Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
In history all attempts to Ukrainize Russians never ended well – they led to either genocide of the Russian population or ended deplorably for the “ukrainizators” themselves.
Such an opinion was expressed by the historian and editor-in-chief of the “Novaya Zemlya” magazine Artem Olkhin on the air of the “Union” TV channel during the “Politkukhnya” broadcast.
“If you don’t mind, I will spend two minutes in order give an example of how (previous ‘Ukrainizations’ happened (or more precisely, didn’t happen). The very first ‘Ukrainization’ was carried out in relation to Rusyns. There, in Western Ukraine, the population was absolutely ethnically identical. This population was under the control of the Austro-Hungarian empire before World War I and the population was purposely cut into two groups. If you recognized yourself as Ukrainian, then you will study at university free of charge, you will receive any social preferences, work promotions, and so on. If you are Rusyn, at first you will be discriminated against, and in 1914-1915 you will be sent to Terezín or Thalerhof — to the first concentration camps that appeared on the territory of Europe.
And these camps were purposely created for those people who wanted to remain Russians. This is the logical termination of any Ukrainization. This is the first example, according to the Austro-Hungarian way, of Ukrainization in a European way.
The second example – Ukrainization in a Soviet way [by the Ukrainian government in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which wasn’t imposed by the Soviet Union – ed], when attempts were made there to try to introduce the Ukrainian language. At first principally nobody accepted it. In the same Stalino [old name of modern-day Donetsk – ed] in the 1930’s and in the late 20’s. If there was a choice to subscribe to a newspaper in Russian or in Ukrainian, people subscribed to the newspaper in Russian, and only establishments subscribed to Ukrainian newspapers, those what could be obliged to do it according to the administrative line … If to take the territory of the former South of Russia or the former Novorossiya from the point of view of the Russian Empire, the biggest resistance to Ukrainization was in Stalino and in Odessa. Then the Ukrainian administration was compelled to introduce very strict measures up to the examination of knowledge of the Ukrainian language for officials, if officials didn’t know the Ukrainian language sufficiently then they weren’t allowed to work.
In the beginning of the 30’s it became clear that this policy was flawed, because when they started choosing people by the principle of whether they know the Ukrainian language or not, and at the same time the question about what type of specialist the person is was a minor question, while at this time the industrialisation of the country was already at full-speed, there was a need to be engaged in real affairs, and not to fight for the Ukrainian language. So here the choice was already made for a course on shelving Ukrainization. Many of the Ukrainians who were the most nervously-mooded about this matter, having understood that they lost, even committed suicide. If to remember history, our Ukrainian colleagues hear us, and let them think that now they are riding the horse of Ukrainization, and about what will happen to them when their 1932 will arrive,” said Olkhin.
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