an OSCE-Russian peacekeeping mission step in to maintain order. An odd quasi-autonomy resulted, which Mikhail Saakashvili promised to overturn by retaking South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

And I could go on about Transnistria, which also wanted no part of the new Moldovan state. The point is that in each of these three cases, majorities of the people did not wish to be incorporated into new political entities, at least one of which had a strong anti-Russian orientation. It’s rather odd to suggest that Ukrainians understandably wish to escape the geopolitical and economic clutches of Russia, and are entitled to do so, while these other populations, having no interest in Georgia and Moldova, respectively, must nonetheless be part of those entities.

73

jwl 01.25.14 at 9:31 pm

Jeff,

Interesting. So, because you don’t like NATO and American actions in various places, it is ok for Russia to openly threaten to invade and annex parts of neighboring countries? What does one thing have to do with another? It’s a little bizarre to assert that Russia is justified in fighting NATO and the Americans to the last Ukrainian.

74

jwl 01.25.14 at 9:33 pm

One more thing, re Abkhazia.

In fact, the majority of the population of Abkhazia at the fall of the Soviet Union was fine with being part of the Georgian state, since they majority was ethnic Georgian. It was only after the ethnic cleansing of half of the population in a bitter war, that the majority of the remaining population has decided to resist the Georgian state.

75

Niall McAuley 01.25.14 at 9:53 pm

Transistria (at Making Light)

76

Ronan(rf) 01.25.14 at 10:20 pm

“..and not, say, Aleppo, Bangkok, or Cairo.”

somewhat relatedly, Corey Pein has been writting about the use of cheap ‘civilian photographers’ in Syria by the big news agencies, particularly after the death of a Syrian teenager Molhem Barakat while working for Reuters

http://coreypein.net/blog/2013/12/22/reuters-molhem-barakat/

77

LFC 01.26.14 at 12:25 am

Peter H. @61
Has Hector truly been banned? We’re missing a fascist perspective on these events!

Not *exactly* a fascist; not that I’m missing his comments/interventions at all. Said he was re-starting his own blog, so those in need of an H_S_C fix can presumably find him somewhere. I myself am not going to go looking.

78

LFC 01.26.14 at 12:26 am

p.s. indeed he leaned left on certain things not related to gender roles, religion etc.

79

LFC 01.26.14 at 5:09 am

Ben Alpers @41

There simply was no “natural” way of allocating Galicia, e.g., to a state based around a single national identity. Over the course of the 20th-century, a series of genocides significantly reduced this problem, however.

Genocides and — as has already been mentioned in this thread — forced population transfers, both during and after WW2. The only thing I’ve read about this, at least in recent years, is ch.3 of M. Mazower’s No Enchanted Palace, which discusses inter alia how the Allies after WW2, rather than returning to the post-WW1 system of minority-rights treaties, condoned large-scale population transfers on the grounds that ethnic minorities were (supposedly) “sources of destabilization” whereas “ethnic homogeneity [was] a desirable feature of national self-determination and international stability” (p.143).

Mazower paints this partly as a triumph of the ideas of the demographer (and Revisionist Zionist) Joseph Schectman over the views of another Jewish emigré, Raphael Lemkin (best known, iirc, for coining the word ‘genocide’).

80

LFC 01.26.14 at 5:22 am

p.s. as far as the post-1945 population transfers are concerned, Stalin was I assume the worst offender (or the most vigorous practitioner), but that sort of goes w/o saying.

81

roy belmont 01.26.14 at 7:05 am

Jeff Martin way to go

82

Alex K. 01.26.14 at 7:30 am

@DaveL: The accent your teacher described as Ukrainian probably refers to the way Russian is spoken in southern Russia as well as Ukraine. Its most obvious feature is “g” pronounced as a voiced “h” or a voiced “kh”. Although very common in Russia, this soft “g” comes across as folksy in Moscow and, of course, St. Petersburg. In contrast, my impression is that educated Ukrainians in Kiev speak Russian with a hard “g” and Ukrainian with a soft “g”, which is the “proper” accent.

83

Peter T 01.26.14 at 8:05 am

LFC

Nope. Over 3 million Germans were expelled from Poland, 3 million from Czechoslovakia, and substantial numbers from Yugoslavia and Rumania. After 45, no-one trusted or wanted a German minority.

