In fact, this kind of association is one of the most important factors in the internal consolidation of a nation, because differing attitudes towards the historic path of development of a nation work against unity. Undoubtedly, it’s possible to have different viewpoints on national heritage in any society, but what is important is to have a critical mass of those who support the mainstream national memory.
Where a more-or-less equal proportion of people in a society maintain opposed concepts of the nation’s history, broad-based discussion of such a controversial topic is often simply avoided. For example, in Spain, many people to this day strongly favor different sides in the Civil War -- Francisco Franco’s right-wing fascists and the leftist republican camp. In the spirit of reconciliation, whose main principles were laid out in a document known as the Moncloa Pact, the Government of Spain has been trying its best to ensure that these two groups of Spaniards do not enter into an ideological confrontation by avoiding overly strong and large-scale abstract debates while neither persecuting nor prohibiting either position. To ensure this kind of consensus, however external and formal, Generalissimo Franco, although he was a dictator, himself had an enormous pantheon built in honor of the dead on both sides of the devastating conflict in 1936-1939. It was a way of acknowledging the need for a national truce.
Still, there are no universal approaches to this kind of reconciliation, and no policy of national memory as such. Every country and each nation has to walk its own pathway to consciousness of the past and the formation of an acceptable interpretation of historical events. Someone else’s experience is of only relative and limited help.
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One way or another, historical memory that is accepted and supported by the majority of a country’s people fosters consensus about the past, which, in turn, almost guarantees consensus about the future. For this reason, the liberal-humanists who are “for everything good and against everything evil” and naively call for leaving history alone and consolidating the nation exclusively around current issues offer little more than wishful thinking that is very hard to make real. In fact, the experience of many traumatized countries shows that a nation cannot move ahead without an open and honest accounting of its past.
Would Germany’s socio-economic development and democracy have been possible without the necessary level of unity in German society in its stance towards of the Nazi era? The point is that a common view of history makes the formation of a common vision of the country’s further development infinitely easier, while disputes over the past quite often turn out to be disputes over the present and future as well. Nations look at their past to see their tomorrows. It’s not about antiquity but about memories of the future, so to speak.
A policy of national memory is one way to become conscious of the historical heritage of the nation as a factor in contemporary civic and political processes. The concept of “leaving history alone”, apart from brief periods of the opposite, was tried out in Ukraine for nearly 20 years, but everything that people tried to ignore, to not notice, has now floated to the top, as might have been expected, and is demanding resolution: Moscow’s totalitarian regime in Ukraine, the imperial "denationization" of Ukrainians, the puppet republic that was the Ukrainian SSR and the pseudo-elite that emerged from it -- which some journalists prefer to call a lowlife elite --, russification and its consequences, attitudes towards OUN and the UPA, to communism and nazism, interpretations of Russia’s influence in Ukraine since 1991, the cult of the “Great Patriotic War,” and so on.
Still, despite the reluctance of Ukraine’s current leadership to resolve the painful issue of national memory, this issue has been the subject of intense dispute the entire time since Ukraine declared independence. We only have to recall how fiercely the Communist Party of Ukraine and other pro-Russian political forces resisted anything that was connected with remembering the Holodomor, because any memory of this genocide would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to continue to collaborate, given that it showed the true genesis of those forces and their role in carrying out massive terrorism against Ukrainians. The party bosses understood perfectly well that the more people memorialized the Holodomor and other “achievements” of communist actors, the issue of historical and political responsibility would be raised sooner or later and the party that emerged in the summer of 1918 in Moscow would be banned. Of course, when it was useful, CPU leaders would declare themselves a new, original force, rather than an heir of the Communist Bolshevik Party of the Soviet Union. And when it was convenient, they would underscore this heritage in every possible way and promote it.
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It is absolutely no coincidence that all those years, local pro-Russian officials in eastern and southern Ukraine -- of course, not just there, but most actively in those regions -- desperately fought to preserve its pantheon of soviet ideological gods, not because of their great love of the arts, but in preparation for the Southeast to be under Putin, or whoever was running Russia at that point. That included not allowing Ukrainian cultural influence in any way, shape or form on those territories. In Sevastopol, for instance, the head of the municipal administration, appointed by President Kuchma, personally forbade the building of a church belonging to the Kyiv Patriarchate -- and so none was ever built.
