compiled by Dominique Arel
Chair of Ukrainian Studies, U of Ottawa
28 June 2015
**Danyliw 2015 Seminar: Call for Papers (Deadline Reminder: 30 June 2015)**
2-Kule Doctoral Fellowships in Ukrainian Studies, 2016-2010
3-Inaugural Issue of the Journal of Ukrainian Politics & Society (JUPS)
4-World War II Conference, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (October)
5-Ukrainian Studies Imperiled at the University of Greifswald
6-Jessica Zychowicz New PostDoc at Jacyk Center, U of Toronto
7-Web Links: Pew Survey on NATO/Russia Polarization, IRSEM on Crimea One Year Later, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on US/German Views on Ukraine, Kritika Special Issue on Russia-Ukraine Conflict, Sakwa et al. on Ukraine and Russia
8-New Book: Marples & Mills, eds., Ukraine’s Euromaidan
9-New Book: Brogi, Dyczok et al., eds., Ukraine 20 Years After Independence
10-Human Rights in Ukraine: Halya Coynash, Donbas Betrayed
11-Macleans’s (Canada): The Fight to Heal Soldiers’ Bodies and Minds
12-The Guardian (UK): Bringing Down a Statue in Sloviansk
13-Jerusalem Post: Luhansk Rebel Leader’s Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Mindset
14-SkyNews (UK): Russian Soldiers' Deaths Raise Ukraine Questions
15-Anders Aslund: Ukraine’s Economic Reforms Proceed, But Too Slowly
16-YaleGlobal: Rojansky and Minakov, The New Ukrainian Exceptionalism
17-Foreign Policy: Why Ukrainians Are Speaking More Ukrainian
18-Mediapart Blog: Anya Stroganova, My Visit to Moscow as a “Fifth Columnist”
19-Daily Beast: Anna Nemtsova, Ukraine’s Wonder Woman
**Thanks to Anders Aslund, Nykolai Bilaniuk, Kevin Costa, Halya Coynash, Marta Dyczok, Edmond Huet, Nadiya Kravets, Irina Malska, Céline Marangé, Anna Nemtsova, and Roman Zurba**
**Deadline Reminder: 30 June 2015**
11th Annual Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine
Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Ottawa, 22-24 October 2015
CALL FOR PAPER PROPOSALS
The Chair of Ukrainian Studies, with the support of the Wolodymyr George Danyliw Foundation, will be holding the 11th Annual Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine at the University of Ottawa on 22-24 October 2015. Since 2005, the Danyliw Seminar has provided an annual platform for the presentation of some of the most influential social science research on Ukraine. The extraordinary events that have unfolded in Ukraine since 2013 will be the center of attention. The Seminar will also incorporate wider perspectives, by exploring the many political, historical, sociological and cultural factors relevant to our understanding of the current crisis.
The Seminar invites proposals from scholars and doctoral students (in political science, anthropology, sociology, history, law, economics and related disciplines in the social sciences and humanities), as well as practitioners from non-governmental and international organizations, journalists, and policy analysts on topics falling under the following thematic clusters (the examples given below are not exhaustive):
--political violence and the war in Donbas
--political/security aspects of the conflict with Russia (EU, OSCE, US, Canada)
--internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees
--economic transformation (energy sector, corruption, international aid)
--political transformation (electoral politics, parliamentary coalitions, rule of law)
--competing public narratives: traditional media, social media, state propaganda
--the rise of civil society (Maidan, volunteer groups, “self-defense” units)
The Seminar will also consider proposals that incorporate wider perspectives on the conflict, such as:
--historical memories and political contestations
--the formation of linguistic, regional and national identities
--Ukrainian nationalism and Russian nationalism
--Soviet/post-Soviet elites (political/economic) and social networks
--culture and politics: Ukrainians, Russian, Jews, Poles
Presentations at the Seminar will be based on research papers (4000-5000 words) and will be made available, shortly after the panel discussions, in written and video format on the Seminar website and social media. The Seminar will privilege intensive discussion, with relatively short presentations (10 minutes), comments by the moderator and an extensive Q&A with Seminar participants and assembled public. This year's Seminar will also include several special events.
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Danyliw Seminar in 2014, a special website was created at www.danyliwseminar.com. The site contains the program, all papers in blog format, videos of the presentations, interviews with all panelists, and over a hundred photographs. The site will soon incorporate announcements and materials concerning Danyliw 2015.
Videos of presentations and interviews with participants at the Danyliw 2014 Seminar can be found on the Danyliw Seminar YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX1dVZqseZQDBe2VBKlQTfg/videos.
A Facebook page for Danyliw 2014 was also created at
People interested in presenting at the 2015 Danyliw Seminar are invited to submit a 500 word paper proposal and a 150 word biographical statement, by email attachment, to Dominique Arel, Chair of Ukrainian Studies, at firstname.lastname@example.org AND email@example.com. Please also include your full coordinates (institutional affiliation, preferred postal address, email, phone) and, if applicable, indicate your latest publication or, in the case of doctoral applicants, the year when you entered a doctoral program, the title of your dissertation and year of expected completion.
The proposal deadline is 30 June 2015. The Chair will cover the expenses of applicants whose proposal is accepted by the Seminar. The proposals will be reviewed by an international selection committee and applicants will be notified in the course of the summer.
The Seminar is made possible by the generous commitment of the Wolodymyr George Danyliw Foundation to the pursuit of excellence in the study of contemporary Ukraine.
Kule Doctoral Scholarships on Ukraine
Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Ottawa
1 December 2015 (International Students)
1 February 2016 (Canadian Students)
The Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa, the only research unit outside of Ukraine predominantly devoted to the study of contemporary Ukraine, is announcing the third competition of the Drs. Peter and Doris Kule Doctoral Scholarships on Contemporary Ukraine. The Scholarships will consist of an annual award of $20,000, plus all tuition, for a maximum of four years.
The Scholarships were made possible by a generous donation of $500,000 by the Kule family, matched by the University of Ottawa. Drs. Peter and Doris Kule, from Edmonton, have endowed several chairs and research centres in Canada, and their exceptional contributions to education, predominantly in Ukrainian Studies, has recently been celebrated in the book Champions of Philanthrophy: Peter and Doris Kule and their Endowments.
Students with a primary interest in contemporary Ukraine applying to, or enrolled in, a doctoral program at the University of Ottawa in political science, sociology and anthropology, or in fields associated with the Chair of Ukrainian Studies, can apply for a Scholarship.
The application for the Kule Scholarship must include a 1000 word research proposal, two letters of recommendation (sent separately by the referees), and a CV and be mailed to Dominique Arel, School of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences Building, Room, 7067, University of Ottawa, 120 University St., Ottawa ON K1N 6N5, Canada.
Applications will be considered only after the applicant has completed an application to the relevant doctoral program at the University of Ottawa. Consideration of applications will begin on 1 February 2016 and will continue until the award is announced. Please note that international students seeking to enroll in a doctoral program are encouraged to apply by 1 December 2015. The deadline for Canadian students is 1 February 2016.
The University of Ottawa is a bilingual university and applicants must have a certain level of French. Specific requirements vary across departments.
Students interested in applying for the Scholarships beginning in the academic year 2016-2017 are invited to contact Dominique Arel (firstname.lastname@example.org), Chairholder, Chair of Ukrainian Studies, and visit our web site (http://socialsciences.uottawa.ca/ukraine).
From: "Kravets, Nadiya" <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 12:01 PM
Subject: JUPS: launch of the first issue and the website in Kyiv, June 25
It is with great pleasure that I would like to inform you about the launch of the 1st Issue of JUPS and of our new website: http://jups.krytyka.com/.
[The inaugural issue has articles by Paul J. D’Anieri, Rory Finnin, Oxana Shevel, Benjamin Kutsyuruba & Serhiy Kovalchuk, Anna Postelnyak and Jessica Zychowicz –UKL]
(…) Issue 2 is in the works and we plan to launch it in November with the successive issues coming out every April and November. We are awaiting our ISSN number and will begin indexing the journal afterwords.
