A Democratic Alternative for Ukraine: Malorossiya out, Constituent Assembly in?


August 14, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

On August 9th, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, announced that the name “Malorossiya” has been withdrawn given the aversion with which it has been met by the wider public. According to Zakharchenko, if a new successor state to Ukraine will indeed be established, the name will be other than Malorossiya. At the same time, the DPR leader emphasized that he and his supporters have not shied away from the idea itself: “The idea of re-founding the state that has since been plunged into deep economic and political crisis, which has not undertaken any attempts to radically reform the country in terms of federalization, and has not searched for ways to avoid collapse, has itself received received broad support.” 

As follows from Zakharchenko’s words, the idea of establishing a new state in Ukraine’s place has not been abandoned, but the project’s inadequacy or insufficient preparation under the Malorossiya name has been acknowledged. Will this project be give a new lease on life or will it gradually dissipate into oblivion like the Novorossiya project? Insofar as it is difficult to predict the persistence of ideas in the minds of the political and military leaders of the DPR, allow us to express our critical remarks and considerations on the prospects of such a project.

In our last treatise on this topic, I drew attention to the “secretive” nature of the decision to establish Malorossiya. Viewed from afar, the declaration appeared to be the private initiative of Zakharchenko himself. The DPR head did, however, refer to the decision being made at a congress of representatives from 19 of Ukraine’s regions (minus the DPR and LPR), but just who these delegates were has not been presented urbi et orbi. While it can be assumed that these congress participants fear such “advertising” for the sake of their safety and lives, this does not remove the relevance of the question of the representativeness of the congress which took it upon itself to decide the fate of all of Ukraine.

An analogy to this can be seen in the first session of the Verkhovna Rada following the victory of the Euromaidan. The deputies of the victorious opposition parties gathered in the parliamentary hall along with a small number of frightened deputies from the Party of Regions and Communist Party of Ukraine who were corralled in at gunpoint. After the legitimate president was overthrown and the Party of Regions and Communist Party were banned, however, the Verkhovna Rada lost any semblance of its legitimacy. Nevertheless, it continued to issue legislation and even chose the acting president of Ukraine.

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Therefore, I  would posit that the supporters of some kind of conditional Malorossiya (taken as a working name) should proclaim the convocation of a constituent assembly involving representatives from the regions that have not participated in the work of the illegitimate and criminal Ukrainian government. Priority should be given to those people who have fought in the ranks of the militia against Poroshenko’s criminal regime, whether by force of arms or force of words. After all, the ranks of the people’s militias of the DPR and LPR boast no small number of people from Ukraine’s central and even western regions. 

Overall, the cause of the anti-Nazi resistance in the former Ukraine would lose much if the fundamental importance of the principle of democracy is not taken into account. Otherwise, one dictatorial power would compete with another.  

The democratic principle which was violated by the Euromaidan coup d’etat cannot be restored without first restoring the legitimate government. Thus, any such future constituent assembly on Ukraine’s future must be held under the banner of restoring the authority of ousted President Yanukovych. This figure is not popular in the DPR and LPR, where he is considered at fault for the war in Donbass. Nevertheless, Yanukovych remains the legal president of Ukraine. Russia, I would say, committed a strategic mistake in recognizing Poroshenko as Ukraine’s legal president. Not only was Yanukovych overthrown and banished from the country, but the German foreign ministry, France, the UK, and Poland helped guarantee this, and therefore also bear responsibility for the unleashing of civil war in Ukraine. Moreover, the Ukrainian presidential elections that were held took place in far from equal conditions and featured direct violence against candidates from the South-East. But the residents of Donbass and the advocates of Malorossiya are not obliged to repeat Moscow’s mistake. 

Ukraine’s legal president, Viktor Yanukovych, must be invited to a constituent assembly in Donetsk, which should proclaim the restoration of Ukraine’s legitimate government. Yanukovych’s presidential authorities would end as the congress begins, and this truly representative body would declare itself to be the organ of supreme, sovereign power in the former Ukraine. Such a method is not new to Russian history. The Time of Troubles saw the Zemsky Sobor in 1613 and there was the Constituent Assembly in January 1918 following the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. Analogies can be found in the histories of other countries, including the US.

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The above-cited passage from Zakharchenko’s speech paints Ukraine’s crisis as political. But this is an ideological and civilizational crisis at large. The question at hand is not only resolving what Malorossiya should be, but who and what should be part of it. On this note, allow us to repeat what we have said before: the country’s fate should be decided not by politicians, but by the regions. The regions have the right to be masters of their destinies and refuse to be part of a new Ukraine. They have the right to create a federation of historically close lands, or become parts of other states altogether, whether Poland, Hungary, Russia, etc. This is a real democratic alternative for collapsing Ukraine and immature Malorossiya. 

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