Trouble ahead for Ukraine if “the people” is understood in ethnic terms

by Chris Bertram on February 24, 2014

Hard not to take pleasure when a corrupt and autocratic leader is forced from power by popular pressure. Nevertheless, I can’t be the only person whose frisson of excitement at the revolutionary form of the overthrow is accompanied by a shudder at some of the content. As with Egypt, we have the unfortunate precedent of someone who was in power through elections being forced out by non-electoral means, albeit that, like Morsi he abused democratic norms in power. (Erdogan in Turkey also springs to mind as an abuser of democratic norms; I hope the Turkish people vote him out.) Then there are the frankly fascist affiliations of some of the opposition leaders, like Oleh Tyahnybok whose Svoboda party has “observer status” in an “Alliance of European National Movements” that includes the Hungarian Jobbik and the British National Party.

However, one can perhaps overlook some of that as an exigency of circumstance and hope that most of the insurgents are cut from more liberal cloth. However, we now have the fact that the Parliament just annulled a bill permitting Russian to be an official language in regions with largely Russian-speaking populations. That’s a clear sign that the new Ukraine does not regard all its citizens are equals and as genuine members of the state, that the winners conceive the “people” as an ethnos rather than a demos. Personally, I hope the EU make any financial support – which Ukraine will need to pay its Russian gas bills – conditional on the full integration of all Ukrainians as equals without regard to ethnic or linguistic background.

{ 225 comments }

1

notsneaky 02.24.14 at 9:31 am

Chris. You picked one sentence out of an article with 1300+ words. Yes, it’s bad, in the sense that it symbolizes something. But hey, in Lithuania, you’re not even allowed to use the Russian or Polish language on *private*, not public, residences. As in if you put up a sign on your home in those languages, police will come and tear it down, or you’ll get a hefty fine. Same goes for official languages in official documents where you have to spell your name the “Lithuanian way”. The EU always looked the other way on that in the interest of not pissing off its member states and their particular national insecurities. It’s stupid, petty and ridiculous but I can sort of understand why EU diplomats have so far rolled their eyes at this kind of nonsense and gotten on with more important work.

So yeah, you’re right, it’s dumb. But why pick it out? Why make an issue of it when it’s never been an issue for the countries which are already within the EU? Maybe it should be, but seriously, out of all that stuff that has happened in Ukraine, the bloodshed, craziness and sacrifice, you go and get upset over the fact that a country which is not even in the EU is doing – a very dumb thing – which countries within the EU are already doing? And which nobody noticed before?

I hope the EU makes any financial support conditional on … nothing. I hope it just freakin’ gives as much as it can. Because if it’s stupid enough to try and play some self imagined poker game bluff it will get out maneuvered so fast by the much more wily presences in the region. And then there’s gonna be Orange Revolution/Euromaidan/Cold War 3.45. Stabilize the damn country first, then get all condescending towards the Eastern Europeans. It won’t hurt you that much to wait a little bit with the smugness.

2

Jo Shaw 02.24.14 at 9:39 am

I agree – that’s a worrying sign. But I’ve seen an interesting post on Facebook by someone called Adrian Karatnycky: “Ukraine now has an Evangelical minister as its acting President, a part Roma acting Defense Minister and an Armenian-Russian as Interior Minister. The President was born in Dnipropetrovsk, the head of the Security service in Zaporizhya, and the Interior Minister in Baku. Yep, those nationalists from West Ukraine are taking over”

3

Vanya 02.24.14 at 9:50 am

Like Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia, Ukraine is an artificial state cobbled together out of 19th century nationalism and a lot of outside interference. There is no compelling humanistic reason why Galicia, Crimea, Transcarpathia, and traditional Ukraine need to coexist in a single polity that was created by the Soviet Union for administrative reasons. Both the dissolution of the USSR and Ukraine’s post indepence struggles have a lot to do with the fact that the inhabitants of Galicia in particular do not seem to share a common national vision with anyone else. The best solution would probably be for Ukraine to move to a decentralized Federal system like Germany’s, but the country doesn’t seem ready for that and neither Russia, the West nor Ukrainian elites has been very supportive of decentralization.

4

Chris Bertram 02.24.14 at 10:13 am

I hear what you say notsneaky ….

Two points:

1. I don’t think the basis for future policy should be “the worst crap we’ve tolerated in the past (or are forced to continued to put up with for pragmatic reasons)”.

2. How is Lithuanian policy compatible with Article 14 of EHCR?

5

Roy 02.24.14 at 10:14 am

Considering Yanukovych’s secret little private zoo, I have to feel that this was not a bad thing. When DeGaulle resigned was it a blow to Democracy? Same with the end of the Fourth Republic.

As to the language law, we will see where it goes from here, this was a very recent law that was repealed, i agree with Notsneaky in #1 hear

6

Roy 02.24.14 at 10:16 am

Also should a Ukrainian version of the Toubon Law be a reason for EU opposition?

7

Chris Bertram 02.24.14 at 10:28 am

Roy, I confess that the French situation isn’t entirely clear to me. Some minority languages, Corsican for example, do seem to have official recognition.

8

Marc Mulholland 02.24.14 at 10:29 am

If the *first thing* your new government does it to repeal laws recognizing the equality of a major language group, it’s a cause for worry. A revolution that bears some resemblance to the Badeni Laws riots is not, as Chris points out, an unalloyed good.

9

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 10:49 am

No Russian would be a little tricky in Crimea, if Crimea is to remain part of Ukraine.

10

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 10:57 am

If I were picking out one sentence, it would have been this one:

“We are ready to engage in substantial financial assistance for Ukraine once a political solution, based on democratic principles, is finalised and once there is a new government which is genuinely and seriously engaged in institutional and economic reforms,” said [Olli] Rehn [Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro].

Olli stands willing to exchange your democracy for debt and austerity, Ukraine; just as soon as you have one, he’ll take it away.

11

Matt 02.24.14 at 11:24 am

I agree with this pretty much completely, Chris, but would add that this sentence, Hard not to take pleasure when a corrupt and autocratic leader is forced from power by popular pressure. could have applied to any of the last several leaders of Ukraine, including the once and hopeful one, Yulia Tymoshenko, and other leads of the last “popular uprising”, who proved themselves to cut of just the same mold. Few of the new faces in the crowd, perhaps especially the various would-be hetmans, seem likely to be better, and many likely worse.

12

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 11:38 am

Few of the new faces in the crowd, perhaps especially the various would-be hetmans, seem likely to be better, and many likely worse.

Yes. It can a very difficult political and institutional problem, to trust the right leader or to find any leader, who can be trusted to serve the public interest. And, that problem and that distrust is why there’s as much “fascist” activity as there is. It’s a natural association to trust the one like us, and to distrust “the other”, and to use linguistic and ethnic markers to establish solidarity between leaders and led.

It is hard to do politics without some principle of solidarity, some membership organization, which unites leaders and followers in a relationship of trust and service. And, it is very easy to fool a lot of political followers, and play on their ignorance and fears and resentments.

The oligarchy and the natural gas issues create a lot of potential for corruption.

13

Bloix 02.24.14 at 11:39 am

“That’s a clear sign that the new Ukraine does not regard all its citizens are equals and as genuine members of the state, that the winners conceive the “people” as an ethnos rather than a demos.”

Nine decades ago the Soviet government subjected Ukraine to one of the greatest genocides in history. The true numbers are not known, but the minimum estimate is that 3 million Ukrainians (at least one in ten) were intentionally starved to death in 1933-34 when their harvests including their seed corn and their farm animals were confiscated by force and taken to Russia. When masses of starving people took to the roads, Russian militias drove them away from the cities, back into the countryside where they died. Militiamen cleared the villages of corpses, and the land was resettled with immigrants from Russia.

In 2006, the Ukrainian parliament officially declared that the 1932-34 famine was an act of genocide.

The famine of 1931-32 is not the only case of Russian genocide and ethnic cleansing. Toward the end of World War II, a quarter of a million Crimean Tatars (Muslim, Turkic-language people) were deported to Siberia, where many of them died. Crimea was then repopulated, mostly with Russians. When you read today that Crimea is a majority-Russian province, it’s the result of Stalinist resettlement policies.

In the post-war era, Soviet policy was to integrate Ukraine with Russian and to promote the Russian language. And today the present government of Russia has embarked on a course that appears to have goal of reintegrating Ukraine into a new Russian imperial project. Putin has said publicly that in Russia and Ukraine are “one nation,” and his ambassador to France compared Ukrainians and Russisans to Bretons and Normans. It is virtually the official policy of Russia to deny Ukrainian nationhood.

Perhaps none of this makes any difference to the question of language rights. The grandchildren of the people who moved into empty villages to take up residence in the homes of exterminated peasants are not personally responsible for what happened. The Russian-speaking industrial workers of Donetsk, whose city’s heavy industry was designed from Moscow to be tied closely into the Russian economy, can’t be blamed for favoring integration with Russia.

But it seems to me that you can’t speak meaningfully about the status of the Russian language in Ukraine without at least acknowledging the history of oppression and the current threat that the Russian nation poses to independent Ukraine.

14

Chris Bertram 02.24.14 at 11:53 am

Perhaps none of this makes any difference to the question of language rights. The grandchildren of the people who moved into empty villages to take up residence in the homes of exterminated peasants are not personally responsible for what happened.

Well exactly. Building a multi-ethnic state might require acknowledging the crimes of the past, but you have to recognize all the people who are now permanently settled on the territory as full members with equal standing and not stigmatize some by incorporating an ethnically biased norm into the very notion of what it is to be a citizen. Ditto for the Baltics, for Israel and Palestine, ditto for the United States, for New Zealand and so forth ….

15

jwl 02.24.14 at 12:04 pm

France and Turkey’s linguistic policies are the worst on the continent and definitely worse than Ukraine’s, even after the cancellation of this law.

The reason this law was repealed is that its passage was deeply controversial ( fistfights in Parliament for example) because it was seen as an attempt to repress Ukranian language in favor of Russian. The eastern regions did not just want to foster Russian ( in this view) they also wanted to prevent the use of Ukranian in education or administration.

It is only since independence that the Ukranian language was used in education and administration all over Ukraine (except Crimea) and this law was viewed as trying to halt and reverse that.

Also, every nation is an artificial construct. This isn’t precisely an ethnic conflict because 80% of the population is ethnic Ukrainian. It is a battle over what language is taught in schools, what language is used in administration, and what language is used in day to day interactions in the cities.

Crimea is different. There Russians are the majority and are working hard using Crimea autonomy to extirpate non-Russian languages.

16

Enzo Rossi 02.24.14 at 12:07 pm

It’s more likely that the EU will resolve the standoff with Russia by effectively splitting the country in two and dividing its spoils. Ethnic issues will come in handy at that point. The Ukraine’s geographical position is a kind of resource curse.

17

Josh G. 02.24.14 at 2:21 pm

Being able to define a national language is one of the basic perquisites of state sovereignty. Opposition to this is essentially the same as opposition to nationalism itself. My own position is that social democracy is the highest and best form of human society, and that history shows us that social democracy is virtually impossible to achieve in a multinational empire or within international institutions. The easiest way to get there is to have a tight-knit nation with one culture and one language.

Nationalism is the only power strong enough to stand up to Davos Man and challenge the power of global financial capital. And international institutions are without exception always co-opted by the money men: witness the multi-year push for austerity in the EU. If the Ukrainians can give these bastards a poke in the eye and strike a blow for nationalism, I’m all for it. Hard luck on ethnic Russians who might need to learn Ukrainian, but nation-building is never a pretty process. Maybe Putin will give them asylum so he can cry crocodile tears about how horribly they’re being oppressed.

18

Matt 02.24.14 at 2:28 pm

The easiest way to get there is to have a tight-knit nation with one culture and one language… Hard luck on ethnic Russians who might need to learn Ukrainian, but nation-building is never a pretty process. Maybe Putin will give them asylum so he can cry crocodile tears about how horribly they’re being oppressed.

So, uh, Canada is a hopelessly utopian figment of our imagination, and ethnic cleansing is the way towards peace and prosperity? For their own sake, I hope Ukrainian nationalists will get some better defenders soon.

19

LFC 02.24.14 at 2:35 pm

Bloix @13:
it seems to me that you can’t speak meaningfully about the status of the Russian language in Ukraine without at least acknowledging the history of oppression and the current threat that the Russian nation poses to independent Ukraine.

A terminological point: if one wants to make this argument, I think it’s better to say the “current threat the Russian government (or state) poses to independent Ukraine.”

20

Alex K. 02.24.14 at 2:36 pm

Jo Shaw (#2): no arguing with this part of the quote: “Ukraine now has an Evangelical minister as its acting President, a part Roma acting Defense Minister and an Armenian-Russian as Interior Minister. The President was born in Dnipropetrovsk, the head of the Security service in Zaporizhya, and the Interior Minister in Baku.”

But all those people appear to support Ukrainian as the country’s only official language. It’s perhaps worth noting that Yulia Timoshenko, despite her currently Ukrainian surname and ethnic braid, was born Yulia Grigyan (her father’s name, which sounds Armenian but is apparently of Latvian origin), graduated high school as Yulia Telegina (her mother’s name, generically Russian) and learned Ukrainian in her 30s. Granted, her Ukrainian is said to be very good, rich and literary.

What I’m trying to say is that a new Ukrainian identity for the new Ukrainian state is emerging or is being constructed; that proficiency in Ukrainian is going to be an essential part of it; and that Ukraine’s largely Russophone political elites will make it imperative on the nation to accept it.

This is nothing new; this is good old European nation-building; the only problem is that it’s a little belated and may clash with the EU’s enlightened ideas on minority rights. But then it may not – I agree with notsneaky.

21

LFC 02.24.14 at 2:42 pm

Josh G. @17
Being able to define a national language is one of the basic perquisites of state sovereignty.
Not sure about that; at any rate, debatable

My own position is that social democracy is the highest and best form of human society, and that history shows us that social democracy is virtually impossible to achieve in a multinational empire or within international institutions. The easiest way to get there is to have a tight-knit nation with one culture and one language.
Since the majority of sovereign states are not “tight-knit nations with one culture and one language,” on your theory you might as well kiss the prospects for social democracy goodbye in most of the world.

22

Chris Bertram 02.24.14 at 2:51 pm

This is nothing new; this is good old European nation-building …

Or bad old …..

The fact that Welsh children were once punished for speaking Welsh, that Alsatian children turned up one day to find a new teacher speaking an incomprehensible language and that Basques and Catalans were once similarly punished is no reason not to learn. We’ve acquired some of our principles about how to treat minorities after long and horrible experiences: that doesn’t make further repetition of those experiences legitimate.

23

Jerry Vinokurov 02.24.14 at 3:00 pm

I was actually in Ukraine just two months before the protests started; I attended a scientific conference in Kiev, then took a few more days to see the city, and then took the bus down to Odessa (also the city of my birth). Odessa, at the time, was one of those regions where Russian was recognized as an official language; I don’t know whether Kiev was designated a monolingual region or not, but all the signs there were in Ukrainian. However, I spoke Russian everywhere I went in both Kiev and Odessa, and no one batted an eye. Virtually everyone in Kiev speaks both. This law is bad for what it signifies, but as to practical effect, will it do much more than change the signage on buildings and the words on official documents?

24

Bloix 02.24.14 at 3:12 pm

#19 – you know, after I hit “submit” I had the same thought.

#18 – The sole official language of Quebec is French. It is the official policy of the province to enact laws and regulations that will make French “the normal and everyday language of work, instruction, communication, commerce and business.” Civil servants must speak French; there is no requirement that they speak English. And English is discriminated against in numerous other ways, justified by the belief that French requires legal protection and promotion if it is to survive in Canada. Lithuania, another state that was subjected to Soviet rule, looked to Quebec as a model for its language policy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_of_the_French_Language#Official_language

So perhaps your example of Canada doesn’t quite support the argument you’re making.

#14 – “but you have to recognize all the people who are now permanently settled on the territory as full members with equal standing”

Well, we often say that people “have to” do something when of course they don’t have to do it at all. Presumably you mean that the Ukrainians have to do it unless they choose to violate the Russian-speaking minority’s human rights. But if we as outsiders are going to lecture to Ukrainians on what they “have to” do, we should at least acknowledge the strong emotional reasons they have for not doing it.

And the problem for Ukrainians is not merely the historic wounds. It’s the present animus to the Ukrainian project presented by many in the Russian-speaking minority. Most Russo-phones identify ethnically as Russians, not Ukrainians, and many, perhaps most, of these are opposed to Ukrainian nation-building. And they have the support of the large, powerful, and hostile Russian state right next door.

If recognition of linguistic rights for the minority threatens the national aspirations of the majority, is it obvious that only full linguistic rights for all is morally acceptable? Maybe your response is yes, but you should at least acknowledge that it’s a genuine issue.

25

Alex K. 02.24.14 at 3:41 pm

Bloix – “And the problem for Ukrainians is not merely the historic wounds. It’s the present animus to the Ukrainian project presented by many in the Russian-speaking minority. Most Russo-phones identify ethnically as Russians, not Ukrainians, and many, perhaps most, of these are opposed to Ukrainian nation-building.”

I’d like to see some evidence of this beyond the Crimea. Could it be that many Ukrainian Russophones are only opposed to what they see as unacceptable flaws in the Ukrainian national project? I have yet to see an opinion poll indicating that Ukraine’s Russian-speaking areas favor joining Russia (again, excepting Crimea).

26

Alex DeLange 02.24.14 at 4:07 pm

Isn’t it really about the message that this “action” sends, rather than what its pragmatic consequences are? We all know (I hope) that throughout our history, language (differences thereof, no matter how small they are… or in fact, the smaller they are, the more fierce the animosity tends to be) has routinely been the element that ignites ethnic frenzies and conflicts.

And the “other nations did the same” argument… please, seriously. Let’s encourage the West Bank settlements too while we are at it, then.

27

TM 02.24.14 at 4:22 pm

Vanya: “There is no compelling humanistic reason why Galicia, Crimea, Transcarpathia, and traditional Ukraine need to coexist in a single polity that was created by the Soviet Union for administrative reasons.”

You are right, there are no “humanistic reasons” for the particular shape of this political entity, and the same is true of every other state in the world: none of them were created for humanistic reasons.

Btw I think this is a good time to remind everybody that “Political systems and national boundaries are becoming more stable over time, not less.” (http://crookedtimber.org/2014/02/15/the-tooth-fairy-and-the-traditionality-of-modernity/) And also that:
“many, though not all, of those nationalist questions were settled, by the movement of populations.” (http://crookedtimber.org/2014/02/15/the-tooth-fairy-and-the-traditionality-of-modernity/#comment-513136)

28

TM 02.24.14 at 4:29 pm

Josh 17: “Nationalism is the only power strong enough to stand up to Davos Man and challenge the power of global financial capital.”

Absolutely, and I can without immediately name a dozen of examples illustrating the point: People motivated by nationalism to challenge the power of global financial capital.

Like, ahem, …. France? Spain? Greece? Hungary? Lithuania? Germany?? United States? China perhaps?

Actually I can’t name one. Maybe you can?

29

stevenjohnson 02.24.14 at 4:39 pm

The first essential rule for understanding the situation is that every one who talks about genocide is a political criminal, ranging from common swindler to cryptofascist apologist. This was the favorite tack of the obscene Yushchenko, who proved to humanity’s amazement that there could be worse than Kravchuk and Kuchma. There are no exceptions to this rule.

The second essential rule is that street violence has created the current government, and likely to radically mutate or disappear at any moment. The economic collapse that squeezed the oligarchs and led to Yanukovych’s desperate turn to Russia last November has not disappeared. The real political players in Ukraine are those with money, which means primarily the US. Don’t pretend to forget public knowledge. (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37599.htm ) The oligarchs of course have money but the Tymoshenkos and the Akhmetovs are part of the problem, and the Yanukovyches are desperately trying to make a deal. Fascist streetfighters have overthrown a government with US and EU support, with the approval of middle class liberals like the CT collective.

