September 06, 2006  (the date of publication in Russian)

Alexander Rudakov


Ukraine's Russians face a choice between "positive discrimination" and a cell in jail

After the Orange revolution of 2004-2005, the Ukrainskaya Pravda ("Ukrainian Truth") website acquired a role as significant in Ukraine as the famous Pravda daily used to play in the USSR. Emerging as an extremely powerful propagandist mouthpiece, it transmits the "general line of the Orange party" to the masses, and shapes the views on what is good and what is bad in an impressive part of young Ukrainians.

Till recently, the website would portray Ukraine in a shining image of a country, established in an American style, liberated from oligarchs and corruptioners, and existing in a complete harmony with the rest of the "civilized community".

But lately, the ideological face of the orange "Pravda" has undergone an abrupt change. The website's more or less politically correct style was replaced by intonations, common in Europe rather among street ultra-rightists.

A most flagrant and scandalous manifestation of this tendency is exemplified with writings of a certain Ostap Kryvdyk. (curious name indeed, because "kryvda" is a colloquial antonym to "pravda"). Most sensational was his series entitled "Forced to Change. Three Ways for Ukrainian Russians", the last article appearing on the website on August 31.

The fundamental tenets of these texts are echoing the ideas of Oleg Tiagnybok, MP from Lviv famous for his xenophobic vision, once a brother-in-arms of Victor Yushchenko. Mr. Tyagnybok views the Russian population of Ukraine as "occupants" who deserve a relevant treatment.

According to the results of elections held on March 26, 2006, Mr. Tiagnybok's "Alliance for Freedom" gained a relatively high vote in Western Ukraine, and formed the fourth largest faction in Lviv's City Council, after Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine", Yulia Tymoshenko's BYUT, and Pora! (High Time) Party. Even in Lviv, known as the cradle of Ukraine’s nationalist sentiment, radical ethnicist views are not very popular today. Still, Ostap Kryvdyk, who now contends for the role of Ukrainskaya Pravda's chief ideologist, has outpaced even Mr. Tiagnybok in radicalism of political propositions.

"Unfortunately, it is still impossible to measure the responsibility for the occupation of the Ukraine in the past. The anti-Ukrainian policy of the Russian Empire has not yet been condemned. USSR's crimes in Ukraine remain uninvestigated, as if there is nobody to be blamed personally", states Mr. Kryvdyk with sorrow. In the next phrase, however, he encourages his reader. To his view, "in the same way as any German is responsible for the crimes of the Nazi (? – A.R.), any Russian bears responsibility for the crime of Russification, for a coercive replacement of Ukrainian language with Russian, for the forced decision of many Ukrainians to abandon their language and culture".

Thus, the enemy is found within reach. The "Russian occupants" should pay off for their "crimes". The mildest punishment is “linguistic and cultural discrimination”. It might seem surprising, but it is precisely what Kryvdyk preaches. "Each Russian-Ukrainian is to recognize his or her moral responsibility for the humiliation of Ukrainian culture in favor of Russian, and to accept "positive discrimination" – which means that the dominance of the Russian cultural space should be crushed".

For those who would not accept these rules, the "ethnic-conscious" ideologist has foreseen harsh measures: "Public allegations that the Ukrainian state never existed before 1991, and that the Ukrainian language is the Russian language, distorted by Poles (the Ukrainians being "distorted Russians"), and that this language never existed in the East and the South of Ukraine (for instance, in Crimea – A.R.), are to be subject to criminal persecution, as a deliberate assault on Ukraine".

For the website, associated with the name of journalist Georgy Gongadze, who is said to have perished for his adherence to principles of freedom of speech, such conceptual constructions seem not much consistent. However, this is only ostensibly true. The "orange" national-radicals seem to have appropriated the freedom of speech and freedom whatsoever only for themselves. The rest of the nation is supposed to shut up (accepting "positive discrimination"), or to stay behind barbed wire – as the Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of Interior are still under "orange" control.

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