In other words, they were determined to keep Russian-Soviet historical memory intact by not permitting any Ukrainian alternative. And so in many areas of Ukraine, a cult of Russian arms, its all-encompassing “victories,” a cult of Russian and soviet heroes, and billboard esthetics dominated. At the same time, it was noticeable that there was a very careful rejection of any attempts to more-or-less thoroughly and deeply analyze these “accomplishments” and military “achievements.” Incidentally, southern Ukraine, despite its hordes of monuments and names in honor of all kinds of Suvorovs, Potemkins, Kutuzovs, Catherines, and Peters, there are very few monuments to the heroes of Kozak Ukraine who were closely tied to the history of the region.
For instance, even when it was still under Ukraine, Sevastopol had a monument erected to Admiral Klochakov, who was supposedly the first to lead his squadron into what would be Akhtiarsk Bay in the future city, yet there’s no mention of the Kozak Colonel and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy graduate Sydor Biliy, who took the Dnipro flotilla into the bay of the future city of Sevastopol even earlier than the Russian Admiral. While it was part of Ukraine, Sevastopol erected a monument to Catherine the Great, although the real founder of the city was not the German Empress of Russia but the Rear Admiral of the Russian fleet, Scotsman Thomas MacKenzie, whom no one seems to remember. It seems that Ukrainians were not the only victims of Russian politicized historical memory...
What’s more, this policy in eastern and southern Ukraine has continued the entire period of Ukraine’s supposed independence, and it’s not entirely clear that it has stopped today. We only need to recall attempts to rename Kirovohrad Yelysavetgrad after the Empress Elizabeth.
In contrast to Ukraine itself, pro-Russian forces have quite effectively made use of the nearly 25 years of effective independence and lack of control -- and sometimes even open indulgence -- provided to them by the leadership in Kyiv. These forces applied their soviet agitprop skills and enriched them with new Russian techniques. Lots of music, slogans, drums and fanfare, hyperpatriotic verses, the exploitation of lingering negative attitudes towards the US and NATO, and controversial tsarist-chekist romance -- “feed the masses” --, created an ideological compote that the courteous neutrality of official Kyiv allowed to be fed to the hoi polloi in southeastern Ukraine for so long.
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After events in 2014, the confrontation between the two models of historical memory -- the patriotic nation-building and the communist-imperialist -- intensified sharply and, despite the specific situation with the Russian war in Ukraine, it’s early to say whether the former has overcome the latter ideology. The opponent continues to resist and sometimes even goes on the attack. Lately, the epicenter of this confrontation has shown up on the Inter channel, which is trying to consolidate all those elements in Ukrainian society that are disgruntled with the rejection of communist names and, therefore, the law on decommunization. With this purpose in mind, Inter is proposing that all those who oppose renaming places, as the law requires, to join the site polk.inter.ua -- “polk” meaning a military company --, which address appears on the Inter screen on a regular basis with the predictable slogans. On some channels that are nominally Ukrainian, Russian and pro-Russian management dominates.Those in power in Ukraine today need to begin to bring order to this arena, otherwise this task will be taken on by civic activists using direct action. The confrontation of the two systems of national memory is a battle for the future of Ukraine, for its very existence, and the state should not make the mistake of maintaining a position of phony neutrality by keeping itself equidistant from the two sides in this battle. This is the position that has been taken by every government in Ukraine for a quarter-century now and today we see the direct results of that...
After several centuries of “brotherly” friendship, relations between Ukrainians and Russians face so many challenges in the 21st century that it would take an entire book to answer them properly. But unless we can begin to answer them, we have no chance of a better future.