84

LFC 01.26.14 at 4:21 pm

Peter T
Over 3 million Germans were expelled from Poland, 3 million from Czechoslovakia, and substantial numbers from Yugoslavia and Rumania. After 45, no-one trusted or wanted a German minority.

ok, I’ll retract the wording re Stalin — but isn’t it the case that those expulsions from esp. Poland and Czechoslovakia could not have occurred without his approval (or wd have been v. unlikely to have occurred if he had for some reason said no)? Anyway not a lot hangs on my p.s. in terms of the main pt.

85

parse 01.26.14 at 6:15 pm

Later I had cause to wonder what the hell US soldiers were doing with molotov cocktails.

Perhaps there’s cause to wonder if US soldiers were doing anything with molotov cocktails in Vietnam. A google search with those terms gives me this post as one of the top three links and nothing else on the front page that’s actually about US soldiers using molotov cocktails in Vietnam.

Does anyone know if US soldiers used molotov cocktails in Vietnam?

86

LFC 01.26.14 at 6:47 pm

@80
A reasonable inference from the OP’s anecdote is that apparently at least one U.S. soldier used molotov cocktails in Vietnam. The Wikipedia entry ‘Molotov cocktail’ doesn’t mention Vietnam (it does mention one of the battles of Fallujah, btw).

87

Vanya 01.26.14 at 7:09 pm

Timothy Snyder is one of the best Western academics writing about Ukrainian national identity. Bloodlands is very good, as is The Reconstruction of Nations. Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999. Anyone interested in the topic should take a look.

88

roy belmont 01.26.14 at 7:12 pm

Here’s a bunch of photos from Kiev, behind the scenesish of the inflammatory OP balaclava one – Belle Waring posted an approving picture of someone smoking!
https://tinyurl.com/kylpq96

89

roy belmont 01.26.14 at 7:34 pm

Also thank you Cheryl Rofer

90

Alex K. 01.26.14 at 8:02 pm

#Randy McDonald #56: “It’s entirely possible to be a Russian-speaker and to identify as ethnically Ukrainian (are Anglophone Irish mistaken in their professions of ethnic identity), and even possible to be ethnically Russian and identify with the Ukrainian state.”

To complicate things further, the Russian-Ukrainian ethnic boundary is hard to define. Much of Ukraine’s steppe was settled, or colonized, relatively recently, some as late as the 19th century, along with large expanses of what is now Russia, often by people of the same origin. (Recall that Chichikov was buying the “dead souls” to resettle them in the Kherson governorship, now part of Ukraine north of the Crimea.) In addition, even a recent transplant from Siberia to Ukraine could be a descendant of a landless Ukrainian family that had moved out east, where the climate was harsher but land was abundant, early in the 20th century.

91

notsneaky 01.27.14 at 8:19 am

Come on folks. Ukraine didn’t have shock therapy. Not even any kind of reforms until mid 1990′s by which point the economic collapse was well under way. The only way you can talk about “shock therapy” in Ukraine is if 1) you wrongly assume that just because their neighbors had it, Ukrainians had it, 2) you wrongly assume that just because an economy crashed then it “must have” had shock therapy (because, you know, that’s how economies, crash, evil “shock therapy” is implemented in perfectly sound, prosperous, growing economies full of milk and honey) or 3) you stretch the definition of “shock therapy” to mean “end of communism in some way”. Whatever economic problems Ukraine currently have are more likely to stem from lack of shock therapy back in the day than its non-existent presence.

On other issues: It’s true that far-right groups are to some extent trying to piggy bag on what are essentially mass, popular protests. Putin’s propaganda and pro-government side in Ukraine overemphasizes. It’s sort of like… it’s hard to come up with Western-familiar analogies here… it’s like as if someone said that because the Communist Party USA supported the Civil Rights Movement, the Civil Rights Movement was itself a Communist plot.

Although there’s a bit of a historical precedent as far as nationalism goes – Ukrainians want autonomy/independence, whoever rules them cracks down (using the excuse that these are “extremists” or “terrorists”), this clears the moderates out, leaves a vacuum, and the extremists step in and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

These particular events go beyond the Western/Eastern Ukraine split. The correlation between geography and pro-Russian vs. pro-EU, or geography and the pro-current-government/anti-current-government, attitudes is there, but it’s much weaker than you think. To some extent portraying it that way is just a simple narrative which makes people in the West think they understand what’s going on in a country they don’t really give a shit about.

