The most recent of Kuzio's articles was published in the OpenDemocracy as a reaction to an article by Ivan Katchanovski which spoke about the rise of the nationalist All Ukrainian Union 'Svoboda' (VO 'Svoboda'). The point of Kuzio's article (or rather articles) is clear: researchers, writers, pundits and hacks should not care about VO 'Svoboda', instead they should care about the 'real' nationalist threat, Yanukovych. Kuzio's efforts are rather lame, and one has to wonder what exactly his motivation for publishing these articles is?
Kuzio has described the issue of why Yanukovych is the biggest nationalist threat as follows in a similar article of his from January. I quote:
The prevalence of bi-ethnic identities and high levels of Russian language use in eastern and southern Ukraine translates into high levels of identification with Soviet and Russian culture and deep levels of hostility towards Ukrainian nationalism. This, in turn, provides a bedrock of support for Sovietophile and Russophile parties, such as the Communist Party and the ruling pro-presidential Party of Regions because public support for social authoritarian political forces is far higher in eastern than western Ukraine. The Communist Party and Party of Regions have eight times as much support in eastern and southern Ukraine and the Crimea, at 40 percent nationwide, compared to 4-5 percent nationwide for the Svoboda nationalist party. Western Ukrainian ethnic nationalism has been weak in Ukraine and support for Svoboda, even in the face of Yanukovych’s Russophile nationality policies and democratic regression...
And in his most recent article:
First, Svoboda’s popularity has not grown – and indeed in some recent polls has declined – since the neo-Soviet and pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych was elected president in 2010. Contrary to Katchanovski's analysis, Svoboda is unlikely to cross the 5 percent threshold in October’s parliamentary elections, and even if Svoboda members are elected, it will only be in single mandate districts [rather than via nationwide proportional representation]. Western Ukrainian ethnic nationalism is weak...
Second, neo-Soviet and Russian nationalism is a far bigger threat to Ukraine’s democratic system and European integration than ethnic Ukrainian nationalism. Victor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions is a much more violent, anti-democratic and corrupt political machine than Svoboda could ever be.
It should be pointed out that neo-Soviet, pro-Russian, Russophile, Sovietophile, even Eurasian seem to be terms that Kuzio uses to describe the phantom he chases, and which he has apparently found embodied in the Party of Regions. It also seems that he decided to bring under the rubric of 'nationalism', all political proclivities of Russophone (or rather East) Ukrainians. One is left wondering how Russian language use translates into high levels of identification with Russian, not to mention Soviet culture, whatever the latter is? It all appears that Kuzio has a problem with the very presence of the Russian element in Ukraine.
But is there a Russian element which is in opposition to Ukrainian nationalism in Ukraine? Certainly there is, an opposition to Ukrainian nationalism, and its accompanying excesses' such as Ukraininisation has existed there for a very long time. It does not necessarily have to draw on the Soviet experience though as it has a history pre-dating the Soviet Union, but contrary to Ukrainian nationalists, and Svidomite diaspora pundits such as Kuzio (who seem to be no strangers to Ukrainian nationalism), the Russophiles generally do not appear to be that hostile towards the whole of Soviet experience.
Politically, the principal demands of these people are: rights for the Russian language (which has a much wider currency in Ukraine than Ukrainian despite the efforts of nationalist and red Ukrainisators); federalisation of the country with regards to the fact that Ukraine is an amalgam of historically barely related (or completely unrelated) territories; and a pro-Russian foreign policy vector.
Yanukovych ran on a ticket promising at least two of the above points, although as far as I can recall, he always declared his pro-EU ambitions. The question is whether the Party of Regions lives up to at least being a defender of the rights of Russian speakers, and of federalisation? The reality is that it does not live up to the latter at all, the issue of federalisation has been conveniently forgotten in the Party of Regions a long time ago. As for Russian language rights, the Party of Regions is certainly not willing to make Russian the second official, and the law on languages, which has promised more rights for Russian (and other languages by the way) at least on regional level, is still not yet ratified as far as I know (my information might be little dated here). Simply put, the so called Russophile Yanukovych does not hurry with the language issue.
