75th Commemoration of the Holodomor is now slowly fading into history
There is still so much to do....the work is not must continue

Genocide is a crime that does not and will never have a statute of limitations.
By Prof. Zinovii Partyko, Ph.D. (Linguistics), Head of the Department of Publishing and Editing
Institute of Journalism and Mass Communications of the Classical Private University
The Day Weekly Digest in English #38, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 2 December 2008 
Holodomor and historical memory in Ukrainian, Polish, and Russian cultures*
By Oxana Pachlowska, University of Rome La Sapienza; Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #37 & #39, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 25, 2008 & Dec 9, 2008
Genocide is a crime that does not and will never have a statute of limitations.
By Prof. Zinovii Partyko, Ph.D. (Linguistics), Head of the Department of Publishing and Editing
Institute of Journalism and Mass Communications of the Classical Private University
The Day Weekly Digest in English #38, Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 2 December 2008 

Genocide is a crime that does not and will never have a statute of limitations. The conscience of humankind and of each nation which humankind consists of will never resign itself to the idea that deliberate extermination of millions of people may remain unpunished in the moral, legal, political and historical aspects of the matter.
Even though God claimed long ago the lives of those who organized the mass-scale massacre, those who are living on Earth have a sacred duty to exact well-deserved revenge on the criminals, for this will be a lesson for generations to come.

Stalin, Kaganovich, Molotov, Postyshev, Kosior, Chubar, and other Bolshevik figures who masterminded and employed genocidal terror by famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933 or contributed to it by obeying criminal instructions from Moscow, departed this life long ago.
But it would be hy­po­crisy pure and simple to allege that this very fact cancels the problem of liability and punishment for the deliberately planned Great Famine of 1932-1933. This problem is just taking a somewhat different shape.
In this article, Prof. Zinovii Partyko, Ph.D. (Ling­uist­ics), reflects on the likely ways of resolving this problem which is important always, all the more so in these sorrowful days of the 75th anniversary of the Ukraine Holodomor. We are inviting our readers to take part in the debate.

Ukraine is honoring the memory of Holodomor victims. Whenever a televised debate is held on this subject, viewers ask, “But who in fact masterminded this unheard-of crime?”

As there were no natural calamities, including a drought, in 1932-1933, the answer is definite: the government that ruled the country. And, to be more exact, the political party that ruled the USSR which Ukraine was part of. There was only one party in the USSR: the All — Union Com­munist Party of Bolsheviks — VKP(b), later renamed as Communist Party of the Soviet Union — CPSU.


Naturally, many would like to condemn the VKP(b)-CPSU’s ideological groundwork, i.e., the theory of Bolshevism. But no court will ever condemn this ideology, for it is the preserve of politicians and academics. A court can only convict the people who have committed crimes, irrespective of whether or not they adhered to this ideology.

Ukraine has already seen attempts to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU), the modern “clone” of the VKP(b)-CPSU. Let us recall those attempts.

[1] FIRSTLY, an attempt was made in the early 1990s not to register the KPU as a party which has violated basic universally recognized human rights, such as the right to life (the Holodomor is a sufficient and illustrative example of the violation of this right), the right to free movement (the institution of propiska (domicile registration) in the USSR, denial of internal passports to peasants in the Stalin era, the ban on free travel abroad), the right to a fair trial (out-of-court “troikas” that sentenced millions of people to death and deportation to GULAG prison camps; judges who used to convict dissidents in the 1960s-1980s), the right to free expression of opinion (clauses in the USSR Criminal Code on “anti-Soviet agitation”), the right to free conscience (tens of thousands of convicted priests of different religions, mass-scale destruction and confiscation of the places of worship), and a number of other rights.
Yet there were no juridical grounds to deny the KPU registration in the early 1990s because,
(1) firstly, it was not a legal successor to the CPSU;
(2) secondly, this party’s statute says that it functions within the limits of the Ukrainian state and, therefore, pledges to obey its Constitution; and,
(3) thirdly, there has been no legally-bound ruling on its antihuman essence. There has never been a trial of the VKP(b)-CPSU, patterned on the 1946 Nuremberg Trial of the National Socialist Party of Germany.

The other attempts were of a local nature.

[2] THE SECOND ATTEMPT: on February 8, 2000, the Lviv Oblast Council resolved that “the regional justice department suspend KPU activities on the oblast’s territory until these activities are brought into line with the constitutional norms of Ukraine.” Besides, the oblast council decided “to support the demands of the populace, political parties and civic organizations to conduct a trial of the CPSU-KPU for crimes against humanity.”
But can a regional-level organization suspend a party registered at the highest, national, level? Of course not, for it is only in the powers of national-level governmental bodies (e.g., the Supreme Court of Ukraine).
Even if a party has grossly violated the administrative or criminal law in a certain region or district, it is the leaders of this territorial cell, not the entire party, that will be held responsible — therefore, this provides no ample grounds for de-registering the party. Moreover, the KPU Lviv cell did not commit any administrative or criminal offenses. So the Lviv Oblast Council’s resolution was of a purely emotional nature, which is inadmissible in a rule-of-law state.

[3] THE THIRD ATTEMPT: As is known, real life is far richer than the deadpan line of juridical codes. For this reason, March 9, 2000, saw a very special variety of a KPU trial. This occurred quite spontaneously and resembled the year 1991. Aware of the older generation’s helplessness, eleven young people of Ukraine penetrated into and barricaded the door of the former KPU Central Committee, demanding a trial of this party.
This was a cry from the heart to those political parties and civic organizations which, instead of filing a lawsuit as soon as possible, were busy grabbing the hetman’s mace or doing the parliamentary tug-of-war. But was the local court, which handled the KP CC building seizure case, authorized to consider CPSU activities on the territory of Ukraine in 1917-1991? Obviously not.

This means that one unpunished crime bred new ones: failure to pass a judicial ruling over KPU activities in Ukraine brought about the unlawful resolution of a regional council and a violent offense by the young people. But can we morally condemn those who failed to organize a KPU trial in good time? Apparently not, at least morally.

Yet it does not follow from this conclusion that millions of Ukrainians were dying accidentally, without “assistance” of a totalitarian and misanthropic state, during the Civil War, the Holodomor, the Second World War, and in the times of “unbounded” socialist optimism. The crimes of the VKP(b)-CPSU, already recorded in tens and hundreds of books of memory, oblige us to restore historical justice.
All the more so that the VKP(b)-CPSU itself let the cat out of the bag, when one of its leaders, Kliment Voroshylov, said at a party conference that “collectivization and industrialization cost the state ten million human lives” (quoted from the mass media).

Let us draw some historical parallels. It is common knowledge that Nazism is an ideology whose bearers were convicted at the Nuremberg international trial. But was there a trial of the VKP(b)-CPSU leaders who organized genocide and concentration camps similar to those in Nazi Germany? Not yet.
Therefore, millions of Ukrainian citizens who accept the communist or procommunist ideology are drawing a subconscious conclusion from this (I am not saying whether it is correct by its essence): the Bolshevik Marxist-Leninist ideology, which the VKP(b)-CPSU adhered to, is not criminal and, hence, is quite acceptable.

It is a fact. In particular, this is why there still are so many people in Ukraine, who gather for public rallies under red flags (this may be one of the most important reasons why the populace supports communists). In­ci­dentally, propaganda of the ideas and symbols of Nazism is banned by law in present-day Germany.

So why not just ban the KPU in this country, as Germany did to the Nazi-oriented parties?