An empire built on janissaries
The Russian empire was built by Ukrainians: in search of a bright future, Ukrainians of noble origins moved north en masse to serve the Russian monarchs. The benches of Russian gentry were filled with such familiar names as Apostol, Bezborodko (pictured below), Bonch-Bruyevych, Chaikovsky, Dragomyriv, Hudovych, Kapnist, Kochubey, Kryzhanivsky, Myloradovych, Ostrohradsky, Rodzianky, Rozumovsky, Solohub, and Vronsky... It was even stranger to see formidable surnames like Galagan, Doroshenko, Hamaliya, Kosinsky, Loboda, Lyzohub, Skoropadsky, Sulyma, and Zhdanovych -- names that had once struck terror in the hearts of Polish, Turkish and even Muscovite forces -- turn into law-abiding and loyal newly-minted Russian gentry...
It wasn’t that Ukrainians had lost their patriotic fervor: they always remembered their rights and freedoms and dreamed about the return to the “good old days.” What’s more, this was true of the elite and of ordinary folks alike. All levels of Ukrainian society let those in power know, again and again, about their burning desire to return to the “good old days,” with rights and privileges, elected government, and an autonomous Hetmanate. But this empire that was built by Ukrainians needed consolidation, and so it was inevitable that any autonomous rights in the Hetmanate would be terminated once and for all, and the territory turned into another Russian province.
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This is precisely what Catherine II intended when she issued orders to the High Prosecutor Viaziemsky: “Little Russia, Livonia and Finland are provinces that have the use of privileges that We have granted to them, to violate which all at once would be a dishonor, and yet, to call them foreigners and to establish relations on that basis would be greater than an error... These provinces [...] must, in the easiest way possible, be brought to such an understanding, so that they may be russified and stop looking like wolves in the woods... When there is no longer a Hetman in Little Russia, every effort will have to be made to ensure that even the names of the Hetmans disappear forever...”
In short, the one-time kozak aristocracy was quickly given a place in the great imperial system -- and a good place indeed. It settled firmly on its lands, grew wealthy, and transformed into respectable landlords. Not having consolidated their own national monarchic plans when they had the chance, they slowly integrated into a foreign one that was weaker and more backward and therefore promised better prospects to those Ukrainian men who wanted to advance in the service of the empire. And there were plenty willing to take up such posts.
Selling their heritage for a bowl of oukha
Meanwhile, these huge estates required many hands, hands that could not be allowed to run away -- and they were always running away to the open steppe -- so a rigid system of serfdom was established. That same Catherine II at first simply approved what the local kozak administrations requested of her: in 1763, she approved the Rozumovsky universal decree. But by 1783, the Muscovite right to hold serfs was extended to Ukrainian peasants, who had always farmed their own lands, unlike Russian peasants. And that was the end of Ukrainian liberty. That was also the end of kozak freeholds. At this point, the administrations at the povit or county level and lower were run by the local gentry, that is, yesterday’s kozak officers. Oddly enough, no one -- not the towns, nor the kozaks, nor the commonwealth -- stood up to say something about the rights and freedoms they had once enjoyed.
How powerful the desire to have a career and be rich was, in a nation that had never consolidated its own state elite! So powerful that even forced assimilation was no hindrance.
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Of course, Ukrainian career ambitions and the desire to rise never offered much certainty to Russia, as the Little Russian or Malorosian nobility always and everywhere insisted on its own. For instance, Vasyl Kapnist secretly traveled to Prussia to ask for help against Russia “if we were to rise up in defense of our lost freedoms.” Maybe Prussia would not have demurred had the circumstances been right, but just at that moment the French Revolution exploded and the redistribution of European monarchies was not on the agenda when the very thrones under God’s anointed were starting to crumble.
And so, the awareness of Ukrainianness went into a long dormant period, lulled by the satiety of being “Old World landowners” and the brilliant careers of the “new gentry.” And so it slept, almost until 1917, when Russia unexpectedly saw not only the movements of writers and artists, the cultural elite, but social ones as well wake up in Ukraine.
The Central Rada loses its way
In 1917, the newly-formed Central Rada in Kyiv unexpectedly appeared to be very popular. Those same Malorosians whom nobody took seriously under the tsars -- denationalized, assimilated and occasionally even ashamed of their ethnic roots, what we might call Russian wannabes today -- suddenly came to life. Massive national rallies took place, people were energized enough to organize themselves into political associations with a nationalist bent, and even army detachments began to be actively ukrainianized.