The third rule is that Putin and Russia are weak and are not going to be able to intervene effectively. Putin believes in capitalism, deluding himself that Russia, his personal fiefdom, can have it’s own empire. His ideological blinders have disarmed him for a struggle against imperialism. I doubt that he’s ever read any Western SF steampunk. Steampunk’s setting in a revival of pre-WWI capitalism is a reactionary dream world, an expression of social decay of which Putin himself is a symptom. Sharing that same dream world, however unconsciously, will inevitably lead to Putin’s alleged competence to fail. Panic at the apocalyptic shattering of his fantasies will likely expose his fundamental lack of common courage as well.

30

TM 02.24.14 at 4:40 pm

Blix 24: You are quite correct about Quebec. The difference though is that Quebec is NOT a sovereign state. Canada is. Ukraine is (at least on paper). It has always been held against Quebec nationalists that they clamored for minority rights within Canada while refusing to grant same to their own minorities. The contorted justifications they came up simply prove the utter logical incoherence of nationalist thinking. E.g. “If you have the right to secede from Canada, why wouldn’t West Montreal have the right to secede from Quebec?” “Because West Montreal is not a province.” Hmmm…

The issue of minority rights in Ukraine is not just a gesture. Repealing that law, apart from being “not nice”, was utterly foolish. Ukraine will have to come to terms with Russia, there’s no alternative.

31

Crickets Chirpping 02.24.14 at 5:06 pm

Steven,

from info clearing house, really?:

“Information Clearing House – What is it about America’s women diplomats? They seem so hard and cloned – bereft of any humanity or intelligence. Presumably, these women are supposed to represent social advance for the female gender. But, far from displaying female independence, they are just a pathetic copy of the worst traits in American male politicians – aggressive, arrogant and completely arrant in their views.

Take Victoria Nuland – the US Assistant Secretary of State – who was caught using obscene language in a phone call about the European Union and the political affairs of Ukraine. Now in her new role of covertly rallying anti-government protesters in Ukraine, Nuland has emerged to sound like a bubblegum-chewing Mafia doll. “

um … OK. I’d be more likely to get an honest assessment of obamacare on littlegreenfootballs …

32

mds 02.24.14 at 5:57 pm

Being able to define a national language is one of the basic perquisites of state sovereignty.

Despite the best efforts of racist reactionaries, the USA lacks an official national language. Does that mean the United States also lacks state sovereignty? Because if so, I for one would gladly welcome our new Scandanavian overlords.

33

LFC 02.24.14 at 6:28 pm

@stevenjohnson

“The first essential rule”
“The second essential rule”

There are no “essential rules” for understanding this kind of situation. At best, there are some rules-of-thumb that have to be modified with the context. Anyone who uses — or even misuses or uses loosely, as you appear to be doing — the phrase “essential rule” here disqualifies himself or herself from being taken seriously.

Re: Putin’s “ideological blinders have disarmed him for a struggle against imperialism.”
Yes, too bad Putin doesn’t adhere to the official ideology of the former USSR. If he did he would be ideologically prepared to wage the battle against “imperialism,” as represented by the EU, and also wage the battle against “middle class liberals like the CT collective.” Actually, the “CT collective” usu. does not take collective positions; each poster speaks for him/herself. (As you would prob. know if you did something other than drive-by Stalinist apologetics.)

34

roy belmont 02.24.14 at 6:42 pm

Nuland suce alimentation de la puissante sans principes moraux pas du tout.

35

TM 02.24.14 at 7:03 pm

Psst, don’t feed the you-know-who…

36

Jeff Martin 02.24.14 at 7:45 pm

Saw the news this morning that this annulment bill had passed, a bill that went farther than it needed to go, realized that my in-laws were second-class citizens in their own country, and pulled Andrew Wilson’s Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: A Minority Faith from the bookshelf. Having re-read a good chunk of it this morning, the following passages seem apposite:

Ukrainian nationalists and anti-nationalist and Russophone groups in eastern and southern Ukraine have radically different conceptions of what is meant by a civic state. The latter understand by the concept ‘the people of Ukraine’ a recognition that modern Ukraine is a multiethnic society, and a promise that the Ukrainian polity should be either multi-ethnic or anational in recognition of this fact. In a true multiethnic state, the ‘development of the national culture, language, and traditions of the Ukrainian people’ would go hand in hand with that of other peoples, without any group ‘interfering with the rights of others’, and no individual ethnic group or region (ie. Galicia) would be allowed to set themselves up as the ‘official standard (etalon) for the whole state’. ‘Civic patriotism’ would be acceptable, but ‘ethnic patriotism can (only) lead to inter-ethnic conflict’. Alternatively, an anational Ukrainian polity would enshrine the absolute ‘equality of all citizens, regardless of nationality’ and the supremacy of individual over group rights, and ‘refrain from asserting the priority of one language, nation, or culture’ over another. ‘Without the free individual’, it is argued, ‘there can be no free state’. [all quotes from early nineties political tracts originating in eastern Ukraine] (snip)

Ukrainian nationalists, however, tend to deny that Ukraine is a multinational state at all. Moreover, their argument draws on three of the same concepts that underlie Baltic and other forms of ethno-nationalism: namely, the idea of ‘homeland’ and the special rights of the indigenous people, the right to cultural self-preservation and (to a much lesser extent) the notion of forcible incorporation into the Soviet state and the consequent illegitimacy of subsequent changes to national demographics or patterns of language use. (snip)

Therefore Russian and other minorities in Ukraine can make on claim for privileged treatment. Only the Crimean Tatars and the tiny Karaim community (also native to Crimea) deserve special consideration, because they are the only other peoples who have no homeland outside Ukraine. (snip)

On the contrary, therefore, it is the Ukrainians who should have special rights as the indigenous people (in Ukrianian korinnii narod, or ‘rooted people’) in their one and only national homeland, which is, moreover, a trust from God which they are morally obligated to retain and to nurture. (quotes from Mykhailo Horyn’, 1994) (snip) Alongside the liberal nationalism formally proclaimed in party programmes and documents, many nationalists are in practice advocating a form of ‘ethnic-led territorialism’, involving elements of both civic liberalism and ethnic supremacism. That is, their liberal or ‘territorial’ approach to questions of citizenship and minority rights in predicated on the assumption that minorities remain minorities, and that the rights of the indigenous nation to cultural and political leadership in its own backyard are not questioned. (snip)

Ukrainianization

Even before independence in 1991, a fierce argument had begun over the extent to which Ukraine should be ‘Ukrainianized’, in particular the question of how far the Ukrainian language should predominate. For the vast majority of Ukrainian nationalists, linguistic Ukrainianization is simply the reversal of historical injustice. The domination of the ‘Russian language in the eastern and southern oblasts of Ukraine did not happen by itself. The Russification of these regions is the result of the persistent migration and language policies of Russian tsars and and Kremlin ideologues. The majority in (these regions) are Ukrainian, who have lost their language and culture as a result of the colonial status of Ukraine’. As Ukrainian is the only true indigenous language in Ukraine (apart from Crimean Tatar), for nationalists Ukrainianization is more accurately described as ‘de-Russification’, that is the reversion to a more natural status-quo ante. Moreover, as outlined above, it is argued that the sheer extent of “Russification’ threatens the very survival of the Ukrainian language. The Ukrainians have supposedly become a ‘population, not a people’, a ‘multilingual tower of Babel’, who find themselves in the position of the black majority in apartheid South Africa, ‘with a (Russian-speaking) minority having usurped power, despising and oppressing the national majority’. (quotes from various pieces appearing in Literaturna Ukraina in 1994-95)

Ukrainian nationalists are also fond of the Herderian argument that a nation’s language embodies its own special genius and unique contribution to global civilization. (snip) Moreover, language ‘does not arise only for communication… language is, as it were, a type of collective outlook on the world’. ‘Language makes an individual an individual’. And individual who loses his language therefore loses contact with his true self. ‘Language is above all psychology, it is related to genetics.’ (snip) (quotes from Pavlo Movchan, Mova – yavyshche kosmichne, pp. 149, 138-9)

The logic of such arguments is that the Ukrainian people have a collective right to the preservation of their own language that should, if necessary, take precedence over individual preferences in language use, as is implied when today’s nationalists quote Mykola Skrypnyk’s dictum of the 1920s: ‘as the tide of history has moved for 300 years towards Russification, so let us turn it back in the opposite direction for thirty years’. In the crucial area of language politics, therefore, Ukrainian nationalists once again tend to give out mixed signals. Although both the Ukrainian languages law of 1989 and the 1991 declaration on the rights of nationalities guaranteed individuals ‘the right to use their native languages freely in all areas of social life’, nationalists consistently argue that the Ukrainian tongue should enjoy special privileges on its ‘ancient land’. ‘Only the language of this (indigenous) ethnos’, it is claimed, ‘has the legal right to play the role of a state language’. (quotes from deputy ed. minister Anatolii Pohribnyi, in Literaturna Ukraina, and Larysa Masenko, ‘Ofitsiina = derzhavna’, also from Literaturna Ukraina)

Ukrainian nationalists tend to assume that Ukrainianization will be a relatively simple, even natural, process. On the one hand, Ukraine’s ethnic Russian minority, despite its undoubted size, remains a minority, and should defer to the rights in the indigenous language and culture. On the other hand, most nationalists have derived from Khvyl’ovyi or Dontsov the view that Russophone Ukrainian culture is essentially artificial. It therefore tends to be assumed that ‘re-Ukrainianization’ policies will automatically be welcomed by the ‘denationalized’, those ethnic Ukrainians who have supposedly been severed forcibly from their mother tongue, but who remain in essence Ukrainian. Both assumptions are questionable.

The Russian minority is likely to contest its immigrant status, arguing that, outside Western Ukraine, they too are indigenes with a long history of continuous settlement, particularly in the east and south. (snip)

Moreover, the nationalist assumptions that collective loyalties are always at heart ethnic and irrevocably set at birth, and that Russophone Ukrainians will therefore necessarily welcome Ukrainianization policies are also highly debatable. Many Russophone Ukrainians are not ‘Russified’ at all, in the sense that they never had much of a previous Ukrainian identity to lose. (snip)

Many of these claims of the Ukrainian nationalist mythology seem rather brownish to me; and if they’re not obviously brown, they certainly lend themselves to brown uses. Moreover, to the extent that these sentiments are enacted in policy, they merely reproduce some part of what their adherents assert as their own victimization; the simultaneous condemnation and turnabout can be justified only by some claim of special privilege, moral and otherwise – a claim rather dubious on numerous grounds. Then again, the notion that some cultures and peoples must be broken, in order to establish others’ nationhood, strikes me as retrograde.

37

roy belmont 02.24.14 at 7:56 pm

Max Blumenthal at alternet
https://tinyurl.com/mlt762l
Is the US Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

For those discerning minds who find the squalid reaches of informationclearinghouse beneath them.

38

Heckler N Koch 02.24.14 at 8:25 pm

“Hard luck on ethnic Russians who might need to learn Ukrainian, but nation-building is never a pretty process.”

I don’t think this is what’s normally understood as “nation-building”. It’s the creation of democratic institutions, not eradication of unwanted dialects. Case in point: Switzerland.

39

bob mcmanus 02.24.14 at 8:58 pm

FDL …has finally gotten me interested. Ian Welsh is also on it.

In comments:

58: “So. Just to be clear. ADM buys intelligence from Stratfor, who employs revolutionary trainers CANVAS who were involved in the Orange Revolution in 2004 and presumably today as well. ” ADM = Archer-Daniels-Midland

59: “Looks like Cargill bought a percentage of a local company rather than buying up land. Funny how that happened just before Yanukovych was deposed. Amazing, even.”

Cargill was buyin’ and buildin’ in Egypt just before Tahrir Square and the fall of Mubarek.

40

teraz kurwa my 02.24.14 at 9:33 pm

Absolutely, and I can without immediately name a dozen of examples illustrating the point: People motivated by nationalism to challenge the power of global financial capital.

Like, ahem, …. France? Spain? Greece? Hungary? Lithuania? Germany?? United States? China perhaps?

Actually I can’t name one. Maybe you can?

Pretty much every third world left wing movement. And those movements also tend to rail against the cultural hegemony of the relevant imperialist power. To the extent that there is a minority local population of either settlers or locals assimilated into the imperial power’s culture it is not unusual for left wing liberation movements to seek to discriminate against that formerly dominant culture in favor of a real or invented local culture.

41

TM 02.24.14 at 9:35 pm

Distorting Russia – How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine.
http://www.thenation.com/article/178344/distorting-russia

“American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.”

I can believe this. During the Cold War, there was at least a widespread understanding that one needs to be well informed about the enemy.

42

Alex 02.24.14 at 9:39 pm

“Parliament just annulled a bill permitting Russian to be an official language in regions with largely Russian-speaking populations. That’s a clear sign that the new Ukraine does not regard all its citizens are equals and as genuine members of the state”

About 1/3 of the people who speak Russian aren’t Ukrainian citizens. There’s no reason they should they regard foreigners as genuine members of the state. The only region with a largely Russian-speaking population once you exclude these is Sevastopol, which about the same size as Stoke.

43

The Temporary Name 02.24.14 at 9:50 pm

About 1/3 of the people who speak Russian aren’t Ukrainian citizens. There’s no reason they should they regard foreigners

So…about 2/3 ARE Ukrainian citizens.

44

TM 02.24.14 at 9:50 pm

teraz: “Pretty much every third world left wing movement.”

Why not name names, and see how anti-capitalist they actually are and what role nationalism actually plays in each case. “And those movements also tend to rail against the cultural hegemony of the relevant imperialist power.” And that has nothing to do with “challeng(ing) the power of global financial capital”. Nationalism has always been about replacing one allegedly foreign elite with a different, allegedly national elite. These struggles have rarely involved the emancipatory potential projected on them by desperate metropolitan leftists.

45

teraz kurwa my 02.24.14 at 10:00 pm

To take some from America’s near abroad, Castro and Chavez.

46

Roy 02.24.14 at 10:10 pm

I love how this is all about how fascist the Ukrainian nationalists are. Fascism is an extreme form of Nationalism. Any form of National feeling is on a road to fascism, but there is not one state on Earth that isn’t based in some way on Nationalism.

Considering that this all happened because Russia was strong-arming Ukraine, and Russia is far further along on the fascist side of the nationalism spectrum than many states, it is interesting that it is Ukrainian Nationalism that is suspect. A nationalism that has done very little, so far, to make itself odious since its independence, while the Russians have carved off territories from neighboring states, and are currently using force to crush minority groups.

47

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 10:23 pm

About 1/3 of the people who speak Russian aren’t Ukrainian citizens.

Really? That seems implausible. At least half the population can speak Russian, and a quarter speak Russian as their primary language. I know Putin loves to give out Russian passports, but . . .

48

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 11:06 pm

Tm @ 43: These struggles have rarely involved the emancipatory potential projected on them by desperate metropolitan leftists.

Maybe. If you’re using leftist utopianism as a standard, then sure it doesn’t always work out that well, but that’s a statement about the limits of utopianism, as much as it is about the limits of nationalism. Governments of humans don’t become governments of angels.

Since it’s been discussed already on this thread, the ascendancy of French identity in Quebec after WWII, displacing the long dominant English-speaking business and political elite of Montreal, accomplished a transformation in the economic prospects of the French-speaking population.

It is a common-place among American liberals to attribute the success of the Scandinavian social democratic model in part to the social, ethnic and linguistic homogeneity of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and to contrast that with the political animosities and resentments attending the heritage of racial divides in the U.S.

We’ve recently referenced in several discussions on CT, the failings of British colonial government, which could be attributed in large part to the absence of political solidarity between rulers and ruled, with outcomes as extreme as an Gorta Mór ( Irish Potato Famine) or the Bengal Famine of 1943.

Its pretty to think that the multi-ethnic, linguistically diverse state adhering to abstract high principle is practical, but the record is mixed at best. Hungarians loved a Greater Hungary, where they were on top, but it wasn’t that great for other ethnic groups. Belgium barely coheres. Scotland would swim away from England, if it were possible.

The primary problem in the Ukraine isn’t ethnic, it’s economic: the corruption attendant particularly on natural gas and the power of a handful of oligarchs, which makes it difficult to establish a trustworthy political leadership. In frustration with the elite corruption, parties with the most fierce nationalist loyalties and commitments have a comparative advantage in their political solidarity. I don’t think that’s winning out, at the moment, despite the hysteria and “fascists”. Many more Ukrainians would like to believe the EU promises of (neo)liberal institutional reform, despite the ample evidence to the contrary.

49

Tabasco 02.24.14 at 11:11 pm

So what are the chances that Russia sends in some troops to protect ethnic Russians, a la Turkey in Cyprus 1974?

50

Bruce Wilder 02.24.14 at 11:27 pm

I think Russia is likely to accept many small humiliations as long as the prospects of some large payments in hard currency is in prospect. In the short-run, they’ll play for money over territory, because they need the money more than the territory, and because they’re likely to be much more realistic about the Ukraine’s long-term prosperity under EU tutelage. If the EU and the U.S. do a deal that pays down some of Ukraine’s debts to Russia, rescuing the Russian banks and Gazprom, the Russians will go along. If the EU encourages Ukraine default, things will get nasty in a hurry. Putin is smart enough, and has enough options, that, as long as total chaos doesn’t ensue of itself, he will try to play the EU like a fiddle.

Best case scenario for Russia is that the Russians get paid something on the gas debts, and the EU runs Ukraine’s economy into the ditch and there’s still another political upheaval in a few years, in which Russia can be a more credible savior. I think Russia plays for best case. We’ll know quickly, because Russia will face the temptation of Crimea. If Russia refrains from taking over Crimea or encouraging its bid for nominal independence under a Russian instead of Ukrainian umbrella, then we know Russia is playing the long game, counting on the EU to screw Ukraine.

51

notsneaky 02.24.14 at 11:35 pm

@4

True. The annoying part that just from point of view of pure strategy it’s a dumb move, just providing propaganda fodder for those who want to depict the Ukrainian protesters as crazy.

How is Lithuanian policy compatible with Article 14 of EHCR?

It’s not, though I don’t think it has found its way to ECHR yet though it might in the near future

http://en.efhr.eu/2014/01/14/efhr-on-bilingual-street-signs-issue-and-related-financial-fines/

52

The Temporary Name 02.24.14 at 11:45 pm

So what are the chances that Russia sends in some troops to protect ethnic Russians, a la Turkey in Cyprus 1974?

You mean a la Transnistria and Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

53

js. 02.24.14 at 11:56 pm

It is a common-place among American liberals to attribute the success of the Scandinavian social democratic model in part to the social, ethnic and linguistic homogeneity of Sweden, Norway and Denmark

The fact that it’s a commonplace doesn’t mean that it’s true. And certainly not in a counterfactually robust sense. Moreover, if you look beyond Europe, you can easily find multiethnic states (maybe even nations) that aren’t at all riven by existential crises. More generally, the conflation of state or even national sovereignty with ethno-nationalism seems both a disaster and completely unforced by the empirical evidence.

54

Matt 02.25.14 at 12:14 am

It is a common-place among American liberals to attribute the success of the Scandinavian social democratic model in part to the social, ethnic and linguistic homogeneity of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and to contrast that with the political animosities and resentments attending the heritage of racial divides in the U.S.

Is it really a common-place among American liberals? I can’t recall it as a common sentiment on this or any other blog I’ve read with a significant American liberal readership. I have heard it frequently among paleoconservatives and right wing populist types though. “We could have glorious Scandinavian living in the US too if everyone were a white English speaker!” Or, a slightly different take on the sentiment, “Scandinavian social welfare in the US would impoverish real Americans to lift up resentful moochers, so don’t even dream that we could learn from that model.”