We should also take a look at the following chart:
The chart shows a rise in the number of pupils taking classes in Ukrainian under Yanukovych's so called (by Kuzio and by VO 'Svoboda') Ukrainophobe Minister of Education, Tabachnyk. I wonder where are those Russophile nationality policies of Yanukovych? In December last year Dr. Kuzio complained:
In 2003, the Yanukovych government celebrated Volodymyr Shcherbytsky’s 85th anniversary and the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor Soviet-induced famine from the 1930s. Deputy Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk was responsible for ensuring the Shcherbytsky celebrations went to plan while also campaigning for international support for the Holodomor to be classified as “genocide.” Today, Yanukovych and Tabachnyk deny the Holodomor, which claimed the lives of millions of Ukrainians, was either specifically designed to target Ukraine or an attempted “genocide.”
Perhaps the attitude of Yanukovych to the issue of Holodomor is the only thing that Kuzio can find. However, Yanukovych does not deny the Holodomor, or shy away from its commemoration. One should note that Holodomor, interpreted as a genocide of Ukrainian people, is a nationalist myth which was developed into an absurd narrative in the diaspora. It does not correspond to reality, and has highly Russophobic, and at times Antisemitic undertones. It should also be pointed out that Kuzio is known to have been an ardent promoter of that myth. One does not become a Russophile or Sovietophile by not accepting diaspora nationalist fairytales, but one can certainly raise the ire of someone with nationalist proclivities like Kuzio by not accepting them. It might be Kuzio's own sympathies towards Ukrainian nationalists which make him write articles attempting to diminish the issue of VO 'Svoboda', and bring our attention to something that does not exist, namely Yanukovych's Russophilia.
Now that I have, I think convincingly, established that Yanukovych does not work in the interests of the Russian element in Ukraine, it is worth noting that Kuzio appears to inflate support the Party of Regions and the Communists have. The polling agency Rating in its electoral forecast for last month, reported that the Party of Regions has 21.3% (out of people who are determined to come to the elections; out of all asked only 16.5%) and the Communists have 9.9% ('...' out of all people asked only 7.7), this adds up to around 30% support for both parties.
Kuzio likewise talks about a decline of support for VO 'Svoboda', but according to Rating, ratings of VO 'Svoboda' have been stable for at least four months with support of more than 4%. There is chance that it might reach the 5% result needed to enter the Rada (the parliament) during elections because of its disciplined and loyal base. But even if it is unsuccessful in this way, it might still gain seats in the Rada in single mandate districts as Kuzio, among others, reminds us. He also tells us that West Ukrainian ethnic nationalism is weak nation-wide, that is because it is West Ukrainian. But in Western Ukraine, more specifically in Galicia, VO 'Svoboda' is far from what one can call weak.
In the three Galician regions, VO 'Svoboda' has a rather large representation on the regional councils. It holds 34.69% of Ternopol', 25.98% of Lvov, and 16.60% of Ivano-Frankovsk. In Galicia's neighbour to the North, in Volhynia, it has 7.44% in Volyn' and 6.34% in Rovno, in Bukovina it has 3.90%, and beyond the Zbruch river in Khmel'nytsky it has 4.06%, and in Kiev region 3.48%. Svoboda has branches in all corners of Ukraine, including rather surprisingly, Donetsk and Crimea, although it has little support in those regions, and it does not even pretend that it wants to win support in these areas. On the other hand, Rodina, a party that could be considered a representative of the Russian element (I have been inspired by its manifesto when compiling the usual demands of Russophiles), does not show much of an activity beyond its home city, Odessa.
And this brings us to who pays for all this circus, In his most recent article Kuzio writes:
Third, Svoboda’s main raison d’etre is as an artificial scarecrow designed to direct votes away from bona fide ‘orange’ democratic parties, and to mobilise eastern Ukrainian, Russophone voters against the virtual ‘nationalist bogeyman’. There are grounds to suggest that the Party of Regions has had a direct role funding Svoboda (though as financing of all parties is not transparent in Ukraine, there is no ‘smoking gun’ here).
He has repeated a line akin to the above in almost every article dedicated VO 'Svoboda', although the above is more nuanced from the usual. Compare it with this line from his January article:
There would be no Svoboda without the Party of Regions. Last year, two reports by the pro-Yanukovych American Institute in Ukraine condemned the Party of Regions financial support for Svoboda.
