By Peter Borisow
No one should be really surprised by Chernomyrdin’s denial of genocide in Ukraine. After all, it was essentially just one, albeit horrific, phase in a centuries old (and still ongoing) effort to extinguish the Ukrainian nation and replace it with a Russian identity. This is a story that started with the emergence of the Russian Empire as a wannabe world power under Peter the First (I’ll not call him “Great”, thank you). The so called“fall of the Russian Empire” at the end of WW I, was only a change in players. New leaders emerged and a whole new and very radical marketing strategy called communism was imposed on the same old empire. The USSR was just a new box for the same old cereal.
The leadership of the USSR was as resolutely Russian in its identity as were the tsars. Except for the occasional tactical respite, Russian remained the only acceptable language. Russocentric history, culture, and religion (when tolerated) were the pillars of society and any deviation was prosecuted. Anything Ukrainian was prosecuted. After the wanton slaughter of Ukrainians in 1932 – 33, huge areas of Ukraine were re-populated by Russian settlers, to a large extent accounting for some of the Russophilic strongholds in Eastern Ukraine today.
When the USSR collapsed, it was abandoned like a snake abandons a skin that no longer fits. But, the snake is still the same. Today it’s wearing its new skin, as just plain Russia, an emerging market economy. But, it’s trying very hard to grow back into the old skin of the Russian Empire. Peter and Catherine both knew there could be no Russian Empire without Ukraine. Stalin and Gorbachev both knew there could be no USSR without Ukraine. When Ukraine pulled out, the USSR collapsed like a house of cards. Does anyone out there really believe Messrs Putin & Co. do not know this?
With a never properly accounted for $100 plus billion dollars of mostly USA guaranteed money in its coffers, Russia came back from chaos. Now, further invigorated by oil money, mostly from remote parts of the former empire, Russia is seeking to reconstitute its old self. Putin is struggling to consolidate his position as de-facto tsar. Chernomyrdin, his chief vassal in Ukraine, is there to persuade, bully and buy key bits of Ukraine for Russia and Russian interests. Why, they’ll even send grain to Ukraine, to help out their“brothers” in their time of need. How kind and generous, this new Russia! How shameless to do this on the 70th Anniversary of the Holodomor. But it’s good strategy and great public relations. The operating theory is: if you can temper the opposition, neutralize foreign policy and effectively control the economy, then the administrative details can be sorted out later -- quietly, in the dark of night, when no one is watching.
Under these circumstances, it is clearly impossible for Russia to acknowledge responsibility for genocide. We need to expect all forms of slight of hand by these masters of genocide denial. During the genocide Ukrainians were also killed outside of Ukraine, in parts of Russia, especially in the Northern Caucasus and the Lower Volga. That’s a fact. And we should expect Russia to spin it by passing these Ukrainians off as Russians and then arguing how Russians also suffered.
But Ukrainians remember 1932-33. We remember all those places along the border where there was no food on the Ukrainian side, plenty of food on the Russian side and armed guards in between, with orders to shoot to kill. We remember how travelers were searched for food and even a single loaf of bread, was seized at the border and the “smugglers” punished. We remember what it was like to be in a place where the mere possession of tiny bits of food by“enemies of the people” was against the law and punishable by death. If you had no food, you would starve to death. If you had food, you would be shot. We remember how the entire country was turned into a concentration camp. We remember the orders coming from Moscow and the trainloads of soldiers they sent to quell even the slightest opposition. We remember the minions who ran this hell on earth for their masters in Moscow. This we will never forget. This we will teach our children and our children’s children.
In order to understand the position of Russia on the Ukrainian genocide, and the difficulties faced by Ukrainians in telling their story, we need to parallel the careers of the 20th century’s master killers – Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. Their similarities are obvious for all to see. But, we rarely focus on the one huge fundamental difference between the two. Hitler lost the war. Stalin won the war. To understand the impact of that difference on Ukrainians and world perceptions of Ukrainian history, ask yourself what the world would look like today if Churchill had succumbed to Hitler’s overtures and they had signed a peace treaty before the U.S. entered the war and, if Hitler, with Britain’s help, had reached a truce with Stalin.