I am currently in Kyiv on research and I am organizing the launch of this issue and the website together with Krytyka at the Fulbright Office, on Thursday, June 25, at 6pm.
(…) I would also like to take this opportunity and thank Oleh Kotsyuba, Chief Online Editor of Krytyka, for helping us with the preparation and the making of the JUPS website.
Dr. Nadiya Kravets
GIS Postdoctoral Fellow
Ukrainian Research Institute
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies
1730 Cambridge Street, Room 318
Cambridge, MA, 02138
Telephone +1 857 250 6995
Edmonton Conference to Examine the Impact of WWII
on Ukraine and Eastern Europe
CIUS-Edmonton, 17 June 2015
The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, in partnership with the Centre for U.S.-Ukraine Relations, is organizing a major international conference to examine the political, social and economic consequences of the Second World for the people and postwar states of Eastern Europe. Titled “Contested Ground: The Legacy of the Second World War for Eastern Europe,” the gathering will take place at the University of Alberta on 23-24 October 2015 and will be open to scholars, students and members of the general public.
While the defeat of Nazi Germany liberated millions from fascist dictatorship and led to the establishment of democratic governments in Western Europe, in the areas occupied by the Red Army any sense of freedom was short-lived as Communist and pro-Soviet regimes were imposed and maintained through a combination of force, intimidation, deceptive propaganda and rigged elections. Discussions will primarily be focused on the immediate as well as long-term repercussions that the Yalta and Potsdam agreements had for those that fell within Moscow’s “sphere of influence” or were subjected to varying degrees of pressure from the Kremlin. The Ukrainian postwar experience is to be compared and contrasted with that of other countries which ended up as members of the Warsaw Pact or as uneasy neighbours of the Soviet Union. Besides the Cold War and the lingering effects of the devastation wrought by the bitter conflict, the conference will also consider how narratives of the war were shaped by the official histories adopted by different governments, distorted by post-war propaganda, and contested in the memories of veterans and survivors. Of course, the legacy of Second World War has acquired new relevance due to Putin’s annexation of Crimea, the hybrid war in eastern Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s escalating military threats directed at former Soviet republics and satellites.
A distinguished group of scholars has already agreed to present papers at the Edmonton conference. These include such experts from overseas as Paul Goble (Tartu University, Estonia), Yitzak Brudny (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Hakan Kirimli (Bilkent University, Turkey), and former Polish Minister of Defense Janusz Onyszkiewicz (International Centre for Democratic Transition). Among the American participants are Norman Naimark (Stanford University), Mark Von Hagen (Arizona State University), Janusz Bugajski (Centre for European Policy Analysis) and Ariel Cohen (Institute for the Analysis of Global Security). These will be joined by Ukrainian scholars like Yuri Shapoval and Vladyslav Hrynevych of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, as well as leading specialists from several Canadian universities.
James Sherr of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) in the United Kingdom will be the featured speaker at a public banquet to be held on 24 October to mark the conclusion of the conference. A world-renowned authority on Russia and Ukraine, he will address the theme "The 'Peace of 1945' and the Current State of Affairs in Ukraine." More details will be provided as further arrangements are made. A limited number of tickets will be available for the dinner, which will also mark the beginning of the 40th anniversary commemorations of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.
For more information please go to: http://ukrainian-studies.ca/2015/06/16/edmonton-conference-to-examine-the-impact-of-wwii-on-ukraine-and-eastern-europe.
Ukrainian Studies Imperiled at the University of Greifswald
15 June 2015
Dear Ukrainian Studies Scholars,
I am a student of the Greifswalder Slawistik at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald. The Faculty Council of the Faculty of Arts introduced at his last session a new plan for restructuring our faculty. This happened because of a lack of financial resources at our university. They are going to decide to reduce three professorial chairs at the Institute of Slavonic Studies down to two. The Literature Studies professorial chair will be closed by March 2016, when our current professor retires. This decision will mainly affect Ukrainian Studies at Greifswald. Our university offers the only possibility to study this subject in Germany. We were given the empty promise to establish (possibly) a junior professorial chair in 2018 and say that there will be an “ordinary” professorship in 2024. But we don't trust their promises.
We, the students of this faculty, have started an online petition at "openpetition.eu". Unfortunately it is by now only in German, Ukrainian and Lithuanian. Another small institute, in Baltic Studies, is also affected. The faculty council plans to transform the institute into a research professorship. As a result, in the future, Baltic Studies will no longer be offered in Germany, as this is the last such institute in Germany.
We need your help. Please sign our petition, please spread this information among your colleagues and students. Let's save the only possibility in Germany to study Ukrainian Studies and Baltic Studies!
Many thanks for your attention,
Irina Malska (firstname.lastname@example.org)
[edited for style—UKL]
The Petro Jacyk Program is pleased to welcome its 2015-2016 Post-Doctoral Fellow and the Visiting Scholars:
The 2015-2016 Jacyk Post-Doctoral Fellow:
Dr. Jessica Zychowicz received her Ph.D. in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan in with affiliation at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching with a certificate in Digital Humanities.
Dr. Patrycja Trzeszczyńska-Demel is a cultural anthropologist at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of Jagiellonian University (Cracow, Poland). Her ethnographical field researches in Poland and Ukraine focus on cultural self-presentation of the minorities, folklorism, cultural expressions, regionalism and the constructions of regions’ images.
Dr. Jonathan Waterlow is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK, where he completed his PhD in History in 2012. He is also, with Jacques Schuhmacher, co-director of Oxford University’s interdisciplinary War Crimes Research Network (warcrimesresearch.net). His new research project, entitled ‘The Soviet Nuremberg: Shaping the Past and Forging the Postwar World Beyond the Iron Curtain, 1945-53’, examines the Soviet Union’s prosecution and portrayal of German war crimes in the post-Second World War period.
Liudmyla Pidkuimukha is a PhD student in the Department of Ukrainian Language at National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” (Kyiv, Ukraine). Liudmyla graduated from University with an Honours M.A. in Philology (with Specialization in Theory, History of Ukrainian Language and Comparative Linguistics). Her dissertation focuses on language situation in Lviv during the interwar period.
Web Links on the Russia-Ukraine Conflict:
NATO Publics Blame Russia for Ukrainian Crisis, but Reluctant to Provide Military Aid (10 June 2015)
Pew Research Center
La Russie et l’Ukraine, un an après l’annexion de la Crimée
La lettre de l’IRSEM (June 2015)
U.S. and German Views on Ukraine:
The Risks of Trans-Atlantic Misunderstanding
by Michael Kofman and Matthew Rojansky
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (June 2015)
Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska & Richard Sakwa
Ukraine and Russia: Peoples, Politics, Propaganda and Perspectives
E-International Relations Publishing (April 2015)
The Ukrainian Crisis and History
Kritika, Volume 16, Number 1, Winter 2015 (New Series)
Articles by Hillis, Himka, Risch, Miller and Kasianov
Ukraine’s Euromaidan: Analyses of a Civil Revolution
Edited by David R. Marples and Frederick V. Mills
ibidem Verlag, distributed by Columbia University Press
Paperback, 190 Pages
The essays in this volume analyze the civil uprising known as Euromaidan that began in central Kyiv in late November 2013, when the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych opted not to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. Topics covered include the motivations and expectations of protesters, organized crime, nationalism, gender issues, mass media, the Russian language, and the impact of Euromaidan on Ukrainian politics, the EU, Russia, and Belarus. An epilogue looks at the Russian annexation of Crimea and the creation of breakaway republics in the east, leading to full-scale conflict. The goal is to represent a variety of aspects of a mass movement that captivated the world and led to the downfall of the Yanukovych presidency.
David R. Marples is Distinguished University Professor, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta.
Frederick V. Mills is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta.
Ukraine Twenty Years After Independence
Edited by Giovanna Brogi, Marta Dyczok et al.
Rome: Aracne editrice
February 2015, 300 pages
This book is devoted to the first 22 years of independent Ukraine. The papers were written before november 2013, they reflect the situation and the opinions of the authors of the Yanukovych era, before Majdan. The events of 2013–2014 indicate that in the 23 years of independence (1991–2013) deep changes occurred in Ukrainian society. The fluidity of the situation condemns any answer to remain tentative and to be contradicted by the facts of the next day.