92

hix 01.27.14 at 10:14 am

The “no one wanted Germans arround after 45*” rational is a rather bad excuse considering that Schlesien was an ethnical homogenous German region that belonged to Germany for gods sake. And sure, Stalin was in support if not instrumental in what happend there. The Czech case is barely better, since Germans were driven out of regions with a vast German majority.

*I dont think its even correct for more dispersed genuine ethnical German minorities in all eastern Europe.

93

Belle Waring 01.27.14 at 11:02 am

In this instance, my dad’s sensei was actually an Army private drafted from a working-class family, right out of HS IIRC, or at most a year or two after, while he was working at a gas station/auto mechanic shop. He got sent to actually shoot at people and get shot at, and indeed got shot (in the thigh, but not his femoral artery or anything obviously), got patched up, and then got sent out to go shoot at/get shot at by Vietnamese people more.

People generally regarded him as suffering somewhat from ‘shellshock’ as it was known. In addition to getting a black belt in karate, and training constantly in a really quite insane way, he also went around heavily armed all the fucking time. Georgia is (or was?) an open carry state, so you would run into him in town with a Colt .45 revolver on a belt holster at his right hip. He worked in a liquor store and so I did understand being worried about getting robbed. They had a shotgun there under the counter, obviously. Hell, I’ve seen him walk around Savannah with a shotgun on his shoulder; again, open carry, but no concealed carry. He did advocate a three step strategy for avoiding getting into a horrible street fight/getting mugged, in order: ‘ka-run’, ka-gun’, ka-rate’. Like, get the hell away if possible, hopefully only threaten, but shoot the person if possible, then use your awesome black belt training as a fall-back. This is a refreshingly practical approach from karate black belts, actually, who often tout their training as a path to invulnerability.

He had been throwing the Molotov cocktails for a reason, at people whom he wanted to set on fire; this was very clear from the instructions. I didn’t think much about it as a kid who wanted to set stuff on fire, but as I say later I did think it mmmaaaaybe not so cool.

94

Jeff Martin 01.27.14 at 3:21 pm

Whatever economic problems Ukraine currently have are more likely to stem from lack of shock therapy back in the day than its non-existent presence.

Err, no. The reason Russia and world have Putinism to reckon with is precisely the imposition of shock therapy, which so devastated the country, and left it so exposed to the machinations of mercenary capitalists, that it nearly imploded. And imagine that! – circumstances of economic and social collapse, abetted and endorsed by foreign powers, led to an authoritarian nationalist reaction! Why, it’s almost as though we have no historical precedent for such a turnabout, nor a vast body of scholarship on the relationship between national humiliation and nationalist reaction! All snark aside, the idea that shock therapy would have benefited Ukraine is not even counterfactual; it’s just plain wrong. But hey, use your illusions.

No, Ukraine did not endure shock therapy after the Russian model; rather, prices, and some capital flows were liberalized pretty rapidly, and a few enterprises were privatized (which, in the circumstances, meant primitively accumulated); the remainder of the enterprises have been gradually parceled out to connected oligarchs by whichever oligarch happens to hold the presidency. In Russia, this all happened pretty much simultaneously, or as near to it as politics can muster. The effects on the population were identical to those of shock therapy in Russia, so quibbling over formal definitions of ‘shock therapy’ is the worst sort of hair-splitting.

I didn’t even bring up shock therapy in connection with the Ukraine: I brought it up by way of explaining Russian distrust of NATO, and other Western political activities in Ukraine. Whatever.

It’s true that far-right groups are to some extent trying to piggy bag on what are essentially mass, popular protests. Putin’s propaganda and pro-government side in Ukraine overemphasizes.

Again, this is just flat wrong. The fascists of Svoboda are not just piggy-backing on a mass popular protest; they’re an integral part of the protests, organizationally and otherwise. There are, of course, other reasons for the uprising, some of which one generally does not hear about in Western media. People are genuinely frustrated with the sclerosis and corruption of the economic system; in fact, so far from attributing the protests to Svoboda alone, I’ve already mentioned this, by way of arguing that the EU is no remedy for it. One factor that one doesn’t hear about in Western media is that the crisis arose, in part, as a result of a falling out among the oligarchs; some of the oligarchs feel that Yanukovych’s “Family”, or the Donetsk clan, have accumulated to much power, too much control over the key monopolies; they feel that EU association would give them a better deal. Perhaps it would, but that rather proves my earlier point.

