KRAI simply means BORDER in Russian
Metaphysical Doubts Concerning the Existence of Modern Ukraine, a 1918 Creation of the German General Staff
April 5, 2014
News reports on the reaction in Kiev to the reunification of the Crimean peninsula with Russia have included the idea that some Ukrainians resent the failure of the United States or the western European powers to intervene militarily against Russia in favor of the new Kiev fascist government. At the same time, it appears that Ukrainian military units have uniformly refused to fight for their borders, their bases, their headquarters, or other strategic assets under their control. Much of the Ukrainian army and navy located in the Crimea has chosen rather to become part of the Russian forces. Repeated attempts by the Yatsenyuk government in Kiev to call up reservists or otherwise to mobilize manpower for military purposes have met with a very meager response.
International attention has lately been much focused on Ukraine, but world publics know very little of the history involved. The country located on the Pontic step (the flatlands north of the Black Sea) currently calling itself Ukraine has only existed for 23 years, since the failure of the August 1991 KGB-inspired coup in Moscow. Before that, to find something that corresponds to modern Ukraine, we must go back to the Kievan Rus late in the first millennium of the Common Era. This was a state set up by Vikings (called Varangians) along the Dnieper River, which was the main inland waterway between Scandinavia in the north and the Byzantine Empire in the South. It was here that grand Duke Vladimir converted to Orthodox Christianity in the year 988, thus establishing a religious tradition which continues to be decisive in Russian history down to the present day. But Vladimir’s state did not call itself Ukraine, considering itself rather the leading state of Russia, which the Latin West sometimes called Ruthenia.
No Ukraine on Map Until 1918The Kiev Rus was conquered around the middle of the 1200s by the Mongols, and was thereafter ruled by a series of Mongol Khans. After the Mongol power north of the Black Sea had been shaken by the victory of the grand Duke of Moscow Dmitry Donskoi in the battle of Kulikovo on the Don in 1380, the Mongol yoke over the Kiev region began to fall away. By 1526, much of today’s Ukraine, including Kiev, was part of the very large Polish Republic, which stretched from the Baltic to near the Black Sea. Other parts of today’s Ukraine were under Moscow, while some — including the Crimea — had been incorporated into khanates of the Ottoman Empire, and a small corner had been taken by the emerging Austrian Habsburgs. Little of this had changed by the time of the peace of Westphalia in 1648. Emmanuel Bowen’s 1747 English map of Eastern Europe calls today’s Ukraine “Little Russia” (south of “White Russia,” today’s Byelorus) with “Red Russia” (south of the city of Lvov (Lwow in Polish, Lviv in Ukrainian, Lemberg in German, and Leopoli in Italian); only a very small area astride the Dnieper is labeled “Ukrain,” meaning something like “at the border.”
In the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Russian troops conquered the north coast of the Black Sea and much of modern Romania from the Ottoman Empire. By the 1774 Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji, the Turkish Sultan lost his status as overlord of the Black Sea Tartars, and had to allow Russian ships to transit the Straits at Constantinople in and out of the Black Sea. Soon Russia permanently acquired the Black Sea coast, and Moscow’s ability to project power into the Mediterranean, upon which the survival of civilization in Syria has largely depended, dates from this important historical turning point.
Ukraine a Potemkin Nation?It was the Empress Catherine the Great who annexed the Crimea to the Russian Empire in 1783. Catherine’s lover Prince Potemkin (pronounced Potyomkin) was urging the Empress to undertake his so-called “Greek Project,” which amounted to the re-creation of the defunct Byzantine Empire under Russian auspices on territory conquered from the Ottomans. Catherine wanted to undertake this project in association with Joseph II, the new reforming Emperor of Austria. Catherine, Joseph, and Potemkin undertook a triumphant progress down the banks of the Dnieper River to the Crimea. Along the imperial route, legend has it that Viceroy Potemkin had set up his famous Potemkin villages, made up of one-dimensional props like a Hollywood set, and designed to give the Imperial travelers and their retinue of foreign ambassadors the impression that the territory had already been colonized and populated by Russian settlers.
Whatever the reality of the Potemkin villages, the fact that they were said to be located in Ukraine gives rise to the inevitable question: Is Ukraine a Potemkin nation, a superficial appearance without any strength or depth?