Banning the KPU now (even if we accept the possibility of a political, not juridical, decision to this effect because there are no juridical grounds) will be of no tangible effect. Rather, it will produce results opposite to those expected. Particularly, the ban will force the KPU to go underground (as was the case in tsarist Russia).
It is difficult to fight underground organizations, and their member are bound to win a huge aureole of “martyrs.” So the ban is only testimony to the weakness of those who will impose it. This is why I am convinced that neither the Verkhovna Rada nor the President of Ukraine will ever agree to this in the present-day conditions.


Let us draw the following conclusion from the aforesaid: the KPU should not be banned or, moreover, de-registered. We need to take legal action against it.
Only a court can say who is the criminal to be punished and who is the victim of the crime. So I will now express my opinion on the KPU trial.
The first thing to do in this matter is to find out the subject of the crime, i.e., who is to be tried: the former CPSU, the former KPU, or the present-day KPU? For these are three different organizations. Naturally, the present-day KPU, which is not the CPSU’s legal successor, bears no juridical responsibility for its crimes. As for the former KPU, it was just a component of the CPSU (not a self-sufficient organization), so it is not responsible either.
Therefore, it is only the VKP(b)-CPSU that can and must be held responsible for the crimes it committed. What is more, the politburo of this party was the body that wielded actual power not only in this party but also in the state because leaders of the government were ex-officio members of this highest party body.
But the point is not only in finding out the crime’s subject. To file a lawsuit, one has to tackle some incomparably more complicated juridical problems.
There are four of them.
1) This organization, VKP(b)-CPSU, ceased to exist as long ago as 1991. Figuratively speaking, it was made a “dead man” very quickly and adroitly in anticipation of the future: instead of standing trial, it “self-disbanded” in 1991.
2) The party leaders who committed most of the crimes (Stalin, Kaganovich, Postyshev, and their henchmen) are also dead. And, according to juridical norms, both Ukrainian and international, the dead cannot be brought to criminal justice. Otherwise, among those facing criminal liability would be the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs because pharaohs used forced slave labor to build the pyramids. But an embalmed mummy cannot appear as defendant in a court of law (nor can the mummy of Lenin, incidentally).
3) The governing bodies of the party that is supposed to be the defendant, VKP(b)-CPSU, is on the territory of Russia, a foreign state.
4) A part of Ukrainian convicts (those who were not executed and did not starve to death) also served their terms in the now foreign state - Russia.

It follows from the aforesaid that the VKP(b)-CPSU should not be tried in Ukraine, for it would be an intrastate trial. Naturally, we cannot fully rule out altogether an intrastate trial (for example, of those VKP(b)-CPSU members who committed overtly criminal actions), although it will be of an extremely little, if any, effect.
For the Ukrainian communists - members of the former KPU - can always say: we only obeyed instructions from Moscow and behaved in line with the applicable Soviet law, so the blame should be put not on us but on those who made those decisions in Moscow, i.e., members of the VKP(b)-CPSU Politburo.

This provokes attempts to consider the possibility of lawsuits against Russia on whose territory the VKP(b)-CPSU functioned.

[1] OPTION ONE. As the VKP(b)-CPSU and its former leaders no longer exist physically and juridically, there can only be legal cases about material compensation of the aggrieved party (the repressed) for the damage caused.
Any aggrieved person or a group of them could be the plaintiff in such a case, with Russia being the defendant because it is the legal successor to the USSR and, as was noted above, the convicts served their terms on the territory of that state (Russia used to reap a handsome benefit from the slave labor of millions of prisoners).
There could be a mechanism which resembles the ostarbeiteren compensation scheme now being effected in Germany. Such a case could be heard by the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg. But...
But, unfortunately, it is impossible because Russia ratified the European Covenant of Human Rights and Basic Freedoms as late as in 1996, so the court will not consider any of the events that had occurred on its territory before that, as the international law has no retroactive effect. All one can do is lodge the same suit, but with a different demand: to compensate only for the moral damage the aggrieved party has been suffering since 1996.
The probability of winning such a case is all too negligible. In addition, a compulsory precondition for this option is a preliminary trial of the case in a Russian court, which will present considerable, not only legal, difficulties.

[2] OPTION TWO. Naturally, the Ukrainian state may take legal action against Russia at the International UN Court in the Hague to demand compensating the repressed citizens of Ukraine for the moral damage caused. It would be, naturally, the ideal option. But this raises new problems.
(1) Firstly, in accordance with this court’s statute, Russia itself must agree to this process (whether or not Russia would agree to this is clear from the way it “allowed” the UK to interrogate the former security officer Lugovoi suspected of poisoning Colonel Litvinenko).
(2) Secondly, the difficulty also is that the repressed were tried by Ukrainian, not Russian, courts.
Of course, the question may be put as follows: was it really a Ukrainian court or the court of a different state (Russia), which functioned on the territory of Ukraine? Answering this question, one should remember that Ukraine had certain signs of statehood (e.g., it was a UN member). So the repressed were tried by Ukrainian courts and, in all probability, claims against Russia would be groundless.

As we see, any attempts to file lawsuits against Russia, on whose territory the VKP(b)-CPSU functioned, will produce no tangible effect - all the more so nowadays, when the political situation in Russia is characterized with authoritarianism and a criminally condescending and all-forgiving attitude to the past.
But is the situation really a blind alley? For if there cannot be an intrastate or a interstate (between Ukraine and Russia) trial, it does not mean there can be no trial at all. So let us look more in detail and more thoroughly into the nature of VKP(b)-CPSU crimes.


First of all, let us take the question of the territory on which crimes were committed. The point is that those crime were committed on the territory of several, not one, states.
[1] Firstly, these are the republics that were once part of the USSR and are independent states now.
[2] Secondly, those states were Comecon members: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and others (we are only singling out the countries which we think suffered the most from Soviet armed aggressions aimed at crushing the uprisings of 1956, 1968, and other years).
[3] Thirdly, those were European and other states, on the territory of which Soviet KGB agents committed a number of terrorist acts (for example, the assassinations of Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera — to mention only Ukrainian figures).

The VKP(b)-CPSU crimes on the territory of the above-mentioned states had the following consequences:
[1] firstly, mass-scale repressions that affected millions of people and were based on the rulings of unjust courts (executions, prison camps, deportations); [2] secondly, genocide of the Ukrainian peasantry;
[3] thirdly, violation of the Comecon countries’ sovereignty (stationing of the armed forces on their territory without their consent); and, fourthly, terrorist acts (assassinations) on the territory of other-than-Comecon states.

Those crimes adversely affected, to a larger or smaller extent, citizens of all the Comecon member states.

It unambiguously follows from the aforesaid that the VKP(b)-CPSU should be tried not by an intrastate court or a court of two states (Ukraine and Russia) but by an international court that involves a number of states.
Let us consider the possible options for such an international trial.

[1] OPTION ONE. It would be a good idea if Ukraine, as a UN member, turned to the Hague-based UN International Court. Such a petition can go not only from Ukraine but also simultaneously from other states that were part of either the USSR (e.g., the Baltic countries) or the Comecon. This courts exercises jurisdiction over all the UN members states (as is known, all the former Soviet republics and Comecon states are UN members).
Although this court has no criminal jurisdiction and cannot try war criminals, it can still tackle suck problems as interference of one state into the affairs of another, the use of force, and human rights abuse.
The UN International Court can make consultative conclusions in legal matters, which are not binding for the offending state (in this case Russia, on whose territory the criminal party functioned) but are secured by this court’s authority. It is also clear that this conclusion will be important for a number of other states, including some in Asia, which are still ruled by communist regimes.