Although there’s a bit of a historical precedent as far as nationalism goes – Ukrainians want autonomy/independence, whoever rules them cracks down (using the excuse that these are “extremists” or “terrorists”), this clears the moderates out, leaves a vacuum, and the extremists step in and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

This is precisely what has not happened in Ukraine since independence was declared in 1991; there has been no attempt to crack down on those ‘calling for independence’, even those whose conception of ‘independence’ entails severing ties with Russia and pretending that there are no Russians in Ukraine. And Ukraine has been independent since 1991; what it has been is an independent country with a divided legacy, which for approximately 20 years attempted to negotiate that history without, well, causing what’s happening now. Svoboda has existed since 1991, in its present incarnation at least. The moderates, for their part, have played into the hands of Svoboda on a few issues, particularly those centering on identity and language (They were outraged by a 2012 bill allowing that Russian was an official language in those regions of the country where it predominated – so, allowing people to speak their own language in government, while receiving public services, etc., was regarded as a threat to Ukrainian identity. One can say many things about this attitude; one cannot say that it is tolerant.) These national questions have converged with concerns about oligarchical corruption, the concerns of oligarchs to protect their fiefs, (unfounded) hopes and aspirations for a prosperous ‘European’ future, and yes, foreign interests, to produce the crisis.

To some extent portraying it that way is just a simple narrative which makes people in the West think they understand what’s going on in a country they don’t really give a shit about.

The most simplistic narratives I’m seeing on the crisis are precisely those retailed in most Western media, because even journalists paid to report on the crisis don’t really give a shit about what is happening there. There is a lot of complexity, but most media outlets try to force it into the tired schema of “enlightened Western-oriented democrats vs. Putin.”

95

jackd 01.27.14 at 8:22 pm

IIRC Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book had a Molotov recipe that called for gasoline and styrofoam. Never tried it, but the claim was that the styro dissolved and the resulting solution was highly flammable and very sticky.

96

parse 01.28.14 at 12:48 am

He did advocate a three step strategy for avoiding getting into a horrible street fight/getting mugged, in order: ‘ka-run’, ka-gun’, ka-rate’. Like, get the hell away if possible, hopefully only threaten, but shoot the person if possible, then use your awesome black belt training as a fall-back. This is a refreshingly practical approach from karate black belts, actually, who often tout their training as a path to invulnerability.

That reminds me of James Brown, who didn’t know karate but knew ka-razor.

I knew a black belt who used to explain that his martial arts training had supplied him with crucial skills in case he was mugged: “You’d be amazed how quickly I can reach for my wallet.”

97

Ronan(rf) 01.28.14 at 2:36 am

I don’t know the history/recent politics of Russia well enough to know the answer to this question – but is there really this strong a connection btw the post Cold War ‘shock therapy’ and the rise of Putin/current state of Russia?
The connection, I guess, exists in so much as the shock therapy happened, privatised industries were bought up by domestic oligarchs and Putin came to power in response (this is my back of an envelope knowledge of the history, which could well be wrong)

But what were the alternative paths for Russia post Cold War? Demographically and economically Russia has serious problems which *are not* the fault of the West, or the 90s reforms. Putin’s brand of authoritarian leadership is hardly an abberation in Russian history. Russian problems with oligarchs (and the remnants of the security services) were going to exist in Russia post CW regardless. And how much of the ‘shock therapy’ was pushed domestically? There were no easy resolutions to the situation Russia found itself after the Cold War.

I really dont buy this blaming *deep* institutional/political/historical/societal/systemic problems on one thing. I can accept that the shock therapy was counterproductive and quite possibly very harmful, but what exactely is the hypothetical good oucome here ?

98

Matt 01.28.14 at 3:03 am

The connection, I guess, exists in so much as the shock therapy happened, privatised industries were bought up by domestic oligarchs and Putin came to power in response

This rise to power of Putin, as a person, was obviously full of contingencies and chance events, though perhaps something like him was quite likely. My impression (as, among other things, someone who was living in Russia when Putin came to power- I moved to Ryazan just after the FSB staged a “practice” bombing of an apartment building there in the run up to the second Chechen war) is that Putin was brought to Moscow, first made the head of the FSB and then Prime Minister, but expected to be a stooge that could be manipulated by “the family”- people closely associated with Yeltsin and Boris Berezovsky, who was, at the time, the most favored oligarch. But, Putin out-maneuvered them, and managed to turn himself from a pawn into a queen (with the help of various other FSB insiders, of course.) This was, in a sense, “in response” to the gross miss-rule of Yeltsin in the 90′s, of which “shock therapy” was a part, in that it was made more possible by these events, and these events gave motivation and cover for the take-over of the country by the Siloviki faction that Putin is the face of. The general population, sick of the miss-rule of the Yeltisin era, were generally quite eager to vote for Putin in his first election. But, it wasn’t “in response” to shock therapy in any direct way, and it wasn’t as if Putin has any coherent ideology that opposes this- he’s a sort of nationalist, but mostly a pragmatic opportunist.