By 1795, after the final carving up of Poland, the current Ukraine remained divided among the Ottoman, Russian, and Austrian empires. The Austrian part was sometimes called Galicia, and included Lemberg/Lvov.
So where did modern Ukraine come from? The idea for constituting a modern state called Ukraine involves the historical work of Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, who attempted in the years before World War I to show the existence of a Ukrainian nation distinct from Poland and from Russia. But Hrushevskyi later proved willing to work under Soviet auspices, not insisting on an independent Ukraine. Until late in World War I, Ukraine existed primarily in the minds of romantic intellectuals who had read Hrushevskyi or the poet Taras Shevchenko. During the prewar phase, many supporters of Ukraine imagined their future as an autonomous part of the Austrian Empire, which was thought to be less oppressive than Russia or Germany.
The main impulse behind Ukrainian independence came from the German general staff and its cynical geopolitical machinations during World War I. The German general staff transported Lenin back to Russia from Switzerland, had Hitler on its payroll, and also called modern Ukraine into existence.
According to the German historian Frank Golczewski of the University of Hamburg, Imperial German officials (unlike their Austrian allies, who had long held a piece of the future Ukraine) were only vaguely aware of any movement to create Ukraine until September 1914, just after the war had broken out. At this time, self-designated Ukrainians from the Austrian Empire and refugees from the Russian Empire contacted the German foreign office and appealed for assistance. The Germans were immediately intrigued by the obvious possibilities for creating splits inside their Russian enemy. The German diplomats, after quickly studying a series of ethnographic reports to see what they were dealing with, soon began providing money for books, pamphlets, newspapers, and other propaganda motivating the need for an independent Ukraine outside of and opposed to the Russian Empire.
The Germans had been looking for subject nationalities of the Russian Empire, which they could play against the Tsar. The obvious candidates would have been the Poles, and the Germans did later create the Kingdom of Poland as a puppet state in November 1916 on territory they had conquered. But Germany had been ruling harshly and attempting to Prussianize their part of the former Poland for more than a century, and they ran the new Kingdom of Poland in a very oppressive way, so many Poles from Russia were reluctant to have anything to do with Berlin.
Germans Taught Russian Prisoners of War the Idea of UkraineBy this time, the Germans had already taken large numbers of prisoners of war following the 1914 defeats of the Russian army. They identified about 50,000 of these POWs who based on their birthplaces and dialect might be convinced to become Ukrainians, separated out the officers and sergeants, and put the remaining proto-Ukrainians in special reeducation camps. These proto-Ukrainians were exempted from work, given better treatment, and put into classrooms, where they were given intensive courses in Ukrainian national identity, farming techniques, and the need for socialist revolution. (All of this was provided courtesy of the same Imperial German general staff which hoped to use communism and socialism to overthrow the Tsar and create chaos, hopefully knocking Russia out of the war.)
In Golczewski’s account, the POWs were not at all interested in Ukrainian history, but wanted to hear all about farming techniques and agronomy, since they hoped to benefit from the looming breakup of the large landed estates by getting their own land. The lessons in revolutionary socialism also had a lasting effect on many of them. Of the original 50,000 POWs, about 10,000 were successfully indoctrinated and were shipped back east after the Austrian army had conquered Lemberg/Lvov in June 1915, and they became a vital catalyst in the cause of Ukrainian autonomy or independence.
When the Russian czar was overthrown in February 1917, the Western parts of the Russian Empire were plunged into chaos. A Ukrainian Rada or council controlled by businessmen and property owners was formed in Kiev, but it was soon challenged by the Peoples’ Republic of Ukraine set up by the Bolsheviks in December 1917 in Kharkov. With the help of the new Soviet Red Army, the Kharkov regime quickly began to expand at the expense of the Kiev Rada.
Desperately seeking help against the Bolsheviks, the Kiev Rada on January 1, 1918 publicly proclaimed its independence from Soviet Russia and its willingness to sign a separate peace with Berlin and Vienna. There was already an armistice between Germany and Russia, and peace talks were going on in the Russian town of Brest-Litovsk near the point of farthest German advance into Russia.