To bring this judicial process into play, it is necessary, firstly, that the UN Security Council or General Assembly should turn to the In­ter­national Court for a consultative conclusion; secondly, that each interested state should apply in writing to the International Court for a consultative conclusion (if Russia fails to apply, the court can hear this case even without its participation on the basis of other states’ applications).

As for the International Criminal Court which was established by the UN in 1998 and began functioning in July 2002, Ukraine cannot turn to it for help because, although it signed the court’s statute, the Verkhovna Rada has not ratified it, following a negative ruling by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine. But even if this court’s statute is ratified, this will not change the crux of the matter because the International Criminal Court will only hear the cases of crimes committed after July 1, 2002.

[2] OPTION TWO. The countries that suffered from VKP(b)-CPSU crimes can sign an agreement based on the Roman Statute, the cornerstone of the International Criminal Court, to the effect that an international tribunal for the VKP(b)-CPSU be established. This would be an ad hoc court, i.e., one supposed to hear this specific case only.

The states that suffered from VKP(b)-CPSU crimes would then have to ratify this tribunal’s statute which would determine the court’s jurisdiction, time and space parameters, staff requirements, and the legal mechanisms of court ruling implementation. Sitting in the dock could be concrete individuals guilty of committing the crimes listed in the statute (if member states agree to surrender their citizens to this court).

This trial would see, as respondents, all the still living former communist leaders of what was known as socialist camp. The only point is whether these leaders will come to attend a session of this international tribunal (yet, as is known, a court may be in session even in the absence of the defendant).
Among the defendants should also be Mikhail Gorbachev, the last surviving CPSU leader. If we assume that he is present, it is most likely that Gorbachev and members of the last CPSU Politburo will be acquitted because they obviously did not commit any crimes.

It is this court, the International Tribunal for the VKP(b)-CPSU, that can make a clear legal assessment of the past events and of the individuals who masterminded them.

[3] OPTION THREE. It is possible to organize an international civic court. Proceedings in this case could be instituted by civic organizations or even political parties of all the former socialist states: from the Baltics, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Central Europe.

It would be fair to invite the world’s top-skilled lawyers to plead in this court, including those of the European International Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, the Hague-based International Court, and the UN International Criminal Court. To ensure maximum impartiality, it would be good to invite also jurists from the countries where communist regimes did not rule.

This kind of court would rely on both the applicable international legal standards and the authority of the international law experts who participate in it. Naturally, rulings of this court can have no juridical consequences whatsoever. Yet, if we opt for a civic court, we should take into account that moral condemnation is no less important than juridical one.

These are, in our opinion, the likely options for a judicial inquiry into the activities that VKP(b)-CPSU pursued, particularly, on the territory of Uk­raine, especially during the genocidal Holodomor.


The analysis of the three aforesaid options for a judicial hearing can lead to only one conclusion: it is very difficult but not impossible to hold a trial of the VKP(b)-CPSU at the existing international courts and in the legal system accepted by the world community. This will require major financial expenditures and involvement of all the branches - executive, legislative, and judicial - of power.
Obviously, it is the Ministry of Justice, preferably in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, that should play first fiddle to launch a judicial inquiry into this case. Incidentally, the recent resolution of the Council of Europe on recognizing the fact of a manmade famine in Ukraine is a very important achievement of our diplomats.

As Ukraine is short of the required funds, I think we could begin collecting donations for filing an international lawsuit (it is up to experts to choose an option). By donating even one hryvnia, every citizen of Ukraine will in fact vote for the opening of this case. I hope that all the repressed citizens of Ukraine and their relatives will give a hryvnia for this long-overdue case.
The Institute of National Memory could be a civic initiator of this judicial hearing. Unfortunately, over all the 16 years of Ukraine’s independence, none of the nationally-conscious parties has tried to put the judicial inquiry into VKP(b)-CPSU activities on a practical footing (I do not take into account frequent rag-chewing in the mass media).

We need not only and not so much a Ukrainian trial of the present-day KPU as an international trial of the former VKP(b)-CPSU leaders who abode by the Bolshevik ideology that claimed millions of human lives, particularly, during the Civil War, the 1930s genocidal Holodomor, and the 1930s-1950s repressions, as well as produced prisoners of conscience in the 1960s-1980s. I think that only after such an international trial is it possible and advisable to raise the question of banning the current KPU at the governmental level.

The VKP(b)-CPSU trial should no longer be adjourned if Ukraine and other states are to avoid new and very dangerous procommunist relapses.
Maybe, international law experts should also express their professional opinion in this matter? Shall we switch from words to deeds?
FOONOTE:  Some edits in the format of the article were made by the Action Ukraine Report (AUR).  
Holodomor and historical memory in Ukrainian, Polish, and Russian cultures*

By Oxana Pachlowska, University of Rome La Sapienza; Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
The Day Weekly Digest in English, #37 & #39, Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov 25, 2008 & Dec 9, 2008

The sign over the entrance gate to the Soviet Solovki concentration camp read: “We Shall Force Humankind into Happiness with an Iron Hand.”

The sign over the main gate to a Nazi concentration camp read: “Arbeit macht frei” —“Work Makes You Free.”

It is hard to say which of the two formulas is more cynical. They both are, because at the time an individual could only expect to find happiness and freedom in the afterlife.

In early April 2008, a NATO summit took place in Bucharest, during which the then President Vladimir Putin of Russia declared that there is no such state as Ukraine; that half of Ukraine’s territory has been presented to Ukraine by Russia as a gift, whereas the other half is not Ukraine, either, but part of Eastern Europe. (1)

Several days prior to this statement, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel Prize winner and the conscience of the Russian opposition to the totalitarian regime, described the Holodomor as a “provocative outcry about ‘genocide’” that took shape in “the musty chauvinistic minds.” He went on to say that this is “rakish juggling” and a “cunning teaser” for “western ears” and that the purpose of this “ready fable” is to antagonize these friendly (even fraternal) peoples. (2)

Together the above quotes epitomize Russia’s age-old attitude to Ukraine. There is nothing new here. The main point is that this “bipolar” synthesis of two antipodes, the Chekist and the victim of the Chekist regime, reflects the basic mechanism of Russian identity: all rules of human life, ranging from Christian charity to international law, are worth nothing against the Moloch of the State, the Absolute Idea of “Great Russia” that turns the death of entire nations and individuals (millions of them) into a relative “fact,” “temporary mistakes made by the party,” a “mishap,” or an “incident” in the realization of this providential idea.

A former dissident of the Cheka-KGB-sired totalitarian system and a president produced by this system are speaking the same language. For both of them, Ukraine is a specific territory inhabited by an abstract people -- it does not actually exist; if it does, then only inasmuch as it suits Russia’s interests and plans. This specific territory is meant for the expansion of the “Russian world” and is inhabited by a ghost people, which is allowed to live or die depending on the interests of the Russian state.

When the Russian empire was falling apart in 1917 and Ukrainian intellectuals set about building an independent Ukraine, the latter was perceived as a nation-state. Mykhailo Hrushevsky wrote: “Ukraine must be not only for Ukrainians, but also for all who live in Ukraine, who, while living there, love this country; who, while loving it, wish to work for the good of this land and its people and serve it ... rather than exploit it for their own benefit. All people who harbor these views are our cherished fellow citizens.”

The Ukrainian government will not “in any way restrict this equality and freedom of our non-Ukrainian fellow citizens to serve the misinterpreted interests of the Ukrainian community,” since “entire generations of Ukrainians did not fight and suffer for the rights of our people to set a different goal in the moment of victory-that of taming the ethnic minorities and reigning over the great Ukrainian land... I do not wish ‘domination’ to my people because I believe that domination causes demoralization and degeneration of the dominating people and is incompatible with a truly democratic system... I do not desire Ukrainian imperialism.”