After the first election in 2001, things get harder to know as far as the “real” opinion of the people- there was obvious fraud in every election after that, but access to state resources give favored candidates such an advantage over disfavored ones that it’s not really possible to say what would happen under more fair circumstances, or so it has seemed to me.

99

john c. halasz 01.28.14 at 3:16 am

@97:

A more gradual, buffered approach to restructuring the post-CW Soviet economy might have been possible and preferable, but the prevailing “wisdom” of TPTB would not allow it. (The first European country to undergo IMF sponsored/imposed “shock therapy” was the former Yugoslavia, at the beginning of 1989: that worked out well, eh?). In the Russian case, shock therapy instantaneously wiped out savings and bankrupted companies through massive inflation and facilitated the looting of the country by insiders with fraudulent privatizations. The removal of any capital and currency controls didn’t result a incoming flow of FDI, but rather an massive outflow of “capital” from looted assets. GDP dropped by some 50% and a chaotic mafia capitalism took hold amidst mass impoverishment. The rise of the likes of Putin, once the looting was completed and the oligarchic fortunes needed to be protected and consolidated and legitimated for further investment purposes, was in effect the “logical” outcome of the process. A higher, more proficient and organized class of gangsters was needed to run the system, thus mafia capitalism gave way to Chekist capitalism. Putin is not simply the sole autocratic ruler of the system, but owes his pre-eminent position of power to his ability to play off and balance the various “soliviki”, the “clans” of the security apparatus and bureaucracy. He’s a thug, but one who has proven time and again to know how to play his cards deftly.

100

notsneaky 01.30.14 at 12:15 am

@ Jeff Martin

Hogwash, through and through.

The only way you can argue that Ukraine experienced “shock therapy” is if you DEFINE “shock therapy” = “collapse of communism”. Yes, (some) prices were liberalized, there was some – not much privatization. That is what “end of communism” means. You can’t end a command economy in any meaningful way without doing these things. “Shock therapy” is when you do these things very quickly. But in Ukraine, these changes were dragged out, so that no meaningful reform were implemented until mid 1990′s. And guess what. The *lack* of these reforms acerbated the collapse of the economy/communism that was already under way.

I guess you could argue that Ukraine’s economy today would somehow be better if “communism never collapse” or “communism never ended”. But then the silliness of that position would be transparent (if for no other reason than that simply wasn’t possible). So let’s pretend instead that there was “shock therapy” in Ukraine, even though there wasn’t.

And while Svoboda has played a role in the protests, claiming that they are “integral” to them is just Putinite bullshit. Unfortunately picked up by some “leftist” (and those quotes very much belong there) commentators in the West. You seen the pictures? You read commentary from people actually there? The protests span all of Ukraine society, from Ukrainian speakers to Russian speakers, from students, to workers, to retirees. I dunno maybe (almost) everyone in Ukraine is a “fascist”. It’s really the old Soviet propaganda canard: “anyone who opposes communism is a de facto fascist”. Except now “communism” has been substituted with “Putin” or “Putin’s Russia”.

101

john c. halasz 01.30.14 at 3:41 am

Radek:

I don’t know the exact particulars of the Ukraine vs. Russia in the early 1990′s, but if the Russian economy collapsed due to “shock therapy”, do you really think that the Ukraine could somehow have been surgically removed from the consequences? And yet you seem to imply that the Ukraine, counterfactually, would have benefited from the same “treatment” that proved so disastrous in Russia. Hyman Minsky, who was still alive at the time, strenuously objected to the imposition to the imposition of shock therapy, because he was an institutionalist and thought economic theories always had to be tailored to their institutional contexts and frameworks and Russia simply didn’t have the institutions by which such instantaneous marketization could at all work out productively.