This roused genuine enthusiasm among the small number of active supporters of Ukrainian independence and even led the Russian empire to refer to Ukrainians once again as “mazepites.” The seemingly dead-as-a-doornail spirit of Ukrainian nationalism had risen out of its ashes and there was no way to stop it. At the first opportunity, the supposed loyal mass of Russians was suddenly infiltrated by people in embroidered shirts speaking Ukrainian, remembering the glory of the past and talking about freedom and independence. And once again, this people tried to build a new Ukrainian world, without much concern about the harsh realities of the imperial one.
Made up of delegates from Ukrainian workers’ and peasants’ organizations, students, intellectual ukrainophiles, landsmen, ukrainianized army units, and ethnic minorities, the Central Rada declared itself the only authorized representative of the Ukrainian people. On June 23, 1917, Universal Decree I declared Ukraine autonomous within the Russian empire. The Russian government accepted this, as it had too many problems of its own at that point, three months after the moderate Menshevik Revolution -- and the Central Rada had no desire to see the Kerensky Government deposed.
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Soon enough, however, it became apparent that Ukraine’s activists were too busy with ideological squabbles to deal with the real problems of establishing a state. And so, organizing normal business operations, making sure banks were functioning properly, supporting law and order, supplying cities with food and fuel took a back seat to the subtleties of political doctrines.
Then, in late October, the Bolsheviks took power in Petrograd in what became known as the Russian Revolution. Unlike the Central Rada, the Bolsheviks knew exactly what they wanted and they were prepared to sacrifice anyone and anything to reach their goal. Initially, they agreed to having elected members establish the Constituent Assembly that the Interim Government had begun organizing, in order to recognize the new form of government after the collapse of the monarchy. But when these elections gave the Bolsheviks only 24.5% of the seats, Lenin decided that such a representative body was not really needed. All the more so when the Constituent Assembly included such individuals as the previous head of the Interim Government, Alexander Kerensky, the Ural Cossack Otaman Alexander Dutov, the Don Cossack Otaman Kaledin, and even the Secretary of the Ukrainian Military Committee, Otaman Symon Petliura. The Mensheviks, also known as the Socialist Revolutionaries, in fact won the majority of seats and SR Viktor Chernov was elected chair of the Constituent Assembly.
From Russia with tough love
Well, if the Bolsheviks didn’t support democracy, democracy would have to go! They had the military forces in their hands and had no intentions of wasting time on “empty debates.” And so, the Constituent Assembly was disbanded the very day it opened.
Lenin’s closest associate, Leon Trotsky, minced no words: “You can’t sit on bayonets. But you can’t do without bayonet, either. We need a bayonet over there in order to sit over here... All this bourgeois rabble that is unable to stand on this side or the other right now will stand with us when they see that we are powerful.... The petty bourgeoisie is looking for a force to which it must submit. Whoever doesn’t understand this, doesn’t understand anything in this world -- let alone in a state apparatus.” And that same “bourgeois rabble” that was “looking for a force to which it must submit” would become the mainstay of the Russian empire in its bolshevik guise for decades to come.
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If truth be told, Russia’s leadership tended to express itself in this same spirit under the Romanovs. Empress Alice would inspire her brightest of husbands saying: “Let them feel your fist now... We need a whip... That’s the Slavic nature: great hardness, even cruelty, coupled with burning love.”
The fundamental difference between the last emperors and the first people’s commissars was that the emperors made pompous declarations but mostly did nothing, while the commissars did far worse than they had promised. The Red Terror, the Great Purge, the Holodomor, the gulags, and other “joys” of the soviet way of life all lay ahead.
Out of the provinces came the peasants
Where Russia quickly and eagerly acknowledged its new master in this crazed horseman that had saddled it, things were quite different in Ukraine. The backbone of the Ukrainian people was its rural population, which categorically rejected bolshevism with its basic doctrines denying private property. At this time, there were only about 4-5,000 bolsheviks in Ukraine, most of them in the industrial Donbas, compared to 300,000 socialist revolutionaries or mensheviks. The bolsheviks could only count on the Russian workers in the industrial centers of the East and on the Jewish sans coulottes in Ukraine’s urban areas, to whom the bolshevik notions of the “internationale” and universal equality had great appeal.