Ukraine’s reluctance to become an empire (an equivalent of this country’s fundamental self-identification as a European culture in the writings of the 19th-20th century intellectuals) was projected on all the neighboring peoples.

In the case of Russia it was an opposition between two different national projects (Respublica vs. Imperium), whereas the prospects of relations with neighboring Poland were seen in a totally different light. Over two centuries, from Romanticism writers and historians to 20th-century intellectuals, the “Polish question” was an inalienable component of the Ukrainian national liberation struggle.
There are two especially interesting aspects in this context.

First, the factor of religious differentiation was subordinated to an entirely new, absolute and uniting value-freedom. Second, the problem of Ukraine-Poland relations was regarded as part of Eastern Europe’s historical and cultural evolution. This idea took shape in the first half of the 19th century. Russian pan-Slavists saw the future of the Slavs as “Slavic streams” merging into the “Russian sea” (to quote Pushkin), Ukrainian Slavophiles believed that there would emerge a federation of equal Slavic nations.

Ivan Franko believes that the idea of a Slavic federation was for the first time set forth in Mykola Kostomarov’s Zakon Bozhyi. Knyhy buttia ukrainskoho narodu (God’s Law. Books of the Genesis of the Ukrainian People), which was the program of the clandestine revolutionary organization Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood (1845-47).

Restored Polish-Ukrainian fraternity was envisioned as the foundation of this federation. Books of the Genesis were the Ukrainian romanticists’ response to Adam Mickiewicz’s Ksiegi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego (Books of the Polish People and the Polish Pilgrimage) — Poland and Ukraine were again brothers-in-arms in the struggle of these two most oppressed and rebellious Slavic peoples for the liberation of the entire Slavic community from the imperial yoke.

The 20th century saw deepened understanding and further articulation of this problem. “The most important thing, wrote Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, is that today and for a long time in the future Poland and Ukraine have obvious and urgent common political interests. A systematic, far-reaching cooperation between Poles and Ukrainians inspires hopes for a balance of power in Eastern Europe... We hope and pray that past mistakes, for which the Ukrainian and Polish people had to pay such a dear price, will not be repeated.”

The issue of territory gave way to that of common values-freedom and equality. After the Second World War, Jerzy Giedroyc declared that Lviv would be a Ukrainian city; Vilnius, a Lithuanian city; Grodno, a Belarusian one, adding that Poles had to learn to solve their problems in the common European home. These ideas were shaped and formulated against the backdrop of smoldering political and territorial conflicts between Poland and Ukraine, which made the principled stand taken by those intellectuals even more valuable.

Giedroyc’s courage cannot be overstated: at the time he made his declaration, the Polish-Ukrainian antagonism was still part of public mentality in Poland and Ukraine. Giedroyc went against the totalitarian system and the views espoused by a number of his colleagues and a considerable part of his own society.

The Declaration on the Ukrainian Cause, adopted on his initiative, read: “there will be no truly free Poles, Czechs, or Hungarians without free Ukrainians, Belarusians, or Lithuanians-or free Russians, for that matter.” The Rev. Josef Majewski, of Pretoria, echoed him on the pages of Kultura: “Just as we Poles have the right to Wroclaw, Szczecin, or Gdansk, so Lithuanians are right in their claim to Vilnius and Ukrainians, to Lviv... May Lithuanians, who are even less fortunate than we are, take pride in Vilnius, and let a blue-yellow flag fly over Lviv.”

There was also Josef Lobodowski’s article “Against the Vampires of the Past” (1952), an impassioned and bitter analysis of the factors preventing Poland and Ukraine from reaching understanding. “We are separated by a sea of blood and centuries of pitched struggle,” he wrote. “So where is the way out of this bloody circle of hatred? ... Should we stand our ground to the end, fighting over who was the first to start all this, is more guilty, and has shed more blood?

Or should we be the first to something different-extending our hand?” The idea of “extending one’s hand first” was true moral progress, just like the concept of “mutual guilt”: “However, the guilt is mutual and we will not be able to move another step forward if we continue to deny the bitter truth.”

These statements are not typical rhetorical declarations of “friendship among the brotherly peoples.” The latter were germane to the communist epoch and are currently being manifested in Russia’s militant expansionism and xenophobia in regard to all non-Russian peoples within the radius of Russian-Soviet dominance. These peoples are faced with the choice of being either a slave or an enemy, without any other options. In the case of Poland, what is the topic of the debate is the “moral dimension of Polish freedom,” owing to which Poland has been able to generate and consolidate the European code of its culture.

Indeed, it is the moral dimension of precisely Polish freedom, which is conceived as freedom of the Polish people surrounded not by downtrodden slaves, but by other peoples that can be described as free among the free and equal and among the equal. Tragic damages inflicted by one people on the other in the past can be assessed and forgiven only in the conditions of mutual freedom.

These ideas propounded by Polish and Ukrainian intellectuals echo, and at times radicalize, the concepts underlying the cultural identity of Europe and the political and legal structure of the European Union. The inviolable freedom of another people is the cornerstone of the age-old evolution of Europe as a cultural space and the basis on which the European Community was formed after the war, in particular as a legal space.

Past conflicts are being resolved only on a parity basis. The inviolability of postwar national frontiers is imperative. A specific territory must belong to a specific people, regardless of its past relations [with other peoples] — precisely because territory is not what matters in the first place.

What does have top priority is Fatherland, in the European sense of the word.

A memory model is inseparably linked with the notion of Fatherland. In other words, a memory model is a way to perceive the fact of belonging to a civilization. Awareness of the past may well turn into inter-ethnic conflicts on cemeteries. It can be regarded as an unnecessary burden that interferes with living one’s life hic et nunc, here and now. It can also become a moral decision, i.e., a critical revision of one’s history, so as to finally get out of the trap of domestic and external interpretive patterns imposed by this or that ideology.

In this sense, the above quotes from Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian authors illustrate two memory models: (a) Russian and (b) Polish and Ukrainian. These models, which could be conventionally designated as Eurasian and European, correspondingly, have radical distinctions.

1. The Category of the Other. The entire European civilization is based on this category. The entire evolution of the European civilization has been a slow but sure progress toward perception of the Other as an equal human (national, cultural) dimension. On the one hand, the memory of the Other has independent value. On the other, it belongs to the sum total of universal values.

All phenomena that are currently being associated with the notions of pluralism, tolerance, and respect for ethnic minorities reflect the essence of Europe as plures in unum, a civilization rooted in the principle of unity in diversity.

The innermost nature of European culture is in the preservation and protection of the differentiating elements. However, this very principle has also become the foundation for such distinctly democratic values as freedom and law.

Unlike its European counterpart, Russian culture relies on the principle reductio ad unum, reduction of the many to the one. In this context, the Category of the Other does not exist in the form of an autonomous entity and its rights. This other entity is either an enemy or a neutral element in the mechnical composition of the imperial space.

Therefore, the history of any other country and/or people is regarded exclusively in terms of Russia’s interests-in other words, whether it is beneficial or detrimental to Russia. Hence, the memory of the other entity is always to be guided by the interests of Russia’s memory or “amnesia.” If this entity’s memory does not conform to Russia’s views, it is interpreted as “alternative memory” and regarded as something “suspicious” or “hostile.” Only memories that are positive in regard to Russia are accepted, whereas all “alternative memories” are vetoed a priori.

2. The space of European identity has specific parameters. Here one finds clearly defined criteria and categories of what is “national” and “European.” The reason lies in the formation of democratic society in the bottown-up fashion-at the level of the grass roots, rather than supreme power. The result is that Europe is home to various fatherlands, and that this space is consolidated by the fundamental values of the European civilization.

