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The cowardly collapse of Viktor Yanukovych's legitimate government and the triumph of the violent, bloodthirsty neo-nazi-dominated revolutionaries may spell the last throes of modern Ukraine. After all, it is an artificial, amorphous country, created by Lenin, Stalin, and Khruschev and doomed to failure and fragmentation.
As I've described at length exactly four years ago, after Yanukovych's victory in the presidential elections (a victory recognized as fair and legitimate by the EU, OSCE, and the State Department), Ukraine is essentially three countries. The Western part is roughly equivalent to Galicia and Volhynia. Western Ukrainians (known as zapadentzi) are the main force behind the Brown Revolution and the neo-nazi "Svoboda" party of Oleh Tyahnybok draws its main support from the west Ukrainian areas around Lviv (Lemberg/Lvov) and Ivano-Frankivsk.
The eastern part of the country is where Yanukovych hails from and draws his support (or whatever is left of it). Although many eastern Ukrainians don't consider themselves Russian (largely as a result of the brutal Ukrainization policies of the Soviet communists), they all speak the Russian language and clamor for closer ties with Russia. The Bolsheviks forcibly joined southeastern Ukraine, including the coal/industrial powerhouse of Donbass (Yanukovych's home region) to the newly-founded Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Other swathes of today's Ukraine were taken from Rumania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
Finally, there's the Crimean Peninsula—an area that is majority ethnic Russian and was snatched away from Russia by the bumbling Nikita Khrushchev and joined to communist Ukraine in 1954. Home to both the strategically important Sevastopol naval base and a sizable Crimean Tatar Muslim minority, Crimea seems to be taking serious steps on the road to secession. And who can blame them: from Kiev westwards, Ukraine is dominated by the bloodthirsty skinheads of "Svoboda" and various related groupings.
The most brutal and effective of the west Ukrainian skinhead bands is "Right Sector". Its militants, some of whom spilled Russian blood in Chechnya fighting alongside Islamic terrorists, were at the forefront of the street battles in Kiev that resulted in the ignoble collapse of the hapless Yanukovych. A member of "Right Sector" gave a candid interview to a Russian journalist. The skinhead called for a forcible Ukrainization, the summary execution of all corrupt officials (read: all eastern Ukrainian officials who are allies of Yanukovych), and the "liberation of Ukrainian lands". And what are these "Ukrainian lands"? The Voronezh, Kursk, Belgorod, and Kuban regions of Russia! Finally, the "Right Sector" activist had this to say about Russians: "Let them go the f*** back to Russia! And if they don't want to, we can help them. Russians are not even Slavs, but Tatars and Ugro-Finns". The rabid radicals of "Right Sector" were approvingly written up by the NYT and fawned over by Steve Sailer.
Ironically, the militants who are the driving force behind the Brown Revolution, come from regions which are the most poor and rural in all of Ukraine. The west of the country has for decades depended on the hated "Muscovites" and the eastern Ukrainians for natural resources and industry. Thousands of Galicians and Volhynians also travel abroad as gastarbeiters. One wonders how many of the brown revolutionaries came back from jobs as construction workers and janitors in Poland and the Czech Republic in order to overthrow Yanukovych. Shooting police officers and torching buildings is after all, more exciting than cleaning toilets in Prague and Warsaw.
No non-Orthodox nation that has enjoyed Russian rule ever wants to experience it again. In this regard, the Western Ukrainians are the same as the Finns, Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians. The Czech example is particularly instructive. Many Czechs used to be Russophiles and wondered why the Poles had trouble with their Slavic brothers to the east. After 40 years of Russian boots stamping around Prague, Czech Russophilia largely vanished.
And who can blame them? To take just one example, many Western Ukrainians belong to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. After the Russians grabbed eastern Poland during the partitions, they began to brutally suppress the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The resistance was broken by killing and deportations to Siberia. Norman Davies offers a good description of this in "God's Playground."
When Stalin grabbed Galicia during World War II, he did the same thing. The Ukrainian Catholic Church was outlawed, and all its bishops and priests were sent to the Gulag. Its churches were given to the Russian Orthodox Church. From 1945 until 1989, the Ukrainian Catholic Church was the largest underground religious body in the world. Not long ago, an official in the Yanukovych government threatened to outlaw the Church again, until he was reined in by his superiors.