Human Rights in Ukraine, 23 June 2015
Many reasons can be presented for disputing the current government plans for and Oleksandr Motyl’s justification of a total blockade of Donbas, but two will suffice. The 3 million people in Donbas Motyl refers to are indeed paying an exorbitantly high price. By no means all shared what he calls “their misguided support for the separatist adventure”, yet all are now suffering. The people of Donbas are also Ukrainians and judging by the surveys taken of areas liberated from militant control, it is likely that a majority wishes to remain part of Ukraine. That may change, but could do so because people feel seriously betrayed.
Arithmetic might be a more compelling argument had proper provisions been made for people forced to leave Donbas to build their lives in other parts of Ukraine. This is quite simply not the case meaning that many people have either stayed, or returned out of need – for work, for a roof over their heads.
Pastor Sergei Kosyak, who has tirelessly worked to evacuate or help people in the Donetsk oblast was blunt about the impact of a total blockade.
“People will survive, but they will never forget the devastating hardship inflicted upon them by our leaders. Those who were against Ukraine will become fixed in their views. Those who were for it will never wish to live in such a Ukraine”.
All that the government will achieve through such an economic blockade, he believes, is that the demarcation line will become like a state border and the amounts extracted from people for crossing this will be that much higher. It is only pushing that part of the country towards Russia, he says.
This will suit Russia from the propaganda point of view, and enable lucrative import of Russian goods sold at exorbitant prices, while Moscow will continue its new line of insisting that the regions must remain part of Ukraine.
Sergei Kosyak’s comments were made before the SBU [Ukraine’s Security Service] issued an amended version of its Jan 21 ‘Temporary Order’ introducing a permit system across the demarcation line.
That permit system was condemned from the outset by rights organizations and subjected to criticism by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its 10th report. This stated that the permit system had “continued to significantly limit the freedom of movement across the contact line. It was even the case during the height of hostilities in February as many tried to leave the conflict zone. Those seeking to obtain permits face corrupt practices and delays of up to three months. International and national organizations have advocated for the revision of the permit system with no avail to date.”
Some progress appeared to have been made with the SBU creating a working group with representatives from civic organizations to draw up amendments aimed at simplifying the permit system and, presumably, combating corruption.
The amended Temporary Order was published on June 16 and provoked angry response from civic groups with representatives on the working group. Father Sergei said that they had been brazenly conned and Donbas SOS issued a statement stressing that three major changes had not been discussed with the group at all. These were: the use of tickets between checkpoints with these being issued at one, and then taken away at the second; the issue of transportation of goods by railway, and Item 1.6 which prohibits public transport from crossing the demarcation line.
The SBU state that the ban does not include irregular movement of specific organized groups of refugees; children being taken to camps, sanatoria, etc., but this must be in accordance with a decision from the Coordinating Centre. Other public transport across the demarcation line has now stopped.
This ban is the main sticking point and Donbas SOS and other civic organizations will be demanding that Item 1.6 is removed.
Said Ismagilov, Mufti of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Ukraine, writes that people are in despair over the termination of bus communications which were the main available means of travelling to areas beyond militant control. People travelled outside to buy food and medicine at reasonable prices. Taxi drivers, they say, are already offering their services for astronomical fees.
“Everybody asks one and the same question: “Why have they done this?.... Why is it possible to go from Kyiv to Moscow, by coach if you want, by plane, but it’s not possible to Donetsk?”
If they’re copying the system for Crimea, he says, the situation is different. There at least Russia has officially taken on responsibility for providing for people, in Donbas nobody is taking responsibility.
“Ukraine doesn’t have the possibility of providing for people on territory not under government control, but that doesn’t mean that people on territory under militant control need to be deprived of free access to transport and purchases of all that is needed. Donbas has not been recognized as annexed territory and there is no official war”.
Given the refusal to do away with the permit system altogether, some innovations are undoubtedly an improvement such as the rejection of paper permits which had simply generated corruption in favour of an electronic system. Perhaps that will eventually speed up the procedure, but for the moment reports speak of huge queues of cars, as well as people struggling with bags as they exit one bus and have to walk a few kilometres to reach territory under government control and find public transport there. There will be people who are simply not able to do that, leaving them without any pension or social benefits. If the current bill tabled in parliament on tightening up the movement of goods is imposed, then people who can’t afford the exorbitant prices generated by demand and scarcity, will be deprived also of medicine and affordable food items.
In his article on the planned total blockade, Yevhen Sereda suggests that one of the most widespread myths, enabling black-and-white oversimplification, is that those who remain in Donbas are all convinced separatists. He relates comments from a friend who has remained in Donetsk and who, for obvious reasons, is not named. The person confirms that although there is food in the shops, the prices are insane, and says that he personally has not once seen any Russian humanitarian aid.
Pensions were paid for December, April and now for May, and many pensioners wait virtually around the clock at bank branches to receive money. Public sector workers received pay for May only, with it unclear whether they’ll be paid for previous months. None of these amounts have been increased and prices have turned them into pitiful amounts.
The person says that people are beginning to understand that what is happening is wrong, “though the propaganda prevents this understanding from becoming stronger. Russian channels after all do their task”.
The claim “that all those who remained in Donetsk support ‘DPR’ [the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’] is not true. Many people remain here simply because they have nowhere to go. To change the situation, somebody must remain. You need pro-Ukrainian influence not only from outside, but from within”.
None of the queues, the hardship and humanitarian crisis will harm the Kremlin which has consistently demonstrated total disregard for suffering caused. They may highlight the failings of the militants and their inability to provide for the population, but it is by no means guaranteed that this will change anything, especially since Russia and its proxies in Donbas retain control over the media. The current changes, and, if implemented, total blockade will surely alienate and embitter a large number of Ukrainians at a time when unity is needed, and mutual support.
Ukraine’s Other War: The Fight to Heal Soldiers’ Bodies and Minds
Macleans’s (Canada), 22 June 2015
Sergey, a 23-year-old Ukrainian soldier, is resting in a drab, grey, Soviet-era military hospital on the outskirts of Kyiv. Asked about his recent combat experience, he says, “I just wish that nobody would ever have to see war.” Sergey (who asked that his last name not be used for privacy reasons) suffered massive head trauma during a fight that occurred just outside the enemy stronghold of Luhansk.
The fighting took place after the signing in February of the Minsk II ceasefire, which is still in place, in theory, but completely dead in practice. Politicians cling to the hope that the ceasefire will still somehow work out, but soldiers in eastern Ukraine laugh when the subject is brought up. The fighting has continued daily in recent months.
Sergey is clearly exhausted. He rarely looks up while speaking and, when he does, he stares past everyone. The young soldier was mobilized and thrust into a war he’d never anticipated. He has deep scars now, both physical and mental.
Nevertheless, he is anxious to return to his unit once he has recovered at the Irpin military hospital. He says it’s wrong for him to rest while they fight.
The intensity of the battles in eastern Ukraine is heating up once again. Just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Kyiv to meet President Petro Poroshenko on June 6, Ukrainian forces fought off the largest assault against their positions since the fall of Debaltseve in February. While the situation on the front lines appears to be worsening, so is another, quieter problem: how to treat the thousands of wounded and traumatized soldiers like Sergey, who have come back from the front. This is one area where support from Canada—both from private sources and government—is proving essential.
“We forgot how war affects people after Afghanistan,” says Dr. Vsevolod Stebliuk, a Ukrainian military doctor, referring to the Soviet invasion of that country in the 1980s. “In all the previous 24 years, Ukraine lived without a war. So when the country faced this fight, nobody was prepared.” The lack of experience is not the only problem. Soldiers lucky enough to return home alive from the war often find that Ukraine’s endless battle against corruption means their government, even if willing, has been left unable to support them. (The country is ranked 142nd out of 174 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, right below Uganda.) The health system is notoriously corrupt. Although the system is meant to be free, soldiers say that often the only way to obtain services is to pay bribes, while funds allotted for certain services routinely go missing. The sophisticated physical and psychological therapy provided to soldiers in the West is not an option for Ukraine’s soldiers.