I have heard people talk here about how racial/language/ethnic animosity has been promoted in the US to divide and conquer labor, but I don’t think that is the same as attributing the success of the Scandinavian social democratic model to ethnic homogeneity. The latter view seems to take ethnic conflict as a sort of natural fact but political conflict as avoidable, provided everyone in a polity shares ethnicity. This latter view doesn’t seem very plausible to me in light of history. People high in a hierarchy and those much lower in it have differing interests whether or not they like the same foods, speak the same language, recite the same creed, and look roughly the same when stripped of clothing and surroundings.

55

Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 12:20 am

js @ 53

OK, look beyond Europe and name names.

56

Walt 02.25.14 at 12:21 am

It’s a commonplace among American conservatives, not liberals.

57

Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 12:21 am

Matt @ 54

Read Krugman

58

jwl 02.25.14 at 12:28 am

Jeff Martin,

Exactly how are your in-laws now second class citizens? Were they second-class citizens before 2010, when this law was passed? Were they first-class citizens before 1991? Where do they live, and how are their rights being infringed? It would be useful to know, just to know where you are coming from.

“Moreover, their argument draws on three of the same concepts that underlie Baltic and other forms of ethno-nationalism: namely, the idea of ‘homeland’ and the special rights of the indigenous people, the right to cultural self-preservation and (to a much lesser extent) the notion of forcible incorporation into the Soviet state and the consequent illegitimacy of subsequent changes to national demographics or patterns of language use. (snip)”

All of these are rights recognized by the UN, I believe. Indigenous groups do have special rights, people do have a right to cultural self-preservation, and forcible incorporation and ethnic cleansing are all discussed heavily in international law.

” The domination of the ‘Russian language in the eastern and southern oblasts of Ukraine did not happen by itself. The Russification of these regions is the result of the persistent migration and language policies of Russian tsars and and Kremlin ideologues. The majority in (these regions) are Ukrainian, who have lost their language and culture as a result of the colonial status of Ukraine’.”

It’s hard for me to tell, but do you actually disagree with this statement?

One more thing: ” Then again, the notion that some cultures and peoples must be broken, in order to establish others’ nationhood, strikes me as retrograde.” You do realize this is expressly Russian state policy, which does not recognize a separate Ukrainian or Belarussian linguistic identity and allows no Ukrainian or Belarussian language education in Russia? The current government in Russia refuses to admit the separate cultural nationhood of Ukrainians, calls Russians and Ukranians “one people”, and even seems to believe a separate Ukrainian cultural identity is harmful to the Russian nation.

59

TM 02.25.14 at 12:31 am

Most of what is considered commonplace turns out to be BS. That’s not a very good argument all by itself, I admit, but it’s at least better than yours, by a few orders of magnitude.

Sometimes CT just gives me the blues.

60

Tabasco 02.25.14 at 12:32 am

52

Sending the troops in to protect (justifiably or as a pretext) ethnic groups in your own country is one thing; doing it in another country raises the stakes considerably.

61

js. 02.25.14 at 12:41 am

OK, look beyond Europe and name names.

I’m sorry, names of multiethnic states that are not riven by existential conflicts? Are you serious? Of course, I’m not going to be able to provide names of multiethnic states that are robust welfare states, but that’s at least in good measure due to the countries in question not being rich enough. At bottom, what I’m objecting to is the idea that national identification, in a relatively strong sense, has to line up with ethnic identification. The examples here are so obvious that I’m genuinely embarrassed to mention them.

(On another note, one might note that the major faultlines of ‘Other’-designations in the US don’t fall along ethnic divides, in any obvious sense. So, it’s not even clear to me how ethnic identifications or categorizations help explain the US phenomena you want to explain.)

62

The Temporary Name 02.25.14 at 12:46 am

Sending the troops in to protect (justifiably or as a pretext) ethnic groups in your own country is one thing

Or it’s four things.

63

The Temporary Name 02.25.14 at 12:51 am

Brain not work right. Transnistria is no longer exactly Moldova. Abkhazia and South Ossetia were Georgian. And bits of Ukraine here and there, we shall see.

64

Jeff Martin 02.25.14 at 12:52 am

jwl,

I’ve written in a previous thread, approximately one month ago, about some of the absurd and petty consequences of the pre-2010 law on languages in Ukraine, consequences endured by my wife and her friends, etc. For having done so, I received some less-than-charitable responses. However, when someone in a region of the country that doesn’t share the same national history as the majority receives only that majority’s national myth throughout her schooling, and is forced to take her exams in that majority’s language, defend her thesis in that language, interact with the government in that language, and has her name converted into the form its is given in that language – well, yes, it kinda does communicate a less-than-equal status. It says, “you people had the whip hand, and now we do.” These are comparatively small things, certainly; but the Wilson passages I quoted above make manifest that this policy is emphatically not about bilingualism – it is quite plainly in opposition to it – but about linguistic conversion. Notwithstanding all of the questions of how nation-states were formed, how their citizens come to be invested in them, and so forth, I’m just not persuaded by any of this – people just have the identities they have, speak the languages they do, and trying to coerce them out of those things is an act of cultural violence. That one group did it to the other in the past, and does it now in its own country, doesn’t make it right in reverse. It just makes them both wrong. Maybe that makes me a naive DFH. Peoples do have a right of cultural self-preservation; that’s plainly not what’s in view in the discourse of Ukrainian nationalism, which argues that they must Ukrainianize non-Ukrainians and Russophones in order to accomplish this end – which sounds like flirting with the incorporation of other peoples. Again, neither the Ukrainians nor the Russians should be undertaking this sort of thing.

It’s hard for me to tell, but do you actually disagree with this statement?

I do. Wilson actually states, in the conclusion to his book, that the Ukrainian nationalist narrative is pretty weak where the east and south of the country are concerned, more or less implying that both peoples share a history in the region – except for the Crimea, which basically just flipped from Tatar to Russian without ever being Ukrainian. Besides, one would be hard pressed to argue that the borders of contemporary Ukraine are contiguous with the historical Ukrainian ethnos, for all manner of reasons.

65

Matt 02.25.14 at 1:24 am

Bruce Wilder, I’m not a regular Krugman reader. I just searched his blog for the terms Swedish, Sweden, Nordic, Norway, Norwegian, Denmark, Danish, homogeneity, Scandinavian, and so far I have yet to see Krugman crediting homogeneity for the success of social safety nets in that part of the world. Do you have a particular column in mind?

As for non-European countries, multi-ethnic, not recently riven by existential crises, I might name Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia, Ghana, and Mozambique. I don’t know if those would count by your metric but they are ethnically diverse and none appear (to me) existentially threatened.

66

Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 1:37 am

Walt @ 56: It’s a commonplace among American conservatives, not liberals.

Among liberals, it’s usually framed as . . . racism is why we can’t have nice things.

67

Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 1:38 am

Isn’t the framing ‘racism is why black Americans cant have nice things’ ?

68

Jeff Martin 02.25.14 at 1:45 am

Sometimes, I think, the framing is broader: poor whites deny themselves things – by voting GOP, etc – just so they can be sure blacks don’t get them.

69

Roy 02.25.14 at 1:49 am

67,

No the framing is that’s why white liberals can’t have nice things. Believe me it is very common. And nice things extends from a single payer to clean toilets on the interstate. They then point to Sweden, but just assume it is a happy little utopia without any social problems.

Having family there who are basically hillbillies, very nice hillbillies though, they refuse to believe me when I point out how Sweden doesn’t work that way.

70

Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 1:55 am

Yeah but Sweden’s hillbillies are nice, ya’see !

71

Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 1:56 am

Matt @ 65 multi-ethnic, not recently riven by existential crises, I might name Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia, Ghana, and Mozambique.

You have a weird definition of not riven, or are very badly informed.

72

Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 1:59 am

js @ 61 I’m sorry, names of multiethnic states that are not riven by existential conflicts? Are you serious? Of course, I’m not going to be able to provide names of multiethnic states that are robust welfare states . . .

!

73

Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 2:04 am

I think there’s probably something to the idea that building the welfare state in ethnically divided countries is .. more difficult (?) I dont know enough to know how far I’d go with that, but there is some need for national solidarity and a feeling for a common community, afaict. Of course those things exist in multi ethnic societies (and I don’t think ethnically divided countries lurch from existential crisis to existential crisis – which I dont think Bruce said in fairness) but it’s clear that in certain contexts political actors can exploit ethnic differences for political purposes.
So to my mind there’s probably something to the claims about Scandanavia, but then again I wouldnt know so am probably wrong.

74

Matt 02.25.14 at 2:34 am

Bruce, I think you may have a weird definition of existential crises. I’ve given some specific examples, how about you provide some specific counter-argument, say for the proposition that Brazil faces an existential crisis along ethnic lines. I don’t believe that votes for secession, mass protests, or armed conflict are likely to soon dissolve any of the states I’ve named into new ethnically homogenized polities.

75

jwl 02.25.14 at 2:36 am

Jeff Martin,

“However, when someone in a region of the country that doesn’t share the same national history as the majority receives only that majority’s national myth throughout her schooling, and is forced to take her exams in that majority’s language, defend her thesis in that language, interact with the government in that language, and has her name converted into the form its is given in that language – well, yes, it kinda does communicate a less-than-equal status. It says, “you people had the whip hand, and now we do.” These are comparatively small things, certainly.”

What you are talking about here is your wife and her friends, not your in-laws, who apparently are beyond taking exams. I’ll repeat, where do your in-laws live, and is it true that they cannot communicate with the government in Russian, which I assume is the language you are referring to? (I assume your in-laws aren’t members of the Hungarian, Bulgarian, or Roma minorities.) Do your wife and in-laws not speak Ukrainian, or refuse to speak it on principle? I would also note that your wife and her friends almost certainly went to school in Russian (which everyone in Ukraine is required to take and demonstrate some proficiency in).

I understand the annoyance of having your name as “Oleh” instead of “Oleg” or “Halyna” instead of “Galina”, and I can also understand not liking the particular slant of your textbooks. But is your view that the ability of your in-laws to communicate with the government in the language of their choice compromised?

How exactly is this policy in contravention of bilingualism? The Russian language hasn’t been outlawed. Every person is still required to take it in school. Are people harassing those who speak Russian in public? (In the east, in the cities, it seems like this is much more likely to happen to people speaking Ukrainian.) Under Yanukovich, the authorities actively tried to limit Ukrainian-language schooling in the east. Is your model of bilingualism that some people speak only Ukrainian and some people speak only Russian?

The reason the policy of Russia towards Ukrainian matters is that political actors in the east are actively trying to align state policy with Russia. When the state in question refuses to recognize Ukrainian national and cultural rights, that has to be seen as a hostile act to those who feel those are important. Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens may view Ukrainian-speakers as bullies, but Ukrainian-speakers view those Russian speakers as aligned with a much bigger bully who wishes to wipe them out, and historically tried to make good on that threat.

It would be good for the political development of Ukraine if Russian speakers in Ukraine expressly avoided talk of separatism, stopped visiting Moscow and complaining about Ukrainian speakers, and claimed an indigenous Russian-Ukrainian identity. Developing their own media and not relying on Kremlin-controlled media that disparages the very idea of “Ukraine” would also be nice. After all, “horod”, “chto”, and Surzhyk are authentically Ukrainian!

76

js. 02.25.14 at 2:38 am

Bruce,

You want the name of a non-European multiethnic state not riven by existential crises? India (post-Partition, obviously). If you think this is wrong, please do enlighten me as to how.

What I’m still not seeing from you or Josh G. or anyone else is one single thing to suggest that national and ethnic identifications are isomorphic in a counterfactually robust way. In fact, this seems like a bizarre thesis to me, and I don’t see how you could defend it without diluting the notion of an ethnos to a point where it doesn’t have any explanatory power. So again, please enlighten me. Exclamation points, unfortunately, are not very enlightening.

The thing is, the concept of ethnos doesn’t explain the US case. If you think it does, perhaps you’d be so kind as to identify the relevant ethnicities for me. I am unfortunately blanking. On the other hand, obviously, nationalisms in Europe developed along (what we today understand as) ethnic lines. So it’s little more than a tautology to point to Europe and note a coincidence of ethnos and polis.

77

jwl 02.25.14 at 2:44 am

One other point about the ethno-cultural Ukrainian sphere: it extends into a fair amount on Russia.

See this. Note the extensive Ukrainian settlement in the Kuban in Russia.

78

Blue Stater 02.25.14 at 3:05 am

@48 (Bruce Wilder)
Of course the counterexample to the economic, etc., successes of the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) being attributable to their linguistic and ethnic homogeneity is Finland, which has two cultures and two official languages (“Finland” is the Swedish form of what the Finnish Finns call “Suomi”) and is successful in many of the same ways, although economically not as well off because they have very few natural resources and have been under the actual or threatened thumb of Russia for a couple of hundred years. Yes, the Finns make a point of saying they’re not Scandinavian, but Nordic; I think that’s more a consequence of the fact that the Finnish Finns aren’t ethnically North Germanic. Canada is pretty successful, too (I’ve lived in Montreal), despite all the moaning you hear from the Anglos about the French “tyranny.” I think the US English/Spanish conflict is a lot more serious than the Canadian English/French conflict, and the subordinate languages (Spanish and French) have been spoken longer than English has been in either country.

79

ambzone 02.25.14 at 3:19 am

Much thanks to Bruce Wilder for providing moderating context to the usual charges against Quebec linguistic policy.

Even better for those interested would be to look for actual, you know, statistics.

Statistics about certain linguistic groups plotted against verifiable chunks of time.

Spoiler alert :

“French requires legal protection and promotion if it is to survive in Canada” (cf. Bloix)

80

john c. halasz 02.25.14 at 3:26 am

@77:

This is always the question: how far back into history do you want to go, and how much of that history is really currently relevant? (When Catherine the Great liquidated the main Ukrainian cossack group, many were relegated to the Kuban cossacks). And need I remind anyone that Russians and Ukrainians, in their language and much else, are closely related Slavic ethnic groups, and much of the ultra-nationalist discourse is about the “narcissism of small differences”?

81

Chris Bertram 02.25.14 at 7:27 am

Those banging on about how the Nordic countries have achieved what they have because of ethnic homogeneity rather seem to have forgotten (a) that they aren’t homogeneous now because of immigration but (b) they have long standing indigenous ethnic minorities: the Sami in Norway, Sweden and Finland and ethnic Swedes in Finland. Not pretending that everything is perfect, but the Sami do enjoy language rights and some measures of autonomy

82

Vanya 02.25.14 at 9:22 am

@80
Are you saying that we should therefore not take ethnic tension between Ukrainians and Russian seriously? Most violent ultra-nationalist discourse is about small differences, and often mythological differences. Serbs and Croats are the obvious example. Or why did 20th century German ultra-nationalists focus their hatred on European Jews, who mostly spoke German or a mutually intelligible dialect of German (Yiddish)? Why was there so much ethnic hatred in Bohemia between Czechs and Germans when the culture was practically the same, most educated Czechs, until 1945, were basically bilingual in Czech and German, and many Sudeten “Germans” had Czech ancestry? For that matter, there was a lot of violence in Silesia between Czechs and Poles in the 1930s, most of whom spoke a Silesian dialect at home and probably had to make a conscious decision to even decide if they were “Czech” or “Polish”. If history is a guide it may be very easy for Ukraine to slide onto a very violent path, even if none of this makes any sense to outsiders.

83

Sasha Clarkson 02.25.14 at 9:57 am

“The narcissism of small differences”

That’s an excellent phrase, but unfortunately it cuts both ways. Was Gogol Ukrainian or Russian? The answer is probably both. His works have a richness which draws on both the regional and imperial traditions.

However, as Vanya implies there are times when a section of a people want to adopt a simplified national myth which excludes others and denies a significant part of their own history. They then demand loyalty to this myth. If they can get control of the education system, they might be able, at least to try, to remould society in accordance with their particular fantasy. There’s a bit of this going on where I live, in Wales, at the moment. Some people buy it, and others resist it.

Obviously, personally I don’t think it’s desirable, but for this kind of cultural cleansing to work, you need to be the dominant power, and in a position to suppress the opposition, either by force or moral blackmail. These conditions don’t exist in Ukraine, so the only alternative to cultural pluralism is conflict.

84

Jeff Martin 02.25.14 at 12:25 pm

I’ll repeat, where do your in-laws live, and is it true that they cannot communicate with the government in Russian, which I assume is the language you are referring to?

My in-laws live in Sevastopol, which – yes – has a special status within the ‘Autonomous Republic of the Crimea’, which itself has a special status; however, in the past, the language laws I’m speaking of were applied to some degree in the Crimea – which is why my wife and friends had he experiences they had. The laws probably were not applied uniformly throughout the government sector, for obvious reasons; this was a grievance that Ukrainian nationalists had regarding the special status of the region; in turn, this was a factor feeding Crimean separatism. My mother-in-law speaks Russian, and can get by in Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Polish; my brother-in-law just speaks Russian; my wife speaks Russian and can get along in Ukrainian, for basic daily exchanges. But most people aren’t as facile with languages as my mother-in-law.

But is your view that the ability of your in-laws to communicate with the government in the language of their choice compromised?

With any level of government beyond the Crimea, yes. With the government in Crimea should the nationalists really endeavour to force the issue, yes – it’s a potential issue. When my wife first came to America, and wasn’t terribly proficient in English, and we had to interact with the INS – later CIS – they provided Russian translators. That doesn’t necessarily happen in Ukraine. Of course, with the nationalists attempting to proscribe the only political parties in Ukraine that represent Russians, the situation could deteriorate further.

How exactly is this policy in contravention of bilingualism?

Perhaps ‘bilingualism’ means something different to me than it does to you. I’d be perfectly content to see a version of the UN translators-through-the-headset thing if Russians and Ukrainians really need assistance in understanding the finer points of some issue in government and policymaking.

Are people harassing those who speak Russian in public? (In the east, in the cities, it seems like this is much more likely to happen to people speaking Ukrainian.)

Some of both happens, in the respective regions.

Is your model of bilingualism that some people speak only Ukrainian and some people speak only Russian?

Obviously not, given everything that I’ve written.

The reason the policy of Russia towards Ukrainian matters is that political actors in the east are actively trying to align state policy with Russia.

On the question of language policy, I’ve already stated that they should cease such attempts.

It would be good for the political development of Ukraine if Russian speakers in Ukraine expressly avoided talk of separatism, stopped visiting Moscow and complaining about Ukrainian speakers, and claimed an indigenous Russian-Ukrainian identity.

Well, this cuts both ways. The ascendant discourse of Ukrainian nationalism treats them as interlopers and colonists, which is an invidious rendering of an imagined history, where the east and south are concerned; some Russophones indeed have their own prejudices against Ukrainians that incline them to separatism, but the lion’s share of this talk owes to reaction against the Ukrainian nationalists. In point of fact, as Wilson points out in the quoted extracts above, most Russians and Russophones in Ukraine have always had an ‘indigenous Russian-Ukrainian identity’, understood in terms of a civic, non-ethnic patriotism; they have not hitherto – with the exception of some folks in Crimea – desired either separatism or reunion with Russia; what is changing that is precisely Svoboda, Pravy Sektor, & etc. I also note that Russian Ukrainians have hitherto maintained this civic patriotism in spite of their reliance on Russian media; they’ve easily disregarded many, if not all, of the biases of that media. Again, it’s the Ukrainian nationalists who are changing that. It must be understood that, except for this thin civic patriotism, and a recognition of the importance of existing economic ties to Russia, the Russophones have no real political philosophy or ideology; circumstances are pushing them to develop unhelpful ones. (Yes, the repeated tussling over the language question is the exception to this rule; but after independence, the Russophones proposed a civic patriotism as the solution to the question, only to have the Ukrainian nationalists reject it, and push for their own view on the language question. Since then, on that issue, the Russophones have resorted to the old Great Russianism.)

