FAILED EXPECTATIONS: how Ukrainians have been disillusioned. This post is designed to improve the reader’s understanding of the history behind the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Russia’s govt. continues to deny that they are involved in the Ukraine at all & this is how their controlled Russian press presents it. For starters, neither Putin’s controlled media, nor the West’s controlled media, are going to give the whole truth; they both are experienced at spinning the truth, selective reporting & even outright lying. If the reader doesn’t want to go beyond the propaganda of one side or the other, then this article is not for you. With the uncertainty & escalating violence in the Ukraine, it will cont. to be in the headlines. The U.N. reports 130 people killed in the recent violence. Pro-Russia militia were stopped from seizing a nuclear plant. The Ukrainians are using artillery, armored vehicles & snipers now. Rinat Akhmetov’s steel workers have taken over Mariupol from the Pro-Russian militias after Metinvest firm negotiated a truce. The nations that border the Ukraine are now very concerned, as one notable Polish intellectual said, “There can be no independent Poland without an independent Ukraine.”
DESIRE FOR INDEPENDENCE. Some people are mistakenly imagining that Ukrainian independence was simply some Western plot. In Apr. ’86, the Chernobyl disaster happened near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, but the Soviet (Russian) govt. covered it up. People were dying, but the Soviet govt. kept lying about the radiation. The people began hearing of the disaster from Western news stations. When the Soviet govt. finally had to admit radiation had leaked they told the people they’d be safe if they closed their windows & scrubbed their floors every day. In reaction to the entire tragedy, a Ukrainian green organization called Zelenyi Svit (Green World) rose up with 300 local chapters calling for a nuclear free Ukraine. The Chernobyl accident is the recent legacy that Russian Soviets left in the Ukraine. Ukrainians often feel their DNA has been irreparably damaged. For decades the Ukraine had produced more for Russia than it got back in return. Russia’s exploitation was a common complaint throughout the Ukraine. So the Ukrainians thought, why not run Ukraine for ourselves? No more Chernobyls. If we control our own country, its resources will make us well off & the freedoms of Europe will lead us to have the standard of living that western Europeans have. It was a nice dream, yet perhaps unrealistic. In the event, after 23 yrs. of independence, the Ukraine, once called the “breadbasket of Europe” (because of its ag), became an economic basket case! For all their trouble what did they gain? They now have lots of Coca-Cola to drink & many McDonald’s outlets & not much else. Historically, the Ukraine was once a powerful nation. What happened?
NATION BUILDING. The problem w/ creating a new Ukrainian nation is that the 74 years of Soviet rule had essentially destroyed most of Ukrainian culture, awareness of Ukrainian history, music, language, sense of nationality, etc. Stalin had a systematic campaign for years to destroy any Ukrainian identity. Its two main features were genocide & cultural subjugation. In 1934, Stalin ordered the destruction of all Ukrainian intelligentsia. In May-June, ’34, he executed the ENTIRE Ukrainian govt. So few survived, that no one knew who was in charge! (That is an example of NO continuity of govt.) After WW 2, Stalin outlawed the Ukrainian churches, & only the state-controlled Russian Orthodox Church was allowed to exist. Russian was the approved language, & Russians were placed in all the key controlling positions in the Ukraine. The eastern half of the Ukraine got “russified” (to use a Ukrainian term) very strongly. In eastern Ukraine, 72% prefer to speak Russian. Ukrainians came to view themselves as Soviet citizens, much as Americans view themselves first as Americans & only second by their state. The sense of “nationality” in the USSR was vastly different than the way we use the term. One might be “Ukrainian” & never learn the language or live there. Similar to an American having a vague idea that his ancestors came from Ireland to the U.S. He might call himself Irish, but be totally out of touch w/ Irish culture, language & history. The same problems the Ukraine faced in nation building would face Hawaii, if those who struggle for Hawaiian independence got it. The Hawaiian language is more or less gone, many people in Hawaii see themselves as Amer. first. HA is tied in economically w/ the U.S. & is in between the economic strength of China, Japan & the U.S. Likewise, the Ukraine has been trying to balance being between the EU (w/ an expanding NATO) & a bullying Russia. Between the two, it has become a zone of insecurity. This “recent” thing in the Crimea, is not recent. Russia has been threatening to seize the Crimea for yrs. From ’92-’96, the Crimea had declared its independence from the Kiev govt. It reversed that in ’96, & Russia signed a bilateral treaty that resolved the Crimean issue in Ukraine’s favor—until both sides stirred things up again. And this brings up one more stumbling block…the Ukraine has never had geographic features to define its boundaries.