The Kiev Rada was refusing to allow grain to be shipped to the traditional markets in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities. A bread shortage developed there, and the Russian Communist party blamed the Ukrainians, telling Russians: “If you want food, cry ‘Death to the Rada!’ … The Rada has dug its grave by its Judas-like treachery.” (Karl Radek, Pravda, January 15, 1918, in Wheeler-Bennett, Brest-Litovsk: The Forgotten Peace (1938), p. 173)
A delegation from the Ukrainian Rada joined the peace talks. It was made up of three bombastic young liberal aristocrats, who began delivering anti-Russian tirades – a little like what the world recently saw on the Maidan. The Austrian Foreign Minister Czernin, convinced now that the Rada would be a useful tool against the Russians, on February 1, 1918 declared that Berlin and Vienna recognized “immediately the Ukrainian People’s Republic [the Rada] as an independent, free and sovereign State, which is able to enter into international agreements independently”.(Wheeler-Bennett, p. 211)
The Germans and Austrians knew that the Rada was at that moment being shelled by the Bolsheviks, but the representative of the German General Staff was sure that if the Rada were defeated, the German army could quickly restore it: “The difficulties were transitory, in so far as at any time we could support the Government [the Rada] with arms and establish it again.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 208)
The Bread Peace of February 9, 1918: Ukraine on the Map the First Time EverThe Rada was indeed about to be overrun. The Russian delegate Leon Trotsky “read to the conference a telegram from the officer commanding Bolshevik troops in the Ukraine stating that the greater part of the Kiev garrison had passed over to the Soviet Government and that the further existence of the Rada was consequently likely to be of very short duration.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 209) Even then, many Ukrainians preferred to join Russia rather than fight for the bungling Rada, as we have seen in Crimea.
The Kiev regime was saved by Field Marshal Hindenburg and General Ludendorff of the German General Staff. Because of the Anglo-American sea blockade, Germany was starving, and getting food was a top priority. On February 9, 1918, Imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary formally recognized the Ukrainian Rada as an independent state and German-Austrian protectorate, and signed with it the so-called Bread Peace. Under the provisions of this Treaty, Germany and Austria were willing to protect the Kiev Rada regime in exchange for the delivery of 1 million tons of grain, 400 million eggs, 50,000 tons of beef, plus substantial amounts of bacon, sugar, hemp, linseeds, manganese ore, and other staples. The Germans and Austrians were desperate for food and critical raw materials, and they were willing to deal with anyone who seemed able to deliver them. The only government that seemed capable of providing the required goods was the Rada. The result was “Ukraine.” Golczewski thus sees Ukraine as purely the result of a coincidence. The Ukrainian Nationalists had to go far beyond their original program of autonomy within the Russian Empire and opt for complete independence, since that is what the Germans required in order to sign a treaty. As for the Austrians, their food situation was very bad, and food riots would break out in Vienna in June 1918, partly because the Hungarians refused to help.
During all this, the Rada was regarded by Berlin and Vienna as a disposable short-term puppet. “I wonder if the Rada is still really sitting at Kiev,” mused Czernin in his diary a few hours after the treaty had been signed. (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 220)
1 Million Tons of Grain, 400 Million Eggs, 50,000 Tons of Beef: Ukraine as Germany’s DelicatessenThe right-wing English historian John Wheeler-Bennett, closely connected to British intelligence, wrote in 1938 that the Bread Peace left “the Ukraine theoretically a neutral State in the world, while actually it became a political granary and store-house for the Central Powers, From eggs to manganese, the long list of supplies required read like the inventory of a sublimated “mail order ” house.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 220)
In other words, Ukraine came into the world as a delicatessen for the German General Staff.
As part of the deal, Austria gave the new Ukraine the city of Chelm, which the Poles considered part of Poland. This Austro-German gift to the new Ukraine caused the Poles to become more hostile to Berlin and Vienna. Before the end of the war, the enmity of the Poles probably cost the Germans more than anything they gained in Ukraine.
The Russians, radicalized by the Bread Peace, responded the next day by repudiating their entire foreign debt to the tune of 14 billion rubles, of which 12 billion were owed to the Allies and the US. (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 251) In today’s crisis, there has been some talk in the Russian newspapers and the Duma about expropriating foreign companies in response to the economic warfare of western sanctions.