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Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 12:43 pm

re ethnic diversity

Interestingly, in an article in the LRB a while back Colin Kidd claimed:

“Sectarianism had done more to protect the working class in Northern Ireland than a powerless Labour Party had achieved in Britain after 1979. The Troubles helped keep Thatcherism at bay, so that in 1989 the journalist Ian Aitken could describe the province as the ‘Independent Keynesian Republic of Northern Ireland.”

So plausibly ethnic division could have all sorts of outcomes, depending on context. (adding I dont know how accurate the quoted statement is.)

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Sasha Clarkson 02.25.14 at 1:56 pm

Vanya’s post @3 gets to the heart of much of the issue. In particular ” … the inhabitants of Galicia in particular do not seem to share a common national vision with anyone else.” This is for understandable historical reasons. After the destruction of the Kievan Rus by Khan Batu, and later the collapse of the rule of the Golden Horde, Galicia was under the influence of Poland for far longer than any other region. In particular, its formally Orthodox Church became the Eastern Catholic church which plays a huge part in the cultural life of the region. Thus, although Poles are disliked as former overlords and oppressors, Polish rule helped mould Galician Ukrainian identity.

In the Kiev region however, Ukrainians continued to be orthodox and, after the Khmelnitsky Rebellion, reunited with Russia more or less voluntarily, although the degree of agreement has always been a matter of dispute. Nonetheless, this explains why the concept of what it means to be Ukrainian means such different things to different people who share a nominal identity: in particular that its is exclusive for some, but inclusive for others.

The statue of Bogdan Khmelnitsy is a prominent landmark in Kiev. I can’t help wondering wonder what will happen to that in the coming weeks and months – hopefully nothing.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogdan_Khmelnitsky

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hix 02.25.14 at 1:56 pm

Switzerland is doing alright and they dont even understand each other at all, since everyone now focuses on English as first foreign language and most dont get to a decent level in a third or fourth language. Ukrainian/Russian is a ridiculous made up conflict line. Those seem to be the forst. See Yugoslavia.

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Vanya 02.25.14 at 1:59 pm

@81, I agree that ethnic homogeneity is meaningless. Cultural homogeneity on the other hand probably does correlate very well with political stability and economic growth. The US is ethnically heterogenous but for the most part culturally homogeneous – all elites speak English; identification with American secular traditions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, Superbowl Sunday, etc.) is more important to most people than any particular religious or ethnic tradition; with the exception of Native Americans and maybe Mormons, American ethnic groups have no strong bond to any particular region of the country; and immigrant ties to their mother countries are usually attenuated by distance. China and Brazil (or Sweden or Finland) are also ethnically diverse but culturally homogeneous countries – there is a single clearly dominant culture and most people, regardless of ethnicity, identify with that culture. That is still true for the most part in Russia as well. Ukraine, like Bosnia, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, or pre-war Bohemia, is the opposite – these are ethnically homogeneous countries where cultural identities like “Russian/Ukrainian”, “Serb/Bosniak”, “Greek/Turk”,”Catholic/Protestant” or “Czech/German” are almost a matter of conscious choice, and were very fluid before the 19th century. A significant part of the population in these countries could probably produce a geneology that would justify either identity. Cultural heterogeneity in ethnically homogeneous countries seems to be very difficult to manage peacefully. Countries that manage it well, like Canada,Switzerland, or Belgium, do so by actually minimizing integration and allowing each culture to operate fairly autonomously in its own territorial and political sphere.

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mds 02.25.14 at 2:22 pm

TM @ 44:

teraz: “Pretty much every third world left wing movement.”

Why not name names, and see how anti-capitalist they actually are

teraz might be thinking of the Trotskyists of the Fourth National.

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teraz kurwa my 02.25.14 at 2:30 pm

86 All of Right Bank Ukraine remained part of Poland and majority Uniate (with large Roman Catholic, Jewish and Orthodox minorities) after Khmelnycky rebellion. That includes most of present day Kyiv province, though not the city. It was only during the late eighteenth century Partitions that Russia took over and banned the Uniate Church. Kyiv province voted about three to one for Tymoshenko in 2010, and Kyiv city about two to one. What sets Galicia apart is that it came under Austrian rule and the Austrians didn’t suppress the Uniate Church and weren’t especially hostile to Ukrainian nationalism, though the local Polish elites were very, very hostile. THen, along with Volhynia, they came under Polish rule in the interwar period The three Galician provinces (Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil) did provide about a quarter of Tymoshenko’s votes, however this can easily be flipped around since Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea provinces provided about two fifths of Yanukovich’s vote. Not coincidentally those are the three provinces where Russian speakers form a majority of the population.

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Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 3:14 pm

” I agree that ethnic homogeneity is meaningless. Cultural homogeneity on the other hand probably does correlate very well with political stability and economic growth “

Well even if this is true, isn’t ethnic homogenity going to collerate to some degree with cultural homogenity ? The ethnic differences subside as the main culture becomes dominant etc. Surely ethnic divisions and cultural heterogeneity are deeply entwined and difficult to seperate.
I’m not really pushing this too far as I dont really think it’s that important, and certainly not some class of general rule, but it’s certainly important in some contexts, at certain times etc. Certainly when you’re building representative governments it can be important, and by extension if you get the governance aspect right it can be less important, or so I’d guess. ( I’m reading this book ‘Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings’ by Frederic Wehrey who makes this point, that the rise of sectarianism is a result of the failure of representative government and manipulation by political actors, which afaik is the conventional wisdom on this subject. Also Northern Ireland, where the Troubles to some degree arose as the unrepresentative nature of the state was challenged, then the response in the important stages was unresponsive and heavy handed, and then more extreme elements could manipulate the situation and push their own ends. Or that’s my layman back of the envelope hypothesising anyway. So these things matter when they matter, I guess.)

“That is still true for the most part in Russia as well. Ukraine, like Bosnia, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, or pre-war Bohemia, is the opposite – these are ethnically homogeneous countries where cultural identities like “Russian/Ukrainian”, “Serb/Bosniak”, “Greek/Turk”,”Catholic/Protestant” or “Czech/German” are almost a matter of conscious choice, and were very fluid before the 19th century.”

Why are these cultural rather than ethnic divisions ? Is there some clear distinction ? I’d imagine a lot of identities were more fluid before the 19th century, or at least differently conceptualised so I’m not sure what ‘concious choice’ means here ?

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jwl 02.25.14 at 5:35 pm

Jeff Martin,

So your in-laws and relatives live in a place with guaranteed autonomy, completely dominated by Russian speakers, where the Party of Regions has 80 out of 100 seats in the legislature, where all government business is essentially done in Russian, the Russian state controls portions of the region through a powerful military presence, and they feel like 2nd class citizens? I understand the Ukrainian language activists are cunning, but it is amazing how your brother in law managed to be educated without learning Ukrainian at all.

In actually existing Crimea, Russian fascists hold open protests (e.g. Russian Front), attack Crimean Tatars and burn their houses and mosques. They make it extremely hard for Tatars and Ukrainians to get education in their native languages. “Brown” parties like Soyuz and Russian Unity have representatives in the Rada. Crimean Tatars are 2nd class citizens there, not Russian speakers. You are speaking of a possible future threat, while ignoring the existing fascists who operate now in Crimea.

The problem in Crimea is not fostering Russian, it is preventing the extirpation of any language besides Russian. I see no evidence that the Party of Regions is willing to tolerate any languages besides Russian in Crimea. It would be nice to see bilingualism in Crimea, but of course we don’t have that.

One other note: pravy sektor’s leader us from the east and Russian speaking and doesn’t form some united front with Svoboda.

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jwl 02.25.14 at 5:38 pm

“Great Russianism” is incompatible with an independent Ukrainian state. That’syour problem right there.

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Jeff Martin 02.25.14 at 8:11 pm

So your in-laws and relatives live in a place with guaranteed autonomy, completely dominated by Russian speakers, where the Party of Regions has 80 out of 100 seats in the legislature, where all government business is essentially done in Russian, the Russian state controls portions of the region through a powerful military presence, and they feel like 2nd class citizens?

Many of which features the nationalists would like to curtail, as I’ve already indicated. They would also like to proscribe the Party of the Regions.

In actually existing Crimea, Russian fascists hold open protests (e.g. Russian Front), attack Crimean Tatars and burn their houses and mosques. They make it extremely hard for Tatars and Ukrainians to get education in their native languages. “Brown” parties like Soyuz and Russian Unity have representatives in the Rada. Crimean Tatars are 2nd class citizens there, not Russian speakers.

I’m saddened to learn of this, and deplore it.

You are speaking of a possible future threat, while ignoring the existing fascists who operate now in Crimea.

“Future-possible vs. existing” isn’t really the most helpful analytic framework here, since it can be read as suggesting that the more numerous Ukrainian fascists are less of a concern, because they haven’t acted out in these ways just yet (their numerical dominance could easily interact with undesirable trends in Crimea to escalate the situation); that there is a dialectic of fascisms is itself the problem.

“Great Russianism” is incompatible with an independent Ukrainian state. That’syour problem right there.

Ukrainian ethno-nationalism, being of the blood-and-soil variety, is incompatible with Ukrainian civic liberalism/nationalism. That’s Ukraine’s problem right there.

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Jacob McM 02.25.14 at 9:05 pm

“Cultural homogeneity on the other hand probably does correlate very well with political stability and economic growth. “

Hasn’t left-liberal thought over the last few decades argued that encouraging, e.g., Muslim immigrants in Europe to retain their home culture rather than assimilate into the new one is a great idea? And that it somehow would not lead to tension and segregation? Has there been some shift of opinion on this topic in response to recent events?

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Jacob McM 02.25.14 at 9:15 pm

I mean, some degree of in-group/out-group sorting is probably innate in humans, though the form those in-groups and out-groups take is somewhat malleable. They can be predicated on race, religion, language, political views, taste in music, etc.

Nevertheless, we often judge a book by its cover if we have little or no other information available to us. If you have a wave of new immigrants that looks significantly different from the native population, then surely the most prudent policy is to encourage unity (i.e. assimilation) rather than division. The more you have in common with someone culturally, the easier it is to overlook physical differences.

On the other hand, combine physical differences with stark cultural differences and you are sitting on a tinderbox. This all seems to obvious and intuitive to me that I’m shocked intelligent people ever thought otherwise.

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Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 9:19 pm

I don’t think ‘ left-liberal thought’ has argued one thing or the other. At most, some on the left have pushed back against the nonsense that was being pushed in the 00s about how ‘immigrants (Muslims) weren’t assimilating’ and the apocalyptic visions that were being drawn about Europes future.
Thankfully that’s all petered out a little, and a lot of those concerned citizens should be very embarrassed !

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js. 02.25.14 at 9:23 pm

Hasn’t left-liberal thought over the last few decades argued that encouraging, e.g., Muslim immigrants in Europe to retain their home culture rather than assimilate into the new one is a great idea?

Has it? I think at best what it’s done is argue for non-assimilation as perfectly acceptable. In other words, assimilation is not a politically or socially enforced condition of immigration. Which seems only fair.

On the other hand, the implied causality in your view—lack of assimilation leads to segregation/rising tensions leads to “tinderbox” (and presumably racism)—is exactly backwards.

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Jacob McM 02.25.14 at 9:37 pm

“the implied causality in your view—lack of assimilation leads to segregation/rising tensions leads to “tinderbox” (and presumably racism)—is exactly backwards.”

It depend on the circumstances. Certainly persecution can heighten the tribal sentiments of the persecuted out-group, and justifiably so. This happened to some extent with the Jews in Germany. Herzl only turned to Zionism after he concluded he would never be accepted as a true German.

On the other hand, immigrants from a foreign culture will most likely not assimilate if 1) their numbers are large enough to form their own enclaves and 2) there is no pressure on them to do so. The real problem is 2), because stark cultural differences almost always lead to conflict, even among groups who look physically similar. Add race into the equation and the situation is only exacerbated.

I’d imagine there some variation on a country-to-country basis and between immigrant groups, but do you have any proof that lack of assimilation among European immigrants was caused by segregation rather than lax policy?

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The Temporary Name 02.25.14 at 9:42 pm

On the other hand, combine physical differences with stark cultural differences and you are sitting on a tinderbox. This all seems to obvious and intuitive to me that I’m shocked intelligent people ever thought otherwise.

It’s obvious and intuitive to racists of course. In the meantime there are cosmopolitan cities all over the world that aren’t burning down.

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js. 02.25.14 at 10:00 pm

Cultural homogeneity on the other hand probably does correlate very well with political stability and economic growth.

Even if this is true, it (literally) says nothing about how cultural heterogeneity correlates with political stability and economic growth. More importantly, I don’t really know what you mean by cultural homo- or heterogeniety. It seems pretty obvious to me, e.g., that observances like the 4th of July and Superbowl Sunday(!) can and do coexist perfectly well with very significant cultural differences in the US—some of which break down along (broadly) ethnic lines, some along regional ones, etc.

I want to go back to Josh G.’s comment for a second that started all this (@17). Josh G.’s idea was that “Davos Man” can only be resisted by, let’s say, Nation Man. But implicitly, and not far from the surface, Josh G. there is positing three equivalences: between ethnic (or if you prefer, cultural) identification and national allegiance, between nationalist sentiment and state sovereignty, and between state sovereignty and the provisions of social democracy. I would ultimately deny that any of these are more than particular historical contingencies, though the last is entrenched enough that it is indeed very hard to imagine a viable alternative in the world as it currently exists.

But the equivalence that I really want to challenge, and have been trying to challenge, in this thread is the first one: that between ethnic identification and national allegiance. (I hope this also fits CB’s original concerns in the post.) There’s a very real danger here of taking the particular ways in which European nationalisms developed and the particular circumstances in which they developed (mostly anyway, and probably west of France) to embody some sort of eternal truths about the nature of nationalism and nation-forming. If one doesn’t succumb to this, then I think it should be relatively obvious that the Nation Man confronting Davos Man can be a Multiethnic Nation Man or a Culturally Heterogenous Nation Man.

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Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 10:08 pm

west of France is the Atlantic Ocean

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Bruce Wilder 02.25.14 at 10:21 pm

Confronting Davos Man requires some sort of political solidarity, some sort of foundation for institutional mechanisms, to solve the problem of who will guard the guardians in a hierarchical political economy.

Ukraine has a serious problem of elite corruption, not “ahead” but right now. (Much of the world does, including most especially the United States.)

Ginning up rival nationalisms doesn’t seem like the wisest course to solve the problem of governing the transit of natural gas, but neither does singing, kumbaya.

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js. 02.25.14 at 10:26 pm

Yes, and what I’ve been trying to say is that political solidarity need not be based on ethnic identification. I mean, I’ve said this like four times. I and others have provided examples. If you actually have a response, I’d be curious to hear it. If you think my comment amounts to ‘kumbaya’, I’m happy to simply ignore you too. (I meant east of France.)

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Ronan(rf) 02.25.14 at 11:16 pm

“On the other hand, immigrants from a foreign culture will most likely not assimilate if 1) their numbers are large enough to form their own enclaves and 2) there is no pressure on them to do so. “

Well here you have to lay out an argument, what are ‘the numbers large enough to form their own enclaves’ (a lot of small migrant groups also ‘form their own enclaves’ *) and what ‘pressure’ do you think can be applied to ‘make immigrants assimilate’ ? I would think most people would agree that assimilation is an important aspect to long term immigration (mostly for the migrant, who’s economic prospects will improve when they learn the language, develop social networks etc) but what sort of assimilation program are you suggesting should be developed ? Greater investment in services specifically tailored to new immigrants (such as free language classes, job help etc) integrated housing, integrated schooling etc. Then I agree. But do you really think that (on average) the migrant is going to object to that ?

* This claim about segregation is actually largely wrong (afaik), at least in the UK (and it’s probably somewhat generalisable)
Here’s Jonathan Portes summing up the research:

” But Goodhart takes the same eccentric approach to the evidence here as he did with the economics. He manages a reasonable summary of the research, which shows that the non-white population is diffusing into previously all-white areas and that, at the same time, many urban areas are becoming ‘majority-minority’ rather quicker than expected – although the number of people from an ethnic minority background who live in areas dominated by their own ethnic group remains small. Most non-whites live in fairly diverse areas; it is whites who don’t. This is generally accepted by geographers and demographers, and isn’t exactly surprising. Yet when it suits Goodhart, he just ignores the facts. Take his reference to ‘the little Somalias … that dot many of our big cities’. The recently released, extremely detailed census data suggest that, even allowing for classification issues, you’d be hard put to find a single ward (each has a population of about ten thousand) anywhere in Britain where more than one in ten of the population identify as Somali.”

“The real problem is 2), because stark cultural differences almost always lead to conflict, even among groups who look physically similar. Add race into the equation and the situation is only exacerbated. “

Again you have to show evidence for this, rather than ‘your own intutition’ or common sense. If it ‘almost always leads to conflict’ then you should have some.

“I’d imagine there some variation on a country-to-country basis and between immigrant groups, but do you have any proof that lack of assimilation among European immigrants was caused by segregation rather than lax policy? “

Again *you’re* not offering any supporting evidence for any of this (not even an argument) just assuming. (so I dont thinkthe burden of proof is on js)
I think you’re overstating how much policy can achieve, understating how much ‘assimilation’ is occuring, confused over what you mean by segregation, misunderstanding economic problems as ethnic ones, and ignoring how immigration tends to occur (through networks built from previous waves of migration etc)

I think there is an argument to be made on this topis, but it’s *seriously* less hyperbolic than the one you’re making.

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teraz kurwa my 02.26.14 at 12:16 am

Too many people seem to be automatically conflating ethno-nationalism with cultural nationalism. The two are very often synonymous but not always. The nationalism traditionally favored by the French left is not at all ethno-nationalist but it is very intolerant of minority rights and collective identities other than the (republican) French national one, with the exception of class identity.

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bob mcmanus 02.26.14 at 12:22 am

Said: “that unless national consciousness at its moment of
success was somehow changed into a social consciousness, the future
would hold not liberation but an extension of imperialism” (Culture and Im-
perialism, 267).

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jwl 02.26.14 at 12:49 am

Jeff Martin,

So your in-laws and relatives live in a place with guaranteed autonomy, completely dominated by Russian speakers, where the Party of Regions has 80 out of 100 seats in the legislature, where all government business is essentially done in Russian, the Russian state controls portions of the region through a powerful military presence, and they feel like 2nd class citizens?

Many of which features the nationalists would like to curtail, as I’ve already indicated. They would also like to proscribe the Party of the Regions.

“Nationalists” is doing a lot of work there. One or two western districts have attempted to ban the Party of the Regions and the Communist Party to no legal effect. Right Sector has called for their banning (an eastern, Russophone-led organization that isn’t Galician nationalist). Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament is trying to cobble together a unity government that includes the Party of Regions, basically the exact opposite of banning the party.

In actually existing Crimea, Russian fascists hold open protests (e.g. Russian Front), attack Crimean Tatars and burn their houses and mosques. They make it extremely hard for Tatars and Ukrainians to get education in their native languages. “Brown” parties like Soyuz and Russian Unity have representatives in the Rada. Crimean Tatars are 2nd class citizens there, not Russian speakers.

I’m saddened to learn of this, and deplore it.

I’m very surprised by this. You’re hyper-aware of the fascist threat, very concerned about people’s language rights, and don’t seem to know anything about the actual situation in Crimea, where your parents live.

You are speaking of a possible future threat, while ignoring the existing fascists who operate now in Crimea.

“Future-possible vs. existing” isn’t really the most helpful analytic framework here, since it can be read as suggesting that the more numerous Ukrainian fascists are less of a concern, because they haven’t acted out in these ways just yet (their numerical dominance could easily interact with undesirable trends in Crimea to escalate the situation); that there is a dialectic of fascisms is itself the problem.

So a current problem, which exists now, is not as important as a future problem, which may or may not exist. I don’t understand your reasoning on this at all, especially since they are the same type of problem.