Ukrainian Canadians have taken the lead in creating rehabilitation programs that help soldiers recover from the horrors of war. Sergey is one of the first soldiers admitted to the Irpin military hospital’s new centre for psychological and physical therapy. Taking up an entire floor of the hospital, the centre was funded by the Guardian Angels Ukraine project. Canadian Lisa Shymko, the project’s chair, says the idea came about after she visited a group of wounded soldiers at one of Ukraine’s military hospitals. The project was launched in December 2014 in Toronto and raised more than $125,000 in its first month of fundraising.
The project flew Stebliuk to Canada to learn at the St. John’s Rehab centre, part of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Now, as head of the rehab program at Irpin, Stebliuk is trying to put those techniques to use, but without psychologists trained to treat combat-related psychological problems, he faces a tremendous uphill battle.
“The main challenges [for the soldiers] are acquiring a new meaning of life and integrating into peaceful life, because it’s equally hard to adapt to war and, later, to adapt to peace,” he says. “If the soldiers haven’t adapted their minds, they’ll get stuck at the front and will remain stuck there.”
While the Guardian Angels Ukraine project tackles psychological trauma, another critical problem in Ukraine is the loss of limbs. The Second World War-esque artillery barrages characteristic of this war have led to an enormous number of amputees. The razor-sharp shrapnel from bombardments is capable of splitting trees in half. Any soldier caught in the open stands little chance. Those who escape face a future in a country without the proper resources to provide prosthetics. More than 400 soldiers so far have been left armless or legless.
Antonina Kumka, of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s Toronto branch, is the lead organizer of a program delivering prosthetic limbs to amputees. Kumka says the goal is not just to provide prosthetic limbs, but also to teach Ukrainian specialists how Canadian and American specialists build and fit prosthetic limbs. For that, they flew in specialists from North America, as well as prosthetists from across Ukraine to work together in a clinic in Kyiv for 10 days.
The goal was to provide new limbs for five soldiers that week, but, more important, to establish the foundation for long-term success by transferring the North Americans’ experience to their Ukrainian counterparts. The goal is to build a self-sustaining prosthetic industry in Ukraine, because there’s no telling when the war will end. Even when it does, the impact of land mines and unexploded ordnance will surely lead to a growing number of amputees in the future.
One of the largest groups of Canadians in Ukraine is a unit of doctors and nurses who began flying in shortly after the 2014 Maidan revolution in Kyiv, which ousted the pro-Russian administration of president Victor Yanukovych. He eventually fled the country, but not without leaving a trail of blood behind. Police on the ground, and government snipers firing from buildings, killed and maimed hundreds of protesters. Many were left horribly disfigured, with no options for recovery.
Thus the medical mission was established to perform the sorts of complicated post-traumatic reconstructive surgeries that are simply impossible to obtain in Ukraine. Many were surgeries that dealt with extensive facial reconstruction resulting from gunshot wounds. The project is the initiative of the Canada Ukraine Foundation and headed by Krystina Waler and Dr. Oleh Antonyshyn, a surgeon at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. At a fundraising event in September 2014, with Harper and Wayne Gretzky as keynote speakers, they raised $250,000.
Antonyshyn then reached out to Canadian medical supplier Stryker Canada and asked to borrow some badly needed equipment. “Part of the goal was to establish an infrastructure whereby Ukrainian doctors could continue to treat patients in the future. We’re now able to do that, because Stryker just donated the equipment outright,” says Antonyshyn. His team of 25 Canadians was able to complete 37 procedures in one week during the first medical mission in November 2014. The second mission in May 2015 resulted in 58 procedures on 28 patients in just five days. According to Antonyshyn, “these surgeries were simply never going to happen in Ukraine, if we didn’t do them.”
Waler says the team was fortunate to have the Canadian government allot them $1.2 million out of a recently announced $14-million humanitarian aid package. With the latest trip costing around $125,000, the team should be capable of repeating its mission 10 times, operating on around 300 people.
Many in Ukraine, including President Poroshenko, hope Canada will send lethal military aid to help in what has been a losing battle against Russian aggression. Harper, so far, has agreed to send 200 military trainers. The medical contributions, meanwhile, are doing their part. As one soldier says, “At least now we know that someone cares about us.”
How a Weighty Symbol of the Soviet Past Divided a Ukrainian City
The Guardian (UK), 21 June 2015
In Sloviansk, a city in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, council meetings have rarely been as turbulent as they were towards the end of last month. The reason was the decision by the mayor, Oleg Zontov, to move for a vote over the application of a law that had only just been passed by the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko. This “law on the condemnation of communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes”, voted through by parliament on 9 April, prohibits all defence of Nazism and communism.
The sale of communist souvenirs, and even the singing of the Internationale, is now banned in Ukraine. Individual offenders risk up to five years in prison. Members of organisations risk up to 10. The legislators were seemingly not worried about the risk of deepening the cultural abyss between western Ukraine and the Russophone east of the country, a centre of Soviet industrialisation between 1930 and 1950, and a place where nostalgia is ever present.
In Sloviansk, the mayor belongs to the Poroshenko bloc and he decided to apply the new law in his own way, targeting the statue of Lenin that enjoys pride of place opposite city hall. The national law has not yet taken effect, but debates are already under way over changing communist-era names of Ukrainian cities. Dnipropetrovsk, for instance, (named after the celebrated revolutionary Grigory Petrovsky) could be quickly retitled.
At the Sloviansk council meeting of 29 April, a vote on the “dismantling of the monument to Lenin, situated in October Revolution Square” was added to the order of business. But “the meeting was suspended and the vote postponed,” explained Edouard Torskiy, a journalist with Delovoy Slavyansk, when “militant communists barged in on the meeting, threatening a return of separatist forces if the councillors targeted Soviet symbols”.
Last year this city was seized by pro-Russian separatists led by Igor Girkin, a former Russian army officer who also goes by the name of Strelkov (Shooter). For a time it became the epicentre of the fighting between pro-Russia rebels and pro-Kiev forces. Strelkov briefly became minister of defence for the self-proclaimed Republic of Donetsk, taking numerous hostages, including journalists and observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The city changed hands again in June 2014 after fierce bombardment. But tensions are still high, in both the city and among its politicians, because the pro-Kiev mayor is in a minority on the council.
The elected officials are more or less the same as before. The majority belong to the Party of the Regions, the organisation headed by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country after the Maidan revolution, and the Communist party. The next local elections will take place in October.
Towards the end of last April, the giant Lenin statue had already been vandalised, covered in pink paint and adorned with a Ukrainian flag as a scarf. Around its base, placards explained “how to spot a separatist”, offering tips on recognising signs of separatism in one’s neighbours.
To begin with, local nationalists appeared to leave it to the councillors to decide the fate of the statue – though since the beginning of the war, and well before the “de-communisation” law was passed, more than 100 statues of Lenin have been demolished, many in the middle of the night.
On 27 May a new council meeting was scheduled and Zontov placed the statue on the order of business again. All of Sloviansk’s nationalist groups attended to express support for its removal, with nationalist parties Svoboda and Right Sector turning out en masse. The number of nationalist militants has boomed since the war began, even though the number of MPs from these two groups only went up to seven out of 450 at the general election last October. In Sloviansk the nationalists have long been frustrated at their lack of representation on the council.
At the meeting the nationalists’ constant interruptions led to a scuffle before the issue of the statue had even been broached. However, after temporarily halting proceedings, the mayor was able to start the debate. “I am responsible for the political life of our city,” he said. “There are many different points of view in our council. To find compromises, we have to talk with each other and take a decision today.”
Zontov proposed that, rather than being destroyed, the statue should be sold at auction or placed in a museum. As he spoke, nationalists in combat dress took position close to the council members. Then a man shouted from the public area: “I have in my hand a letter signed by 4,000 residents. People are against the destruction of the statue because it’s part of their history, part of their youth. You should listen to the opinions of your fellow citizens.”