In the political sense, the Old World, as the nucleus of the Western world, is historically identified with democracy. The space of Russian identity has no clearly defined parameters, so it is interpreted in the broad sense of the word, sometimes displaying mutually exclusive characteristics.

Orthodox Russia sees Genghis Khan as its demiurge. (His grandson Batu Khan used the ruins of Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv as a pasture ground for herds of his goats.) Nostalgic imperial sentiments are mixed with Stalinist ones, as if the Bolshevik vandals did not trample tsarist Russia under their blood-covered boots.
Communists are converting to the Orthodox Church, as though they never blew up medieval temples and tortured and crucified priests on prison walls. [Russia’s] “sovereign democracy” sees itself as the fifth empire. In anti-NATO rallies, Russian marches were accompanied by shouts Sieg heil! and the Slavianski Soiuz (Slavic Union) is designated by the humble acronym SS.

Therefore, the notion “Russian world” does not coincide with Russia’s borders. Depending on the situation, this “world” shrinks or expands, damaging its national and cultural tissue. This space can be the territory where the Russian language, and/or Orthodox, communist, or Eurasian ideology are prevalent. In any case, this ideology will be antiliberal and, hence, anti-Western.

This framing of the issue is, in fact, a sign of a deep crisis of Russian identity. The boundary of the “European world” coincides with that of democracy, while Russia simply has no answer to the question, where is the beginning and the end of the “Russian world”? After declaring and effectively proving its non-European nature, this world has not as yet found its identity even on its eastern borderlands, which are being increasingly drawn under the shadow of China with its population of 1.5 billion. This “mobility” of the hypothetical cultural frontiers of the “Russian world” only serves to generate instability along Russia’s political borders and adds to the fuzziness of identity criteria within this multinational country.

This produces Russia’s aggressive attitude to what it sees as its “own” world when it suddenly gets out of control and breaks free of the set pattern, as has periodically been the case with Ukraine, Georgia, and previously with Poland, the Baltic states, and the rest of Eastern Europe. A country looking toward the West, i.e., in the direction of democracy, automatically becomes an enemy-not because of the absurd NATO “threats”, but because of Russia’s uncontrollable fear of a civilization based on liberal values. These are the values that official Russia refuses to accept pointblank and does not even bother to develop intellectual tools to engage in polemics. Instead, it changes the subject to missile range and the quantity of bombers.

3. Imperial myths. After the Second World War, there were no empires left in Europe and even the temptation to build them was gone. The “Deutschland uber alles“ project was the last and most tragic act in the history of European imperialism. In order to establish the European Union, Europeans had to carry out an extremely complicated mission by generating coordinated and mutually acceptable national interpretive models of history. Naturally, problems abound even now, but the views on landmark events in European history have been harmonized.

This is undoubtedly a moral and scholarly accomplishment with a political dimension: no European country can challenge another one with territorial claims, and so on, simply by referring to a historical fact. The breakup of the empires was accepted as an element of progress and modernization, rather than the catastrophe of losing territories. Of course, I am speaking about countries with stable identity, where no nation can be superior to any other, both culturally and legally.

The Eurasian countries, lacking the experience of mature democracy, attach their unstable identities to stable ideological myths designed to confirm their “grandeur,” “might,” and so on. Naturally, this “grandeur” is established in regard to, and at the expense of, their closest neighbors. Thus, the world’s largest 40-meter-high statue of Genghis Khan is being erected near Ulan Bator. Can you picture a statue like that being built for Cromwell, Napoleon III, Lincoln, or Garibaldi?

Over at this end, the Slavs are still fighting over the monument to Catherine II, the plump German empress of Russia. Remember the street fights in Odesa (2007) involving operetta Russian Cossacks brandishing real horsewhips? Or the clashes between the “right” and “wrong” Orthodox adherents, with patriotic hobos standing guard over the monument?

Now can you picture Spaniards fighting the British at the foot of the statue of Elizabeth I? Impossible. In the Eurasian context into which Russia is becoming increasingly integrated, imperial (state, ideological) discourse prevails over balanced historiography that relies on hard facts and is open for verification. The a priori nature of imperial discourse does not allow for any objections using rational methods, documents, comparative views, or debates.

4. Civilizational distinctions between Europe and Russia are exacerbated by the fact that in the European context the category of the state is subordinated to that of the individual. Naturally, the state remains primarily a political and legal category with additional symbolic import. For Russia the state is a territorial and symbolic category, but not a legal one. In other words, the state is a mythical space in which every historical fact can be used for positive or negative propaganda.

Naturally, keeping this space in control requires certain ideology-hence the a priori concept of sacred Mother-Russia. This dimension is absolutely non-verifiable, yet it relies on Orthodoxy, which, in the case of Russia, has mutated from a religion to an ideology serving the throne. Once a religion allows itself to be controlled by the government, it loses its ethic autonomy and its moral dimension and delegates its functions to the powers that be.

5. “Court history” and free history. In the second century B.C., Lucian of Samosata wrote in his treatise Quomodo historia conscribenda (How to Write History) that being independent of those in power and rejecting servility are the two elements that distinguish a historian from a courtier. The progress of European historiography, from Hellenic culture to present-day Europe, is a gradual liberation of historiography from dependence on and pressure from both lay and religious authorities and making historians independent of their milieu and the dictates of their epoch.

The “Byzantine world” is dominated by the opposite model. From the time of Ivan the Terrible to Nikolai Karamzin to Soviet times, historiography was done by court historians writing to please their sovereign. They produced a kind of narration that reflects history that “belongs to the tsar,” to quote Karamzin. This discourse is governed by the interests and priorities of the government, while the individual and/or the people take a subordinate place. This kind of narration focuses on the sacred origins of secular power which evolved from “Caeseropapism,” a doctrine germane to the Byzantine-Russian type of the Imperium.


Settling historical accounts and a guilt complex are Europe’s constant catharsis. In his Le Sanglot de l’Homme blanc (The Tears of the White Man, 1983), the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner says the feeling of guilt is one of the main features of Western culture, and that it is rooted in the biblical sense of guilt, the original sin committed by European civilization.
As a result, the West keeps criticizing itself and is unable to love itself. Bruckner even says that the West hates itself and this hatred is “the central dogma” of European culture. Of course, this is a complicated thesis that requires an articulate approach.
Be that as it may, an ability to think critically is one of the most distinct features of European civilization. At the same time, it is one of the guarantees of its periodic moral regeneration. After all, it is not only about theoretical self-analysis, as there is now institutional protection against revanchist ideology, including criminal prosecution for the denial of the Holocaust.

The death toll of Communist violence in the world stands at 85-100 million, including at least 20 million victims for which Russia is responsible, reads The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (its Russian version was published in 1999). Com­mu­nist Russia is second only to Communist China with its 65 million victims.

Does it make a difference that this ideology is “cushioned” by the false ideologemes of “world revolutions” and “internationalism”? Genealogically, it is an extreme manifestation of Russian imperialism, just as Nazism is of German imperialism. Therefore, the measure and the essence of responsibility are the same. However, a divergence begins precisely when it comes to the perception of this responsibility. This is a discrepancy between history as the formation of critical memory in European culture and history as the formation of apologetic memory in a culture that sets itself in opposition to European values.

That is why what emerged in Europe was post-totalitarian historiography with its absolute autonomy from the political system. In Russia, history has been constantly rewritten, depending on the political leadership’s ideological orientation. Putin regards Stalin as a “successful manager.” Putin identifies himself with Stalin and the public applauds. After the first elements of rudimentary democracy, Russian history textbooks are once again written in the Kremlin.