The Austrian Foreign Minister Czernin coined the term “bread peace,” but with this, the name “Ukraine” had appeared on the map for the first time in history — as the readers of the New York Times could see for the first time on February 17, 1918, on a map entitled “Dismembered Russia – Some of the Fragments.” The German army then drove Trotsky’s Bolshevik Red Army out of Ukrainian territory, scooping up as much food as possible from the local farmers. The Austrian Empire sent in 250,000 of its own troops to grab a piece of the action. On March 3, 1918 , the Bolsheviks in Moscow finally conceded the independence of Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. An independent Poland had been one of Woodrow Wilson’s infamous Fourteen Points of January 1918, but Ukraine never received that kind of direct support from the Western allies.
Donets Basin Added to Ukraine by Germans to Get CoalThe borders of the new Ukraine were drawn by the Germans according to their own needs, not the wishes of the population or any principle of self-determination. The Germans needed coal, but “the frontiers of the Ukraine did not embrace coal-fields, and it was decided that those of the Donets Basin must be incorporated” into the new puppet state. (Wheeler-Bennett, pp. 315-316). The Bolsheviks were too weak to resist this. This precedent has contributed to the presence within Ukraine of large clearly Russian populations who never wanted to be subject to Kiev. The full consequences of this situation have not yet played out.
Rada Lacked Roots in Country, Imposed by Political Dreamers and German BayonetsAccording to Wheeler-Bennett’s standard account: “In Kiev the Rada existed in a welter of ineptitude. ‘The difficulty in the Ukraine is simply that the Central Rada has only our rifles behind it,’ admitted [a German military envoy] frankly. ‘The moment we withdraw our troops their authority will collapse at once.’ The separatist movement had no roots in the country, and the people as a whole were completely indifferent to national self-determination; this had been thrust upon them by a group of political dreamers whose power derived from the presence of German bayonets.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 316, emphasis added)
From the German bayonets of 1918 to the $5 billion invested in the Ukraine fascist parties according to Victoria Nuland by USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, the story remains the same. The separatists of yesterday and today have little support in the population, despite the optical illusion created by ten or twenty thousand hyperactive extremists, mainly from Lvov, who assembled in the Maidan.
Passive resistance, hoarding, and sabotage by the peasantry prevented the Germans and the Austrians from obtaining and shipping the food they urgently needed. The Rada was ineffective in overseeing the planned looting of the peasants. “Whatever the reasons for failure, the fact remained that very little corn could be procured. Only 42,000 truck-loads in all were exported from the Ukraine during the whole period of German and Austrian occupation. (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 317) This was a very bad return on the investment of almost a million troops which Berlin and Vienna sent in.
With German discontent growing, the Rada regime was now approaching crisis. “They were the puppets of the German occupation, dependent for their very existence on their masters, who were rapidly becoming tired of their growing tendency to assert themselves.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 319) Now their foreign patrons began to look elsewhere for enforcers to despoil Ukraine. Hindenburg and Ludendorff were deeply dissatisfied with the petty bourgeois lawyers and professors of the Kiev Rada, because the Ukrainian food deliveries were falling far short of the treaty commitments. Only about one sixth of the required grain had been furnished.
Germans Arrest Rada, Install Dictator to Intensify LootingHoping to get better results, the Germans broke up the Rada, arresting some key members, and created a new Ukrainian puppet dictatorship under the former Russian general Pawlo Skoropadski. Skoropadski called himself the Hetman (Hauptmann), the term used for the supreme commander of the Polish military. Ironically, his name means something like “falling soon” in Russian. (This time around we have Energy and Coal Minister Yuri Prodan, whose name means “sold out.”)
Skoropadski became the figurehead of a dictatorship in Ukraine whose sole purpose was to maximize grain and other food deliveries to Berlin and Vienna. This regime was based on a return to power of latifundists and other oppressive landlords whose estates had been seized by tenants. The land reform was to be rolled back. Skoropadski on behalf of the Germans rammed through measures under which “the right of private property in land was to be re-established and, in the interests of agriculture, the large estates were to be restored, the peasants paying for the land they had received during the partition.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 321) Peasants would be forced to plant wheat whether they wanted to or not.