Unfortunately for Ukraine, Russia desperately needed Ukraine. It was choking and urgently needed Ukrainian grain and coal. And if Ukrainians did not want to join the “international proletariat,” then too bad for Ukrainians! The grain and coal would just have to be taken away from them as quickly as possible.
The question was, how to take it away without a Ukrainian national ally? And so on December 29, 1917, the Council of National Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) officially recognized the Ukrainian National Republic of Soviets (councils) announced by the bolsheviks in Kharkiv, whose red soviet flag included a blue-and-yellow rectangle to the upper left-hand corner. The territory of the UNR Soviets included the eastern oblasts of Ukraine and the capital was Kharkiv. For the first time, Russia was able to test the tactic of helping “fraternal regimes” -- not aggression, just brotherly “help.”
And so, in early 1918, the first Russo-Ukrainian war of the 20th century unfolded.
The roots of Russia’s endless war on Ukraine
Things could have gone either way.
Formally, Ukraine and Russia were no longer duty bound to each other: with the abdication of the last Romanov and the overthrow of the dynasty, the various earlier March, Kolomatsky and Reshetyliv Treaties no longer had any force, as all of them were based on the Ukrainian nobility’s oaths taken to the then-tsar and his heirs. On the other hand, the Hetmanate was also a thing of the distant past, since its illegal abolishment by Catherine II. After all, every one of her predecessors pledged in those same Articles to respect the traditional rights and freedoms of the Zaporizhzhian host and the cities of “Malorosiya,” as Russia called Ukraine.
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The Russian mind, used to thinking that “Malorosians” were a part of the greater Russian people, moreover a tranquil and accommodating part, suddenly was faced with a life-shattering form of cognitive dissonance: If “them” Malorosians are just a part of “us” Russians, then how can “they” want to be separate from “us”? That’s impossible: how can you imagine the foot declaring independence from the body? But if Russians were to actually suppose, even for an instance, that “them” Malorosians were a separate people, then “Russki mir” would collapse in ruins, and their established view of the world and the place of Russians in it would be destroyed.
All that was left to Russians to save themselves from this was to pretend that there were no “separate” Malorosians and “could never be,” and to declare all their independence-minded aspirations and the differences of culture and language simply intrigues by “outsiders.”
The Malorosian mind
At the beginning of the 20th century, Russian cities with their more europeanized population were in dissonance with the enormous, backward sea of peasants. In Ukraine, this dissonance was different: the cities were Russian and more developed while the surrounding sea of farmers was Ukrainian and, yes, backward. After Ukrainians exhibited resistance towards the empire during the liberation struggles, Russia was forced to agree to concessions in the form of a ukrainianization policy, but this was just a temporary retreat, the prelude to further Russian incursions on the Ukrainian identity. The soviet regime would not have been as successful as it was if it had not occasionally dressed its iron fist in a velvet glove.
After centuries of efforts, the empire had achieved colossal successes that determined the fate of the Ukrainian people for hundreds of years ahead: it established a creature called the Malorosian -- Little Russian --, an ethno-linguistic group that was completely adapted in its self-identity. Malorosians had no desire to see themselves separate from their “elder brother,” were tormented by an inferiority complex, and were afraid of independent existence. And for these reasons they were and remain a reliable pillar of the empire in Ukraine and fierce enemies of any aspirations towards national liberation.
Oleksandr Bezborodko, descendant of a line of kozak officers, was one of those who advised on Catherine II's external policies - including against UkraineThe most effective component of these efforts for the rural population was Russian orthodoxy initially, and later socialism with its call to redistribute the land of the wealthy classes. These two factors were chief in “malorosianizing” Ukrainian peasants. The elite of such a Malorosian people typically looked to Russia in anticipation of its approval and support, because that was where its religious seat was -- whether orthodoxy or socialism, and the ultimate difference between the two was not obvious. From that time until this day, Ukrainian politicians have been rigidly defined by this factor.
Both in 1917 and in 1991, the old Russia had ceased to exist and Ukraine was free. But a slew of babblers and scribblers continued to behave as though everything was as before, as though some kind of mythical New Russia that was “democratic,” was capable of changing its attitude towards its “younger brother,” and might even consider granting some rights to New Ukraine.