But why should you care, (other than for ideological reasons), since you’re Polish and Poland has made out rather well economically, even if somewhat divided politically, in recent times because they weren’t so stupid or misfortunate to have joined the Euro, but back then partly because IIRC half their foreign debt, some $24 bn, was forgiven. Hungary, which had begun market oriented reforms much earlier, received no such largess, (though there no doubt has been much mismanagement since). You aren’t going all Anders Aslund on us, are you?

At any rate, the Ukraine is on the verge of default, bankruptcy, and neither the EU, nor the Russians are offering much of a way out. (And Russia, for which something like Putinism was the more-or-less inevitable result, as per 98 and 99 above, never really recovered from the debacle of the 1990′s. It’s high oil and gas prices that have sustained them or at least their oligarchs and soliviki).

102

notsneaky 01.30.14 at 4:35 am

John, I guess one could make the argument that “shock therapy” *in Russia* somehow caused economic collapse in *Ukraine*. It’s not a very good argument. But unlike the argument that “shock therapy” *in Ukraine* caused economic collapse in *Ukraine* it is at least plausible. The latter is implausible because there was no “shock therapy” in Ukraine. It had the opposite.

Funnily enough I recall a discussion I had about the effects of shock therapy a few years back (maybe even here) and the person arguing that it was “bad” was contrasting shock-therapy-having-Russia with no-shock-therapy-having-Ukraine. At the time Ukrainian economy was clocking in at 6, 7 % gdp per capita growth. It was being held up as an example of the benefits of “gradualism” rather than “shock therapy”. Apparently now that Ukraine has gone down the toilet both economically and politically, it turns out that Ukraine did have “shock therapy” after all. The term gets redefined, facts get altered, just to fit someone’s ideological prejudices.

The honest bottom line is that whatever “shock therapy” happened in Russia (and I – and many others – would argue that Russia never had “shock therapy”, in the proper sense of the term, it had something else (random resource grab with a veneer of reform as a fig leaf. Estonia was really the only post Soviet state which had genuine “shock therapy”)) it was twenty five years ago. Twenty or so for Ukraine. It’s just ridiculous to try and blame whatever is happening in Ukraine today on (a non-existent) “shock therapy” from a quarter of a century ago. It’s just that for some people “shock therapy” is a bete noire – a proxy for their ideological battles – so whenever the context of Eastern Europe comes out it must be dutifully dragged out and beaten upon. Whether it’s relevant or not.

Shock therapy doesn’t have crap do to with Euromaidan.

As to why I care, why shouldn’t I? (And you’re probably aware enough of the history to realize that Svoboda is not exactly popular in Poland, what with the UPA, OUN, and the massacres during German occupation) At any rate, yes Ukraine needs to be in EU. But if that happens, please, in the name of St. Andrew and all else that’s holy, let them not adopt the Euro!

103

Chaz 01.30.14 at 11:09 am

“John, I guess one could make the argument that “shock therapy” *in Russia* somehow caused economic collapse in *Ukraine*. It’s not a very good argument.”

On the contrary, it is undeniable that an economic collapse in newly independent Russia would cause the same in Ukraine. They had been part of the same country for decades. Soviet industry was heavily integrated, heavily centralized. It’s called central planning for a reason! All the important industries of Ukraine were part of pan-Soviet supply chains. If the Russian parts of a chain suddenly disappear then the Ukrainian firm suddenly has either no customers or no suppliers. At that point it doesn’t matter how well run the Ukrainian firm is, the only option is to shut down.

104

Jeff Martin 01.31.14 at 2:31 am

The only way you can argue that Ukraine experienced “shock therapy” is if you DEFINE “shock therapy” = “collapse of communism”.

Err., no, else I’d be inveighing against the failure of shock therapy in the Czech Republic and Poland, where the transition from communism was successful precisely because it occurred – where liberalization and privatization are concerned – gradually and in accordance with defined procedures and regimes of property rights, all of which were absent in Russia and Ukraine. No, Ukraine was not subjected to the exigent and corrupt privatizations which characterized the Russian transition, but prices were liberalized pretty quickly after 1991, and the privatizations, as I mentioned previously, occurred corruptly and gradually, as ruling oligarchs parceled them out to their associates. Moreover, as John and Chaz observe, it was impossible for Ukraine to escape the consequences of shock therapy as it was imposed in Russia; as the consequences were essentially identical in both countries, it is tendentious to argue that what devastated one nation would have permitted the other to rise from the ruins of the Soviet Union.