The argument that the United States should not intervene in Ukraine is irrefutable. The argument that East Central Europeans should look on Russia with fondness is not.
It should be remembered that Ukraine has little history as an independent sovereign state. Exceptions include the brief period of 1917-1921 and its current state of independence that began after the break-up of USSR in 1991. Its history is largely that of fragmentation and foreign domination. It was the Orthodox Cossacks who requested Russia’s help and protection in the 17th century as Ukraine was being contested simultaneously by the Poles, the Tatars, and the Turks. A good case can be made that without Russian involvement at that time there may not be a Ukraine to speak of today. The Ukrainian Catholics are a religious minority as far as numbers of followers are concerned and are a distant second to the Orthodox. Although it seems un-Christian to compare wounds, The Orthodox Church suffered just as much (and probably more in terms of numbers) during the years of Stalin’s persecution. For linguistic, historical, cultural, and religious reasons most Ukrainians have far less in common with the Poles, the Finns, the Czechs, the Hungarians, or the Baltic peoples than they do with the Russians. Western Ukraine may look fondly westward but Europe is not likely to provide economic crutches to this part of the country which lacks any means of independent support.
That the Ukrainian Uniate (Greek Catholic) Church suffered from the communists is undeniable and tragic. But at the same time, the rabid Ukrainian nationalists (many of them Uniates) had no qualms about butchering hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholic Poles in Volhynia at the end of WWII. The main part of these radicals' ethno-political identity is not Catholicism, but a rabid, genocidal nationalism, matched in its bloody intensity only by the Croatian Ustasa.
It is true that the Soviet Union grabbed western Ukraine. However, it was also the Soviet Union that created the basis for an independent Ukraine in existence today, and even joined indigenously Russian areas to it (Crimea, Donbass, etc). It was therefore the hated "Muscovites" that created a strong Ukraine.
The question at hand is not Russian rule. Rather it is the Galicians that want to impose their radical, Russophobic rule over eastern Ukraine and Russian Crimea. The Ukrainian nationalist heroes of "Svoboda" and "Right Sector" waged a bloody terrorist campaign against Poland in the 1930s. So it wasn't Russian rule they were unhappy about, but the rule of fellow Catholics. The goal of these shabby characters is domination over the non-radical, non-west Ukrainian majority and a reign of terror against Russian-speakers and ideological opponents.
There are still plenty of Russofiles in both Poland and Chechoslovakia, Croatia and Slovenia. The fact that the Bolsheviks persecuted Catholics is not special, they persecuted the Orthodox and everyone else just the same. We hear now about Ukranians perhaps Catholics that were exterminating the Poles in WW2. The point Mr. Piatak is, that the Nazism or Fascism is not a reaction to someone being a Russian, but a mental disease in its own right, the resurgence of which we are witnessing. Efforts to rehabilitate Bandera in Ukraine or Pavelich and Stepinac in Croatia are misguided and do no service to Catholicism. Instead, it is becoming obvious, they are part of the new bluprint to march on Russia for the 4th time. As a regular reader of the Chronicles,it pains me that you consistently push this particular view.
Some Ukrainian nationalists go so far in their militant idiocy that they claim (like the Croatians) that Ukrainians are not Slavs, but a more ancient nation and that great classical works were written by Ukrainians. No, I'm not kidding, unfortunately, there were articles in the Ukrainian press of the early 1990s claiming such nonsense. It also needs to be remembered that Uniates (at least the ones I came in contact with) prefer not to refer to themselves as Catholics, but as Uniates. Indeed, there are still many Russophiles in former Warsaw Pact countries. The Poles and Czechs I've met (both in NYC and Prague) were in no way Russophobic or anti-semitic. The only open hatred of Russians I encountered was by a young Rumanian girl in one of my undergraduate classes. Today's Eastern Europeans are smart enough to distinguish between the Soviet regime and Russians. I also understand that the first post-independence leader of Slovakia, nationalist Vladimir Meciar was very pro-Russian.
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