Exploitation as Job 1
Under its soviet guise, Russia, as the victor, operated under the principle “might is right.” It built mines and factories in Ukraine because it was more convenient to build on and exploit Ukrainian resources, which were more concentrated in a more accessible territory with a temperate climate. It laid roads and bridges because that made it easier to move those resources and goods out -- not because it was concerned with the industrial development of Ukrainian lands. It opened schools and institutes because education was the main means to russify the local population and to train local specialists to extract resources -- not because it was concerned with the cultural and spiritual development of Ukrainians.
For hundreds of years, nothing changed in the relationship between Ukraine and Russia. Russia continued to eagerly destroy everything in which Ukraine bested it and, after driving Ukraine to a dismal state, gloated about its “underdeveloped state.” First it destroyed the public education system under the Hetmanate -- and then declared Ukraine’s country folk “illiterate cattle.” First it oppressed and banned the Ukrainian language for centuries, along with any cultural manifestations of it, such as books, theater, the press and education -- and then it chided Ukrainians for the lack of Ukrainian literature of world significance. First it desperately crushed the Ukrainian national identity -- and then it moaned about Ukrainians being country bumpkins and suffering from an inferiority complex.
Whether under Alexander II or under Brezhnev, Ukrainians were seen as “not quite Russian,” “Russian wannabes.” When Russian administrators reached Halychyna, they shipped the local intellectual class by train to Siberia en masse: first in 1915, and again in 1939. Careers in Russia were only for the collaborationist Malorosians, whether Paskevych and Kochubey in earlier times, or Chubar and Shcherbytskiy in the soviet era.
Self-mutilation for survival
At a certain point during Brezhnev’s “Golden Age of Tranquility,” it seemed that Ukraine was done. What could the country possibly do to rescue itself in a situation where its intellects had been mowed down many times over, been driven out, sprouted once more and been mowed down again? When the backbone of its farmer class had been broken? When its name was stolen, its past distorted, and its culture profaned and banned? When using their native language was seen as political treason toward their government? When a third generation had grown up that knew nothing but the soviet way?
It seemed like most Ukrainians had completely and sincerely accepted the soviet regime as “theirs,” as lawful and legitimate. They lived fairly well under Brezhnev, they did not see the way others lived, and the terrors of the previous decades were taboo to even whisper about. Those in power wanted them all to become “Russians,” and they tried their best. They learned to work Russian-style, to speak Russian, and to be afraid like Russians. They got used to being proud of the power of the empire and to naturally thinking of its history as their own. During the Brezhnev years, most Ukrainians already thought of themselves as Russians and soviets and now they thought about Ivan Grozniy, Minin and Pozharskiy, Peter the Great, Suvorov, Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev as “ours,” while Meteliy Smotrytskiy, Sahaidachniy, Mazepa, Petliura, and Shukhevych were “theirs.”
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The most active Ukrainians hurried to russify in order to promote their career aspirations for themselves and their children. In those years, a joke began to circulate: “If there was suddenly a move to ‘ukrainianize,’ Jews would be speaking Ukrainian in a year, Russians in three years, while Ukrainians would have to be worked on for at least ten years.” Ukrainians had learned their lessons all too well. They remembered at the genetic level what Russia did with those who made the mistake of believing its lies and let their guards down.
During the Great Stagnation of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule, a time that the regime preferred to call “stable,” russification depended not only on ethnic Russians, who had already formed at least 20% of the population by the 1970s, but also on millions of Malorosians, those ethnic Ukrainians who had been completely russified, culturally, mentally and linguistically.
Was there anything Ukrainians could look to as an alternative? The conscious or subconscious memory of their homeland, language and songs. There was also the soviet provincial canon of all things Ukrainian: soviet Ukrainian literature, the history of the Ukrainian SSR, performing art in the style of Virsky and Veriovka with bandurist choruses, and, of course, bright-colored folk costumes in which the aborigines presented the korovai or traditional braided loaf to geriatric officials. Still, something hidden remained deep within the mutilated Ukrainian soul that would, when the time and place were right, show itself.