WHAT THEY LACKED IN NATION BLDG. The DDR (East Ger.) was an eco. basket case when it gave up communism. It had a generous West Germany that was willing to sacrifice to help improve & integrate the ex-socialist economy into a western style economy. Independent Ukraine had no benefactor like that. Foreign investments have been small & inadequate. When the US built our nation during the Amer. Revolution, 1/3 of the population were for peace, 1/3 stayed loyal to the king of England, and 1/3 were the rebels that created this nation. The loyalists died or left for places like Canada! In some places the revolution had really been a civil war. You get a glimpse of that in Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot”. The point is that only those who wanted American Independence from England stayed. The Ukraine never got to have that kind of cleansing. People who have always been loyal to Moscow simply became “Ukrainian citizens” because when independence came they lived in the Ukraine. It was hard for older people, let’s say someone who had served in the Soviet army, to start thinking they were not Soviets. It hasn’t happened. Putin has been strong arming the Ukraine all along. They tried to force Ukraine’s gas company to merge (be gobbled up by) w/ Russia’s Gazprom. They inherited a dysfunctional bureaucracy from the communists, and eastern Ukraine & the Crimea had cont. to be run by hard-line communist types after independence. While people in the western Ukraine will freely talk about the abuse they survived under the Soviets, people in eastern Ukraine still have their old executioners living among them & they don’t feel free to express what happened under communism. So the legacy of state control inherited from the USSR continues to plague, haunt, and prevent reform in the Ukraine. The soviet mentality is all that the older folks can conceive.
DIASPORA. In WW 2, many western Ukrainians managed to end up in western Europe, incl. Germany. They could not return to the USSR, unless they wanted execution or a high risk of death in the Siberian Gulags. The UN put them in camps & many were allowed to settle in northern England. These ex-pats thrived. Over the years they would send packages to the west. Ukrainians, smuggle small Bibles to their old country, & once independence came they returned to visit to see friends & family after 50 years. The point is that the western Ukraine has had lots of contact w/ the west (U.K., U.S. & Canada) thru its ex-pats. Eastern Ukraine hasn’t. The east still lives w/ a totalitarian mentality w/ its habits of silence toward Russian atrocities.
DYNAMICS FOR SUCCESS. The nation has potential, it must not give up. This article has taken the view that Ukrainian independence is a better option than being part of Russia. I make that judgment call based on history; Russia has a pattern of dominating & horrifically abusing the Ukraine. In spite of the difficulties of nation building, if an independent Ukraine is to continue, the govt. must continue to encourage a national cultural Ukrainian identity. Right now the inertia continues for many to think of themselves as Soviets. The govt. must find some way to increase & strengthen the small middle class. It has to find funding to regain its intelligentsia which has been decimated by the economic disasters since independence. It must cont. developing regional strategies with the four western neighbors who are essential for success: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania. (Because the Ukraine has treated its Hungarian minority in Transcarpathia decently, it has good relations w/ Hungary.) Last, but not least, the Ukrainian govt. must fight corruption. No Ukrainian president of the 15 or so govt.s after independence has seriously fought corruption. The Ukraine has no option but to cooperate with both the EU & Russia if it wants peace & prosperity. Perhaps the chance for that is gone. The thoughts in this post are my own. And as a final thought, now that religious freedom has been restored, the Ukraine needs to look deep into its spirituality, and draw wisdom, and strength from the Creator God. Getting right w/ God is something they can afford!