Sunday, March 23, 2014

Some Hidden History of Ukraine and Russia--Part 2

In recent weeks, the Democratic Obama-Kerry administration has apparently been promising U.S. government backing for a recently set-up Ukrainian nationalist regime that includes representatives of right-wing Ukrainian nationalist groups like Svoboda and Right Sector. Yet most people in the United States know very little about the hidden history of the people who have lived, historically, in either Ukraine or Russia. According, for example, to Anatol Lieven's 1999 Ukraine & Russia book:

"Ukrainians...did not suffer from discrimination under the Soviet Union as long as they spoke Russian in public (and usually in private as well) and identified with communism and the Soviet state. The officer corps of the Soviet army in the 1980s is estimated to have been around one-third Ukrainian; and in Ukraine itself, Ukrainians held senior (and responsible) positions in the party and state systems, to a markedly greater degree than the `titular nationalities' of other republics.

"Thus in 1955-1970, with 74.9 percent of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic's population at the end of that period, ethnic Ukrainians provided a staggering 100 percent--every single member--of the secretariat of the Central Committee, all of the republican first secretaries and prime ministers in that period, all of the first secretaries of the Komsomol and all the chairmen of the trade unions, 93 percent of the most senior Communist officials, and 89 percent of senior ministers. They even provided half of the chairmen of the republican KGB, which in other republics was a role strictly reserved for Russians. In other republics with large Russian minorities (such as Latvia and Kazakstan), a much higher proportion of the senior party and state posts was always reserved for Russians (or loyal Ukrainians).

"The very different figures for Ukraine reflect the fact that the Soviet Russian leaders trusted and identified with the Ukrainians to a far greater degree than they did with any other nationality...It also allowed Ukrainian Communist Party first secretary Petro Shelest to begin a moderate Ukrainianization of the education system and media in Ukraine, an act which played an important role in preserving the Ukrainian language in some areas where it otherwise might have died out, such as Dnipropetrovsk

"This Ukrainianization was brought to a halt by Moscow after 1972...However, while Shelest's removal was followed by a limited removal of his supporters, they were replaced mostly with other Ukrainians. There was no attempt to replace Ukrainians with Russians throughout the Ukrainian SSR leadership...

"In March 1991, in a referendum called by Mikhail Gorbachev, 70.5 percent of Ukrainians who voted (in an 80.2 percent turnout) did so to preserve the Soviet Union as `a renewed federation' (today on the basis of this vote, Soviet loyalists--ranging from Gorbachev himself to Communists in Ukraine and Russia--continue to argue that the dissolution of the Union at the end of the year was illegal and undemocratic)...

"On December 1, 1991, the Communist-turned-nationalist administration of former Communist Party first secretary Leonid Kravchuk called a referendum on Ukrainian independence, which produced a 90 percent vote in favor...These votes are the basis for the democratic legitimacy of independent Ukraine--however much some voters later regretted their yes votes...

"By May 1994, according to the opinion poll carried out by the Democratic Initiative Center in Kiev, 47 percent of people polled in southern and eastern Ukraine declared that if allowed to vote again on independence, they would vote against. Twelve percent said they would not take part, and just 24 percent now declared they would vote for independence. These figures were closely linked to economic suffering...with 60 percent of people polled saying either that Ukraine would fail to overcome its economic crisis within five years, or that it would never do so. This was closely linked to anger that the promises by Kravchuk and the nationalists of rapid prosperity as a result of independence had turned into a ludicrously bad joke...Many East Ukrainians and Crimeans who voted for Ukrainian independence...did not think it would mean customs barriers with Russia, a collapse of interrepublican trade, separate currencies, and divided and potentially hostile armed forces..."

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