When will Malorosians disappear, once and for all?
Soviet Russia, aka the USSR, formally disappeared at the beginning of the 1990s and now there were two newly independent states: Ukraina and Russia. Yet New Russia was no different from the old imperial one. Unfortunately, New Ukraine also differed little from Malorosiya, imperial Little Russia.
So little had changed in the years after Ukraine declared independence that Russia came to Ukraine again in 2014 for booty to build its next empire. And once again, Ukraine tried to cut deals, to challenge, to rage... and to do nothing. Russia cut off Crimea and parts of the east, while Ukraine’s political leadership kept thinking in Russian paradigms in its stance towards the aggressor.
It’s worth reviewing the specific features defining Malorosians: they don’t see themselves separately from their “older brother;” their intellectual baggage was shaped by the Russian language; they are full of complexes and fear of responsibility, and they are the most reliable pillars of the empire and enemies of any Ukraino-centric aspirations. This is not so scary when it’s associated with specific names. It’s scary however, when it relates to the entire political class.
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The question is, is it possible to overcome Ukraine’s Malorosian complexes?
Remember how, in February 2014, a completely unknown young man [Volodymyr Parasiuk] came out on the stage of the revolutionary Maidan and spoke with passion to the then-leaders: You can cut deals with whoever you want and over whatever you want, but tomorrow we’ll storm the place. At this historic moment, the paths of Ukrainians and Malorosians separated once and for all. The “theatrical opposition” then never even managed to take charge of the downfall of Yanukovych, he fled so quickly. The age of the Malorosians in Ukrainian politics has ended and it matters little historically whether they are aware of this or not and how long they still plan to be in power. That page in Ukrainian history has already been turned. Meanwhile, things are just beginning for Ukraino-centric leaders...
The defense capabilities of a nation are based on four key components: proper recruiting and manning; weapons supply (defense industry); military training; and military and patriotic education.
Today, the manpower of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is about 250,000, including 84,500 servicemen conscripted during the fourth, fifth and sixth mobilization campaigns, and 46,000 of “civilian workers” (including a fairly large number of reserve officers).
The rest are officers (whose number is disproportionally large compared to common soldiers) and contract servicemen. Out of those drafted during the first three mobilization campaigns, only 12,000 chose to join professional (contract-based) military service.
During 2016, those drafted during the fourth, fifth and sixth mobilization campaigns will have to be discharged, while contracts of many other servicemen expire this year. Already in spring, the crucial question will be: who will serve in the army?
The problem could be solved in two ways: 1) another wave of mobilization and expansion of the list of those liable for military service; 2) dramatic increase in the number of professional soldiers and sergeants. Quite a lot of people drafted in 2014–2015 would have stayed with the Armed Forces of Ukraine if the salaries were good.
But today, a professional serviceman's monthly salary is UAH 2,300 or under USD 100 at the current exchange rate. Officers with 20 years of service earn UAH 6,000 or roughly USD 250. Only idealists or those having no chance of finding a job in civilian life would risk their lives for that much money. Lean salaries paid to professional servicemen result in the Defense Ministry hiring people with moral and physical disabilities. Under such conditions, the issue of professional competences is not even raised. Therefore, until professional servicemen are paid at least UAH 5,000 per month (which, by the way, is also a very low salary level for the country's defenders), the quality of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be far from perfect.
Another cornerstone of Ukraine's defense is its defense industry. In fact, it is currently comprised of the fragments of what was once a unified system of Soviet defense enterprises. While the Russian Federation over the past 20 years has transformed its "fragments" into a completely self-sufficient and closed structure, Ukraine failed to do so. Local military enterprises are mostly non-diversified manufacturers of radioelectronics and other so-called high-precision products that are obsolete by design and performance for the most part. Ukraine has quite a lot of enterprises manufacturing electronics for combat aircraft, but we don't have a single one that builds such aircrafts. Many plants make hulls and engines for armored vehicles, but there are virtually no manufacturers of artillery pieces for them. Of course, the existing enterprises could be converted and modernized, but this would require a national program, large funds, and foreign experts. Nothing of the kind is taking place so far. In today's geopolitical situation, the deployment of Ukraine's defense industry has also become a major problem. The most important plants are located in the east: in Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk oblasts. Major defense industry enterprises are also located in Kyiv, Vinnytsia, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts. In Kharkiv, there are 11 factories manufacturing various components for tanks and armored vehicles (though none of them produces artillery systems for them).
