Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Only one step remains until the abyss
On May 30th in Kiev the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINM) Vladimir Vyatrovich held a press conference. The reaction to the event was sluggish (the attention of the media was concentrated on the “case of Babchenko“), but this event deserves attention: UINP as a central body of executive power of Ukraine took a step towards a cultural catastrophe.
At a press conference Vyatrovich stated that the “decommunisation” of Ukraine is almost complete and it is possible to move on to “decolonization”. “We are ready to engage with the imperial past,” he said. Well, for this day this is an important recognition: Ukraine HAS an imperial past. It has the legacy of the Soviet Union (“red empire”), and it has the legacy of the Russian Empire. And it, according to Vyatrovich, is subject to eradication.
The idea of “decolonization” is being incubated not for the first year. Yury Makarov – the well-known TV journalist who is on the board of the National Public Television and Radio Company, which “Channel 1”, the “Culture channel”, and some state radio stations belong to – also speaks about the need for “decolonization”. Makarov is also a member of the committee on the national award of Taras Shevchenko.
We will quote the “decolonisers”.
Vyatrovich: “Not all the tentacles of the ‘Russian world’ are so disgusting and obvious as the sovok [pejorative term for the Soviet Union – ed] and Moscow church. Some of them are cuter, more refined, and more respectable, but are just as dangerous. ‘The Irony of Fate‘, ‘March 8th‘, the likes of Bulgakov, Pugacheva, and even Vysotsky and Tsoi, in the hands of the Kremlin are effective tools of offering a reminder about a united cultural space and tools of its revival. And it is precisely culture that is the foundation on which each imperialism builds the temple of its greatness”. So, there is one more important recognition: Ukraine HAS a cultural space that is united with Russia.
Makarov: “It is possible to deny the connection of culture and politics, and to say that allegedly the opposite opinion is fascism (although this still should be proved). Richard Wagner isn’t responsible for Adolf Hitler, Fyodor Dostoyevsky isn’t responsible for Vladimir Lenin. And Vladimir Vysotsky even more so isn’t responsible for Leonid Brezhnev. However they are connected, and this is a sad, but indisputable fact. Until Pushkin means more to you than Byron, Turgenev more than Maupassant, and, let us assume, Vysotsky more than Bob Dylan, then you are, in fact, part of the ‘Russian world’, whether you like it or not. I see in this not a tragedy, but, undoubtedly, a drama and the grounds for heavy reflections. Mental dependence on the mother country isn’t any safer than political dependence”.
Yury Makarov is an example of how the consciousness of the former Russian people was corrupted. He was born in Sofia to a family of White Guard emigrants, his grandfather was the captain of the Imperial Guard of the Semenovsky regiment, the author of the memoirs “My service in the Old Guard. 1905-1917”. In the late 50’s he moved with his parents to the USSR, where the most part of the life of the grandchild of the officer-guardsman passed. Makarov squeezed out his inner Russian a drop at a time, and now he is going to do the same operation with millions of residents of Ukraine.
One more prominent preacher of “decolonization” is the 90-year-old Levko Lukyanenko from a group of Soviet dissidents, the former deputy, the former ambassador, one of those who in Ukraine is thought of as being among the “patriarchs of domestic policy”: “There is a need to cleanse the Ukrainian land not only from traces of the communist despotism, but also from the traces of the Russian Empire. But in Ukraine already at the time of independence the monument to Catherine II is being restored! What, we don’t know what this bitch did to Ukraine? The same slut who banned the autonomy of Ukraine and the Hetmanate in 1764. In 1775 she liquidated the last armed stronghold of Ukraine – Zaporozhye Sich. Then she spread serfdom at our place. I don’t understand how in general it is possible to tolerate this Tsarina, not to mention building monuments to honour her!”
In the words of Vyatrovich, Makarov, and Lukyanenko there is a ready program for decolonization. The UINP is a body of executive power possessing the legislative initiative, and here it concerns raising “decolonization” to the level of official policy. In an interview Vyatrovich noted that the question is already being discussed in the committee of the Verkhovna Rada.
Of course, it was easier with “decommunisation”: they mimic the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe (the former member countries of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation), of the former Soviet republics of the Baltics, where “decommunisation” was carried out earlier and in a big way. But there is nobody to copy “decolonization” from. Despite the fact that Kuchma also wrote the book “Ukraine is not Russia” 15 years ago, there is a need to try to prove this thesis even on the 5th year since the coup.
Wiping away the “imperial past”, if it begins, will become unprecedentedly large-scale. The renaming of streets and changing the names of cities will gain a mass character. Powerful blows will be struck to Peter I and Catherine II. The memory of Catherine the Great and her noble favourites, starting with Grigory Potemkin – buried in Kherson – will be ruthlessly disposed of.
One more victim of “decolonization” will be the inhabitant of Kiev Mikhail Bulgakov. Towards him there is almost animal hatred, which was splashed out already in the years of perestroika.
Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, and Lev Tolstoy will also come under attack. I will quote one more “decoloniser”: “The next stage of decommunisation is deimperialisation and de-Russification … the time will come and we will sweep away the streets of Pushkin, Lev Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky”. This was said by Aleksandr Aronts, the former deputy of the Kiev regional council, now one of the behaving violently activists of “Svoboda”. Attempts were already made to rename Lev Tolstoy Street in Kiev – it didn’t work. Now the question is raised about changing the name of Lev Tolstoy Square. In two years the streets of Suvorov and Kutuzov – which were renamed in honour of Petliura’s Generals – disappeared from the capital of Ukraine.
This same thing awaits Odessa. It is impossible to image the “pearl by the sea” without Deribasovskaya street [named after de Ribas – ed], Rishelievskaya Street [named after Richelieu – ed], and Lanzheronivskaya Street [named after de Langéron – ed], without Potemkin stairs and the monument to Ekaterina, without the street and the square in honor of the empress. However de Ribas, Richelieu, and de Langéron are prominent imperial dignitaries, figures of the empire. It seems science-fiction, but Odessa can be left without Potemkin stairs! Would Odessa endure and tolerate such humiliation?!
By throwing out Ekaterina with Potemkin, Ukraine will lose a huge layer of its history and will erase the brightest events of the last decades of the 18th century – Russian-Turkish wars, Novorossiya’s development, the foundations of Odessa, Kherson, Nikolaev. Without this the modern history of Ukraine is a black hole.
The consequences of fight against great Russian writers will be even more terrible. Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy – global figures, a part of the cultural heritage of mankind. For now they are present in the Ukrainian school program (in a form that is squashed in comparison with the Soviet period), but if they will be thrown out of textbooks, then the path of the country towards cultural suicide will be accelerated. The transformation into a Wild Field will await Ukraine.
“Decolonisers” can also go along the way of Nazi Germany: for example, Bulgakov will be left in the school program as the author of “Master and Margarita“, but all mentions of the “White Guard” and other “anti-Ukrainian” works will be removed. Like under Hitler: Heinrich Heine was forbidden because he was a Jew, his books were destroyed, his monuments were destroyed, but one poem (“Lorelei”) was left: the processing of folk poetry.
What the German nazis did with the Jews the Ukrainian nazis are preparing to do with Russian “imperialists” and “colonialists” (so far – at the symbolical level). The nazi experiment led Germany to a catastrophe. Now Ukraine closely approaches a catastrophe. Only one step remains until the abyss.
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