There are obvious parallels between the German satrap Skoropadski and the US puppets Turchinov and Yatsenyuk today. These extend to the details of economic program. Skoropadski was put there to loot the wheat harvest. Yatsenyuk has been ordered by the IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank to loot the coal deposits of the Donets basin, to sell out the black earth farmland to foreign speculators, to double the price of natural gas, to donate the pipeline system to Chevron for free, to sharply increase the taxes on gasoline, electricity, and prescription pharmaceuticals, and to savage the social safety net for the old, the sick, the very young, mothers, and the needy.
Today, in an eerily similar maneuver, the Kiev regime has installed wealthy oligarchs as governors or mini-dictators of the eastern provinces where cities like Kharkov, Lugansk, and Donetsk – all heavily Russian – are located. Under this neo-feudal arrangement, the heavily industrialized Donbas has been assigned to Sergei Taruta, an infamous predator specializing in de-industrialization. Taruta is infamous for having bought the Polish port of Gdansk and then breaking up and asset-stripping it, leaving the charred hulk in bankruptcy. Taruta is bringing in assassins from Blackwater to enforce his austerity decrees.
1918: German Looting Drives Ukraine Back into Arms of RussiaThe result today is likely to be the breakup of the Kiev regime. In 1918, the brutal looting imposed by Skoropadski led many Ukrainian peasants to take a second look at the benefits of Russian rule, communist though it was. The “peasantry, who had at first eschewed Bolshevism, now turned to it as a protection against the exploitation and repressive domination of the Central Powers.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 324) A German official noted at this time that the draconian grain requisitions of the General Staff were, “although they do not know it, driving the Ukraine back into the arms of Great Russia.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 324) This time, it is the IMF conditionalities that are likely to impel many Ukrainians to see Moscow as preferable.
Playing the Ukraine Card a Net Loss for Hindenburg and LudendorfWheeler-Bennett’s conclusion is that, given the immense resources they invested and the limited benefits they derived from their Ukraine gambit, Hindenburg and Ludendorff gained little and lost much on the plains of Ukraine. In fact, they may have lost World War I here. Most historians believe that Germany transferred the vast majority of its forces from the eastern front to the western front during the winter of 1918 in preparation for their final attempt to capture Paris and end the war successfully. But Wheeler-Bennett argues that many German forces remained bogged down in the east, especially in the Ukraine, where some German units were still moving east in April 1918 to complete the occupation of the country. As he writes, “A million troops immobilized in the East was the price of German aggrandizement, and half that number might well have turned the scale in the early stages of the battle of giants which was raging in the West. According to both Sir Douglas Haig and General Mangin, only a few cavalry divisions were necessary in March and April 1918 to widen the gap between the French and British, thus severing the two armies. These were not available on the Western Front, but at that moment three cavalry divisions were propping up successive puppet governments in Kiev.” (Wheeler-Bennett, p. 327) In other words, Ludendorff was defeated, not so much by the Allies and the Second Battle of the Marne, as by his own flawed Ukraine strategy. Perhaps present-day geopolitical geniuses like Kerry, Hague, Fabius, Steinmeyer and Sikorski should remember that Ukraine has already proven a graveyard for one imperial dynasty, and may well break the careers of modern meddling gnomes.
Ukraine Considered “Made in Germany,” a “German Invention”Asked by an interviewer if Ukraine could ever have emerged without German help, Golczewski answered diplomatically: “that is certainly not so, but that is exactly what the enemies of Germany and Ukraine have been asserting ever since. The Polish National Democrats [right-wing nationalists] stated that there never were any Ukrainians, but that they were a German invention. And the British and the French were inclined to believe the same thing. The writer and journalist Joseph Roth wrote in 1939 that the Ukrainians were Made in Germany. He claimed that the Germans had invented the Ukrainians in order to smash the Russian state. The Ukrainians were therefore considered — at the beginning unjustly, but that changed during the interwar period – as a Fifth Column for Germany.” (Spiegel 50, 2007)
During Skoropadsky’s rule, Ukraine waged war against Poland for the possession of Lvov/Lemberg, with Poland finally gaining the upper hand. Lvov is today the main center of Ukrainian fascism. This city had a Polish majority and a significant Jewish minority in the past, and modern Ukrainian fascism sees these groups along with Russians as its eternal enemies. Svoboda and Right Sector, currently members of the Kiev government, have both expressed the desire to seize Polish territory. NATO is supposed to support member state Poland, but NATO is also backing Ukrainian fascists who want to attack NATO Poland, including with nuclear weapons.