[... pie charts ...]
This location of defense enterprises is explained primarily by the fact that the Soviet leadership was expecting an attack from the west, and also by the proximity to the mineral resources of the Donbas to the production facilities. As a result, 7 out of 11 enterprises producing ammunition and explosives are left in a relatively small area occupied by separatists and Russian terrorists. Out of four remaining explosives factories, three are located in Shostka in Sumy Oblast, near the Russian border.
The seizure by the enemy of the Luhansk ammunition factory dealt a heavy blow to the Armed Forces of Ukraine: a similar new plant needs to be established, otherwise the army might soon be left without ammunition. The situation is similar with shells for various artillery systems. The war in the Donbas, which, in theory, by international classification should be considered a relatively small local conflict, has greatly exhausted the stock of shells and ammunition. The General Staff of Russia is perfectly well aware of this (since its officers have all the data, and Russian military analysts can count well), so this is not a secret.
The lack of 7.62×54mmR ammunition produced after 1943 resulted in the use by the Ukrainian Army of the legendary 7.62x39 mmR Maxim machine guns manufactured before the WWII. The stock of the ammunition of this caliber at the warehouses is rather large. In this way, outdated Maxims were used in 2015 for the defense of the Donetsk Airport and at the checkpoints along the demarcation line.
The training of troops is an extremely important factor for the national defense capability. In Ukraine, scarce resources are traditionally allocated for it. It should be added that, given the deficit of ammunition and artillery shells, holding full-scale maneuvers is impossible. In this respect, expenditures of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine in 2014 (see Defense Spending Structure) were quite telling.
In 2015, the situation changed little, and even deteriorated in some areas:
-- Air defense units are practically not being trained because of the lack of appropriate grounds;
-- After a Su-25 aircraft crash on November 11, 2015 near Zaporizhzhia, a moratorium was imposed on airforce exercises until its circumstances are clarified;
-- Ground troops exercises at the level of brigades or operative commands are not held at all;
-- Battalion and company exercises are held to provide the minimum necessary training to civilians newly drafted to the army.
To prepare for a possible war, a completely different format of exercises is required: for example, the one that was used in the Soviet times, or the one that exists in NATO countries, when two or more operative commands take part in army maneuvers using aircraft and special operations forces. Of course, such exercises are rather expensive. But without them, it is impossible to prepare for the war.
The work conducted in the area of the fourth cornerstone of the national defense, namely, the patriotic education, is exemplified by the respective page of the Ministry of Defense’s the official website: it is empty. In other words, nothing is being done (despite the fact that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have a large number of full-time positions for both the so called education officers and civilian professionals). The timeline of the website’s "History" section starts in 1991 and ends rather curiously: "On February 5, 2013, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine approved the Ideological Work Policy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. For its implementation, a new combat training subject was introduced: military and ideological training." That's it.
Judging from the materials published on the website of the Odesa Military Academy, one can conclude that it is proud of its traditions rooted in the Russian Empire, its Red Banners, and Soviet awards. However, it conceals the fact of the participation of its graduates in the protection of sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the borders of Ukraine in 2014-2015. And this is despite the fact that among its graduates are several Heroes of Ukraine, and many of them have been awarded war decorations, including posthumously.
Only two universities properly honor their modern heroes: Ivan Kozhedub Kharkiv Air Force University and especially Hetman Petro Sahaidachny National Army Academy. As for the other universities, military units and educational institutions, judging from the information available on their websites, they have nothing to do with the armed conflict in Crimea and the war in the Donbas of 2014-2015.
This sums up the many challenges Ukraine’s Army is facing: meager wages, inadequate defense industry, low quality and rarity of military exercises and, finally, the lack of ideological grounds and military and patriotic education. Should a new war erupt, these factors may have the most detrimental effect on the country's defense capabilities.