The ensuing row deepened the divide between the younger generation, which looks towards Europe, and their often nostalgic elders, who lived under the USSR. The self-declared “patriots” shouted: “Shame on you! Glory to Ukraine. Glory to our heroes!” Then a young nationalist militant told the assembly: “It was Lenin who began the process of destruction of Ukraine. He brought the famine to Ukraine from 1922, then he launched a violent collectivisation. He created an ideology that killed millions of people.”
Another young man berated the councillors: “You are ‘provocateurs’. We are the descendants of people assassinated by that man. We are going to make that statue disappear. Now you are going to decide whether it’s destroyed or whether it’s removed. That is the choice we give you.”
The uproar resumed with loud shouts of “separatists” filling the hall, followed by cries of “Shame on you”. Zontov brought the meeting to an early close, but shouted above the clamour: “We have six months to resolve this question. Come to the next meeting.”
In the hall afterwards, militants flourished a placard calling for “Sloviansk without Lenin.” Tamara, an opposition member, left the assembly assailed by insults from the young nationalist militants, but didn’t seem too bothered. “Our mayor doesn’t do anything for this city. He only offers suggestions for destruction,” she said. “He has found 50 people to support his plan. We have collected 4,500 signatures against the destruction of the statue. Even if Lenin wasn’t a good human being, he was part of our history and you don’t wipe out history like that.”
But in the end the debate was settled by the minority. In the early hours of 3 June, militants from Right Sector tore the statue down.
This article first appeared in the French newspaper Libération
Top Rebel Leader Accuses Jews of Masterminding Ukrainian Revolution
Jerusalem Post, 22 June 2015
Ukraine’s Jews are responsible for the Euromaidan revolution that ousted their country’s pro-Russian president last year, a senior rebel leader told an audience at a Russian university last week.
This is not the first time a rebel leader has said such a thing, with Alexander Zakharchenko, president of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, stating in a press conference in February that the government in Kiev is run by “miserable Jews.”
During a lecture last week titled “Contemporary Ukraine as Fascist State of a New Type” at the Nekrasov State University of Kostroma in Russia, Igor Plotnitsky, who heads the Luhansk People’s Republic – a Kremlin- backed separatist enclave in eastern Ukraine – asserted that while he is not an anti-Semite, the fact that Jews are in control of Ukraine is inescapable.
“I’d like to ask the historians... or maybe the philologists, can’t choose, really, why was it called the ‘Euromaidan’? Where did the name come from? From the area [Euromaidan Square in Kiev]? Or perhaps from the people? Those same people who now make up the majority of leaders of what was once our Ukraine?” he asked, intimating that there is a connection between Jews and the revolution because the Russian word for Jew, “Evrei,” sounds like “Euro.”
“I have nothing against... Valtzman, Groysman, and many others. I have nothing against the Jews as a people, as the ‘Chosen People,’ we can talk about this separately if we have the time. But the crux of the matter is that when we call what has happened a ‘Euromaidan,’ we infer that the leaders now are representatives of the people who have been harmed the most by Nazism,” the rebel chief asserted.
Jewish Volodymyr Groysman serves as the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, while Plotnitsky’s reference to Valtzman is a nod to a common belief among those on the far Right that current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is secretly Jewish, as Valtzman is Poroshenko’s “real Jewish name” according to right-wing Russian conspiracy theories.
Such statements are not surprising given that the rebel leaders “have allowed themselves to employ fully anti-Semitic rhetoric on previous occasions,” Boruch Gorin, a senior figure in the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, told The Jerusalem Post.
“It is also no secret that, on the side of the separatists, war is also being waged by real Russian Nazis. The trouble, though, is that they are often confronted by those with the same ideology but with a trident [a Ukrainian national symbol],” he accused.
“Of course it smells of anti-Semitism,” Shalom Gopin, the refugee rabbi of Luhansk, said of Plotnitsky’s remarks. Journalists on the front lines have pointed to examples of neo-Nazi rhetoric and the participation of far-right extremists on both sides of the conflict, but for the most part anti-Semitism has been confined to the realm of propaganda, and Jewish refugees from the war zone have said that they did not feel that they were being targeted based on their religion. Last April, rebel leaders in Donetsk distanced themselves from a flyer posted outside of their city’s synagogue demanding that Jews register themselves with the city’s new government.
Pinchas Vishedski, the city rabbi, theorized that it could be the work of “anti-Semites looking to hitch a ride on the current situation.” Asked about rebel leaders’ relationship with the Jews under their control in February, Vishedski’s assistant rabbi Aryeh Shvartz told the Post that “they have acted well toward us.” The Anti-Defamation League condemned Plotnitsky, stating that the politicization of anti-Semitism is increasingly visible within the context of the Ukrainian conflict.
“Opponents of the Ukrainian government ‘accuse’ Ukrainian leaders of being Jewish to try to discredit them. Plotnitsky’s wordplay implies a Jewish conspiracy behind the anti-Yanukovych revolution, and he then clearly states that Jews benefited politically,” ADL National Chairman Abraham Foxman told the Post, referring to the ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. “His subsequent protest that he personally has nothing against Jews makes no difference. He used anti-Semitism for political purposes and that must be condemned,” he added.
Such statements are now part of the “official ideology” of so-called “people’s republics,” accused Vyacheslav A. Likhachev, an anti-Semitism researcher with the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. “What is important, I think, is that there is no condemnation from Russia after the anti-Semitic statements of the leaders of pro-Russian regimes,” he said. The Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment, explaining that Plotnitsky “is not a Russian official and has no relation to the Russian government.”
Russian media have reported on nonexistent pogroms, false quotes by Jewish leaders excoriating Kiev over anti-Semitism and similar stories on a number of occasions. According to Shimon Briman, a Russian-language Israeli journalist, such attitudes are promulgated in the Russian media in both overt and subtle ways. Briman noted that the photo chosen to headline a story on the termination of the head of Ukraine’s national security service on the popular Russian news site lenta.ru featured prominent Ukrainian rabbi Moshe Azman standing directly behind the counter-intelligence chief.
“This photo, even without text, influences subconsciousness of millions of readers,” he said. “From the Russian media and the pro-Russian separatists, direct hints and anti-Semitic signals to the population of Ukraine sound: ‘all your economic difficulties occur because [of the] Jews.’”
Russian Soldiers' Deaths Raise Ukraine Questions
Katie Stallard, in central Russia
SkyNews, 10 June 2015
The recent deaths of three Russian servicemen raise serious questions about the Kremlin's claim that its military is not operating in Ukraine.
Our team travelled to remote villages in central and southern Russia to find the freshly dug graves of three young men, each bearing a wreath from Russia's ministry of defence.
Anton Savelyev, Timur Mamayusupov and Ivan Kardapolov died on the same day - 5 May, 2015.
Social media activists connected their deaths through tributes posted online, and identified the locations of their graves.
They found references to the elite 16th Brigade Spetsnaz, but when Sky News asked at the base they denied having heard of any of the men.
We found the first grave in a small cemetery in the Tambov region of southern Russia, a few miles from where the 16th Brigade is based.
Anton Savelyev died the week before his 21st birthday. A framed photo shows him wearing Russia's paratrooper uniform, the same uniform worn by 16th Brigade.
He was pictured on social media standing in front of the 16th Brigade memorial.
On his grave there was a wreath addressed: "To the Defender of the Fatherland, from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation."
Other flowers were marked: "From comrades" and "From the command of the unit".
A lady who knows the family said Anton Savelyev "died heroically" but asked us not to give her name for fear of the consequences of speaking out.
"They were sent to Rostov and in Ukraine. In Ukraine everything is done quietly," she said.
"We don't know where exactly, but somewhere there.
"It's Ukraine's fault that he died of course. It's a shame that we die for not our motherland."
From there we flew to Ufa in central Russia, then by road to the republic of Tatarstan - the home of Timur Mamayusupov.
His grave was strikingly similar to Anton's - we found the same wreaths from the ministry of defence and the unit command, and the same date of death.
Photos uploaded to Russian social media sites show Timur posing with the Spetsnaz flag, along with a service medal for the Russian military operation in Crimea last year, which was denied by Russian authorities at the time.