Petliura and Pogroms, 1919When the German war effort collapsed at the end of 1918, Skoropadsky’s dictatorship fell apart and was replaced by an oligarchy known as the Directorate, in which the dominant personality was Simon Petliura, known as a leading perpetrator of pogroms. Law and order rapidly broke down, and a series of massacres of the Jewish population began. At that time, Ukraine included about one third of the Jews in Europe. This brand of militant anti-Semitism is today one of the hallmarks of Ukrainian fascism.
During 1919, Ukraine became a key battlefield in the Russian Civil War. The Bolshevik Red Army fought the monarchist White armies, which were backed by the British and French. A third force was the so-called Black army of the Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Machno, a wrecker of all civilization, who was fond of saying that his task was only to destroy, and that it would be up to others to rebuild later on. Figures like the late Muzichko of Right Sector embody something of this corrosive anarchist spirit.
Because the Ottoman Turkish government was defeated and could no longer block the Dardanelles and the straits, the Allies entered the Black Sea and French troops were landed in Odessa and Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula with the help of the British Royal Navy. These areas then became the logistics bases for the anti-Bolshevik and monarchist White armies of Denikin, Wrangel and other generals. The White armies ravaged much of Ukraine during 1919. The British and the French had previously invaded the Crimea in 1853-1856, so it is no surprise that the Russian government should today regard this territory as a possible avenue of aggression against Moscow.
By 1920, the Bolsheviks were mopping up the White armies, but the new Polish state now intervened in hopes of reestablishing its old dominance over the Ukraine. The fighting between Poles and Bolsheviks seesawed back and forth across Ukraine, but by 1921 the fronts had stabilized. The western Ukraine, including cities like Lvov and Tarnopol, ended up as part of Poland. In this area, the Greek Catholic or Uniate Church, loyal to the Roman Pope, was strong. The eastern Ukraine, dominated by the Russian Orthodox Church, became the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was founded in 1922.
The status quo of 1922 lasted until the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop or Hitler-Stalin Pact In August 1939, on the eve of World War II. As Poland once again disappeared from the map, the Soviet Union extended its control to west of Lvov/Lemberg. Then, in June 1941, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, and the German armies were approaching Lvov/Lemberg by the end of July.
Ukraine Quisling Stepan Bandera, Idol of MaidanAt this point, Ukrainian nationalist forces under the leadership of the Quisling and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera – the current hero of Svoboda and the Right Sector — staged large-scale massacres of the Jewish population in the hopes of establishing their solid credentials as allies of Nazi Germany and as a political force which should be allowed to administer a Nazi puppet state in Ukraine. Bandera had been active for some time as a German agent, receiving money from Berlin and helping to organize the Nachtigall (Nightingale) and Roland battalions of the Waffen SS, which were later formed into the Galicia division which was deployed against the Soviets, killing 35,000 party members in Galicia alone.. But Hitler wanted to annex Ukraine and begin settling German colonists on this territory. The Nazis were unwilling to permit Ukrainian organizations of any kind, and that included Bandera, who was deported to Germany, where he served Hitler until the very end. . After the fall of the Nazis, Bandera went to work for the Captive Nations apparatus of the CIA under Allen Dulles. According to published reports, Bandera operated out of the Radio Free Europe complex in Munich, where he directed a terrorism and assassination bureau for the destabilization of Soviet Ukraine. By all indications, the KGB caught up with Bandera in 1959. Today, there are statues of the Nazi collaborator Bandera in more than two dozen western Ukrainian cities.
Soviet leaders often felt they had to make concessions to Ukraine. At the formation of the United Nations, Stalin assigned one of the USSR’s three votes in the General Assembly to Kiev, partly because of Ukrainian heroism during World War II. (The other vote went to the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.) In 1954, N. S. Khrushchev thought he was pleasing Ukrainians when he transferred the Crimea to Ukrainian administration.