Also, how do you know that the Ukrainian fascists are more numerous than the Russian fascists? Seriously, since this appears to be the first you have heard of groups like Russian Front, how do you know how many members they have? You might be right, but I don’t see how you know this.

“Great Russianism” is incompatible with an independent Ukrainian state. That’s your problem right there.

Ukrainian ethno-nationalism, being of the blood-and-soil variety, is incompatible with Ukrainian civic liberalism/nationalism. That’s Ukraine’s problem right there.

See, here’s where I think you are extrapolating. Not all Ukrainian nationalist parties are blood-and-soil parties. UDAR is a good example. The choice is not simply between Ukrainian blood and soil and Great Russianism. Crimea is a very good example of “Great Russianism” in action, but it isn’t a binary choice.

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jwl 02.26.14 at 12:52 am

teraz kurwa my,

Russian nationalists in Russia take exactly this approach toward Ukrainians. It’s fine for them to call themselves Ukrainians and have their quaint local costumes and foods, but forget speaking their languages or having any cultural rights. The French (Russians/Ukrainians) are one people and speak one language.

To France’s slight credit, they are slightly less terrible on language rights than they were 20 years ago, but they are still the worst in Europe.

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Jeff Martin 02.26.14 at 2:17 am

Right Sector has called for their banning (an eastern, Russophone-led organization that isn’t Galician nationalist).

My information on Pravy Sektor is that it includes both Western Ukrainians and Russophones, though its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, hails from the east, and is nonetheless a rather fervent Ukrainian nationalist, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament is trying to cobble together a unity government that includes the Party of Regions, basically the exact opposite of banning the party.

The Rada is attempting to cobble together a unity government because the EU has apparently insisted upon a technocratic unity government as a condition of any aid package, and also because even some of the nationalists, like Tyagnybok, understand that alienating some regions of the country when financial implosion is impending is stupid. He has been attempting to soft-pedal Svoboda’s Ukrainianization platform, and the revised language law, to the Crimea, among other things. That circumstances and outside powers are encouraging moderation doesn’t mean the more radical impulses aren’t there.

I’m very surprised by this. You’re hyper-aware of the fascist threat, very concerned about people’s language rights, and don’t seem to know anything about the actual situation in Crimea, where your parents live.

I can see why you might be surprised, but I’m not sure that you should be. I canvass quite a bit of virtual ground, and it’s just much easier to come across discussions of Ukrainian nationalism/fascism in Ukraine than it is to come across discussions of Russian fascism in Crimea. It’s also pretty easy to find discussions of fascism in Russia, what with all of the attacks on migrants, homosexuals, and so forth. Crimea is, for all of its natural beauty, and its regional strategic importance, a bit of a backwater. My in-laws have mentioned occasional acts of violence and mayhem of the sort you mentioned, but they never put them down to organized fascist groups, just random bigots; since they didn’t put it together, I don’t know how I would have done so.

So a current problem, which exists now, is not as important as a future problem, which may or may not exist. I don’t understand your reasoning on this at all, especially since they are the same type of problem.

I wouldn’t say, and haven’t said, that one is more or less significant than the other, as they are instances of the same phenomenon. I would say that the Ukrainian strain of fascism has the potential to achieve a greater magnitude, owing to a) the numerical preponderance of Ukrainians in the country, coupled with the fact that nationalists can easily draw support from Russophone Ukrainians; b) Ukrainians tend to have more fully elaborated political ideologies than the Russians, who have moved, in the past 20 years, from advocating a sort of civic nationalism to a mixture of Great Russianism and crude economic interest politics; c) the ambiguity within Ukrainian nationalism, which sometimes speaks with the language of civic patriotism, sometimes in moderate tones (UDAR), and sometimes in blood-and-soil tones (the armed men patrolling Kiev; some parts of Svoboda and Pravy Sektor, etc.). That ambiguity is covered pretty well in the Wilson book I’ve been referencing; and both the general discourse of nationalism and the radicalizing effect of instability push the window to the right. For these reasons I also believe that Ukrainian fascists substantially outnumber Russian fascists in the Ukraine. I could be wrong, but were I a betting man, I’d be willing to lay money on my intuition.

Not all Ukrainian nationalist parties are blood-and-soil parties. UDAR is a good example.

Never said that they were. I’ve been saying that the overall discourse of Ukrainian nationalism is ambiguous, ie. not unified, on the question. But the blood-and-soil stuff is part of the larger discourse, along with the oddly condescending element of, “we know best what you really are, and how to make you become what you are”. Even some of the folks who speak in bland terms of a civic nationalism for all citizens of Ukraine sometimes lapse into this stuff, and vice versa.

The choice is not simply between Ukrainian blood and soil and Great Russianism.

That’s what I’ve been saying. There is an alternative, of a non-ethnic, civic patriotism – getting to that is going to require everyone to stop attempting to get everyone else to speak his language.

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notsneaky 02.26.14 at 3:38 am

My information on Pravy Sektor is that it includes both Western Ukrainians and Russophones, though its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, hails from the east, and is nonetheless a rather fervent Ukrainian nationalist, to say the least.

For some definition of “fervent Ukrainian nationalist”. And maybe this is getting into conspiracy theory land, but there is a non-zero chance that Yarosh, and most of his organization is Kremlin sponsored (one way to explain their de-facto working against the “Ukrainian cause”). Agent provocateur and all. I’m sure a good chunk of the rank and file are just idiot neo-Nazi thugs who buy into it, but as an organization, it’s entirely possible (and somewhat of standard procedure for the region). Like I said, it’s bit of conspiracy theory land, but I don’t get the same sense from Svoboda who seem to be characterized by home grown genuine nastiness.

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notsneaky 02.26.14 at 3:39 am

or rather “genuine home grown nastiness”

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Bohdan Besaha 02.26.14 at 5:10 am

Personally, this is a load of bull crap.

If this is so truly a sin to go with one functional official language, then why don’t we in the US declare Spanish to be an official language to not be? There are over 38 million Spanish speakers in the US, more than all the Russian speakers in Ukraine? Are we also Ethnos and not Demos, high up in our ivory towers?

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roy belmont 02.26.14 at 5:57 am

Well the good news is, if they can hang on for a couple years, and she gets the Dem. nod and electoral victory – big if’s, but hey, look on the bright side, think good thoughts – Pres. Hilary Clinton and Viktor Pinchuk can redesign the entirety of Ukrainian-ness, from geo-political boundaries to language dominance, and also of course, how much stuff costs.
Neoliberalism is the salvation of the world!

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 12:40 pm

Jacob Mcm – My response to your comment that wasnt directed at me has just some out of moderation up there at 105. Suffice to say it’s awesome. (sorry about my inability to italicise quotes)

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teraz kurwa my 02.26.14 at 12:51 pm

109 I’m not a fan of French style coercive civic nationalism, just saying that it is emphatically not a ‘blood and soil’ ethnonationalism and that the kind of cultural intolerance that is being discussed in this thread should not be assumed to be ethnonationalist. The Ukrainian version is also not the same as the civic nationalist Great Russianism that you describe, which, due to the history of Russia, is inherently bound up in an expansive imperial project.

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jwl 02.26.14 at 12:57 pm

Absolutely. French civic nationalism is also inextricably bound up with an imperial project.

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jwl 02.26.14 at 1:07 pm

Jeff Martin,

Would you say that Udar represents liberal civic nationalism? That’s kind of the crux isn’t it? If no existing party meets your exacting standatds while accepting Russian dimination (which you’ve said is preferable), then I don’t think your preferred course of action is at all likely.

I do think you (and your in-laws) have to grapple with the fact that Ukrainian independence is popular, that Ukrainian language education is popular, and that the Party of Regions has relied on anti-democratic means to take and hold power. (Stealing elections, throwing political opponents in jail, shooting protesters) which makes their governance brittle.

I don’t see a civic nationalism emerging out of the Russophone parties that can accommodate the contradictions.

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MPAVictoria 02.26.14 at 2:02 pm

“Absolutely. French civic nationalism is also inextricably bound up with an imperial project.”

At one time sure but what sort of empire does France have anymore?

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 2:28 pm

re French imperialism and civic nationalism – I remember reading somewhere that British ‘immigrant assimilation policy’ is in a lot of ways an outgrowth of the way they ran the British empire (ie having a hands off approach in some respects and giving elites in new communities some amount of space to self govern, or what have you ) that’s not exactely the argument, as I can’t really remember it, does anyone know what Im getting at here ? Is it the case that a lot of the old European empires managed post war immigration in the context of how they ran their empires? (if you see what I mean – that they used the same tools, ideas etc to develop allegiance and order society in the colonies and at home ?)

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lurker 02.26.14 at 3:08 pm

@120 (Ronan)
I think it was Kenan Malik (I may be completely wrong, here) who compared ‘community leaders’ who owe their status to government patronage to the tribal chiefs that the Brits appointed even for peoples who had never had any chiefs (the Ibo, the Kikuyu). Appoint some native to be the ‘chief’ and to run ‘his’ people. No need to ask the people what they think.

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js. 02.26.14 at 3:51 pm

Ronan @105: Thanks.

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Jeff Martin 02.26.14 at 4:25 pm

jwl,

I don’t know whether UDAR represents the sort of civic nationalism that Russophones were talking about in the mid-nineties, albeit with a Ukrainian twist; the answer to that question would hinge on the language question, plus some other stuff that is unknowable at the moment. They’re certainly much more hopeful an option than Svoboda and Pravy Sektor!

I do think you (and your in-laws) have to grapple with the fact that Ukrainian independence is popular, that Ukrainian language education is popular, and that the Party of Regions has relied on anti-democratic means to take and hold power. (Stealing elections, throwing political opponents in jail, shooting protesters) which makes their governance brittle.

With the possible exception of Party Regions stealing elections – I’m sure they’ve committed fraud, but I don’t believe that their electoral margins in the east and south are fake; people in those regions voted for them for a number of reasons, mainly economic; I’m rather dubious that there has been a single clean presidential election since independence – we’ve not only grappled with these things, we accept them for what they are. Throughout my comments in these threads, I’ve made numerous remarks to the effect that the Russophones haven’t had much of a political programme, excerpt the Donbass economic status quo, plus some cultural Great Russianism – so yes, Party of Regions always was brittle, and most Russophones only held their noses and voted for it because it was headed by their kleptocrats, not the other guys’ kleptocrats. They’re no less repulsed by Yanukovych’s grasping than the opposition’s folks swarming over his mansion. What they want is basically a) policies that won’t destroy the economic foundations of their regions, b) no Ukrainianization-oriented language policy, c) no conflict over the status of Crimea, and no alteration of the military relationships that obtain there. For their part, my wife and in-laws are mightily pissed at the stunt some Russian diplomats pulled, by coming to Crimea and hinting that Russian passports would be issued to Russians there; Russians in the Crimea were already on edge watching the conflict between Pravy Sektor and Berkut in Kiev, and hearing some of the anti-Russian rhetoric of the opposition; when those diplomats showed up, many Russians assumed that they would only be talking about passports because they knew something worse was coming, so people freaked the fuck out – so demonstrations started, which freaked out the Tatars, and now there’s a standoff in Simferopol. All quite stupid and unnecessary.

No, the Russophones aren’t likely to generate a true civic nationalism at this stage; the moment for that would have been the 90s, but the inconstancy of Ukrainian nationalism more or less thwarted it then, leaving Russophones to resort to a mixture of Great Russianism and support for their own oligarchs. The deep reason for this, I think, is that the Russians are fundamentally disillusioned; they know that shit sucks, but don’t think it can get any better, only worse, and so try to hold on to what little they have.

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Walt 02.26.14 at 5:29 pm

I don’t see how French civic nationalism is inextricably part of an imperial project, unless it’s the imperial project of the Bourbons.

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 5:50 pm

That could be it lurker, thanks. Ill look around his site see if I can find the reference.

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LFC 02.26.14 at 6:38 pm

Somewhat relevant to the parts of this discussion that have touched on immigration: there’s a highly critical review of Paul Collier’s Exodus in the Jan/Feb issue of Foreign Affairs. Judging from the long review, which I’ve not read every word of, Collier is apparently worried about “culturally distant” immigrants threatening “the mutual regard on which high-income societies depend” (!). This line seems surprising coming from Collier, though I know his previous work (e.g. The Bottom Billion etc.) mostly only from what others have written about it. Anyway, the review, as I mentioned, is negative, to put it mildly. (not sure whether gated, haven’t checked)

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 6:40 pm

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 6:42 pm

..also unpaywalled at foreign affairs actually

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LFC 02.26.14 at 6:45 pm

@ronan
thanks for the link (which saves me from feeling guilty for not providing ;))

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Bruce Wilder 02.26.14 at 7:22 pm

jwl @ 117: French civic nationalism is also inextricably bound up with an imperial project.

I’m not sure that it is — at least not in the more direct way that Russian nationalism is tied up in the imperial project. For France, the civic nationalism of the Republic had to isolate and channel the rump of reactionary sentiment: the various flavors of monarchism, the traditional Catholics, and the anti-semites. The empire, particularly the second Empire in Africa, and the Army it required, has been their outlet.

Walt @ 124: The second Empire was more a project of Bonapartists and Orleanists, disaffected by the Republic, than partisans of the Bourbons — but, then, of course, those vapors all blend together.

The genius of the Third Republic was, first, to get the various monarchist factions to cancel each other out, and then to cheer loudly their dressing up in fancy uniforms and going to exotic places far away. The downside was that they were incompetent, and putting them in charge of the military, with insufficiently effective civilian oversight, weakened the country’s defensive options, near-fatally and fatally. DeGaulle’s Fifth Republic was aimed at fixing that by refashioning conservative nationalism in a French context, supportive of the Republic and technocracy, but it was a near-thing; the Day of the Jackal could have ended very badly indeed.

MPAVictoria: At one time sure but what sort of empire does France have anymore?

French West Africa continues as an empire, in all but name. And, there are lots of islands scattered about.

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notsneaky 02.26.14 at 8:44 pm

Looking at the composition of the newly formed interim government it looks like Svoboda got only one position, Minister of … Ecology (Environment). Right Sector didn’t get squat. So much for a lot of the scare mongering.

On the other hand there is a notable absence of Klitschko and UDAR but it’s not clear whether they’re not in because they got shut out or because they didn’t want in (which also explains to some extent Svoboda’s absence). Given that even under the best circumstances, the next few months until the actual elections are going to be a total mess, politically it may be wiser to stay out of the government for the time being.

But so far it looks like Tymoschenko 2.0. Which I have very very mixed feelings about.

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Bruce Wilder 02.26.14 at 8:57 pm

js. @ 53: the conflation of state or even national sovereignty with ethno-nationalism seems both a disaster and completely unforced by the empirical evidence

js. @ 61: I’m sorry, names of multiethnic states that are not riven by existential conflicts? Are you serious? Of course, I’m not going to be able to provide names of multiethnic states that are robust welfare states. . . .

js. @76: the name of a non-European multiethnic state not riven by existential crises? India

matt @ 65: multi-ethnic, not recently riven by existential crises . . . Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Indonesia, Ghana, and Mozambique

I wasn’t ignoring you, so much as letting you debate with yourself. I am not sure how to parse a sentence like this: “What I’m still not seeing . . . is one single thing to suggest that national and ethnic identifications are isomorphic in a counterfactually robust way.” But, it seems to me that you are attributing a far stronger thesis to me than I’m advocating, and I’m not your straw person.

What I’ve said is that liberal and social democratic institutions require some source of felt “political solidarity” to function well. Where that comes from, in my opinion, is a matter of political creativity. Actual nation-states have constructed it from myth, drawing on a mix of ideology, religion, shared history, and ethnicity (often constructed from linguistic, cultural, religious and racial markers). I haven’t said homogeneity, let alone ethnic homogeneity, is required; what I think is that stable and secure dominance — stable and secure enough to do without active oppression of minorities or dissenters — might be sufficient, and dominance organized around what is an open question, which will be answered in a path determined manner.

In a way, the need for political solidarity is something of an embarrassment for liberalism and social democracy, a contradiction in a Marxist sense. 19th century liberalism championed the self-determination of peoples, marrying nationalism to aspirations for liberal institutions of governance and the overthrow of the old Empires, but it disowned the ugly side of disputes between peoples: the horrors, for example, that attended the formation of the modern Turkish Republic out of the Ottoman Empire. It’s hard to come up with liberal or socialist justifications for tossing Serbs out of Croatia or sponsoring an independent Kosovo. Or language laws in Quebec. Or banning scarves in French schools.

I don’t propose to do more than point out that a modicum of political solidarity remains a requisite to organizing a well-functioning political economy by liberal or social democratic lights, whether liberal or social democratic principles can acknowledge or explain the necessity well, or cleanly, or not. I think that requirement stands as a kind of rebuke to liberal or social democratic advocates of, say, “open borders”, but that’s another topic for another day. When you said in reply to another commenter, “the implied causality in your view—lack of assimilation leads to segregation/rising tensions leads to “tinderbox” (and presumably racism)—is exactly backwards“, all I could think was that the causality is reflexive and flows both ways, and that’s the point. Any basis for political solidarity has to prove itself robust against contest, and success is always contingent against new strategic gambits attempting to define alternative bases.

I don’t know what I can say to someone, who doesn’t think India, or Mexico or Brazil doesn’t have some serious problems in the political solidarity department. How can anyone not know about India’s recent experiences with Hindu nationalism and revival? Or that its federal state system has been reworked since independence to coincide with linguistic groups? Or that Mexico, bordering on anarchy in its drug wars, has had long running civil wars?

In the context of this thread — the Ukrainian crisis — the essential point, I think, is that competing visions of Ukrainian national identity are being offered in the political sphere because of a deficiency of political solidarity and the resulting institutional corruption. Strongly felt political solidarity, on whatever basis, is an attempt to remedy kleptocracy and the ruin kleptocracy is making of the Ukrainian political economy.

It’s easy, but wrong, for disinterested observers to simply try to sort out the white hats from the black hats, as differing versions of Ukrainian nationalism compete to supply the apparently deficient sense of national political solidarity, which has left such political corruption and dysfunction, when that competition threatens to create still more corruption and dysfunction, adding violence and disruption to the mix.

The Russians represent a candidate hostile other, in contrast to which Ukraine might define itself. I assume this has been covered sufficiently in comments, already.

The EU represents the technocratic denial that felt political solidarity matters. You want the rule of law; train some judges. You want “good” policy; turn over everything that matters to supra-national agencies, and constrain economic policy by a pseudo-gold-standard and “free trade” rules empowering corporate business and disabling labor and the welfare state. 50% unemployment in the current generation of Spanish youth? They are not virtuous enough in the way Germans are.

The denial of the importance of felt political solidarity in latter day liberalism or social democracy has opened the door to the kind of neoliberalism, which the EU represents, and the global kleptocracy, which neoliberalism effectively promotes.

The problem in Ukraine, at base, is the kleptocracy. The half-blind and contested fumbling toward greater political solidarity, which threatens civil war or breakup, isn’t likely to work out well. So, I understand that cooler heads might prefer technocratic EU help, but on present understandings of political economy, I think that choice may be just as destructive, ultimately.

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 9:22 pm

I’m in semi agreement with you Bruce, but isn’t your argument implicitly saying that this ‘political solidarity’ no longer exists in developed advanced Western societies, at this moment, because neo liberalism and plutocracy have already worked their way into our political systems ?
So it wouldn’t just be open borders, or some mass dilution of national solidarity, that would undermine national democratic institutions, it has occurred already..

So why has it ?

