The Brown Revolution: A Noxious Brew

The recent Brown Revolution in Ukraine, which saw the overthrow of the legitimate (if corrupt and bumbling) Yanukovych government, is a triumph of Western Ukrainian nationalism—an ideology characterized by a violent Russophobia and antisemitism.  The rabid neo-Nazis of Oleh Tyahnybok’s Svoboda (“Freedom”) party and Dmytro Yarosh’s militant Right Sector are just the latest manifestation of a noxious creed that caused millions of deaths and spilled rivers of blood all over present-day Ukraine and parts of Poland.

Ukrainian nationalism always had a genocidal streak, and not only in its Galician manifestation.  Beginning with the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648-57, displays of nascent Ukrainian nationalism took on an extremely brutal tone.  The dreadful massacres, mass rapes, and widespread devastation of the Ukrainian uprisings were not explained away or excused by latter-day nationalists.  Instead, the bloody events were positively gloated over and mythologized as praiseworthy examples of Ukrainian patriotic heroism.

Take Taras Shevchenko, who is regarded as the founder of the modern Ukrainian language and literature—Ukraine’s equivalent of Shakespeare and Chaucer.  The 200th anniversary of Shevchenko’s birth was exuberantly celebrated in the new Kiev, dominated by the brown revolutionaries.  In his poems, Shevchenko...

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