Other photos show Timur with the flag of the separatists' Luhansk People's Republic, and in front of a distinctive armoured personnel carrier (APC) known to have been used by the rebels in East Ukraine.
Timur's mother told Sky News she was given a notice of death from the military that said her son had died "in the North Caucasus" - a restive region in southern Russia - but no specific location.
But there are no reports of Russian military casualties around this date in either Russian or local media, or from militant groups known to operate there, for whom the death of a Russian soldier would be a powerful propaganda tool.
Guzel Mamayusupov said she had been worried her son might be sent to Ukraine, and he had told her he would go if he was asked.
"When he was on vacation I told him that if you get sent to Ukraine, let me know," she said.
"He said, 'Mum, if they send me to Ukraine, I will go, I won't refuse, but I will warn you about it'. He didn't give me such a warning."
Russia blogger Ruslan Leviev has led the social media investigation into the deaths and his network first connected the three men.
"Many relatives of both Timur and Ivan wrote on social media websites that they died at war," he said.
"We all know that there is no war in the North Caucasus, there is no anti-terrorist operations there at the moment.
"There is only one war and that's in eastern Ukraine."
Ruslan has been getting death threats - he showed us a photograph of a funeral wreath in his name - but he is determined to continue with his work.
"We want to show the people that our government is lying even to its soldiers, that they abandon them, those who were captured and died," he said.
The third man, Ivan Kardapolov, was from another rundown rural village, close to the border with Kazakhstan.
Again, we found the same wreaths at his grave, and the same date of death.
The location is so remote that at first very little was known about Ivan, but then a local man read about the deaths on Ruslan's blog and decided to investigate the death in this region.
He said Ivan's brother told him that at the funeral there were Federal Security Service officers who had asked mourners to remove their parade uniforms.
But they had refused and paid their last respects in military dress.
It was not possible to independently verify this account.
The family said they had been told that Ivan died in the North Caucasus, but again with no more specific location.
Several of his friends from the village told us Ivan died in Ukraine.
A man who gave his name as Dmitry said: "His niece was told that he was in Ukraine, that's where he died.
"The notice of death came, the military recruitment officer brought it personally."
Another man said Ivan died "in Donbas", a region claimed by pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine.
He said there had been paratroopers at the funeral, but that Ivan himself "was Spetsnaz".
In each of the three locations a number of people told us the men "died heroically" - but if they did, serving their country, and not in Ukraine, why is their government silent about their deaths?
And if these men had left the army and were not on active duty at the time, why is the ministry of defence sending flowers to their funerals?
We put these cases to ministry of defence, and Federal Security Services, but have yet to receive a response.
Russian officials, from the President down, continue to insist there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine and that any Russian citizens who might be there are "volunteers".
Vladimir Putin has since signed a decree declaring the deaths of Russian servicemen in "special operations" a state secret - but no such operations have yet been announced.
From: Anders Aslund < email@example.com >
Date: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at 2:42 PM
Subject: Ukraine’s Economic Reforms Proceed, But Too Slowly
I spent the week May 25-29 in Kiev. I saw pretty much everybody on the economic side in private meetings - Yatsenyuk, Jaresko, Hontareva, Abromavicius, Lozhkin, Kobolyev, also Saaskashvili, Pinchuk and Kuchma. I did three book presentations and participated in two panel debates, one at the Kyiv Security Forum, the other at the Kyiv School of Economics. I heard Poroshenko give two speeches.
My overall assessment is rather pessimistic. I had an eerie feeling of Moscow May 1992. The whole thing is about to fall apart politically. The problems are just overwhelming. Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk are god but not fully focused on reforms, too preoccupied with vested interests. The whole law enforcement apparatus is awful. The economic reforms are impressive but not enough. The IMF program is severely underfunded. The IMF just cut its GDP assessment from a fall of 5.5% to 9% this year, which appears realistic.
Please find below my forthcoming article for the German magazine Internationale Politik. Please note that it is not published as yet. I also attach a link to my blog post about Europe needing to help Ukraine now of May 20:
A piece for Kyiv Post on how the oligarchs are losing out in Ukraine:
Finally, a piece for Vox Ukraine about why Ukraine needs a smaller and more humane state:
With best wishes,
Follow me on twitter: @anders_aslund
Read my new book: "Ukraine: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It"
The New Ukrainian Exceptionalism
Matthew Rojansky and Mykhailo Minakov
YaleGlobal, 23 June 2015
The slow boiling war in Southeastern Ukraine is by now well known to the world. It has been projected in stark moral and political terms and in gruesome detail by the international press, Ukrainian and Western political leaders, and ordinary Ukrainian citizens. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Ukraine is engaged in a struggle not only for its sovereignty, but for its very survival as a nation-state.
In this hour of need, every Ukrainian citizen and every self-described friend of Ukraine in the international community should not only speak but act in support of Ukraine. But speaking out and taking action in support of Ukraine have become increasingly fraught in recent months. Russian-backed aggression, relentless propaganda and meddling in Ukraine’s domestic politics have pushed many Ukrainians to adopt a deeply polarized worldview, in which constructive criticism, dissenting views, and even observable facts are rejected out of hand if they are seen as harmful to Ukraine. This phenomenon might be termed the new Ukrainian exceptionalism, and it is worrisome because it threatens the very democratic values Ukrainians espouse, while weakening Ukraine’s case for international support.
The new Ukrainian exceptionalism comes at a high price for Ukrainian civil society and for the international community focused on helping Ukraine. There have already been cases in which prominent Ukrainian thought leaders have been threatened and even attacked for expressing views critical of the government, nationalist politicians, or volunteer militias. Likewise, among Ukraine’s friends abroad there is precious little tolerance for views that dissent from the dominant party line that Ukraine’s current government is the best it has ever had, and that the West must provide not only political and financial support, but also supply it with lethal weapons to fight the Russians in Donbas.
This exceptionalist worldview is nowhere more evident than in the discourse around Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko is a billionaire confectionary baron who also owns banking and agricultural assets, and several influential media platforms, most notably Ukraine’s Fifth Channel, and who served in high government posts, including as Yanukovych’s minister of economic development and minister of foreign affairs under Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Today, Poroshenko presides over a state and a government that has committed to a reform campaign it styles as “de-oligrachization.”
Yet when queried about whether, as an oligarch himself, Poroshenko can be effective in removing oligarchic influence from Ukraine’s politics and economy, many Ukrainians feel compelled to defend their wartime leader by denying that he is, in fact, an oligarch in the first place. Or if he is one, they say, he’s a different kind of oligarch, certainly the best of the bunch. After all, they reason, he has used his wealth and influence to help Ukraine and fight Russia, and anyway, his business interests are more transparent and of more value to the country than those of his rivals. Instead of selling his businesses, as he promised to do during last year’s presidential campaign, Poroshenko has held onto them, demonstrating that even in the new Ukraine, politics and the private sector remain inseparable.
The exceptionalism does not stop with Poroshenko. In fact, the same tortured logic extends to support for other “good” oligarchs: Lviv’s mayor Andriy Sadovyi, who has run that city for nearly a decade, owns major media, electrical utility and financial assets, and has backed his own party in the national parliament, is described as having made Lviv a “lighthouse” for Ukrainian reform, on the model of neighboring Poland. Even Dnipropetrovsk’s Ihor Kolomoiskiy, who himself embraces the oligarch moniker, has spent millions in defense of Ukraine against Russian aggression, served as governor of a vulnerable frontline region and held it together, and besides, his Privat Bank group is a pillar of Ukraine’s financial stability. So, while oligarchy in general might be bad, Ukraine’s most patriotic oligarchs, the exceptionalists argue, are not.
The same goes for the country’s far right political forces. Cite the rise of Praviy Sektor, or Right Sector, during and after the Euro-Maidan, and many Ukrainians will point to the radical right movement’s poor performance in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Point to the resurgence of symbols and slogans of the Second World War ultra-nationalist Union of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN, or the newly passed laws banning “Soviet symbols,” canonizing controversial Ukrainian nationalist figures Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, and they will say that Ukraine has every right to define its own history, even if it does so with blatant disregard and disrespect for that of millions of its citizens now living under Russian occupation or otherwise not fully represented in the government. The new Ukrainian exceptionalism makes it possible for undercurrents of intolerance and extreme nationalism to cohabit with stated commitments to pluralism and democracy.