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LFC 02.26.14 at 9:37 pm

B Wilder @130/132
I would have several bones to pick w some of these remarks, but in the interest of not derailing the thread too much from Ukraine, I will limit myself to saying that there is a difference between “existential crisis” and “problems w political solidarity,” and that on the point of “existential crisis,” your original phrase, I think js. is right about India: it isn’t facing one. A couple of long-running separatist movements, e.g. in the far northeast, and a long-running but contained Naxalite insurgency, and some of the problems that come with being a large federal polity, but not an existential crisis. India has remained one country since independence/Partition, and that in itself, given what might have happened, is an accomplishment.

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Bruce Wilder 02.26.14 at 10:20 pm

Ronan(rf) @133

Political solidarity is an intangible, so a bit difficult to measure objectively, but not any less real for all that. I think it is at a low ebb, at least relative to WWII and immediately following period.

In other threads, in relation to the U.S., I have connected it to the low state, generally, of social affiliation — the “bowling alone” phenomenon, as well as the long decline from the high point of WWII. For Ukraine, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which had constructed a political solidarity heavily reliant on faith in a particular ideology, figures.

I’m not arguing that “open borders” have been an important factor undermining political solidarity, only that it’s an issue, which highlights the denialism of philosophic or 21st century ideological liberalism and social democracy regarding political solidarity.

I’m arguing that the inability or unwillingness of liberalism and social democracy to acknowledge the importance of political solidarity, of populist appeals, of nationalism even, has tended to contribute to their impotence in the coalitional politics of “serious people” consensus. Like Jeff Martin, I think the tendency on the left to see the EU uncritically as “good guys” explains leftish impotence. You’d think that some leftish champion of Greece or Spain against the assault of the EU would emerge, but it doesn’t seem to happen.

Economically, Ukraine needs a credible champion, who can call, say, for sacrifice, without people cynically supposing all that is to be sacrificed will be carted off by Russian or EU priests, after the ceremony is over. And, a champion, who is willing to represent Ukraine’s interests against both the Russians and the EU, in, for prime example, the transit of gas from Russia to central Europe, and who can credibly promise competence to the Russians and EU, while delivering benefits broadly, without succumbing, for example, to the temptation to subsidize inefficient industry with cheap gas. Good governance is hard, and requires an enlightened self-interest in a general or public good; I don’t think you can get to that kind of shared understanding and trust between leaders and led, without some kind of felt political solidarity.

I know Ronan(rf) finds “neoliberalism” to be indefinite and vague, but I think it is precisely in its divorce of process and principles from the social welfare of an at least minimally organized people, that neoliberalism finds its character.

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 10:20 pm

In fairness to Bruce I don’t think he used the term existential crisis initially.

On ‘solidarity’, it seems to me clear enough that some types of solidarity (generally class* and perhaps community based) might have declined in some Western countries, while other types have strenghtened. I don’t see there being any long term decline in whatever it is we’re calling ‘solidarity.’ It’s just taking different forms in different contexts.

*or, the unionised male (white in some places) working class.

The idea that the ‘EU technocracy’ has replaced national allegiances also strikes me as wrong, afaict. The vast majority of laws still originate in individual EU member states, and the policies that got the periphery into trouble (on face value, though obviously influenced by the regional and international enviornment) also originated domestically, by and large. Some (like Irelands low corporation tax rate, the epitome of selling out to ‘the neo liberal plutocracy’) afaik were very unpopular in Brussels.
So I’m still not buying this idea that we’ve left some garden of Eden in the postwar consensus and are left lingering in the cesspit of neo liberal tomfoolery.

A whole lot of things have gotten much better, as of late. Some worse.

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Bruce Wilder 02.26.14 at 10:25 pm

LFC @ 134

I never said, “existential crisis”. Ronan(rf) pointed out as much on my behalf @ 73.

I never volunteered to be a strawman.

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 10:25 pm

That was actually crossposted Bruce, but it still stands ; )

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 10:37 pm

And the postwar consensus was solidarity enforced (rather than spontaneously emerging) through specific organisations (unions, parties), rules and social norms (one wage families, social conservatism etc), in the context, perhaps, of a living memory of the devastation of WW2. Perhaps I’m overstating it, but that’s my impression anyway.

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Bruce Wilder 02.26.14 at 10:38 pm

Ronan(rf) @ 136: “the policies that got the periphery into trouble (on face value, though obviously influenced by the regional and international environment) also originated domestically

That’s neoliberal doctrine, but that’s precisely what I’m not buying.

The Euro converted routine domestic policy compromises on rather weak social welfare measures into a near-fatal disease for whole countries, and then, in structuring its “rescues” the Troika put all the resulting pain onto the young and the middle and working classes, preserving as sacred the interests of banks, which, in many cases, had contributed significantly to the creating the conditions for crisis by profligate lending.

This idea that the Greeks, or the Irish or the Portuguese, deserve it, is nonsense. This is a combination of bad technocratic policy and elite self-serving.

Anyway, a topic for many other, future threads, no doubt.

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 10:48 pm

I don’t think they deserved it, and I’m not looking to excuse the EU post 2008 (or at any time, really) I’d agree with you here :

“The Euro converted routine domestic policy compromises on rather weak social welfare measures into a near-fatal disease for whole countries, and then, in structuring its “rescues” the Troika put all the resulting pain onto the young and the middle and working classes, preserving as sacred the interests of banks, which, in many cases, had contributed significantly to the creating the conditions for crisis by profligate lending. “

To a large degree.
Although I wouldn’t really know, it would be my impression that regional and international causes of the peripheries crises have been ignored in favour of domestic ones. But national legislators were still more than willing to implement ‘neo liberal’ reforms independent of (and sometimes in opposition to) pressure from Europe, was my only point.

It is a topic for a different thread though.

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bob mcmanus 02.26.14 at 11:15 pm

BW, 132: & 134:”The denial of the importance of felt political solidarity in latter day liberalism or social democracy has opened the door to the kind of neoliberalism, which the EU represents, and the global kleptocracy, which neoliberalism effectively promotes.” & the bowling alone social affiliation

I can declare myself “Ukrainian” but it isn’t binding on me or anybody else unless somebody with power, usually a government, enforces or protects my self-ascription.

The identity and solidarity of labor and the proletariat was absolutely not optional, not something chosen, but historically determined and discovered within.

Ronan above is displaying the neoliberal line that affiliation is optional and solidarity is something intentional and chosen.

But this is the difference between “liberalism” and neo-liberalism.” In the liberal era you were born black and the gov’t told you where you could sit and who you could marry. In the neo-liberal era you choose to be out-gay and the gov’t protects your right to marry. (Of course it overlaps and old forms persist etc.)

Neo-liberalism is the privatization, the de-socialization (not socially imposed) of identity and government intervention to protect private choices. And to deter and hinder social, collective determinations. Neo-liberalism will protect minorities and kleptocrats.

It really just is a historical culmination of liberalism.

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Ronan(rf) 02.26.14 at 11:18 pm

“But this is the difference between “liberalism” and neo-liberalism.” In the liberal era you were born black and the gov’t told you where you could sit and who you could marry. In the neo-liberal era you choose to be out-gay and the gov’t protects your right to marry. (Of course it overlaps and old forms persist etc.)”

Is this a defence of liberalism or neo liberalism bob ? ; )

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jwl 02.26.14 at 11:22 pm

Jeff Martin,

What Party of Regions voters want isn’t likely to come to pass. There isn’t a stable equilibrium between Russification and Ukrainization since both groups push when they are in power. Economically Eastern Ukraine’s future is precarious particularly from demographic factors, and the Russian military presence in Crimea will continue to foment crisis anytime political crises heat up.

Bad optics in Crimea today for Russophone Ukrainians. It doesn’t look good when you fly another country’s flag and attack a multi-ethnic group flyimg the national flag. Russian influence is overstepping itself here I think.

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roy belmont 02.26.14 at 11:37 pm

Ronan-
McManus can answer for himself, but what I saw there (in 142) was a linear progression, not a binary distinction.
Meanwhile, out there in the virtually real world: the neoliberal legion marches across the screens of the world with innocent victims tied to their shields.
No, not victims of them, victims they are protecting and defending, championing even.
This ploy is now so common it’s like the repetitive muttering of a mental deficient.
Cuba was castigated over and over by otherwise sensible leftish people for being so gosh-darn officially homophobic. And it was impossible to get through to the originating causes of that, beyond the remnants of Catholic sex-illness, to the fact that gays in the time of US gangster-owned-and-run Havana were facilitating the kiddie brothels of a wide-open hedonist marketplace.
Sort of like Bangkok was a while back.
There’s probably something like that operating in the Russian antipathy. Plus the usual Judeo-Christian sex-pathologies of course.
Not that that has anything to do with whether or not the situation in Ukraine is all about Slavic grammar declensions and 20th c. lines in the steppe.

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bob mcmanus 02.26.14 at 11:39 pm

Is this a defence of liberalism or neo-liberalism bob ? ; )

It is as always, a call for socialism or communisation. ;)

But as a historical materialist I do have to fight emergentism or spontaneism or determinism.

But as a socialist it is important to me to directly connect say Hayek and Mount Pelerin and the Powell memo to the various liberation movements of the post-WWII era, accelerating after the 70s. Neo-liberalism is something we are doing, not something done to us, just as Fordism was dialectical between specific historical actors in contingent situations.

Peoples in the Ukraine are searching for identities that power will enforce and protect.

(Going further, under neo-liberalism it gets harder and harder to find declare and enforce a useful “Other”. When we are all individuals there is no social Other)

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TM 02.26.14 at 11:40 pm

Josh 17: “Nationalism is the only power strong enough to stand up to Davos Man and challenge the power of global financial capital.”

Bruce 48: “attribute the success of the Scandinavian social democratic model in part to the social, ethnic and linguistic homogeneity of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and to contrast that with the political animosities and resentments attending the heritage of racial divides in the U.S.”

Ronan 73 “I think there’s probably something to the idea that building the welfare state in ethnically divided countries is .. more difficult (?)”

It seems that the point is that people are more likely to support welfare policies when they benefit people perceived as members of the own group. The classical case study being the US, where a sizable chunk of the population will consciously (and others out of ignorance) vote against policies that benefit themselves if they think that too many of the wrong kind of people will also benefit. Undoubtedly this sort of thinking exists empirically although there are many caveats. Again, the US could also serve as a counterexample, with all the baseball and flag-waving and thanksgiving, and race isn’t the only dividing line – religion has become almost as potent (nobody would have predicted that 50 years ago) and nowadays just living in a “bicoastal” city is bogeyman enough to evoke sincerely felt hatred. One might at least question whether we are getting cause and effect right. Somehow it seems that economic conflict always finds ways to be projected in ethnic or national or religious or whatever identity terms. If need be, divisions can be conjured up out of thin air in no time. It is only afterwards that it becomes “obvious” that Croats and Serbs or Hutu and Tutsi or Real Americans and New Yorkers can’t stand each other and never will.

Even if I granted the premise, despite the caveats, what would follow for emancipatory politics? You’d have to be insane to argue that leftists should embrace ethnic or national homogenization as a precondition for social progress. I assume that nobody here advocates such a position in earnest. I’m not quite clear what is being advocated. There is the call to “acknowledge the importance of political solidarity, of populist appeals, of nationalism even”. But there is no shortage of nationalism in the US. There is definitely a shortage of populism and of solidarity (btw this may be the first time I have read the word solidarity being used by an American). I don’t know what makes you think that promoting nationalism will help the cause of economic solidarity.

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LFC 02.26.14 at 11:55 pm

In fairness to Bruce I don’t think he used the term existential crisis initially.

My mistake; sorry.

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Ronan(rf) 02.27.14 at 12:23 am

TM – relatedly (I agree with you more or less, btw)

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/39373

bob – ah okay, I get what you’re saying.

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Jeff Martin 02.27.14 at 1:29 am

There isn’t a stable equilibrium between Russification and Ukrainization since both groups push when they are in power.

Indeed, and that’s part of the problem.

Economically Eastern Ukraine’s future is precarious particularly from demographic factors…

The whole country’s economic future is precarious for reasons of demography. TFR is, what, 1.3? Plus an outflow of 150-200K per year? My wife was one of them, back in 2001.

and the Russian military presence in Crimea will continue to foment crisis anytime political crises heat up.

That, plus the frequently-discussed and now much more certain integration of Ukraine into the NATO orbit – self-serving, gratuitous hegemonism (that is, I reiterate, a rolling defeat for the left) vs. Russian nationalism: that’ll end really well.

Russian influence is overstepping itself here I think.

Yes. But it’s more than just ‘Russian influence’; it’s the whole climate of fear created by the extremism of some of the opposition in Kiev, the fear Tatars have of the Russians (plus the fact that some Ukrainian nationalists see the Tatars as a legit blood-and-soil people, as opposed to the Russians), all mingling together.

On the question of political solidarity, it seems to me that neoliberalism is quite content to exploit ethnic solidarity as a means of expanding its reach, the empire of capital, whatever; it’s not merely that all of the ethnic hatreds and separatisms of Central and Eastern Europe helped bring a bunch of small states to the embrace of the EU and the Market, but that a fair number of these ethno-nationalists seem fond of neoliberalism themselves. What they seem not to like is the transnational governance/moral norms aspect of neoliberalism; they’re content to have capital accumulation privileged in law, international capital markets, and the lawyerly kleptocracy that goes along with those things. It’s sort of like neoliberalism in one country, with nationalist characteristics. I’m not sure of this, and not sure how far I’d push it; but it strikes me that the nationalists attack the EU & etc on any number of grounds, without really questioning the economic logic it embodies.

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Bruce Wilder 02.27.14 at 3:02 am

Jeff Martin: integration of Ukraine into the NATO orbit – self-serving, gratuitous hegemonism (that is, I reiterate, a rolling defeat for the left) vs. Russian nationalism: that’ll end really well.

The hubris involved is breath-taking.

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TM 02.27.14 at 5:54 pm

“The whole country’s economic future is precarious for reasons of demography. TFR is, what, 1.3? Plus an outflow of 150-200K per year? My wife was one of them, back in 2001.”

Why do people still think low fertility is something “precarious”?

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js. 02.27.14 at 9:56 pm

What I’ve said is that liberal and social democratic institutions require some source of felt “political solidarity” to function well. Where that comes from, in my opinion, is a matter of political creativity. … I haven’t said homogeneity, let alone ethnic homogeneity, is required

I have nowhere denied that some level of political solidarity is a prerequisite for functioning social democratic institutions. Indeed, I’ve assented to it, and I hereby assent to it again! I’ve been denying that this solidarity need rest on ethnic identification (or ethnic homogeneity). I’m very glad to see that you’re in agreement with me. So I’m not really sure who’s being whose strawman here. (Your @48 in the context of Josh G.’s @17 is perhaps posing novel interpretive problems, e.g.)

About India: Yes, I am familiar with Hindu nationalism. I am also quite familiar with the contours and iconography of “mainstream” nationalist (i.e. specifically not Hindu nationalist) myth-creation in India. Its relevance is, I hope, obvious.

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Matt 02.27.14 at 10:40 pm

Why do people still think low fertility is something “precarious”?

Most Serious People are still chasing endless growth, even if they always say something about respecting the environment at the end of their plea for growth. If you show them the absurd results of continuing even 1% population growth for a few centuries they’ll explain they don’t mean anything crazy like that. But even if they acknowledge it’s a hardship followed by a logical impossibility to keep growing the population indefinitely, any definite time that population growth stops or reverses is occasion for panic. For a real head-scratcher, try to interpret the people who say that places with high unemployment are suffering from a demographic shortage of young workers. It’s a funny labor “shortage” where the wages of young workers are not going up much and there’s plenty of labor left unused.

155

Matt 02.27.14 at 10:55 pm

Actually the labor shortage-that-isn’t-a-shortage makes perfect sense once you translate it out of thieves’ cant. They mean that wages should be lower, and the current labor surplus is not large enough to reduce wages to levels of their liking. See also: the mythical STEM worker shortage in the West, meaning a shortage of highly educated specialized workers willing to accept $9 per hour in compensation.

When the prices of finished goods and services go up that’s just supply and demand — government daren’t interfere. When the price of labor goes up that’s a crisis — time to set a national policy to fix it.

156

Bruce Wilder 02.27.14 at 11:24 pm

Except, of course, CEO labor, the price of which may soar into the stratosphere, with no consideration of whether such looting might be destructive.

157

js. 02.28.14 at 12:45 am

Oh, and on the ‘existential crisis’ bit, I did introduce the phrase @53, but it was in
response to BW’s: “Belgium barely coheres. Scotland would swim away from England, if it were possible.” (48) Which sounded like existential crises to me. Still do! BW then asked me to “name names” (55), so I did. Comply with a request and this is what you get!

158

jwl 02.28.14 at 1:23 am

Jeff Martin,

You’ve got the chain of events backward here. NATO membership was extremely unpopular in Ukraine. So was dealing with the IMF. It’s the actions of the Party of the Regions, Russophone brown groups, and Russia itself that are changing this. Right now Russia is openly stoking public opinion in Crimea and eastern Ukraine to support Russia annexation of parts of Ukraine. It’s giving out passports, sending Russian delegations to meetings in Ukraine, shielding Yanukovych and arranging press conferences for him, and now militarily threatening Ukraine directly. Who knows who the 50 armed people who seized the Crimean parliament are, but they might not even be Ukrainian citizens.

These are direct threats to Ukraine, and are driving Ukraine into the western camp for protection. In exactly the same way that the Baltic states couldn’t wait to get into the EU and NATO for personal protection, you think the Crimean Tatars and non-Russophones are going to give the Party of the Regions the benefit of the doubt now? It’s quite telling that the Russians of Crimea have decided to attack the Tatars directly.

I don’t know what will happen here, but it’s clear that Russia is sliding dangerously close to starting a war.

159

jwl 02.28.14 at 1:25 am

Extremely low fertility could be managed, but not with the Donbass economy. Declining populations just don’t need massive factory production.

160

notsneaky 02.28.14 at 3:01 am

Why do people still think low fertility is something “precarious”?

Probably because then you wind up with a lot of retired old people and few young working people to support them. The flipside of very high fertility where you wind up with a lot of young children who need to be fed and clothed, and few young working people to do that.

Even if you think that lower population, zero population, whatever, is a good thing (maybe), it’s still the case that that transition’s gonna hurt.

161

john c. halasz 02.28.14 at 3:24 am

And because differential population growth rates in different regions of the globe don’t align with economic endowments, nor with power dynamics.

162

Jeff Martin 02.28.14 at 3:29 am

You’ve got the chain of events backward here. NATO membership was extremely unpopular in Ukraine. So was dealing with the IMF. It’s the actions of the Party of the Regions, Russophone brown groups, and Russia itself that are changing this.

I was referring more specifically to the fracas in the Crimea, but since you’ve brought up the national context, I think you’re simplifying. The entire revolution was touched off when Yanukovych rejected the association accord he had campaigned on signing, because it was a smoldering piece of shite that did nothing to address the sovereign debt crisis, and offered no help with economic transition; because Russia issued threats based on its ‘traditional’ relationship to Ukraine, and on a desire not to upset existing trade relations; because of Yanukovych’s pique over the demand that Tymoshenko be released (as an aside, some Russian analysts have remarked, chauvinistically, that she is one of the few Ukrainian pols with any competence or balls; they don’t like her, but they can deal with her); and probably because of some occult infighting among the oligarchs. People massed in Maidan because they had an unfathomably naive view of what EU association entailed; they didn’t associate it with the IMF, though it would have entailed that, given the meagre assistance the EU accord originally promised; still less did they associate it with NATO. The IMF is about as popular as Yanukovych, and could end up less popular once IMF lending/strictures are imposed. I doubt that the IMF is any more popular now than it was the last time Ukraine got bailed out; I doubt that many ordinary people are thinking about it positively. As regards NATO, I doubt many people are thinking about it; if they are, it’s more because of Crimea (and NATO vs. Russia in Crimea would be epochally stupid) and the Russian military maneuvers than Russian fascists. IOW, what I’m saying is that ordinary Ukrainians may have some moderately worked out political ideas, but they tend not to have any clear conception of how they mesh/fail to mesh with reality. I don’t think that this makes them different from Americans. Now, I could be wrong. I’m not seeing any polling – and how could anyone conduct a statistically valid poll right now? – on the questions. If I am wrong about opinion on NATO and the IMF, I’d say the same thing I’ve been saying about the EU: I understand the need and will to believe, but the reality won’t match the fantasy. NATO going in against Russia could result in war – if anything, the nonsense in Crimea ought to wake people up. Even in Washington. (actually, that’s probably impossible)

It’s giving out passports, sending Russian delegations to meetings in Ukraine, shielding Yanukovych and arranging press conferences for him, and now militarily threatening Ukraine directly.

