Rather excellent opinion piece in the Moscow TImes today, holding Ukraine’s Maidan-spawned regime accountable for its dictatorial laws. In a completely logical but unthinkable position in the often over-emotional tenor of discourse about Russia and the region, the author dares to point out that the new government looks suspiciously Russia’s authoritarian regime. Now there are some who will say, “But look at their situation! They’re in a war with a larger power!” No, sorry, that excuse doesn’t fly for you. I know you. You’re the type who excludes context like that all the time, particularly in a way that always absolves capitalist Western countries. It’s no excuse for Assad, it’s no excuse for Gaddafi, but it’s an excuse for Poroshenko, a man who’s killing his own people? I know some of you moral warriors out there actually condemn Snowden for revealing the collection of meta data and private communication of innocent American citizens. So no, you don’t get to use context only when you feel like it, Mr/Ms Comment-leaver. Now I have blown your mind because you’re wondering how I know you so well. Russian politics, my friend. It’s just too predictable.
Getting back to the content of the article, here’s a choice excerpt:
On July 29, Ukraine’s vice premier, Oleksandr Sych, said Ukraine would impose quotas and licensing to limit the number of foreign books allowed on the Ukrainian market. While these restrictions would not be confined to Russian publications, which make up the majority of the Ukrainian literary market, it was clear that they were the main concern. Sych even alleged that Russian books were aimed at “destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.”
There are two reasons why I chose this quote. The first is that the author neglected to mention that Sych is a member of the far-right nationalist part known as Svoboda. Svoboda is the party Maidan apologists would prefer you to forget, admitting instead to smaller, more marginalized groups like Praviy Sektor. Mention Svoboda and a meltdown will usually occur. At least that’s been my experience.
The second reason I mention this is because Russia, by contrast, isn’t nearly this hardcore in terms of censorship or linguistic discrimination. Russia can be extremely liberal with practically anything that doesn’t pose a threat to the regime. Keep in mind this is a country which to date has never banned Youtube, Twitter, or any social network. Russia only has one unacceptable, but otherwise trivial restriction on non-Russian languages, that being the requirement that they use Cyrillic-based alphabets. Obviously none of this prevents a speaker of those languages from writing or publishing material in a non-Cyrillic language if they so wish. The death of languages in Russia, even those of large minorities like the Tatars, is rooted in economics rather than conscious discrimination. Young people are drawn to major cities, where Russian is used, and then on to Moscow if they can afford it. This is the only path to social mobility for most people. In Moscow Tatar or Bashkir are basically useless. This process is obviously problematic, but it isn’t the kind of active, open discrimination that Sych calls for. Speaking of Sych, you should check out his theories on women some time. Let’s just say this asshole is lucky that Tumblr hasn’t found him yet.
In another apt comparison to Russia, the new Ukrainian government has banned the Communist Party, opening 300 criminal cases against members of that party. This goes to show that the concept of an independent judiciary is utterly unknown to these people. More importantly, according to the wording of the accusations against party members, it’s clear that many members of other parties currently in the government could just as easily have been charged with the same crimes. What we have here is a new regime which effectively legalized its own coming to power, then uses that power to charge its opponents for doing the same thing they allow themselves. Looks pretty Russian to me.
I think the point of all this is that the new Ukrainian government doesn’t get a free pass just because it happens to be the underdog in a fight. And one can argue that as spurious as Moscow’s justifications have been, Maidan consciously and deliberately took on a nationalist character and stressed division on ethnic lines. They welcomed groups like Praviy Sektor and Svoboda as opposed to rejecting them and reaching out to people in the Crimea and the East. Rather than develop new ideas about the Ukrainian identity and Ukrainian citizenship, they decided to go back to the old, failed, nationalist victimhood fairy-tale of Ukraine and if you refuse to profess your belief in that canon then you must be a Putin-loving, Stalinist, Russian imperialist, fascist “vatnik.” So yeah they’re the underdog, but their barking helped bring this on, in the same way that Russia’s crowing against the West brought on sanctions and humilation. Underdog doesn’t mean right. Nazi Germany was an underdog, after all. You don’t support Nazi Germany, do you?