The Euro-Maidan was dubbed a Revolution of Dignity because it represented the victory of the people in defense of basic human rights and human dignity. But a year after that victory, the parliament has approved a decree limiting Ukraine’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. So far, the decree applies only to portions of the two oblasts, or regions, of Donetsk and Luhansk where the war is going on, but it has been accompanied by allegations of torture and unlawful detention by Ukrainian authorities. These steps set a dangerous precedent for limitation of human rights without wide public discussion. Exceptionalism effectively gives carte-blanche to the government to act in the name of Ukraine’s security, while it fragments and diminishes the human rights activist community that was once a bulwark of the new Ukraine.
Finally, raise the problem of private armies in Ukraine, and one is told that the famous “volunteer battalions” are actually completely legal and legitimate police, interior ministry or army units that have been integrated under a single, responsible national command. This would be a reasonable position and an extremely important step to constrain possible future internecine violence, corporate raiding and other abuses in Ukraine, if only it were true.
The same goes for so-called soldier deputies, commanders of the volunteer battalions elected to the parliament last October, many of whom still appear in uniform and demonstrate scant regard for the boundaries between civilian and military authority. Dashing but bellicose figures like Serhii Melnychuk, Semen Semenchenko and Dmytro Yarosh, we are told, are not really soldiers any more, their grandstanding is just a PR exercise. Maybe so, but their message hardly confirms Ukraine’s commitment to rule of law, civilian control of the military, and national reconciliation. With prominent exceptions like these in the new Ukraine, it is increasingly difficult to identify the rule.
Without a doubt, Ukraine now faces its most severe crisis of the post-1991 period. In the face of attacks by Russia and its separatist allies, Ukraine deserves the support of its citizens and the wider world. Yet the enthusiasm of the world to help Ukraine will be diminished and the damage from Russian aggression magnified if Ukrainians succumb to the kind of exceptionalism described above. Instead, Ukrainians should seek to preserve what have actually been their most exceptional characteristics – a rare and genuine commitment to pluralism, civic freedom, and human dignity that make Ukraine a cause worth fighting for.
Matthew Rojansky is director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC; Mykhailo Minakov is associate professor/docent in philosophy and religious studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and was a Fulbright-Kennan Scholar in 2012-13.
Why Ukrainians Are Speaking More Ukrainian
Foreign Policy, 26 June 2015
It’s been 16 months since the first Ukrainian soldier was shot by Russian troops in soon-to-be occupied Crimea. Since then, Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine has presented the country’s Russian-speaking population with some tricky questions about identity.
“I’m afraid of speaking Russian now, because Putin might want to protect me” — that became the frequently repeated joke last year after the Russian president made it clear he considered Russian-speakers in Ukraine to be endangered by Kiev’s new government.
Now many Russian speakers in Ukraine — who live primarily in the country’s east and in large cities — are demonstratively turning to Ukrainian as a badge of self-identification. A concise tutorial on how to switch from Russian to Ukrainian, written by a Kiev blogger, has earned thousands of shares and reposts. Patriotic Russian-speakers in Kiev and big eastern cities are pledging on social networks to speak Ukrainian to their children, hoping to make the next generation more fluent and natural speakers of their native tongue. For the first time in decades, speaking Ukrainian is seen as fashionable rather than backward.
Ukraine’s strong civil society has also been an important factor in “socializing” the country’s adult population into using Ukrainian. Amid the dire lack of state-funded support for life-long education, dozens of organizations and initiatives teach the language to adults across the country. Activists say the bulk of their students came in the wake of the Euromaidan revolution and the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Most of the students, says an organizer of the biggest course in Kiev, are 30-to-50-somethings. Free Ukrainian courses have mushroomed in big, mostly Russian-speaking cities such as Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Odessa. However, they’ve also popped up in Lviv and Vinnytsia, Ukrainian-speaking cities where many people displaced from Crimea and the east have settled.
The media landscape is also unmistakably becoming more Ukrainian. Granted, the traditional media are still somewhat dominated by Russian: two of the top three TV channels broadcast their evening news and most entertainment programs in Russian. Most high-circulation weekly magazines are published in Russian. However, the emergence of powerful Internet-based news outlets is bucking the trend. Ukrainian-language web-based TV, most notably Hromadske.TV and Espreso, have few Russian-language competitors of comparable quality, although the former has started to produce programs in Russian.
Since over half of Ukrainians regularly use the Internet, the social media is turning into another channel of “Ukrainization,” especially of the middle class. Top bloggers writing in Ukrainian on Facebook and Twitter are boosting their follower bases, and many Ukrainian Internet users are starting to abandon platforms based in Russia, such as VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook. A controversy over Facebook blocking Ukrainian-created content, allegedly by Russian citizens staffing tech support teams in Dublin, provoked calls to write more in Ukrainian as a way to insulate the “Ukrainian” blogosphere from Russian interference. Discussing politics in Ukrainian makes it harder for Russian trolls to chip in.
The gravitational pull of the Ukrainian language is making a mark on business, too. For the first time, Ukrainian pop music is selling better than Russian. A popular chain of coffee shops, Lviv Handmade Chocolate, has made waitresses and baristas that serve customers only in Ukrainian into a signature policy, yet the chain is popular across the whole country. Roman Matys, a Ukrainian activist, campaigns for companies to include labels and documentation in Ukrainian in addition to Russian, and several large companies have yielded to his group’s petitions.
For the past twenty years, state education policy has been to promote Ukrainian in schools without directly impending the use of Russian. Ukraine’s post-Soviet governments, even pro-Russian ones, treated secondary education in Ukrainian as a generous concession to national-minded activists. While only 47 percent of Ukrainian schools taught in Ukrainian at the end of Soviet rule in the 1980s, that rate steadily increased to 75 percent in 2004 and 86 percent in 2013. And as Ukrainian has become the principal teaching language at leading universities, schoolkids and their parents perceive it as more of a priority, even if they use Russian at home.
The trend was not reversed even after the passage of the 2012 “language law,” which provided for greater use of Russian on the regional level. Legislative initiatives pertaining to the language use have been politicized since the Maidan revolution as well. Parliament’s attempt to repeal the controversial language law in February 2014 (which was rejected by a presidential veto) was used as a rallying call by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine is still a bilingual country. But the Ukrainization phenomenon is not just anecdotal — survey data shows that, in the last decade, the country’s linguistic landscape has undergone a visible change. In 2005, 42 percent of Ukrainians claimed that they spoke mostly Ukrainian at home. By 2011, 53 percent said they spoke it in their everyday lives. Since most of them are perfectly fluent in Russian as well, the 11 percent upsurge, representing at least 5 million people, reflects the share of Ukrainian society that has switched from Russian to Ukrainian. The Euromaidan revolution and conflict with Russia accelerated that trend: a poll conducted in May 2015 shows that almost 60 percent of the population prefer to use Ukrainian in everyday communication.
This burgeoning popularity of Ukrainian, especially among the youth and the middle class, is having unifying effects on the country’s social structures. It facilitates social mobility between the east and the west. Many western Ukrainian students are bringing their Ukrainian to universities in Kiev and the big eastern cities. Young IT and service professionals who move from Kharkiv or Dnipropetrovsk to Lviv tend to bring Ukrainian into their everyday lives, despite Lviv’s tolerance for Russian speakers.
The revival of Ukrainian is only one of many societal upshots in the Ukrainian-Russian war. Yet, as Ukrainian-savvy children come of age and the middle class starts to pay more for Ukrainian products and services, it may well become one of the most durable ones. Along with the blue-and-yellow flag and the embroidered traditional shirts so often seen in the streets in this trying time for Ukraine, the Ukrainian language is set to become a cherished, and practiced, national symbol.
Saint-Georges and Moscow by Night
Mediapart Blog, 10 June 2015
[translated by Dominique Arel for UKL]
Moscow, I try to go back often. I grew up there. In the last few years, however, each of my trips here, besides the joy of getting together, makes me sick.