The honest bottom line is that whatever “shock therapy” happened in Russia (and I – and many others – would argue that Russia never had “shock therapy”, in the proper sense of the term, it had something else (random resource grab with a veneer of reform as a fig leaf. Estonia was really the only post Soviet state which had genuine “shock therapy”)) it was twenty five years ago.

Like communism to its true believers, and conservatism to its apostles, shock therapy has never truly been attempted, only failed by its would-be practitioners – except in Estonia. In reality, as the central European nations demonstrate, there is a proper methodology for transitioning from a centrally planned economy to some form of capitalism, and that methodology, or heuristic, at least, does not involve doing things hastily, before legal regimes have been implemented. It takes time, and in that sense, it’s not shocking at all. The entire rationale of shock therapy as practiced in Russia and Ukraine was to facilitate resource and asset grabs; if anyone wants to deem the process described in this contemporaneous paper, from 1995 as successful shock therapy, I suppose they’re entitled to do so, but the process described is rather more akin to the central European processes, and also included some cushioning for the population, which was entirely absent in the Russian and Ukrainian cases. In other words, deeming the Estonian transition an instance of shock therapy could be regarded as argument by definition – which I what I, and others, are here accused of.

Shock therapy doesn’t have crap do to with Euromaidan.

No, it doesn’t. I’m not saying that it does, and neither is anyone else that I can determine. Shock therapy partially explains why Russia is distrustful of the drang nach osten of NATO and the EU. Other, less creditable impulses explain some of the distrust, too, in case anyone might think me unaware of such matters.

And while Svoboda has played a role in the protests, claiming that they are “integral” to them is just Putinite bullshit.

No, claiming that Svoboda is not integral to the protests is bullshite, but whose, I cannot say. Svoboda is a constituent element of the opposition political coalition headed by Fatherland and UDAR; that is to say, the more moderate, pro-European, soft-nationalist parties allied with the fascist party in order to strengthen their coalition. Moreover, Svoboda activists – and activists allied informally, though the sub-political networks of nationalist groups, some of which are more extreme than Svoboda – are visible everywhere in the protests, with their three-finger banners, the Nazi runes (which the three-finger symbol was supposed to replace), the white power symbols (which have appeared in some of the government buildings occupied in the regions), the iconography of WWII Nazi collaborators, the numbers 14 and 88, and occasional statements – more often in the regions than in cosmopolitan Kiev – to the effect that Ukraine is for Ukrainians, and not for Russians and Jews, etc. I’m sorry if this offends, but I’ve seen and heard these folks spouting off on television, including one priest in Lviv. They’re there. They’re integral to the actually-existing protests and opposition movement. Yes, there are millions of people opposed to the government who are not fascists, and have other grievances – I’ve never denied that; in fact, I’ve stated it. And it’s possible to imagine a movement against the government that did not involve fascists; but that movement is hypothetical, not actual.

You seen the pictures? You read commentary from people actually there?

I’ve seen the pictures; that’s one reason I can state with confident that the opposition has a disturbing contingent of fascists. While I don’t read commentary from Ukraine, as I am literate in neither Ukrainian nor Russian, my wife is, and translates it for me. The most interesting commentary from someone on the ground there, for my time and money, <a href="http://www.anarkismo.net/article/26669<is this interview with a Ukrainian anarchist-syndicalist, which is to say, a Ukrainian leftist with a fairly broad perspective. It’s a bit mystifying to me that any leftist would argue that the European Union has been so phenomenally successful that it should be expanded to incorporate a nation larger, yet weaker and more divided, than any of the flailing periphery countries of the EU bloc. What “leftism” is it that would laud, among other things, the imposition of structural adjustment upon the periphery, neoliberal “reforms” in the member and candidate states, and a deflationary monetary policy? If such be leftism, what need is there for conservatism? And if that is the “left”, no wonder the right, at least in Eastern Europe, consists of Jobbik, Golden Dawn, and Svoboda. Are the Russians emphasizing the presence of fascists in the opposition? Of course. But that’s not merely a function of Russian prejudices and interests. It’s also a reflection of Russian history and memory, in which the Great Patriotic War against German fascism is the defining struggle of the Twentieth Century, the struggle they take to have established the character of their nation. And what sort of “leftists” look at fascism, in any context, in any numbers, and simply shrug?

Comments on this entry are closed.