When the failed Gorbachov reforms threw the USSR into crisis by 1990-1991, mass-based national independence or separatist movements emerged in the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and in Georgia, but much less in Ukraine. On March 17, 1991, about 75% of Ukrainians voted to remain within the federal system of the USSR (now styled the Union of Soviet Sovereign States). Then came the Moscow coup d’état of August 1991, in which a group of veteran KGB, Interior Ministry, and defense officials attempted to reinstitute an authoritarian state. The leaders of the Ukrainian political establishment supported this August coup, either openly or covertly, fearing above all that the Russian democratic movement might gain some hold on power. When the coup was defeated and Boris Yeltsin emerged as the victor with help from the West, the Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk (like his counterparts in other union republics) decided that their best chance of maintaining power was to play the card of nationalism and independence from the USSR. In Ukraine, Kravchuk called a referendum on independence for December 1991. During the run-up to that vote, Yeltsin announced on October 28 that he intended to implement in Russia the shock therapy, extreme austerity, social demontage, and privatizations demanded by the International Monetary Fund and its advocates like the vicious Swedish ideologue Anders Aslund, today an employee of the Peter Peterson Institute in Washington, who has emerged in recent months as a leading Russophobe and supporter of the Kiev fascist clique. Yeltsin made clear what was coming by appointing as Russian Prime Minister the neoliberal austerity fanatic Yegor Gaidar.
The perspective of going through the shock therapy meat grinder under IMF conditionalities was in itself a powerful reason for Ukrainians to want to leave Russia. When the Ukrainian referendum on independence was held on December 1, 1991, 90% voted to leave the USSR. Even so, this most recent foundation of the Ukrainian state appears as a top-down operation designed to preserve the power and privileges of the Ukrainian oligarchy or nomenklatura, and not in any way as a popular revolution. The Ukraine of the oligarchs is accordingly what we have seen for the last quarter century. (See Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms [Washington DC: US Institute of Peace, 2001])
The Myth of Holodomor, 1932-1933This sampling of recent Ukrainian history points to the very shaky popular basis for Kiev’s statehood. Sensing this, a group of Ukrainian intellectuals, centered in Lvov, but extending around the world, has attempted to synthesize a Ukrainian identity in terms of shared victimhood. This school alleges that Stalin’s Soviet government, during the early 1930s struggle against the wealthy farmers or kulaks, carried out a genocidal murder of many millions (most sources claim at least seven million) of Ukrainians through an artificially induced famine, called the holodomor.
But the eminent French historian Annie LaCroix-Riz of the University of Paris VII, in a study based on archival research into the real-time diplomatic correspondence sent back by various foreign envoys from Moscow and other Eastern European capitals, has concluded that the charge of deliberate genocide by the Soviet government is untenable. According to her findings, the food scarcity of 1932-1933 did indeed impact the Ukrainian black earth region, but it also hit the northern Caucasus and Kazakhstan, suggesting weather was a factor. According to the French diplomatic correspondence she examined, the French envoys reported a food shortage (disette) between two harvests. A principal cause was drought, somewhat along the lines of the American Oklahoma dust bowl at the same time.
Only in the dispatches of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy did she find references to something as severe as a famine specifically centered in the Ukraine. The concept of a Ukrainian famine deliberately inflicted by Stalin then became, starting in the summer of 1933, a staple of German and Polish propaganda (with Lvov leading the Polish effort), and of certain reactionary groups in the Vatican. This theme was then taken over by the pro-fascist US press empire of the reactionary William Randolph Hearst, and spread throughout the world. The holodomor myth was revived under the Reagan administration. (See Annie LaCroix Riz, “L’Holodomor, nouvel avatar de l’anticommunisme européen,’” online.)
Shockingly, major Jewish organizations in the NATO countries are ignoring the obvious and well-documented fact that the current rulers of Kiev are the true heirs of the pogromists and fascists Petliura and Bandera. So far, the Jewish communities have not launched a campaign of exposure and denunciation. Are these organizations more devoted to the State Department and the Foreign Office than they are to the fate of Jews in Ukraine and beyond?