Russia is not giving out passports. You may not believe this, but we’re in communication with family several times daily, and this is not happening as of yet. A couple diplomats went off the reservation, and really stirred the proverbial pot. The Duma is supposedly considering a limited bill to this effect, but the word is that no action can be expected for six months. That could change, certainly. In talking with family, and reading Crimean news services, we’re not seeing the passports.

Yes, Yanukovych was exfiltrated by Russia. That’s because Russia can play geopolitical hardball just like the West, although in the case of Yanukovych, it’s quite ridiculous, as not even the Russians in Ukraine respect him. If they think this will be an effective gambit, they should put down the vodka bottles. I suspect that part of the reason they’re sheltering him is that they very much oppose this sort of revolution, both on principle (‘outside powers should not meddle in other states’ internal affairs’) and for the example it might set in Moscow.

As regards the military threats, no, that’s not helpful at all, and plenty of Russians in Ukraine are saying as much. On the other hand, NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War hasn’t been helpful, either. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this issue, but there has never been a compelling geopolitical reason for it, since Russia is not capable of achieving hegemony over Eurasia; Western policymakers know this, but pretend not to know it whenever the issue comes up. I leave it to any readers to puzzle out the reasons for this. My own view, again, is that any question the answer to which is “american hegemony” is a stupid question. Even one of America’s foreign-policy imbecilities of the last fifteen years would demonstrate this, IMO.

I don’t know what will happen here, but it’s clear that Russia is sliding dangerously close to starting a war.

Russia is contributing it’s share, sure. However, this is why American foreign policy has blown for as long as I’ve been paying attention: a complete incapacity or unwillingness to understand how it is/will be perceived by other nations/societies. It’s structurally and temperamentally sociopathic. America/NATO’s Drang nach Osten has always been perceived as hostile by Russia, because, at some level, it is. American FP elites basically say so in their books and essays. Some Russian liberals may once have believed otherwise; I’m not sure that even the handful of Russian liberals would still maintain a belief in the benignity of the process. Certainly, not even reformers like Navalny would favour NATO expansion. IOW, the perception of NATO’s hostility is near-uniform among Russians, and that’s not because they’re all brainwashed Putinites or fascists – it’s because, from the early nineties on, the policy of the West has been ‘no quarter’. Again, I’ve no interest in comparative political iniquity studies here. My point is the perception, more than anything else. Here in America, we don’t care what anyone thinks, and we don’t think about what anyone might think about that.. We just act. It’s institutional Bushism, or something. (Bush was not sui generis; maybe the Id of the system.)

Low fertility is a problem because capitalist society deals with the resultant decline of growth by ratcheting up the plutocracy; any decline in the growth rate/rate of profit is an excuse to squeeze the people. You can have a smaller population, but not with capitalism.

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Bruce Wilder 02.28.14 at 4:11 am

Why do people still think low fertility is something “precarious”?

The big drivers in Ukraine’s population decline are the death rate and immigration.

Fertility is low, but age at first birth isn’t. High immigration rates probably depress fertility rates.

But, the big story is the death rate. Ukraine really doesn’t need to worry about a lot of retired folks, even though the average age is 40, at least not men — they’re drinking and smoking themselves to death, if they aren’t already succumbing to obesity and environmental pollutants.

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notsneaky 02.28.14 at 4:45 am

NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War hasn’t been helpful, either. We’re not going to see eye to eye on this issue, but there has never been a compelling geopolitical reason for it, since Russia is not capable of achieving hegemony over Eurasia; Western policymakers know this, but pretend not to know it whenever the issue comes up.

Well, yeah, let’s be honest. In some sense NATO expansion is/has been “anti-Russia”. But it’s not necessarily “anti-the-actually-existing Russia” rather it’s a “anti-some-crazy-Russia-that-might-happen” kind of insurance.

The former Soviet controlled states basically see it that way: “ok, we’re part of NATO. Whatever the heck that really is, it is a guarantee that Russian talks won’t roll in like they did before. Whew!”. On the other hand you got the Americans/Western Europe saying “Russia… seems ok now. But who knows what could happen. Let those guys in just in case”. I mean, yeah, it’s couched in a lot of diplomatic language and all that, but that’s basically what it is.

As the “actually-existing-Russia” wibbles and wobbles to and from the “the crazy Russia that could be” standard, the NATO expansions in practice can take more or less anti-”actually-existing-Russia” aspects.

165

notsneaky 02.28.14 at 4:51 am

talks –> tanks

166

Random Lurker 02.28.14 at 10:41 am

@notsneaky
Well, yeah, let’s be honest. In some sense NATO expansion is/has been “anti-Russia”. But it’s not necessarily “anti-the-actually-existing Russia” rather it’s a “anti-some-crazy-Russia-that-might-happen” kind of insurance.

I think that NATO expansion is more like “we are TEH AWESOME and everyone has to be subsumed to the NATO/EU borg, for their own sake”.
This is not special or particularly evil, however this is aggressive from the point of view of the Russians.
- The Russians think: hey they are meddling with our sphere of influence!
- The NATO/EU think: Russia shouldn’t have a sphere of influence anymore than Spain or Germany has.
So it is obvious that there is a real divergence of opinion about what is the role of Russia in the world between Russia and NATO/EU.
I say that all this is not particularly evil because I suspect that this is the natural way different blocks/nations think one of another, however this clearly can lead to very bad outcomes.

167

Suzanne 02.28.14 at 11:03 am

@166:
The Russians also have legitimate concerns about encirclement. You sound rather like Susan Rice, who waggled her finger at Putin on the Sunday morning talk shows last week:

“That’s a pretty dated perspective that doesn’t reflect where the people of Ukraine are coming from. This is not about the US and Russia,” she said.

Sure, Sue (and John. Kerry, that is). Tell it to your colleague Mrs. Robert Kagan. (“Fuck the EU,” indeed.)

168

Random Lurker 02.28.14 at 11:37 am

@Suzanne

The Russians certainly have reasonable concerns about encirclement.
I don’t understand what you mean by “legitimate”: in some sense, the Ukrainians too have “legitimate” concerns of being encircled between the EU and Russia, and so should be able to control both western Russia and eastern EU.

According to this logic, Italy has the right to control Switzerland, Croatia and Slovenia to prevent any encirclement (we tried with Croatia and Slovenia, but it didn’t work out well).

I simply don’t think that there is a reasonable definition of “legitimacy” about claims on influence – in reality, much of it is just “might makes right” stuff.

Just to be clear, I strongly agree on the fact that NATO/EU is acting aggressively against Russia since like 20 years. That’s because they (we) perceive a power vacuum there, and try to extend their (our) sphere of influence.
But, as long as it doesn’t entail actual violence, I don’t think that this is more objectionable than normal international politics, that is IMHO ripe with this sort of latent conflicts.

169

jwl 02.28.14 at 11:38 am

Jeff Martin,

Now that Russian forces are occupying airports, occupying the Ukrainian parliament, and the speaker of that parliament is calling for a vote without informing the Tatar and Ukrainian delegates, why are you still talking about NATO?

Russian military forces have no legal or treaty rights to be doing what they are doing. It is pure military gamesmanship, and now the Tatars are forming self-protection units. A Russian fascist from Russian Unity was just appointed to head the government in Crimea after they dismissed the Kiev-appointed one.

Russia is doing what it wants to in Crimea and useful idiots in Crimea are helping them. The wishes of the Crimean population are immaterial. If Russia is willing to do this to Ukraine, who isn’t even hostile to Russia, then you better believe they’ll do it yo any of their neighbors.

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jwl 02.28.14 at 12:18 pm

Jeff,

I think we have reached the end of the line. Unless something very unusual happens, we know how this will play out. I hope your in-laws are safe when the “fraternal” Russian forces start killing people and that they are able to manage under Russian domination.

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Jeff Martin 02.28.14 at 12:21 pm

Now that Russian forces are occupying airports, occupying the Ukrainian parliament, and the speaker of that parliament is calling for a vote without informing the Tatar and Ukrainian delegates, why are you still talking about NATO?

It’s not Russian forces occupying the provincial airport in Crimea or the parliament in Simferopol; it’s local militias, of the sort that have – unfortunately – proliferated all over the country, among Russians and Ukrainians. I’m talking about NATO not to defend anyone’s behaviour, but to emphasize that this crisis has a pre-history more complicated than the rise of Russian fascism; in fact, the rise of Russian fascism owes in part to precisely this history. Basically, you had a nation in free-fall in the nineties, initially assured that none of that expansion would happen; and then it did happen, at a time when the nation was still prostrate and trying to stand up, when influential people in the West were suggesting that some territories of Russia itself be hived off. In part this is about the crazy-Russia-that-might-happen; in part it’s about grubbier motives. Plenty of folks in the FP establishment have said crazy things about Russia, and plenty of folks in that establishment have been tellingly inconsistent in responding to political crises involving the Russian periphery (a given people wants out of Russia – good; a given people wants out of some state bordering Russia, or formerly part of a non-Russian Soviet state – not so good. So, for some, Chechen independence, good; Ossetian independence from Georgia, not so good.). Interesting, from my point of view, is that one needn’t read Russian media, or try to get deep into the Russian FP mind, to be skeptical of all this; one need only realize that many of the same people who brought you the Iraq War, extraordinary rendition, black sites, and other crimes against humanity think NATO expansion/containing Russia is a great idea. Distrusting those people and their ostensible reasons is a pretty good heuristic after the past 15 years, IMO. Sure, blind pigs & etc. But the burden of proof is on the blind pig.

More generally, the textbook IR/FP argument in favour of this sort of expansion/hegemony is that global stability depends upon preventing any would-be hegemon from dominating Eurasia, or at least from overly influencing it. The trouble with the argument, IMO, is not merely the demonstrable weakness of Russia as a state, nor even that Russia selling so much gas to the West hasn’t led to Russia dominating the EU, but that it entails the necessity and desirability of American geopolitical hegemony. So: their extremely hypothetical hegemony = bad; our actual hegemony = good. I cannot see the latter assumption that underpins the textbook argument, at all. Not after the last fifteen years.

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Jeff Martin 02.28.14 at 12:27 pm

My in-laws just want the threat of conflict to subside. And if those Russian passports ever materialize, they’ll take them; not to make some political point against Kiev, but to have the means of getting the fuck out of a war zone.

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Dan Hardie 02.28.14 at 2:16 pm

‘It’s not Russian forces occupying the provincial airport in Crimea or the parliament in Simferopol; it’s local militias, of the sort that have – unfortunately – proliferated all over the country, among Russians and Ukrainians.’

Speaking as a soldier, the photographs of the guys at Simferopol do not show anything that looks like a local militia to me. Those are disciplined, well-turned out guys wearing proper uniform. Everything about them says ‘professionalism’: their appearance, the way they are holding their weapons, their coolness in a tense situation. These guys are properly trained and led. I would bet money that these are professional soldiers or policemen from a Russian unit, who have been ordered to remove their insignia from their uniforms.

174

TM 02.28.14 at 4:37 pm

jwl 159: “Extremely low fertility could be managed, but not with the Donbass economy. Declining populations just don’t need massive factory production.”

I don’t get your point. Are they running out of factory workers in Ukraine?

notsneaky 160: You are roughly correct but let’s be more specific. My pet example is Japan, often cited by “demographic crisis”-mongers as a doomed basket case. I wrote this down in detail at http://www.slideshare.net/amenning/the-human-population-challenge, slides 46ff. In 1950, 59.6% of Japan’s population were working age. In 2012, that figure was 62.9%. Look at that “demographic crunch”! True, the share is projected decline slightly, to a low of 51.5% by 2050. But compared to 1950, workforce participation is likely to be higher. Productivity will be much higher. And old people are probably in better health. The average retirement age will probably go up a few years. So what’s the problem? There is no shortage of workers on the horizon. More retirees yes but also fewer children. Children are expensive, especially if you want them to be well fed and educated. Yet demographic crunchers tend to exclusively talk about the burden posed by retirees, never by children.

“Even if you think that lower population, zero population, whatever, is a good thing (maybe), it’s still the case that that transition’s gonna hurt.”

Agreed. Change is never easy. An aging society poses challenges, in my view more on the level of social values than economic cost. But then there is no alternative to that transition. It’s not the question whether we “think that lower population, zero population [growth], whatever, is a good thing”. There’s just no alternative to it. Either population keeps growing indefinitely, which is physically impossible, or population growth comes to an end. I assume we can agree that far. This implies either a dramatic decrease in life expectancy, or an aging population structure (aka demographic transition). There’s no other way.

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notsneaky 02.28.14 at 5:33 pm

It’s not Russian forces occupying the provincial airport in Crimea or the parliament in Simferopol; it’s local militias,

The reports I’m seeing say otherwise.

176

StevenAttewell 02.28.14 at 5:51 pm

AP is reporting Russian APCs belonging to the Black Sea fleet and I’m watching video of Russian helicopters patrolling the airport.

That’s not militia.

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Jeff Martin 02.28.14 at 10:15 pm

Yes, I missed the boat on the guys in Simferopol. I relied on some early reports in both Western media and some local outlets in Crimea, which were too vague. Those guys are pros, absolutely.

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Sasha Clarkson 03.01.14 at 12:02 am

Well, the “trouble ahead” is now here.

Meanwhile, although the eyes of the world are focussed on Crimea, one should remember that this is only a small part of a much bigger picture. I would guess that the next “drama” will be elsewhere.

179

Chaz 03.01.14 at 8:11 am

People who talk about Russia’s “sensitivity” or whatever to Nato enlargement are completely ignoring the needs and desires of the countries joining. USA did not roll into Estonia and force them to join. Estonia desperately wanted to join, to secure protection against a country that had dominated and Russified them in the past, and had a pretty strong likelihood of trying to do so again at some point in the future. And now, look at the result: Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova: invaded and occupied by Russia. Nato members: not invaded by anyone. Russia does not get a veto over other countries’ treaties, and certainly not over their defensive preparations against Russia.

Trying to say USA hegemony is equivalent to Russian hegemony is also bullshit. Hegemony sucks but let’s be real. For states bordering Russia, Russian hegemony means getting Russified; USA hegemony does not include Anglification or whatever the word would be, so it’s already a good sight better. In Europe, USA hegemony also does not mean having the USA fiddle too much in your domestic politics the way Russia tries to. However I will admit that the EU does that and the USA’s been doing it in the rest of America for a long time.

The Guardian’s coverage indicates that Russia has effectively occupied all of Crimea, not just parts of Simferopol and Sevastopol. I guess Russia’s going to Abkhazify Crimea or annex it outright. That’s a shame. It is slightly infuriating to see Obama say that there will be grave consequences “if” Russia intervenes in Ukraine. I guess he has his reasons, and I don’t want the USA to go to war over this either. I’m terrified for the Crimean Tatars but I’m not sure what can be done to help them.

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notsneaky 03.01.14 at 10:12 am

Well, at this point it does look like Russian troops are there, boots on the ground and all, seizing control of strategic points. They’re playing cute a bit by not wearing identifying badges, not exactly pretending to be local “militias” but not doing anything to clear up that kind of confusion either. Aren’t there some international conventions about that sort of thing?.

At this point it’s hard to tell what exactly this is. It’s not quite Georgia/South Ossetia. It might be just “put as many Russian soldiers in the harm’s way” as possible, hope that some hot head or other hurts one of them, then use that as an excuse for an actual invasion.

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Suzanne 03.01.14 at 11:11 am

@168: “Reasonable” works. I agree the ordinary people of Ukraine are between the proverbial rock and hard place and are probably trapped between the EU and Russia for some time to come.

“Just to be clear, I strongly agree on the fact that NATO/EU is acting aggressively against Russia since like 20 years. That’s because they (we) perceive a power vacuum there, and try to extend their (our) sphere of influence.”

Ms. Nuland on the phone discussing which leader the US wants installed in Ukraine makes this rather clear. Only the Russians are not without weapons, literally and figuratively.

182

bob mcmanus 03.01.14 at 12:45 pm

Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers …Truthout and MH’s blog

” Play the ethnic card to break the country into pieces if you want to disable government regulatory power and investment. Co-opt a client oligarchy whose opportunities for the West lie in privatizing public resources and selling shares in the rent-extracting companies on Western stock exchanges. Keep your proceeds in the West and fritter it away on trophy real estate, ownership of sports clubs and London or Swiss bank accounts.

Finance is the new mode of warfare, and we are seeing a grab for what military invasions in times past aimed at: land, natural resources and infrastructure monopolies.

There is little likelihood of national economic development. The aim is to empty out the nation’s capital, not create it.”

Poor Ukraine, but hell yes, Wall Street and the City and the EU and Empire is a greater threat to global freedom and social justice than Putin and Russia.

183

Sasha Clarkson 03.01.14 at 5:16 pm

JWL “The wishes of the Crimean population are immaterial.” No they aren’t If a majority didn’t want to be Russian, Russia wouldn’t have a foothold there. Calling the population there “idiots” just indicates a racist contempt for those who don’t share your particular partisan version of Ukrainian nationalism, which resents perceived oppression, but is happy to oppress. Your posts regularly display a wilful blindness to the fact that many Ukrainians have a different view to your own as to where their best interest lies.

Divisions in Ukraine are deep, as indicated by the 2010 election results: different people have different legitimate aspirations which are, alas, mutually incompatible, except in a culturally pluralist state. As it happens, these splits approximately correspond to natural geographic divisions. Given the disaster and incompetence of Yanukovich’s presidency, the partisan nature of the new Kiev regime, and the woeful ineptness of the EU, US and NATO interference, permanent fracture now seems inevitable.

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jwl 03.01.14 at 7:40 pm

Sasha, I understand this is an emotional thing for you. But once Putin sent in the Russian marines and special forces, the democratic wishes of the people of Crimea became largely irrelevant. The current leader of Crimea, who was selected by someone (it isn’t actually clear), is the head of the Russian Unity party in Crimea and a Russian citizen. The party got 4% of the vote in the last election.

The geographic divisions aren’t clean, which is precisely why this is such a problem. What are you going to say if Russian marines shoot protesting Crimean Tatars? It could easily happen now. Putin has just requested and gotten from his lapdog parliament permission to militarily intervene _anywhere_ in Ukraine. So if he sticks a puppet into the administration of Kherson, which is 70+ % Ukrainian, that’s ok with you? By Putin’s logic, Turkey has a legitimate justification for militarily invading Crimea to protect the Crimean Tatars, many of whom have relatives in Turkey.

You clearly don’t know what “useful idiots” means. I would suggest googling it, or going here. I don’t believe that Putin is motivated by human rights concerns here, and if I were you, I’d be a little less quick with accusations of racism, especially coming from someone who doesn’t seem to care much for the human rights of non-Russians.

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notsneaky 03.01.14 at 8:06 pm

Poor Ukraine, but hell yes, Wall Street and the City and the EU and Empire is a greater threat to global freedom and social justice than Putin and Russia.

So Russia sends troops – you know, like actual people with actual guns – into another country, in contravention of an international agreement it signed with it and without any basis except some kind of imperial politic and… it’s US and EU that are the aggressors? Because … Wall Street! Empire! Blah blah blah.

Sheesh.