Especially in the past year. Since Crimea.
What have we done to find ourselves in this situation?
I told myself that I better note down these little signs of the times. The visible and invisible signs, verbal and graphic, which are drawing the edges of these troubled and poisonous times, which are cracking them open between a before and an after.
“Hi, the fifth column!”. My brother hugs me and takes my suitcase as I leave the airport. He will immediately forget his little joke, but I will not. I am sure that he did not know the expression just a year ago. But since the “fifth column” is denounced on TV as a real threat for the stability and the blossoming of the country, since patriot-activists put banners against this “fifth column” right in the center of Moscow, the word is back in common usage. From the moment one is guided by patriotic instincts, everything goes.
In one of these apartment building courtyards of my youth, hidden in thick bushes, I stumble upon a big SUV badly parked on the sidewalk. “Obama is shit”. It is written below the trunk of the car in large letters. Good thing it is a Nissan and not a Ford. It is the new fashion in Russia: I will see many other cars like this one with insults that are meant to be funny, addressed to NATO and the American President in person.
During meals with plenty of alcohol, the friends of my parents set on to teach me life. “Liberals are bastards,” yells my uncle. I try not to respond, to avoid aggravating the reunion. “You have a distorted perspective over there,” a family friend is insisting. “And besides, how is your grandson? He must already be tall!”, I answer. She is tenacious, she does not want to let go like this. She looks at me intently: “You don’t want to write something nice on Putin?”.
I enter a huge library right in downtown Moscow. “How the United States gobble up other countries,” “The British Reich during World War II,” “The Struggle for Donbass: Chronicles of Battles.” The title of books prominently displayed are delirious, the authors, as a rule, unknown. There are tons of people in the store. For Chekhov or Tolstoi, one has go the second floor to find them.
And then, of course, there is the Saint-Georges ribbon, which has become, I am not sure through which propaganda trick, the symbol of Soviet victory against the Nazis, the symbol especially of supporting separatism in Eastern Ukraine. The little ribbon with orange and black rays is everywhere. At the Roissy airport in Paris I will not be mistaken with the gate for boarding: a small black suitcase in the middle of so many identical ones, but with the Saint-Georges ribbon carefully attached to my handle will signal to me the beginning of my journey to Moscow. I will find this ribbon behind the concealed windows of thousands of cars in Moscow, on the bags of passengers in the subway and painted on the façade of apartment buildings. It is as if the entire city, like the cake of a crazy patriotic pastry-chef, is wrapped with a huge orange and black band. This ribbon willingly associated with liberation from the war and which now decorate militarist demonstrations and identifies the pro-Russian combatants in Donbass.
Moscow is a brillant city. Breathtaking. Powerful. A city that moves, that changes, which mixes everything. A city where anything is possible. With free wifi in the metro, with ultra chic bars disappearing and reappearing every month, with cool startups and coloured sofas in public gardens. Trendy, wired and living 24/7. It is also a city where hatred is expressed loudly and is written on the walls, the cars, posters and book covers. Of the two cities, which one will take over?
She’s a Beautiful, Passionate Voice for Ukraine, But That’s Not Enough
The Daily Beast, 28 June 2015
More than 8.3 million people have seen Yulia Marushevska’s video from the Maidan uprising, but now she’s got to face down the bureaucracy she’s supposed to control.
ODESSA, Ukraine — The vehicle jumped along the cracked and buckled road that runs from Odessa toward Romania, which is part of the European Union. We passed by poor villages on the left bank of the lower Danube, uncultivated fields, falling-apart infrastructure. But Yulia Marushevska, 25, a Ukrainian woman who might easily win a beauty contest among the world’s politicians, did not seem to mind the bumps. She was smiling as she looked out the window. She had no doubt, she said, that it is now just a matter of time before the holes in the asphalt will be fixed and a perfectly smooth highway will link Ukraine with the rest of Europe.
As we drove, Marushevska told The Daily Beast about her love for the corner of the Odessa region where she grew up on the frontier of Moldova and Romania: her walks on golden sand in the narrow stretches of land that extend like twisted fingers in the Sasyk estuary, the unique salt lakes and wonderfully pristine forests.
Marushevsa’s grandmother, a small, round person full of smiles (“a walking incarnation of kindness”) still lives in one of the small country houses on the shore of the long-neglected Tatarbounary resort. So, a few weeks ago Marushevska asked her husband to wait for her in Kiev and together with seven other members of the team around newly appointed Odessa Governor Mikhail Saakashvili (yes, the former president of Georgia) they took a minibus to this land of marshes and inlets where the Danube flows into the Black Sea. She knew this was her chance to make the difference for her beloved babushka, and to start making major strides for Ukraine, her beloved country.
Finding creative ways to make a difference is Marushevska’s specialty. Less than two years ago, she was a Ph.D. student researching 20th-century Ukrainian mythology at Taras Shevchenko National University. Then, as the popular uprising against the corrupt old regime in Kiev grew intense, she recorded a passionate video in English, “I Am a Ukrainian.” She says now that it was not something calculated, but “an emotional impulse.”
“I want you to know why thousands of people all over my country are on the streets,” she said to the global audience, her voice full of feeling. “There is only one reason: They want to be free from a dictatorship. … We are civilized people but our government are barbarians. This is not a Soviet Union.” The video has since been seen by more than 8.3 million people.
Marushevska remembers the cold winter day early last year when the two-minute appeal was filmed in the Maidan. Protesters her age were arrested, beaten, killed, and it seemed possible that at any minute communication with the outside world would be cut off so the forces of the state could murder the protesters in the night. Hence, in the face of the fears, the passion in her voice mingling anger and defiance. Moscow has claimed outsiders coached her; that the video was part of an alien plot. “It had nothing to do with some foreign orders, as Russian propaganda claimed,” Marushevska told The Daily Beast.
Marushevska’s self-appointed mission reaching out to the world continued throughout last year. She became La Pasionaria of Ukraine’s Maidan uprising, taking its message to the U.S. Congress and the European Union Parliament, reaching out to dozens of politicians from over 100 countries. “Even Chinese leaders spoke with me about Ukraine issues,” Marushevska said.
But it’s one thing to travel the world talking about change, it’s another to make it happen on the ground, and in recent months that is where she has focused her talents: on the government of the Odessa region.
“It pains me to witness how hard-working people, some of whom head factories giving jobs to hundreds of people, humiliate themselves in front of lazy bureaucrats in Odessa,” Marushevska told us. “We need to break the core misunderstanding: bureaucrats, including me now, are just public servants who are supposed to make people’s lives better.”
By the time she was two weeks into her new job as a reformer in Odessa, Marushevska had discovered what it is like to “wake up in the morning and go to war” with a cranky post-Soviet system based on feudal subordination and surly passive-aggressive resistance. “Reality is so different from the theory,” says Marushevska, “especially if your job is to hire 50 of the most effective state managers you can find on a salary of less than $200 a month.”
Late last year, Marushevska attended a course on governance at Stanford, where her tutor was the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, who likes to describe himself as a “specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions.” But when she got back to Ukraine, Marushevska realized that to be one of those creating the new transparent and decentralized government she believes in, she had to be fighting anti-democratic practices within the local management system, which was redolent with crime, corruption, laziness, and fear, the bouquet of features typical for any post-Soviet country.
Clearly the revolution alone was not enough to change Ukraine. “Today I have a new tutor, Saakashvili, who probably is the best reformer one could find,” Marushevska said, sounding excited in the midst of what felt to her like a great day.
Governor Saakashvili was on his way on a public bus, coming to speak with locals. Marushevska warmly hugged people she met on the streets in Tatarbounary, where several locals recognized her. She told them that the governor would be speaking on the town’s main square shortly and everyone could have a chance to meet with Saakashvili in person, complain to him about all their troubles, give insights, help the new governor’s team of reformers to make the right decisions.
Then the governor arrived. “This is the specialist we have,” he said, pointing at Marushevska. “She buzzed and buzzed into my ears, so I would pay more attention to your town—and now you won’t be able to get rid of me.”
UKL 474, 28 June 2015
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