It stands to logic that what is martyrology for other countries is “bad image” for Russia. Let me quote a Russian political scientist: “Image-building factors are important for us and that is why recognition of the Holodomor is such a painful topic... It isn’t just that Ukrainians have explained history. It is a blow to Russia’s image, just as ‘Soviet occupation’ damages this image and is regarded as an aggressive act.” (

Indeed, this is almost like an image of the world turned upside down: occupation, deportations, mass repressions, tortures, famine, misery, and decades-long bans are not acts of aggression because they concern other peoples (actually including the Russian people, but this, apparently, is of no importance whatsoever).
What counts as aggression (directed against Russia’s mythical inviolability in the empyrean of its alleged holiness) is writing about the tragedy of peoples that lost entire generations, their intellectual elites, and historical prospects for long years, due to Russia’s eschatological projects of world supremacy, as well as paying homage and remembering the sufferings of these people.

Image is a concept form the domain of advertising and communications. Memory is a historical, moral, existential, and philosophic category. Mercy is a Christian category.

Therefore, where other peoples see millions of victims-it is all about image for Russia. In the case of the Holodomor, it is millions of victims, people who died a horrible, even humiliating death because there was no way they could defend themselves and were denied the right to be [properly] buried, mourned for, and remembered. These innocent victims are non-persons, just an existentialist void. Generations that vanished without a trace, a black hole in a nation’s memory - all this is just insignificant “details” in the context of Russia’s providential mission.

An apologetic model of history leads to amnesia, to use a Freudian term. Memory that turns into oblivion blocks the society’s moral progress. Tragic pages of history are reconsidered to prevent these tragedies from happening again in our time. Keeping one’s actions under control is an essential component of cultivating responsibility within a given society.

In Russia, past events have never been [critically] reconsidered; on the contrary, this country is turning its eyes to the past in order to project the forged images of its “grandeur” and justified crimes on the future. So Russia’s threats today are its old, barely upgraded threats. Russia’s occupation of Georgia in August 2008 is a postmodernist remake of its bloodshedding campaigns in the 19th century, with the same glorification of force and contempt for mercy.

In his Prisoner of the Caucasus, Pushkin eulogized a tsarist general who “as though he were black plague, / Pursued, destroyed the tribes”: “I shall sing glory to the time / When, sensing bloody battle, / Our double-headed eagle rose / To crush the belligerent Caucasus.” The poet sees, first and foremost, the figures of bloodthirsty Russian warriors in the “grandeur” of imperial violence, whereas the people felled by their swords are some obscure “tribes,” whose life and culture were nothing compared to the empire.
This is the empire that moves around generals like Yermolov yesterday and Nogovitsyn today in lands far and near — the countries it is bent on conquering. After when this happens, it will be the end of these peoples, and no one to mourn for them.
The poet writes: “A horseman will ride up, unafraid, // To the gorges, where you used to nestle, // Grim legends will recount // Your death at hangman’s hand.” Why execute them? Because those were different, separate people? Small wonder that in 2008 no one would remember that the Caucasus had remained “belligerent” for several centuries. Most humiliating of all is when this “execution” (as well as others) is presented as the “friendship of the peoples,” and when Russia’s Clio once again sweeps these peoples down into a common grave.

The age-old subjugation of the Russian Church by the political powers that be and the latter’s ability to manipulate religious ideas for the sake of ideological speculations have obliterated in Russian mentality the sense of guilt and the ethos of guilt as such. It would seem that this assumption is at variance with the very nature of Russian literature of the 19th century.
After all, Dostoevsky created the moral dimension of the guilt experienced by a person who assumes responsibility for all the sins of humankind. According to Dostoevsky, Russia has a mission of “service of humanity, of brotherly love and the solidarity of mankind...” (The Karamazov Brothers). He refers to Western Europe as a “graveyard” and to Russia as the emerging power; he believes that the future of Europe belongs to Russia owing to this kind of universal “morality” that the latter possesses.

However, this reference system has no place for specific guilt for a specific sin. Instead, there is the abstract moral, dehistorized Christian guilt placed outside historical time. At the same time, Russian history, “sacralized” and alienated from profane time, is exempt from verification by “secularized” methods; it always stands above human judgment. In other words, this history is alienated from the dimension of guilt.

Since, on this view, the past is held sacred, it cannot be disowned, reconsidered, or regarded as a critical lesson for the future. The past must always be an edifying, positive lesson (e.g., the cult of Ivan the Terrible during the Stalin epoch and that of Stalin during the Putin epoch). Hence there is the absence of a rational approach to history and, consequently, of a rational design for the future. The future is a value that is programmed by the consecrated past. That is why the promised “bright future” will never come. To quote Lobodovsky, “the vampires of the past” will devour it before it can even begin.

This peculiarity of the Russian cultural identity is turning Russia into a hostage of its own past. Lacking the sense of its own guilt, it is forced to look for culprits outside Russia. Hence the typical enemies-of-Russia repertoire. This mythologeme has become a matter of state concern- there is even a statistically verified list of Russia’s top five enemies (the US, the Baltic states, Georgia, Ukraine, and Poland; remarkably, Ukraine “declassed” Poland for the first time in history by moving ahead of it on Russia’s enemies list).

This issue has been around for a long time. Starting with Ivan the Terrible and for centuries onward, Russian culture has been characterized by anti-Polish, anti-Ukrainian, anti-Caucasus, and also anti-European texts. In actuality, Russia’s worst enemy is its messianism, the myth about its sanctity, which is above and outside history, and its immunity to the laws of the real world. The more this trait is deepened, the more de-Europeanized Russian culture becomes. This has become especially noticeable over the past couple of years.

Let us get back to the connection between the model of memory and the dimension of Fatherland. With the fall of the Berlin Wall Russia lost its (imaginary or real) “Russian space.” It decided to rebuild this space by way of “regaining territories“ without ever trying to analyze why it had lost them in the first place.
The idea of reclaiming these territories, termed “the sphere of Russia’s legitimate interests” by [Russian] political scientists, ignores man, peoples, their cultures, and the problems of their national identity. Naturally, the stronger Russia’s imperial ambitions, the smaller the chance of rapprochement with the peoples it previously dominated. Russia’s failure to comprehend this exacerbates conflicts that can easily turn from ideological into military ones.

In contrast to Europe, there is no differentiation between the “small” and “big” Fatherland in Russian cultural mentality. In Europe, small Fatherland comes first. The big land of forefathers is made up of small ones. Europe emerged from small fatherlands whose borders had, above all, an emotional, ethic, aesthetic, and also legal (legislative) meaning (Greek poleis, Italian city-communes, and militant duchies and principalities that resisted centralization).
Moreover, these small fatherlands are, as a rule, not monoethnic-they show traces of other cultures (for example, Arabs in Sicily or Spain; enclaves of Jewish culture in various European countries, and so on).

Of course, political borders were also set by using military force and reshaping territories. Yet the moral evolution of Europe (and the rest of the democratic world) lies precisely in cultural polycentricism, achieved through the gradual recognition of cultural diversity as wealth and, thus, of minorities as a value. This gave rise to the concept of preserving and protecting ethnic minorities, their languages, and local cultures. The unity-through-diversity principle makes this protection imperative.

