August 27, 2016 –
– By Eduard Popov for Fort Russ – translated by J. Arnoldski
On August 20th, a report appeared on the official website of the government of Ukraine alleging “deliberate underestimation” of the number of Ukrainians in Russia. According to the statement made by Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kirilenko, Russian authorities are carrying out a “de-nationalization policy” against Ukrainians in Russia and are systematically understating the number of Ukrainians living on Russian territory. “In fact, around 10 million Ukrainians live in the Russian Federation. But the latest official Russian count showed a figure of 2 million while the previous one listed 3 million,” Kirilenko said at the opening of the 6th World Ukrainian Forum in Kiev. According to him, “a deliberate policy of de-nationalizing Ukrainians in Russia is being enforced.”
In Kirilenko’s opinion, Europe is interested in Ukrainians as a “unique nation with its own achievements, history, language, and culture.” It’s difficult to comment on these words insofar as I am not aware of any achievements of a “Ukrainian nation” in history or culture, not to mention science. But I can comment on the words of Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Kirilenko on the number of Ukrainians in Russia.
The subject that Kirilenko touched on is not a new one. The artificial understating of Ukrainians in Russia has already been repeatedly claimed by many representatives of Ukrainian neo-Nazism, such has Yurko Shukhevych, the son of the executioner of Volyn, Roman Shukhevych, the “commander” of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The only novelty is that now members of the ruling establishment in Ukraine are openly asserting ethno-political values and claims. Kirilenko’s statement is part of the same paradigm as the claims of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, which has declared the South-Eastern lands of Poland to be “ethnic Ukrainian territory.”
I’ve already written on the subject of Ukrainian neo-Nazis’ territorial claims. The “unified Ukrainian state” concept means essentially contemporary Ukraine plus the lands where so-called “ethnic Ukrainians” live. As a result, Ukrainian neo-Nazism has territorial claims against all of its neighboring states. But the largest claims are made against Russia.
A History Lesson
Let us recall a well known fact: the phenomenon of the Ukrainian nation is quite young and, if we’re dealing with its Galician version, only has around 100 years under its belt. From the time of Galician Rus all the way up to the First World War, Russian (Russophile, “Muscovphile”) and Ukrainian parties contested for this most backwards province of Austria-Hungary. The latter side won thanks to the physical extermination of Galician Russophobes in the Talerhof and Terezin death camps upon being denounced by Ukrainians, or their expulsion from their homes.
For example, in my native Rostov-on-Don in 1915, a Galician-Russian men’s school for refugees from Galician Rus was created and published a Galician-Russian newspaper. In “greater” Ukraine (historical Malorossiya, “Little Russia”), the formation of Ukrainian nationalism was contributed to by the influence of and strong competition with the Galicians. Pre-Russian Revolution sources noted a mutual hostility between the “Dnepr” and Galician varieties of Ukrainian nationalism. This competition culminated in the Ukrainian People’s Republic headed by the dictator Petliura betraying the West Ukrainian People’s Republic to the Polish dictator Pilsudski for the sake of the more serious goal of fighting against the Bolsheviks. Despite propagandistc slogans, in reality the Little Russian Ukrainian nationalists looked with concept at their Galician “brothers” from poor and underdeveloped farms and did not consider themselves to be the same people.
The final formation of the Ukrainian nation myth occurred under Soviet rule. The Moscow communists (Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and Khrushchev) transferred lands to the Ukrainian SSR which had never been a part of Hmelnitsky’s Hetmanate or the Ukrainian People’s Republic. These were the lands of Donbass, Sloboda Ukraine, and part of the territory of the Don Cossacks, Tavrida (Crimea and adjacent lands), and the Odessa region.
Just before and after the Second World War, Ukraine received even more new lands: Western Ukraine in the form of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic was taken from Poland, Northern Bukovina was taken from Romania, and Transcarpathian Rus was taken from Czechoslovakia while Crimea was taken from Russia. In addition to these territorial gifts to the Ukrainian USSR, the Soviet Union created and pursued cultural and language policies of Ukrainianization. Across the entire territory of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and in some territories of Soviet Russia, education was held exclusively in the Ukrainian language. Nevertheless, Ukrainianization still only yielded very superficial results.
The Ukrainian political choice
The author of these lines, for example, has many friends with Malorossiyan (Little Russian – Ukrainian) surnames, but they all express a common Russian identity. In one of the mining towns of the DPR, I had the opportunity to meet a fighter in the local militia, the son of a victim of Banderites and a Donbass-native mother. Although a Galician after his father, he considers himself to be a Donetsk miner and Russian. A number of such examples can be presented, just as there are examples of the opposite case when Russians (by passport) call themselves Ukrainians. In my article on contemporary Ukrainian nationalism (neo-Nazism), I came to the conclusion that the future of this phenomenon belongs not to agrarian Galicia, but to the industrial regions of Russian South-East Ukraine.
The Ukrainian nation is not an ethnic, but a political category. The ease of transitioning from a Russian to a Ukrainian identity and vice versa confirms the blurred lines of ethnicity. The phenomenon of “Ukrainianness” means a conscious rejection of one’s “Russianness” and is therefore a political choice. This explains the wide participation of Russians in Ukrainian neo-Nazi projects. But this same phenomenon also explains why millions of Russian citizens with “Ukrainian” surnames consider themselves Russians.
Ethnocide against Russians
Some in Ukraine cannot and do not want to understand this. They consciously choose not to notice the problem of the Russian population in Ukraine which, according to the official census of 2001, makes up 17% of the country’s population, and which is deprived of the opportunity to receive an education and develop their culture in their own native language. All the Russians and people of Russian culture that make up the population of Ukraine (altogether around half of the country’s population) are exposed to ethnocultural genocide (ethnocide). This in itself deprives Ukraine and Ukrainians of the moral and legal grounds to demand that Ukrainians’ ethnocultural rights be observed in Russia. In addition, this puts the task of defending the civil and cultural rights of the Russian population of Ukraine in front of the Russian leadership.
Unfortunately, the Russian leadership tends to ignore the existence of this problem, instead continuing to afford broad economic, financial, and social assistance to the terrorist state of Ukraine. This in addition to funding that aids the activities of Ukrainian neo-Banderite organizations on Russian territory. It is this Ukrainian Fifth Column in Russia that I will discuss in my next article.
Eduard Popov, born in 1973 in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia in Rostov-on-Don. From 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don. He has actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass and has been a guest contributor to various Donbass media, such as the Lugansk-based Cossack Media Group