Ask yourself how the story of the Holocaust would be told today if Europe was now the German Empire, run without apology by descendents of Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels, and if there was no Israel. By now, the extermination camps would have been shut down long ago as they completed their cursed tasks. The spin-meisters would be telling a very different history, about well intentioned attempts to help Jews, Ukrainians, gypsies and others who were gathered by the benevolent state to protect them from angry masses. Gee, some even died from allergic reactions to some of the gasses in the delousing facilities. This kind of pornographic history is what Ukrainians had to endure for sixty years. History is and always will be written by the strong, by the victors. Russia won the war. They wrote history the way they wanted.
Now, seventy years after the worst part of the genocide, and ten years into liberation, Ukrainians are still struggling to tell their story. In the West, the story is starting to emerge in academic and official circles. The story has yet to reach the general public. We’ve made some good progress in the past ten years but still have a long and hard way to go.
Russia will oppose us every step of the way, publicly and through its massive and well financed secret services and their western shills. Russia is actively attempting to rewrite history once again for its own purposes. Already, there are calls in Russia to remove troublesome writings by authors like Pasternak and to replace them in school curricula with much more Russophilic authors like Tolstoy, recalling the splendor of Imperial Russia instead of the murky bits about Soviet Russia. Fancy tour groups are dazzled by the stolen treasures of the Hermitage, oblivious to the memory of some hundred thousand Ukrainians (mostly Cossacks) who died there digging its canals. The party line that Ukrainians suffered only because everyone was suffering is just one more in a long history of BIG LIES. No one is better at this than the Soviet propagandists, now back to wearing their original uniforms as enforcers for the Russian Empire. It’s Chernomyrdin’s job to sell the party line. I think it’s a safe bet that nowhere in his marching orders will you find the word“truth”.
Let’s not worry too much about what Chernomyrdin says. He’s an old apparatchik,
and we will not persuade him otherwise. Rather, we must focus on what his
job is and how to counter it. We can only counter it through the voice
of world opinion. That’s our job. We must never forget the truth of what
happened in Ukraine. We must never miss an opportunity to tell anyone and
everyone our story until the world finally understands the truth. If Chernomyrdin
does not apologize, one of his successors will.
Peter Borisow is President of the Hollywood Trident Foundation, a group
of professionals in the entertainment and media industries who are either
Ukrainian or have a special interest in Ukrainian film and media, past,
present and future. Borisow is also President of the Genocide Awareness
Foundation, a newly formed multi-ethnic group with broad interests in genocide,
including genocide recognition, education, rehabilitation and prevention.
Russia won't apologize for great famine says Russia's
ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin
Associated Press, Kyiv, Ukraine, August 6, 2003
Kyiv, Ukraine(AP) -- Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin said Wednesday that Moscow doesn't intend to apologize for the Stalin-era famine that killed millions of people in Ukraine and that was denied by Soviet officials for decades.
Chernomyrdin acknowledged that Russia had assumed the Soviet Union's obligations as successor to the collapsed regime, but denied that its responsibilities included apologizing for the famine, according to news reports.
"We're not going to apologize ... there is nobody to apologize to," the Interfax news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying.
He added that Russia deserved praise for taking on Soviet-era debts and other obligations but would not "bear the cross" of the famine, Interfax reported.
Chernomyrdin's statements came on the heels of the Ukrainian government's public acknowledgment of the famine that killed 7 to 10 million people in 1932-33. In June, Ukraine declassified more than 1,000 files documenting the famine.
Historians say Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, a native of Georgia, provoked the famine as part of his campaign to force Ukrainian peasants to give up their land and join collective farms.
"Why not ask Georgia to apologize?" the Ukrayinski Novyny agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying.
In March, Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma signed a law establishing
a day of remembrance for famine victims, and the Foreign Ministry plans
to submit a resolution to the United Nations in September seeking recognition
of what Ukrainians call the Great Famine as genocide.