In contrast to this, Russia emerged from conquests of foreign territories and their unification. The existence of cultural distinctions and specifics has always been regarded not as a value that must be preserved, but as an encroachment on the integrity of “single and undivided,” monocentric Russia. Therefore, the homeland of each of the conquered people has long been regarded only as political territory-or as business territory, to use modern terminology. By this logic, a people that has been destroyed or oppressed on such a territory has no right to independent existence, which is a priori valueless and senseless.
There are just the concepts of the Center and the Periphery, or Province. This gigantic Periphery is controlled by the all-consuming Center. Territories can only be lost or gained. All other peoples are dust to be sucked in by the vacuum cleaner of the empire. They are just “a senseless handful of evil spaces,” to quote from the nationalist newspaper Zavtra (http:// Their existence makes no sense outside the Imperium.

Chechnya is the penultimate example of this approach. Chechens as a people alien to Russia, and their culture, traditions, and love for their fatherland have no value whatsoever for the Russian in the street. It is impossible to picture the Spanish government ordering bomb raids against Basque towns. No matter how acute the problem of Basque terrorism is in Spain, the Basque land has cultural value and the Basque separatists have inalienable civil rights.
In the case of Chechnya, the entire people was destroyed, along with everything it owned and held dear. The journalist Anna Polikovskaya was assassinated. Hers was one of few Russian voices raised in defense of Chechnya. However, the territory of this people is an inalienable part of Russia and is regarded as an integral part of the empire.
The first sign of the physical destruction of this people was not the assassination of its three presidents, the mutilated bodies of militants, or countless civilian victims, but a youth choir singing Russia’s anthem after the almost unanimous Soviet-style election of the Kremlin-appointed “Governor General” Kadyrov in 2003.
Terror, demoralization, and corruption of memory have combined to lay a solid foundation for divorcing the coming generations from the history of their fathers and brothers, who wanted to achieve freedom for their fatherland. If Russians succeed in lobotomizing this battle-weary Chechen society, its people will turn into population used by Russia to service this much-needed territory.

The latest example is Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 and the de facto annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The situation was exactly the opposite to that in Chechnya, with Russia posing as a defender of the separatist peoples, knowing that their separation would cut off a chunk of Georgia’s territory and attach it to Russia. Chechen separatism is qualified as terrorism, while Abkhaz and Ossetian separatism is justified as a reaction to an act of genocide on the part of Georgia. These are mirror-inverted contexts.
In fact, a list of countries and organizations that expressed solidarity with Russia’s invasion characterizes it best: Nicaragua, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc. In a word, our Party of Regions is in good company, especially considering what Somalia, the country of pirates, and the democratic republic of Western Sahara are considering extending recognition to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Historical thinking is “shorted” in Russian culture by mythologizing Russia as the Fatherland and reducing the fatherlands of other peoples to their utilitarian value. Everything that “undermines” the idea of the great, universal, abstract Fatherland is edited out of history. That is why Russia is doomed to periodically reiterate its own history and re-enter the same authoritarian and ideological paradigms. As a result, little has changed over the centuries while Russia-Europe dyscrasia is worsening.

In his article “New Europe, Old Russia” (The Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2008), US political scientist Robert Kagan comments on the lack of communication between Europe and Russia resulting from the fact that they live in different epochs: “Russia and the European Union are neighbors geographically. But geopolitically they live in different centuries.
A 21st-century European Union, with its noble ambition to transcend power politics and build an order based on laws and institutions, confronts a Russia that behaves like a traditional 19th-century power. Both are shaped by their histories.
The supranational, legalistic EU spirit is a response to the conflicts of the 20th century, when nationalism and power politics twice destroyed the continent... Europe’s nightmares are the 1930s; Russia’s nightmares are the 1990s. Europe sees the answer to its problems in transcending the nation-state and power. For Russians, the solution is in restoring them.”

These features of Russian identity determine also the controversial aspects in restoring the identity (and historical memory) of Russia’s neighbors. This is what makes the situation with the Holodomor in Ukraine the most complicated and, at the same time, most telling one. The geographical spread of the Holodomor recognition coincides with the map of Russification and Sovietization of Ukraine.

Russia has succeeded in dividing Ukraine into the fatherland and non-fatherland. People in Western Ukraine, which was not affected by the Holodomor, remember this tragedy best and are more concerned about preserving this memory than others. It was easier to terrorize, Russify, and eventually lobotomize the populace of the areas that had suffered the famine’s direct impact.
Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts sustained hair-raising losses (in Kharkiv oblast, over 600,000 people died in three months in 1933, and the overall death toll in this region reached two million, or one-third of the peasants of Slobozhanshchyna).

On Nov. 28, 2006, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed the Holodomor bill. Only two MPs from the Party of Regions, whose electorate is mainly in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, voted in favor. In November that same year none of the local authorities in Kharkiv oblast attended the ceremonies commemorating the Holodomor at the Ukrainian and Polish Memorial and at the Cross for Holodomor Victims.
Kharkiv, known as the “capital of despair” in the 1930s, is now one of the biggest anti-Ukrainian cities. Here and in other cities in Eastern and Southern Ukraine Holodomor memorial signs are destroyed with certain periodicity. Streets in eastern Ukrainian cities are named after those who destroyed millions of Ukrainians.

Unrestored memory is a source of society’s moral degradation. Un­la­mented victims and impunity generate cruelty, indifference to human life, and lack of love for one’s native land. In the Christian system of values violence is repaid with mercy to the conquered. The absence of memory permits violence to triumph. In the morally perverted world violence results in disregard for the dead, annihilation of the memory of generations, an amputated sense of mercy and solidarity. In this sense the Holodomor was also an act of blotting out fatherland from the Ukrainian society’s memory.

This issue does not relate only to the past or present. Destroying the dimension of Fatherland has a dramatic effect on the future, specifically on Ukraine’s European integration strategy. Two aspects, the internal and the external one, can be singled out here.

For Europe the recognition of the Shoah is part of its identity as a democratic entity. Less consolidated but sufficiently imperative is the demand that each country wishing to join the EU settle its historical accounts. This specifically relates to Serbia. Its road to Europe, despite Europe’s ambivalent behavior during the Balkan tragedy, lies through the recognition of Serbia’s guilt for the genocide against Bosnians and the extradition of war criminals to the Hague Tribunal.

What regards countries that are not included by the EU in its cultural space, the imperativeness of these demands drops dramatically, as the moral-legal plane is reduced and that of Realpolitik is expanded. Europe regards as valid the latent thesis: those wishing to be well-off and live in peace embark on the road of European integration. Those who choose a different model of civilization subject themselves to its laws. Such is the case with the Armenian genocide, which is of “minor” importance compared to the relations between the West and Turkey. The latter resolutely denies its historical guilt.
(Nevertheless, recognition of the Armenian genocide is on the list of EU requirements if the European integration plan for Turkey comes to a point at which it will have to be made more specific.)

We are witness to a similar situation with the Holodomor. What the West wants in the first place is to maintain the cooperation balance with Russia because it serves its interests, and so its attitude to the Holodomor is consistently cautious, if not equivocal. However, this equivocality is mainly rooted in Ukraine’s ambiguous identity parameters, its image in the West, and its inconsistency in defending its own interests.

This is a great cultural problem. In 2008 Israel was gripped by a debate on whether German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the right to address the Knesset in German, the language used by the murderers of the Jewish people. In the end, Merkel was allowed to use her native language — and Germany and the rest of Europe accepted this debate with understanding.

In the context of the Shoah there is a universal recognition of the value of every human life. That is why at the Yad Vashem museum the announcer pronounces the name of every perished child and the place and year of his or her death.

In each of the former Nazi concentration camps scattered across Europe there is a meticulous collection of the victims’ photos and names, along with any other evidence, however scanty. In Majdanek, near Lublin, you can see glass cases with Jewish children’s dolls trampled under SS boots and every surviving fragment of Jewish tombstones, which the Nazis used to pave the road to their inferno.