It is clear that Kuzio wants to present VO 'Svoboda' as a creature of the Party of Regions, and imply that if only the Party of Regions would stop feeding that creature, the creature would die. This kind of analysis, if we can even call it an analysis, suggests that the success of VO 'Svoboda' is entirely based on the support it gets from the Party of Regions or affiliated oligarchs. This I believe is a patently false view, and all it is based on are rumours and speculation. The following is a quote from an article by Tadeusz A. Olszanski:
However, the fact that the activity of Svoboda is convenient for the Party of Regions in the short term does not mean that Svoboda is controlled by the Party of Regions. Svoboda is undoubtedly an independent political force with clearly defined objectives, determined to seek their implementation. It is ready to accept help from its enemies (e.g. by accepting invitations to major political TV programmes, with probable consent from the government), including financial assistance (the common belief is that Svoboda's campaign before Ternopil district council elections in 2009 was financed by an oligarch, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, who was in conflict with Yulia Tymoshenko at the time, although the party itself denies this).
Most people made the observation that the Party of Regions benefits from the activities of VO 'Svoboda', among them are actually Ukrainian Russophiles. Most sensible Russophiles have realised a long time ago that the Party of Regions does not work in their interests. The thinking goes that in this situation the nationalists will provoke the East Ukrainian electorate, and Yanukovych will ride in like a saviour. I think this is also far fetched given the ratings of VO 'Svoboda', and that such a strategy can work in the short run on the weak-minded. But the fact that Yanukovych does not do anything about the nationalists, and on top of that does not seem to bother with delivering on Russophile demands cannot be kept under the lid. In my opinion, this kind of technology can only hurt the Party of Regions.
Perhaps the best gift VO 'Svoboda' offers to the Party of Regions is accusing it of being pro-Moscow, much like Kuzio does. Since the Party of Regions has next to nothing to present in terms of results of its Russophile work, I guess the word of VO 'Svoboda' and Dr. Kuzio will have to suffice. Meanwhile, the Party of Regions has voted to commemorate the 120 Anniversary of the Uniate Metropolitan and Nazi collaborator, Yosif Slipyy, further alienating its Russophile electorate.
Kuzio claims that the VO 'Svoboda' is designed to direct votes away from 'bona fide orange democratic parties.' If this is happening, it would mean that the electorate of these bona fide orange parties is not all that bona fide. And this would mean that the values of VO 'Svoboda' are shared by a lot of people. Katchanovski writes:
‘Freedom’ tries to present itself as an ideological nationalist opposition to the Yanukovych government and to occupy the political space vacated by the previous President Viktor Yushchenko, whose personal popularity, together with the popularity of his party, is in tatters.
Ironically, it was Yushchenko, hailed at the time in the West as leader of the democratic ‘Orange Revolution,’ who helped to pave the way for the illiberal ‘Freedom’ party. A cornerstone of his policy was his promotion as national heroes of the OUN, Svoboda’s ideological predecessor, and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army(UPA), established by the OUN during World War II.
I do not find it ironic at all, given Yushchenko's record, the man would make a great member of VO 'Svoboda'. The only thing that separates Yushchenko from membership in that party is his former membership of the Communist party. Svoboda does not allow former Commies to join. It is not just the UPA members which Yushchenko elevated to the pantheon of heroes, we should recall that Yushchenko's period was marked by other numerous instances of pandering to nationalist narratives, and Russophobia in the best traditions of Ukrainian nationalism.
Did VO 'Svoboda' feed on 'Our Ukraine's' (Yushchenko's party) carcass? I think other parties, those bona fide orange parties included, were feeding on it far more than VO 'Svoboda'. Outside of Galicia, VO 'Svoboda' does not appear to be biting away on any party. Although, on the other hand, the party membership has increased threefold in the period between 2004-2010. Because VO 'Svoboda' does not allow former Commies into its ranks, it has mostly young members. Kids who come out of school where they are taught that Bandera was a hero, that Ukrainians were always (for centuries) in conflict with the Russians (courtesy of Hrushevsky), and other nonsense, fill the ranks of VO 'Svoboda'. And kids are more likely to hear this kind of nonsense in Western Ukraine, in Galicia in particular. But Kuzio wants us to look for nationalists outside Galicia.