186

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.01.14 at 8:09 pm

Well, NATO intervened and bombed Serbia when nationalists were in control there. Kosovo became independent and everyone applauded. Did it not set a precedent for this sort of thing?

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bob mcmanus 03.01.14 at 8:23 pm

185:Mark Ames

“The protests have come under fire as an American-funded coup, particularly in the Russian media. And there’s some truth to it — the US has been bringing in Serbs and Georgians experienced in non-violent revolution to train Ukrainians for at least a year. One exit poll — the one finding most heavily in favor of Yushchenko — was funded by the US. The smoothness and professionalism of the protest, from the instant availability of giant blocks of Styrofoam to pitch the tents on to the network of food distribution and medical points, is probably a result of American logistical planning. It’s certainly hard to imagine Ukrainians having their act together that well. The whole orange theme and all those ready-made flags also smack of American marketing concepts, particularly Burson-Marstellar.

I guess I’ll have to quote 182.

“Finance is the new mode of warfare, and we are seeing a grab for what military invasions in times past aimed at: land, natural resources and infrastructure monopolies.”

A child starving to death in Greece is not comforted by the fact that his murder was “non-violent”

Which reminds me to get back to Christian Marazzi Violence of Financial Capitalism

And if loans fail, the Empire will hire contractors, following the Saudi model. Scum.

188

bob mcmanus 03.01.14 at 8:28 pm

Speaking of contractors and outside agitators

The ex-Israeli soldier who led a Kiev fighting unit

The Israelis were also playing in Georgia, if you remember

I’m sure you’re glad to know you are on the side of Netanyahu and the IDF.

189

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 8:31 pm

If you take anything that Mark Ames says seriously, *especially* when it comes to Russia…. well… not even gonna bother.

190

The Temporary Name 03.01.14 at 8:41 pm

Well, NATO intervened and bombed Serbia when nationalists were in control there. Kosovo became independent and everyone applauded. Did it not set a precedent for this sort of thing?

There was a little more slaughter.

191

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 9:01 pm

For one thing NATO never signed a treaty guaranteeing territorial integrity of Serbia. I think. US and Russia did sign such a treaty with Ukraine (in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes)

192

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.01.14 at 9:01 pm

Well, there’s been already violence in Kharkiv, dozens injured. There’s been no bombing yet. The situation is developing, and there is a recent precedent, like I said.

193

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.01.14 at 9:14 pm

Well, if they hold a referendum in Crimea and the separatists win, it’ll have nothing to do with Russia. AFAIK, nobody blamed Albania for the Kosovo secession.

194

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 9:28 pm

If Crimea has a referendum, it will be because Putin wants them to have a referendum, and Putin wants to show Ukraine that that Ukraine doesn’t get to have any say in the matter.

Given local sentiment, I do not think Putin will feel the need to rig the referendum.

The only subtle point might be what precise question is put.

195

notsneaky 03.01.14 at 9:28 pm

Speaking of contractors and outside agitators

The ex-Israeli soldier who led a Kiev fighting unit

The Israelis were also playing in Georgia, if you remember

I’m sure you’re glad to know you are on the side of Netanyahu and the IDF.

Quit lying. What you got there is not a “contractor and outside agitator” but rather a… Ukrainian Jew who happened to have served in Israeli military at one point. And then participated in the Maidan protests. Which I guess would make him a “Ukrainian Jew nationalist fascist in service of world finance”.

196

Bruce Wilder 03.01.14 at 10:15 pm

notsneaky @ 9:01: US and Russia did sign such a treaty with Ukraine (in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nukes)

The parenthetical highlights the relevant precedent of our time, eh?

The insanity of U.S. foreign policy in trying to bring Ukraine out of Russia’s sphere of influence is just highlighted, here.

197

roy belmont 03.01.14 at 10:48 pm

well… not even gonna bother.
Pretty much how a lot us feel about formerly persecuted people who don’t have any problem at all dealing with, materially and financially supporting, and otherwise generally encouraging right-wing racists, as long as that racism isn’t pointed at them.
Counter-intuitive as it may look, that’s what’s up.

198

Vanya 03.01.14 at 11:06 pm

@179 USA hegemony does not include Anglification or whatever the word would be

Of course it does. It’s just that the world has internalized Anglo-American culture and language to such an extent that no one thinks this is odd. The elites of countries that are nominally not under US hegemony, like China and Russia, still make huge efforts to learn English. In Anglo-American colonial outposts like Germany, Poland, Netherlands, and increasingly even in France, English is quietly driving local languages into cultural and economic irrelevance with hardly a peep of local protest.

199

Vanya 03.01.14 at 11:15 pm

@189 – I’ll give Ames some credit. That is one of the better pieces on Ukraine I’ve read in the Western media. He is right on a number of important counts – that the “facist” element among the opposition is real, but probably not much of a threat long term and has been vastly exagerrated by Russian and some Western media; that Yanukovych was not a Kremlin puppet, but was trying to play his own game; and that most protestors are not driven by ideology.

200

Ronan(rf) 03.01.14 at 11:28 pm

My impression is that Russia’s a failing, crumbling hasbeen of a power and a bully. The sooner they give up their mindless opposition to personal freedom and public health programs and minority rights and long walks on cool autumn days and all the other nice things on offer, the better it’ll be for everyone. Soon *they* will be firmly enconsed within the liberal order, let alone their ‘sphere of influence’, and we can give up on this nonsense that they can bypass conventional paths to social and economic development through force of will.

201

Andrew F. 03.02.14 at 1:16 am

- Beyond question that Russia has violated the Budapest Memorandum.

- The “we must intervene to safeguard the rights of Russians” line has become a little tired at this point.

- Given the influence and power of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet forces in Crimea, and the lengthy time they’ve had to prepare the ground, this operation could not have come as a surprise.

- First the Olympics as broadcast by Russian media, then a somewhat embarrassing escalation in the Ukraine, followed by a smooth military invasion to protect vulnerable Russians abroad endangered by a US sponsored fascist coup, which surely has also intimidated certain other states on Russia’s western borders: quite the first quarter for Mr. Putin. Of course, they still have to actually win the vote in May, but given Russian information dominance in Crimea, and the heavy political groundwork they’ve done, perhaps they’ve reason to be confident.

- To mute any substantial Western opposition, Putin will need to make certain guarantees regarding the protection of the Tatars and other groups in Crimea, and certain promises regarding democratic governance in Crimea going forward. He’s probably already done so. I can buy the first part of the promise, in the near term. The second part… perhaps a nice democracy show.

- There’s a lot that the Ukrainian Government can do before then to make things extremely uncomfortable for Moscow (as long as the Ukrainians are willing to endure some discomfort themselves), and Crimea is valuable in many dimensions. Still, given the level of corruption in the Ukraine, it will be easy for Russia to shade the options appropriately.

- Western states will reassure former Eastern Bloc states of continued commitment, with perhaps an increase in NATO deployment or exercises. If there are no atrocities in Crimea, and the situation can be stabilized, it is unlikely that Russia will face serious repercussions.

- It’s unclear that Russia needed to do this in order to secure its interests in Crimea. This seems almost the plan of someone who views the image of Russian status to be as important as its actual strength (very pretty in execution as well). He’ll get the image, domestically at least, but perhaps at the cost of less real security for Russia as this type of action guarantees increased wariness and opposition from former Eastern Bloc states and possibly reinvigorates NATO.

202

QS 03.02.14 at 1:20 am

Did Crimea ever really become part of Ukraine anyway? Given the Russian military installations there and the seeming lack of Ukraine state forces, it seems that its membership in the Ukraine and sovereignty from Russia was always a question.

203

mab 03.02.14 at 10:02 am

Yes, Crimea really did become a part of Ukraine. In fact, 60 percent of the economy is subsidized by the central Ukrainian budget, and virtually all their water and electricity come from the mainland.

In 1994 Russia signed a treaty agreeing to respect the borders of the country.

Russia invaded Ukraine.

204

notsneaky 03.02.14 at 10:20 am

The only reason it’s not all out war right now is because, maybe surprisingly, the Ukrainians have kept their cool. It’s the “ignore the bully who’s punching you in the face” tactic because, you know, your parents always tell you that “if you ignore it, it will go away”. So they’re giving it a good ol’ try and trying their best to ignore getting punched in the face over and over again (and if they even put their hands up, then there’ll be a lot of screaming about fascist salutes! Cuz that’s what putting up one’s hand’s up looks like. And anyway, it’s all fascists, and nationalists, and IDF forces and George Soros there!) and just hoping … hoping that the teacher will come and break the fight up and not be dumb enough to blame the kid with the bloody nose.

The amazing thing is how cool the Ukrainians have been about all this. They’re pretty much getting invaded, they’re tittering on the brink of instability, but all they’ve done so far is ask the US and EU to save them. No fighting back, no pissed off response. It’s a bit weird.

205

notsneaky 03.02.14 at 10:21 am

Not even save them just be half-way cognizant of the situation.

206

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.02.14 at 11:02 am

The “we must intervene to safeguard the rights of Russians” line has become a little tired at this point.

Well, as far as pretexts go, it certainly isn’t nearly as problematic as American excuses when they pick sides and intervene in faraway countries’ civil unrests. I mean, if you want to condemn imperialism in general – I’m with you, but condemning a little weak empire while turning a blind eye to the big and powerful one, it just stinks of hypocrisy.

The amazing thing is how cool the Ukrainians have been about all this.

Not really, not that amazing: they saw what happened to Saakashvili. Americans will gladly pay for sandwiches and ski masks, but starting WWIII to win Ukraine would be something completely different. My guess: the west getting Ukraine sans Crimea is an acceptable option for both sides; Crimea is out, but eastern Ukraine is still in play.

207

Igor Belanov 03.02.14 at 12:38 pm

Is there any group of opinion within Ukraine that says losing Crimea would be a good thing? Apart from the embarrassment of losing territory, they will also have lost an area which is potentially a constant source of division, and which would strengthen the relative position of ethnic Ukrainians in the rest of the country. It might even be worth bargaining Crimean away in return for guarantees (possibly with some kind of international backing) about the rest of the country. I know in the heat of the moment it is unlikely, but there must be some cooler heads thinking longer term.

208

Suzanne 03.02.14 at 1:48 pm

“The “we must intervene to safeguard the rights of Russians” line has become a little tired at this point.”

True, but Ukraine is in Putin’s backyard. I can’t imagine how anyone couldn’t see this coming, and the cries of outrage seem disingenuous, at best. In the US we now have both neoliberals and neocons beating the drums of war. This Evil Empire stuff is getting kind of old, too.

209

Sasha Clarkson 03.02.14 at 2:14 pm

It’s too late for pious words now: and it’s even more clear to me that the previous article by Dimitrova was never about the real, complex divided country, but about a fantasy of her own imagination. The denouement of this Ukrainian crisis was always going to be determined by realpolitik rather than rhetoric: unfortunately, the western politicians stirring up the pot clearly never understood this. Anyone looking into a crystal ball now needs to put a totally cynical hat on.

I’m sorry to say that nothing which has happened so far has been a surprise to me. apart from the absolute stupidity of some western politicians, particularly John McCain. It is fashionable to regard Putin as a quasi dictator, but despite his authoritarian tack-record, it’s far more complicated than that. Putin’s position depends upon continued popular support, and that depends upon him being seen to be strong. Western notions of a democratic society don’t really mean much to most Russians. Perceived weakness is not respected. For example, to me, Gorbachev always seemed to be a decent humane man, but he’s totally despised in Russia today.

Russia did not want THIS crisis NOW: Putin’s long term strategy has always aimed at the peaceful reintegration of most of the Ukraine (ie the traditionally Orthodox bits, including Kiev), into Russia’s sphere. Since the fall of Yanukovich, Putin has done the bare minimum needed to maintain his position at home. In one sense, he has not been Machiavellian enough in the past: Yanukovich was always seen by Russia as an unreliable partner and something of a liability: in Putin’s shoes, I’d have arranged an “accident” for him a long time ago. Yanukovich’s veniality and total incompetence have totally derailed Russia’s long term strategy and played into the hands of the West’s new cold warriors.

So now, for Russia, is it “bird in the hand”, or “two in the bush”? My guess is that there are two keys to this: the Odessa area, and the unity, or otherwise, of Ukraine’s armed forces. If Russia can gain control as far as Kherson (the mouth of the Dniepr) – or even Odessa, then Ukraine will be split. If it can’t, then, subject to guarantees, and assuming that Turchinov has the sense not to send troops there, Donietsk and Kharkov will be encouraged by Moscow to stay in Ukraine, for now, and given generous Russian financial support.

However, I suspect that Crimea is lost to Ukraine for good, and also that any “solution” which delays partition of the rest will be temporary and unstable. Expect round two in five or ten years’ time. Not all the Tsar’s horses, nor all the Tsar’s men, can put Shaltai-Boltai together again.

http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A8%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B9-%D0%91%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B9

210

teraz kurwa my 03.02.14 at 3:03 pm

How on earth is Russia supposed to get Kiev into the Russian sphere. It’s not exactly friendly territory. In the 2012 parliamentary elections Yanukovich’s party got 12.6% of the vote in Kiev and the also Russophile Communists got 7.3%. By contrast the ultra-nationalist Svoboda got 17.3%, Tymosheno’s Fatherland party got 31.0% and UDAR got 25.5%. (Overall, nation wide the total vote for the two main Russophile parties was 43% and the three main pro-Western parties got 50% with the former getting a majority of the seats).

It’s safe to say that nobody who votes for the pro-Western pro-Ukrainian nationalism parties wants to be part of Russia, the reverse is not true.

211

bob mcmanus 03.02.14 at 3:15 pm

How on earth is Russia supposed to get Kiev into the Russian sphere.

East Ukraine/Crimea gets near free gas from Gazprom, buchu billions in aid, Russian goods orders for their factories.

West Ukraine/Kiev gets the EU/IMF austerity and no or expensive gas from Gazprom, in other words, gets to be Greece. They may have fond memories from the last time they were ruled by Germany, but the current German regime will not allow those sporting activities that were so much fun before.

I have no idea why any poor country would want to join the EU. Maybe massive fracking will be offered. Ethanol.

212

Alex 03.02.14 at 3:16 pm

It’s certainly hard to imagine Ukrainians having their act together that well.

Mark Ames’s one lodestar principle – his own superiority to everyone else – serves him again!

213

teraz kurwa my 03.02.14 at 3:23 pm

I’m sure the Romanians just wish they could have the good life their cousins have over in Moldova. And Romania is about as bad as it gets in the EU. Ukrainians can look westwards and think: Twenty five years ago we had a similar living standard to the Poles, now they earn three times as much as we do, thank God we managed to avoid that horrible fate.

214

Gorgonzola Petrovna 03.02.14 at 3:41 pm

Moldova is not friendly with Russia, though. Belarus would be a better example.

But anyway: who says Russia wants Kiev? If I were Putin, I’d draw a line from where the Belarus-Russia border meets Ukraine, down to Odessa, and try to make it my new border. It’ll take some doing, but, the way things are now, it looks doable. An excuse will present itself, and half of the Ukrainian military might be very reluctant to fight, so no big war. As they say: “war is nothing, only maneuvers matters” (Война – хуйня, главное – манёвры).

215

bob mcmanus 03.02.14 at 3:49 pm

Yatsenyuk Calls For Austerity Measures

“To go through these economic challenges we have no other way but take unpopular decisions regarding subsidies, tariffs, social programs”

I looked for Yatsenyuk on the list of the 50 richest Ukrainians, but the list only goes down to around 150 million. Too many billionaires or close to it.

West Ukrainians can eat their freedom by their freedom fire while waiting 25 years to become Romania as the oligarchs steal their country again and again…Yatsenyuk ain’t gonna end the corruption.

216

Vanya 03.02.14 at 4:11 pm

“They may have fond memories from the last time they were ruled by Germany, but the current German regime will not allow those sporting activities that were so much fun before.”

This is uncalled for. The condescension towards Western Ukraine from so-called progressives in the West is disgusting. Western Ukrainians have fond memories of being ruled by the Habsburgs, and not unreasonably given subsequent events. Galicians, Trans-Carpathians and Bukovinans never asked to be incorporated into Soviet Ukraine. Galicians weren’t sympathizers with Nazi Germany in 1939, it took a Soviet invasion, two years of brutal Soviet mistreatment and an uncaring West to force Galicians to cling to the only ally they had, an ally most Galicians never trusted. I’m also sure Western Ukraine would do far better economically without the corruption and gangsterism in Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk. It’s actually very generous of Western Ukraine to want to carry the culturally backward half of Ukraine with them.

217

LFC 03.02.14 at 4:57 pm

Suzanne @208
In the US we now have both neoliberals and neocons beating the drums of war.

Actually, afaics, a number somewhere between very few to no one is “beating the drums of war.” People are pointing out, correctly, that Russia’s moves violate intl law, but it doesn’t follow that a violation of intl law, even an egregious one, has to be met w military force, and this case a US-Russian mil conflict over this issue has a chance of happening close to zero.

It’s possible to have a philosophical position that justifies secession — see e.g. Wellman’s A Theory of Secession, which I found out about courtesy of the other thread (CB on open borders). But intl law as it stands has a strong presumption against secession in most cases, whether one likes that fact or not, and a strong presumption in favor of the preservation of territorial integrity, even of regimes whose character one doesn’t like or whose legitimacy some might call into question or which contain regions, like Crimea, which already have a degree of autonomy. Of course, if you don’t give a **** about intl law and territorial integrity and all that stuff, you’re welcome to hold that opinion, but better to espouse it openly than behind a smokescreen of “people are beating the drums of war.”

218

LFC 03.02.14 at 5:03 pm

P.s.
And the fact that the US (see, e.g., G.W. Bush) has itself violated international law in the past (and may be continuing to do so in some respects) is irrelevant to the present issue, since hypocrisy does not disqualify one from objecting to egregious violations of intl law by others. If hypocrisy were a disqualification, the intl system wd not be able to function as it does (i.e. not all that well but not all that poorly in some respects either).

219

Rakesh Bhandari 03.02.14 at 5:47 pm

Just read interesting pieces by Paul Mason and Juan Cole on the crisis.

220

Suzanne 03.03.14 at 1:21 am

@217: You’re right about the “drums of war.” I extrapolated too much from talk here and there on the net. I do not think that US hypocrisy, past and ongoing, is as irrelevant as you do, but I’m inclined to believe that US, or Western, recklessness is more directly relevant to the current situation. I will not bother with the insinuation that people who are not waxing indignant about Russki perfidy care nothing about violations of international law. The rat’s asses I leave to you.

221

roy belmont 03.03.14 at 1:36 am

Bob McM:
“I looked for Yatsenyuk on the list of the 50 richest Ukrainians”
The pattern isn’t oligarchical billionaires leading their various fiefdoms – too messy and dangerous for them.
The pattern is running things through proxies, puppets, exchangeable replaceable figureheads.
Many, not all, but many of the more signifying “Western” “leaders” on the world stage right now are nothing more than glorified versions of Josh Earnest.

222

LFC 03.03.14 at 1:39 am

I will not bother with the insinuation that people who are not waxing indignant about Russki perfidy care nothing about violations of international law.

I did not mean to insinuate that, at least not in that strong a form. So I’ll retract the last sentence of my comment at 217; it was exaggerated and not necessary to the comment.

223

The Temporary Name 03.03.14 at 4:05 am

I’m sure the Romanians just wish they could have the good life their cousins have over in Moldova.

IIRC Romania did not want Moldova to join it post-independence because Moldova was in such terrible shape.

224

TM 03.03.14 at 3:08 pm

“For one thing NATO never signed a treaty guaranteeing territorial integrity of Serbia.”

They did. It’s called the United Nations charter.

225

TM 03.03.14 at 3:20 pm

In related news, I wonder whether it would be polite in this grave situation to remind everybody of the undisputed fact that “Political systems and national boundaries are becoming more stable over time, not less.” (cf. 27)

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