In Ukraine, one’s has to struggle for the right to have even the smallest signs commemorating millions of nameless victims. Yet even this moral and scholarly need of Ukrainian society may be interpreted as “aggression” act against Russia. Hence Ukrainians have to fight for the right to have the tragedy of the Holodomor recognized in the West, especially in Europe.
They often encounter a lack of understanding and/or acceptance, express reluctance to acknowledge this fact, and even obstruction. This means that there are two categories of victims: recognized and unrecognized, those that deserve respect and memory and those destined to vanish without a trace, i.e., first- and second-rate victims. Therefore, the moral aspect of the matter concerns Ukraine, Russia, and all of Europe.

One thing is clear: a people that does not know how to protect the memory of its victims allows them to be murdered again. If so, who is there to protect a people that does not protect itself?

In view of this, for Ukraine, awareness of and knowledge about the Holodomor are part of its historical, cultural, and moral memory, as well as remembrance about its state-building, political, and civilizational experience. It is precisely in this sense that the Holodomor has the same catastrophic symbolic dimension as the Shoah has for Israel and for the whole Jewish people.

Certain Ukrainian historians believe that the hidden memory of the Holodomor was one of the reasons behind the referendum against the USSR in 1991. Today, the memory of the Holodomor is also one of the ways out of the trap of the totalitarian past from whose hold we have yet to free ourselves completely. Without awareness of the Holodomor it is impossible to unite this society and achieve solidarity. In the long run, without this Ukraine will have no European prospects.

The noted Polish historian Maria Janion titled her book in a prophetic way: Do Europy tak, ale razem z naszymi umarlymi (To Europe — Yes, But Together With Our Dead, 2000). Entering Europe without memory would mean losing one’s identity and one’s positions. A country that is incapable of discarding its memory has the willpower to be actively present in modern history. Poland today, as a country with an excellent memory of its identity, with its presence in the EU and its unwavering stand, is slowly but surely altering the geocultural and geopolitical balance of the Old Continent.

The situation in the Ukrainian-Russian context in which Ukraine is struggling so hard for its right to memory is exactly the opposite to that in the Polish-Ukrainian context. The relations between Poland and Ukraine are following a long, at times painful yet constructive, course aimed at accepting and understanding each other.
It is a long process, indeed — it started in the time of Romanticism when Poland and Ukraine discovered each other as “sister nations” and victims of the same tyrants. However, this awareness was born with a sense of guilt before the Other-the guilt that has to atoned for. This catharsis of mutual discovery brought forth a new ethos in the relations between the two peoples.

Another aspect has to do with the rational concept of Fatherland. As stated above, for Russia the idea of Fatherland is a sacred space without boundaries or borders, or with constantly shifting borders that are preserved by means of military and other expansion. In the Polish and Ukrainian context, the concept of Fatherland means, above all, a struggle for stable and clearly defined frontiers. Within their fixed borders the concept of the Other causes both nations to put their historical and moral space in order.
This is the source of Giedroyc’s formula about Ukraine’s Lviv and Lithuania’s Vilnius cited at the beginning of this article. Jerzy Hoffman said in an interview to Ukrainian television this summer that peoples that live and evolve well are no threat to each other. That is to say, you have to step away from each other before you embrace. Stepping away in a civilized manner means finding a new form of unity later. Being forced to unite means division forever.

This sophisticated knot of moral and political problems is reflected in all aspects of Polish-Ukrainian relationships, from literature to historiography to politics. The tragedy of Volyn (UPA’s massacre of peaceful Polish residents in 1943) and Operation Vistula (deportation of Ukrainians for the purpose of scattering them on Polish territory in 1947) are the pages of mutual, or even common, tragedies rather than separate subjective ones. The memory of Volyn is also a Ukrainian drama and the memory of Operation Vistula is also a Polish drama.

A lot of books have been written on the subject and debates have never been calm. Is it possible to say that the subject is closed? No. However, all mutual offences and hurt feelings notwithstanding, it is necessary to learn to recognize the other side’s truth. For example, the Armia Krajowa was heroic for Poland, just as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was for Ukraine.
The most important thing is that today it is a matter of the historical domain, considering that neither official Poland nor official Ukraine has any territorial claims or expansionist plans regarding each other. This is precisely why the room for speculations using these facts is inevitably shrinking, while the room for historical studies is expanding. And so “the vampires of the past” no longer have power over the future of these peoples.

In Polish-Ukrainian relations, the European memory model has helped frame historical analysis in concrete and factual terms. At the same time, recognizing the Other as a victim and acknowledging human sufferings on both sides produce a cathartic moral effect and become a guarantee that such tragedies will not happen again. This approach is an indication that Polish and Ukrainian cultures have matured as instances of European culture, regardless of the current political frontiers.

In the case of the Holodomor and Russia, the situation is the exact opposite: there is still plenty of room for speculations and ideological propaganda with very little opportunity for professional understanding. And “the vampires of the past” sit side by side with scholars even during conferences and press the aye/nay buttons in the Verkhovna Rada. You cannot kill them by driving an aspen stake in their heart because, unlike regular vampires, they have no heart.

One last point. After the fall of the Russian empire, not only the “proletarian poets” like Vladimir Mayakovsky, but even aristocrats like Aleksandr Blok wrote that the old world had to be ruined. Ukrainian-and Polish-poets wrote that it was necessary to revive the old world in order to build a new one, because their past, the “old world” they were referring to, had been destroyed by violence, vandalism, persecutions, and bans on the part of Russia.

In his foreword to Rozstriliane vidrodzhennia (Executed Renaissance, an anthology published by Giedroyc in Paris in 1959), the literary critic Yurii Lavrinenko wrote about writers and artists annihilated by the Soviet regime as a generation that had no sense of revenge and lived in the cosmic light of Tychyna’s “clarinets.” This light emanated from newly acquired freedom that would be soon thereafter snuffed out by the “red nightmare” of Bolshevism.
The result of the Ukrainian intellectuals’ Christian approach to history was a cemetery of millions of the living dead. At this cemetery Ukrainians were forbidden to weep and keep memories. And so this cemetery turned into an abyss between Ukraine and Russia. This abyss also separates Russia from Europe. The only way Russia can achieve its European identity is by confronting its own history. If this process begins, it will be a long and dramatic one, but the important thing is for it to begin.

This is the only way to overcome the syndrome of history repeating itself and stop any “iron hand” that can, today and tomorrow, once again try to force humankind to be happy, the way Georgia was forced into peace. It happened precisely on a dramatic day — the 40th anniversary of Soviet troops’ deployment in Prague.

History, when not sufficiently studied, or discarded, or falsified, repeats itself and murders. Studying and learning from history — through the discovery of the Other, with mercy and solidarity-is the only catharsis that will keep “the vampires of the past” from robbing humankind of its future. 

*Taken from a conference presentation published in: Staszczyk, D., A. Szymanska (eds.) Pamiec i miejsce. Doswiadczenie przeszlosci na pograniczu (Mied­zy­narodowa konferencja naukowa, Chelm, 16-17 maja 2008 r., Chelmskie To­warzystwo Naukowe, Instytut Nauk Hu­ma­ni­sty­cznych). Chelm, Panstwowa Wyzsza Szkola Zawodowa w Chelmie, 2008.


2), 02.04.2008
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director
Government Affairs, Washington Office
SigmaBleyzer Private Equity Investment Group
President/CEO, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
Publisher & Editor, Action Ukraine Report (AUR)
Founder/Trustee, Holodomor: Through The Eyes of Ukrainian Artists
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