Many western scholars and journalists view nationalism in Ukraine as a sentiment held only by ethnic Ukrainians and a dominant political force only in the west of the country. The truth is different. The outward manifestations associated with nationalism – anti-democratic culture, racial intolerance, anti-Semitism and xenophobia – are more of a problem in eastern and southern Ukraine and Crimea than in western Ukraine. Leaked US embassy cables reported ↑ that neo-nazis are most active in the regions of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Sumy, Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, Odesa, and Zhytomyr, most of which are in the east of the country.
If you follow the link to that cable, you will find out that it does not state cities where nationalists are most active. It is a list of organisations, and for some organisations listed there, there is an information on where their branches are located. Small research reveals that the majority of these organisations draw their ideology from radical Ukrainian nationalism, Dmytro Dontsov and his descendants basically. One cannot blame any Russophile tendencies on this phenomenon. Only one of these organisations named, the Eurasian Youth Movement stands out of this bunch, and Ukrainian Movement Against Illegal Immigration is said to have Russian and Ukrainian wings, the two are said to have disagreements. Yes you have Nazis, a particularly Ukrainian brand of Nazis, in Eastern Ukraine, Eastern Ukraine also has famous football clubs with some of the rowdiest fans. But unlike in Galicia, this mess stays at the stadium, for the time being at least. Nowhere, not in Donetsk, not in Khar'kov, or in Odessa, does a local football fan club translate into a notable presence on city or regional councils.
Speaking of Odessa and Nazis, Kuzio keeps on mentioning in his articles a certain notorious Odessite Nazi (see my previous post) who died several years ago after provoking a fight with Antifa (although according to other versions these were just regular guys visiting a club), as a victim of a deadly phantom that Kuzio calls Russophile, Sovietophile, Eurasian, whatever... nationalism. I quote:
And back in January:
...on April 17, 2009, Maksym Chaika, a 20-year-old student of Odesa National University and member of the patriotic youth movement Sich, was murdered in Odesa.
I am only listing the anti-fascist victims of neo-nazi terror, not the victims of retaliation attacks. This is for a good reason. Despite the established stereotype that "neo-nazis and anti-fascists are one and the same thing", Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian anti-fascists, young men and women of direct action, do not engage in murder. They may rough their enemies up, but they don't kill. In this sense the murder of the Ukrainian neo-nazi Maxim Chaika in Odessa was the tragic result of neo-nazi actions. 15 neo-nazis attacked 5 anti-fascists, who naturally got out their knives. There were no international conspiracies, no intrigues by Russia or any external forces acting against Ukraine, as President Yushchenko unworthily tried to prove during his election campaign. The war between neo-nazis and their enemies goes on all over the world. Now it has affected Ukraine as well.
Yushchenko wanted to find links between Antifa and Rodina, and ultimately to some Russian involvement. It was nothing but Russophobic harassment so typical of Ukraine under his rule. Links between Chayka's killers and Russophile forces in the city were never established, we do not even know for sure whether they were Antifa. It is really strange that nobody has informed Kuzio yet about the nature of the man he is defending. It should be pointed out that aside of Kuzio mentioning Chayka in each of his articles, the only other people who publically commemorate Chayka's memory regularly are VO 'Svoboda'. It is VO 'Svoboda' which organised marches through Odessa in Chayka's memory shouting: 'We will not forget, nor forgive!' They have turned Chayka into an Ukrainian version of Horst Wessel.
Below I make a small summary of the main points of this rather long post:
1) It is rather hard to know what Kuzio means when he talks about neo-Soviet/pro-Russian/Russophile/Sovietophile/Eurasian nationalism. There is a phenomenon of that kind but all of Kuzio's examples do not fit the profile.
2) The Party of Regions does not fit the profile. Accusing it of being pro-Russian only improves its image.
4) VO 'Svoboda' is no puppet of the Party of Regions and can exist without its support. The allegations of VO 'Svoboda' receiving support from the Party of Regions are nothing but rumours which may or may not be true.
3) VO 'Svoboda' is a major force in Western Ukraine, whether it is likely to grow or not is an opened question about which nobody is sure. As such, people should be writing about it, who is Kuzio to tell anyone they should not care?
5) Kuzio keeps on spreading the same myths that VO 'Svoboda' spreads. Namely that the Party of Regions is an Ukrainophobic/Russophile force, and that Maxym Chayka was killed by pro-Moscow forces for being an Ukrainian patriot. Kuzio's motivations regarding his recent articles are therefore suspicious.