Three Ukraines
translated by Markian Dobczansky, 25.03.2006, 14:17

Original article by Ostap Kryvdyk, for UP

At these elections, people are choosing from three ideologically different past, present and future Ukraines. While being openly antagonistic amongst themselves, these Ukraines also sometimes flow into one another, and borrow from each other key themes, methods of doing battle, and sometimes build on each other’s contradictions.

In this article, only the main models – the “true forms” – are discussed as they are enunciated by their adherents. In reality, each political force and the people who support it express these forms through their own unique prisms. The specific political groupings that are behind each of these ideas are not mentioned in this article, as they are plainly visible to the naked eye.

Deaf Ukraine: the Soviet-Russian variant
For adherents of this view, the history of Ukraine as a state is the history of attempts by Poles, Germans, Americans or some other elite to tear a part of the ancient East Slavic lands from the elder brother’s root.

From the earliest times to the present in our land, in agreement with the Karamzin-Stalin conception of history, the Little Russian tribe has desired an organic merger with the indivisible body of the Russian empire.

In this way, the Mongol armies caused the transfer of Kyivan Rus’ to the north (on Ukrainian lands all traces of it vanished), the Cossacks wanted only to become one of the tsar’s armies, and foreign secret services were responsible for the creation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic of 1918 and the dissidents of the 1960s, and they ultimately toppled the Soviet Union (or Great Russia).

For them, the Holodomor [the genocidal Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33], Russification and the colonial dependence of Ukraine do not exist. On the contrary everything as it exists today is the result of the benevolent governance of Soviet power.

This concept is openly schizophrenic in its description of the contemporary situation. Here on the title page Lenin and the patriarch of the Orthodox Church are neighbors, Lenin is given Christmas greetings, there are calls to remove the “anti-people” regime, calls for this “anti-people” regime to adhere to the rule of law and the Constitution, and an open disregard for the Ukrainian language in favor of an imaginary “internationalism.”

They attack, calling this defending the Russian language from the Ukrainian one, defending the people from the “criminal authorities,” and defending the economy from foreign “interventions.” Here an ultra-Orthodox religion and anti-Satanism (in its most mythologized form) is brought together with a stubborn protectionism, an anti-market bias, a nostalgia for the time of wonderful Soviet central planning and “the great nation,” a militarism symbolized by the past, the lionized First and Second World Wars, and the achievements of Soviet science and technology.

Today the dominant emotions on this side are an allergy to the color orange, aggression and insult, and a desire for revenge. These “Soviet-Russians” fear the inscrutable “aggression” of the West – be it in the form of NATO, the EU, or whatever else – because, for them, the Cold War lives on.

For them, the future is inconceivable without Russia, with which a union in whatever form is the most important short-term goal. They have few long-term plans at all.

Adherents of the “Soviet-Russian” path are impossible to have a dialogue with. They are people with a totalitarian political culture. For them, democracy is a means to gain revenge. Their slogan is “whoever is not with us – is against us.” It is they who have forced people into rallies, and fired them for independent thinking. They do not seek compromise or dialogue. Imperial-chauvinistic Russian-Sovietism: the path to the future is through the past.

Blind Ukraine: the amnesiac variant
The past for these amnesiacs is impossibly flexible. Without a value system of their own, they accept everything. In their world, it is not the least contradictory to put statues of Lenin, Catherine II, and Shevchenko next to each other. Nor is it contradictory to take pride in the victory of the Soviet army on the one hand, and to collect Nazi symbols on the other.

What is the best way to decide the problems of the past? Naturally, it is to forget them, and wait it out until the fanatical old troublemakers die off. To live normally on this land, and to set up a way of life – these are the ideals of this “ideology of the stomach.”

Amnesiacs are people of authoritarian political culture, the culture of non-participation. These are those who will stand under any political banner for a price. Orange, white, royal blue, sky blue or green, man-eaters or Martians – as long as they pay money and don’t interfere in their life. For them, all politicians are bad, and as for politics – it’s not worth it to involve oneself.

For them, democracy is senseless anarchy. In line with this, they may support a politician because it is popular, and not because they have thought about the consequences of their vote.

The amnesiac concept is the ideal of “Little Russians” and those who say “my house is far away from all that.” Its adherents are inconsistent in their views, are swayed easily by neo-religious or clearly propagandistic projects, and are easily disillusioned or “charmed.” Amnesiac Little Russianism – this is the path into an unintelligible materialistic “future” without the past.

Mute Ukraine: the Ukrainian national variant
The legitimization of the current Ukrainian state is built upon the history of this variant. Kyivan Rus’, the Cossack state, and up through the Ukrainian People’s Republic – all these were antecedents of the current Ukrainian state, the symbols of which are used in state and nation-building today.

Within it exists a certain (non-aggressive) juxtaposition with Russia, and then the Soviet Union as a source of Russification, repression, and economic backwardness.

The “nationally concerned” representatives of this concept try to prove the necessity of defending their culture, are permanently offended by the aggressive answer of internationalism-chauvinism – that their “truth” is too quiet.

Because it is fit into the fairly narrow blinders of a cultured paradigm, and it is discriminated against by "windbags," it is forced to constantly defend itself from its competitors.

Other representatives are simply sympathetic to cultural problems, and find within it a place for themselves – as a cultural minority or as a member of an epoch-transforming generation.

The adherents of this position are mostly supporters of the orange forces. Democracy for these people is the basic mechanism for forming a government that is responsive to the will of the people. The future for these people is a progressive path of change from a colonial past to an independent future with a European direction.

Nationalist totalitarians exist. Who knows, there are probably openly democratic Communists with whom it is possible to have a dialogue. All three components are probably present in some political groups. This article is simply an attempt to describe three ideological vectors along which various political groups move, and to sketch out their criteria.

Ostap Kryvdyk is a political analyst, an activist, and a 2004 National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy graduate.