Preserving the unity of Ukraine

Kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

Since Saturday March 1st, events are speeding up in Ukraine. The first important point was the mass uprising of the Russian, Russian-speaking, and minority populations in the East of the country. The number of town halls where the Russian flag has been raised is significant in this regard. In some cases, as in Donetsk, Lugangs and Kharkov, we have witnessed very large demonstrations which, if not ignored by Western journalists, still have been not given the same media coverage as demonstrations in Kiev of these past weeks. We will kindly suppose that it is due to a lack of space and to the rampant paper shortages in our beautiful country (France) that journalists have censored themselves on this subject…

. These demonstrations, both popular and political, especially with the Russian flag, draw the map of a possible partition, but it is still in the power of the actors on either side to avoid it. We have shown on this map the dividing line between the so-called “pro-Russian” and “pro-Ukrainian” zones.

Chart 1

Places where the Russian flag has been raised

 Carte Ukraine-Russie

These demonstrations, and the raising of the Russian flag, at a time (Wednesday evening) when the Russian army is present only in Crimea, show that it is not only, strictly speaking, the Russian speakers who have so demonstrated their mistrust against the de facto power established in Kiev. It is highly informative to look at a map of the linguistic repartition in Ukraine, established by Kiev University.

Graphique 2

Repartition of languages in Ukraine (2009)

 Bh0OXb9CEAAj2va

This map shows that, besides the presence of Russian and Ukrainian (the latter existing in a « pure » state only in the most Eastern part of the country) we are confronted with numerous other languages and dialects. Such is the case of « Surzhik », a dialect of Russian and Ukrainian, but also of « Trasianka », a dialect of Russian and Belarussian. This diversity of Ukraine, doubled by an ethnic diversity, is a product of History. Today’s Ukraine is not the Soviet Ukraine of the years 1920 and 1930. To it have been attached Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and Slovak territories in 1939 and 1940, but also Crimea, « given as a gift» within the frame of the Soviet Union by Russia. Moreover, the coastal fringe of the country (around Odessa) has always been of a more « levantine» than a Ukrainian nature, with sizable Greek and Jewish minorities. Such heterogeneity is reflected in the practice, inherited from Soviet times, of distinguishing citizenship and nationality. So that it was possible to claim oneself to be a Russian, a Greek, a Bulgarian or a Ruthenian and to assert oneself in the same time as a Ukrainian citizen.

II. However, this implied, in 1991, a founding pact for independent Ukraine of the respect of the diverse minorities in their cultural and religious rights, as well as the assertion of the double practice of the two majority languages, Russian and Ukrainian, having legal status in the country. For having worked in Kiev between 1999 and 2001, I can vouch for the fact that rare are the persons speaking “only” Ukrainian, and that one could very well purport to be a firm partisan of Ukrainian sovereignty and preferentially speak Russian. It is this founding pact, which has been eroded from 2004 to the present, before being brutally broken. Before the events, which started in November 2013, one reckoned only 6 schools and high-schools teaching in Russian in Kiev, when such schools were still reckoned in the hundreds in 2000, and the Russian-speaking population in Kiev amounts into the hundreds of thousands. The repealing, in recent weeks, of the law, which guaranteed the status of Russian as an official language, has been, for a large part of the population, the ultimate proof that the power born from Maidan Square had fallen into the hands of the ultra-nationalists. The President of the Ukrainian Parliament who exercises de facto the powers of the President, has decided to oppose his veto to this law. He is entirely right, but it is probably too late; the evil is out of the bottle and considerable damage has been done. This explains the rupture of the fundamental pact on which Ukraine was based. Now, we have to consider Ukraine as a failed state of a new nature. This process of state failure however is not definitive. It remains to be seen if the founding pact on which the Ukrainian state was built can be repaired.

III. We must become aware in France of who are really the militants of « Pravogo Sektora » and of the « Svoboda » Party, two minority organisations which have been extremely active in the Maidan movement, and who have taken over the leadership of this movement in early February. The leaders of « Svoboda » denounce what they call the « Jewish-Russian mafia » surrounding President Yanukovich and don’t hesitate to present Vladimir Putin with a Star of David on his forehead. Its militants, together with those of « Pravogo Sektora » have taken up for themselves the classic slogan of antisemitism in Russia, adapting it to the needs of their cause: « Beat the Jews and save Ukraine. » The historian Jean-Jacques Marie, a great specialist of Trotsky and whom nobody can suspect of being complacent towards the powers in Russia, has written the following lines, which have been forwarded to me by a correspondent, Michel Gandilhon, for which whom I want to thank him warmly here:

« Unfortunately, the Ukrainian nationalists have now joined the Stalinists in order to propagate it anew. And they share with them similar methods. Indeed, according to Marko Bojcun, on November 13th a presentation of this collection (of articles)  was supposed to take place at the bookshop « Yé, » on Lyssenko Street in Kiev,  and was to be animated by himself, Yuri Chapoval of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, and by Zakhar Popovitch and Denis Pilash of the collective « Opposition of the left » (collective which was at the origin of the publication of this collection) was brutally interrupted by the irruption of several dozen thugs of the extreme-rightist party wrongly named « Svoboda » (« Liberty», the new name of the « National-Social Party of Ukraine », founded in 1991). The same characters had already perturbed the presentation of the collection in the city of Lviv. While handling calumny, amalgam and violence with the same agility as did the Stalinians in their time, the « Svobodists » succeeded in preventing the reunion from taking place, shouting slogans accusing Leo Trotsky (excluded from the Communist Party in 1927 and expulsed from the Soviet Union in 1929) to be responsible for the Holodomor (the famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933), and therefore of « genocide ». At the exit, the « svobodists » vandalised the car of one of the would-be speakers, Zakhar Popovitch, before finally, an hour after the beginning of the incidents, the police arrived. I share the indignation of Professor Marko Bojcun against these methods which aim at forbidding through terror the diffusion of these texts which contribute to re-establishing historical truth and the real positions of Leo Trotsky, which have long been banished from the Soviet Union by the bureaucracy and its methods of terror. I add that the   « Svoboda » Party in question is known to claim openly their allegiance to Bandera and Stetsko, authors of a « proclamation of the independence of Ukraine » dated June 30, 1941, that is, eight days after the Nazi aggression against the Soviet Union, a declaration which stated precisely that the “independent” Ukrainian state would “cooperate closely with the Great national-socialist Germany under the leadership of its chief Adolf Hitler, who is in the process of founding a new order in Europe and in the world.” « Svoboda » claims continuity with the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and with the “Insurrectional Army of Ukraine” (UPA) of Bandera and Statsko, the roles of which as auxiliaries of the Nazis in the extermination of the Jews of Ukraine need no longer to be proven. In this remarkable continuity, « Svoboda » has multiplied over the recent years provocative antisemite declarations and actions, but also such against the Hungarian minority in Ukraine, and against the Russians and Russia (branding as a “Jewish-Moscovite mafia” the entourage of the President of the Republic of Ukraine).

Yet, it is with the leaders of this notoriously fascist and antisemitic party that the European leaders, among them Mrs ASHTON, in charge of the diplomacy of the European Union, have chosen to display themselves in Kiev. Shame on them. But shame on us, too, if we accept to be represented by such people.  It must be reminded here that « Svoboda » has contributed several ministers to the de facto government now in place in Kiev and that the Attorney General of Ukraine is a member of the party.

I came then to read lines what Paul Craig Roberts, a former Under Secretary of Treasury of the US government an a man that I met in the 1990’s, wrote some days ago in CounterPunch: “To the extent that government exists in post-coup Ukraine, it is laws dictated by gun and threat wielding thugs of the neo-Nazi, Russophobic, ultra-nationalist, right-wing parties. Watch the video of the armed thug, Aleksandr Muzychko, who boosts of killing Russian soldiers in  Chechnya, dictating to the Rovno regional parliament a grant of apartments to families of protesters. Read about the neo-nazis intimidating the Central Election Commission in order to secure rule and personnel changes in order to favor the ultra-right in the forthcoming elections.  Thug Aleksandr Shevchenko informed the CEC that armed activists will remain in CEC offices in order to make certain that the election is not rigged against the neo-nazis.  What he means, of course, is the armed thugs will make sure the neo-nazis win.  If the neo-nazis don’t win, the chances are high that they will take power regardless. Members of President Yanukovich’s ruling party, the Party of Regions, have been shot, had arrest warrants issued for them, have experienced home invasions and physical threats, and are resigning in droves in hopes of saving the lives of themselves and their families. The prosecutor’s office in the Volyn region (western Ukraine) has been ordered by ultra-nationalists to resign en masse. (…) The West now faces a real mess, and so does Russia. The presstitutes will keep the American  public from ever knowing what has happened, and the Obama regime will never admit it.  It is not always clear that even the Russians want to admit it.  The intelligent, reasonable, and humane Russian Foreign Minister, a person 100 cuts above the despicable John Kerry, keeps speaking as if this is all a mistake and appealing to the Western governments to stand behind the agreement that they pressured President Yanukovich to sign.Yanukovich is history, as are Washington’s “moderates.”  The moderates are not only corrupt; they are stupid.  The fools even disbanded the Riot Police, leaving themselves at the mercy of the armed right-wing nazi thugs. Ukraine is out of control. This is what happens when an arrogant, but stupid, Assistant Secretary of State (Victoria Nuland) plots with an equally arrogant and stupid US ambassador (Pyatt) to put their candidates in power once their coup against the elected president succeeds. [1]»

IV. What could then be a way out of the crisis, which would respect the sovereignty of Ukraine? For this, it is important foremost to see if it is possible to restore the “living together” which makes a Nation. This implies three conditions. The first is, evidently at present, a federalisation of Ukraine and important guarantees of the rights of minorities, whether these rights are cultural or religious. Such a federalisation will have to accept the fact that Crimea, which is already an Autonomous Republic, will have to benefit of  a particular status. The second condition is the political ban on the extremists of « Pravogo Sektora » and of « Svoboda », their disarming and their prohibition. In no country of the European Union, in no civilized country, is it acceptable to have parties whose discourse and ideology are the same as those of the Nazis. This is also important in order to free the democratic opposition of the pressures and threats, which these extremists bring to bear onto its leaders. The third condition is a declaration of neutrality of Ukraine for a period of twenty years, a declaration which aims to reassure Russia as to a possible integration of Ukraine into NATO as well as into the EU. Such declaration of neutrality could be lifted if Russia as well as the countries of the EU agree to it. On such bases, it becomes possible to envision general as well as presidential elections under the double control of the EU and of Russia. This elections will allow the emergence of a new power, both legitimate and legal. But to bring into existence a legitimate and legal power will make sense only if the stability of the Ukrainian economy is assured. However, considering the crisis which the EU is going through, such a stability can only come from an economic integration with Russia. Such an integration must also be planned between the regions of Ukraine and of Russia, for the complementarities between them are quite substantial. This is a reality to which we must admit, or else prepare ourselves for waves of immigration at the level of a country of 46 million inhabitants.

Under these conditions, a sovereign and independent Ukraine is still possible. But the more we will dig ourselves into a logic of senseless confrontation between the EU and Russia, the less this perspective will remain possible. For the logic of confrontation will unavoidably lead to a partitioning of the country.


[1] The Neo-Nazis of Ukraine by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS, CounterPunch, February 27, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/27/the-neo-nazis-of-ukraine/


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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