15.12.2003 | Evhen Zakharov, the Kharkov group for human rights protection

The conference "Civil society in Ukraine" (Washington, 7-8 April)


The conference was organized by George Washington University and Carnegie Center and was conducted in the building of the Carnegie Center at the Massachusetts Avenue. The great number of the participants from Ukraine and USA, the presence of such outstanding personalities as Adam Michnik, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Paula Dobriansky (the first deputy of the State Secretary of the USA, an ethnic Ukrainian), Bohdan Futey (a judge of the Federal Court of the USA), Boris Tarasyuk, former USA ambassadors in Ukraine the Hon. William Glen Miller and the Hon. Steven V. Pifer, made the conference interesting and informative, and proved the seriousness of the intentions of the Americans to estimate the level of development of civil society in Ukraine. The analysis of the events in Ukraine from inside and from the viewpoint of the American politologists and politicians gave the opportunity to consider the situation from different angles, to understand the complexity of the Ukrainian problems. The conference was rather dynamic owing to the participation of the great number of young Ukrainians, who worked on probation in the USA with the support of the fund of senator E. Masky.

It is impossible to expound in this short article all speeches that were delivered at the conference, so I will retell only several most interest and important ones, except the hour-long report of Adam Michnik, which is presented below. Zbigniew Brzezinski and Paula Dobriansky also delivered hour-long speeches, the rest participants, who spoke at the sessions “Civil society: review of problems”, “Media”, “Business strategy in Ukraine”, “Non-governmental organizations” and “Political parties”, had 15 minutes each.

The first session moderated by Anatol Lieven, a former correspondent of “Washington Post” and now a politologist of the Carnegie Center, was very interesting. Thomas Carothers, the vice-president of the Carnegie Center, Michael McFaul, a professor of the Stanford University, and Hrigoriy Nemyria, the manager of the Center of European political research, delivered their reports at this session. Carothers expressed the contradictory, in my opinion, thoughts about the nature of civil society, which, according to his words, had been artificially created in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, had been developed thanks to external injections and was restricted by the institutions between the state and family (Carothers reckons that the traditional Western institutions – political parties, trade unions and religious organizations – do not belong to civil society). Carothers put three questions: a) whether the NGOs are stable, what are the sources of their development, to whom they serve, whether they really protect the public interests; b) how the NGOs are connected with politics – they must be politically independent, but are forced to deal with politics because of the weakness of political parties; c) for how long the period of transition from totalitarianism to democracy will last – it appeared that this period is very long, so the idea of the injection to the post-totalitarian space in the form of civil society appeared to be inefficient. Carothers also remarked that it was unwise to think that civil society might win the dictatorship.

I believe that the erroneous primordial conception of the civil society resulted in the erroneous conclusions. The absence of civil society is one of the features of the totalitarian regime, so it is impossible even to discuss its ability to struggle with dictatorship. Civil society forms when the totalitarian regime passes into its last, dying, stage and is already incapable of mass repressions. The totalitarian regime could not become strong in the countries, where the resistance movement was strong, as, for instance, in Poland, and this movement essentially promoted the victory over communism. This did not happened in Ukraine and in the former USSR as a whole, where, as Vladimir Bukovskiy said, the communism was not defeated, but collapsed under its own weight. Yet, the dissident movement created the first elements of civil society in the USSR, which could not develop normally under the conditions of the dying Soviet totalitarianism: all public activities were punished cruelly, and civil society could not exist in the underground, because its essence is the opposition to the state. Such opposition exists in all countries, even the most free ones. Every state (in the civilized countries too), acting on the assumption of the priority of stability and order, does its best to widen the sphere of its influence and the zones of regulation the life of citizens, thus decreasing the freedom of choice. This is the nature of the state. Every state official always believes that his is wiser than common citizens and knows better how the citizens must live. This expansion of the state is opposed by civil society – the aggregate of all non-governmental structures. The political sense of civil society is the authentication of itself with the dominating factor of social progress, the realization of its natural superiority over the state. A developed civil society, being an intellectual opponent of the state, makes the state to take into account the public interests and public opinions about the main aspects of domestic and foreign state politics. Unfortunately, I had no opportunity to present these arguments to Carothers, but I worded some of these ideas in my speech on the next day.

Michael McFaul compared the civil societies in Ukraine, Russia and Byelorussia. I knew about his sources of information: McFaul had been invited by the National Endowment for Democracy for the independent estimation of the work of grant-recipients in these three countries, and during last summer he visited all corresponding organizations. He also visited Kharkiv, and I remember this handsome, clever and friendly man. His speech was very optimistic, when he told about Ukraine, maybe too optimistic, but I was glad to hear the opinions similar to mine. According to the assessment of McFaul, Ukraine seems to be more democratic country than Russia and Byelorussia. There was no failure of democracy, like in Byelorussia, and no military conflicts and armed attacks at Parliament, like in Russia. Ukrainian civil society is more viable than Russian one, it is younger and less controlled by the state. Our opposition parties are also better than in Russia. Ukrainian mass media are also better than Russian and Byelorussian. Undoubtedly, the situation in Ukraine is also bad, the state is very unstable, but Ukrainian civil society did not permit Kuchma to create the dirigible democracy, which was created in Russia. McFaul pointed out the great role of Ukrainian democracy in the creation of Ukrainian state.

Hrigoriy Nemyria told about the influence of Western aid on the development of the state and capital. The democratic normative base has been already created, but our country lacks the democratic practices. During the first years of independence the social civil society got no aid. Now we have such aid. We must stimulate the demand for democratic practices and the alternative politics. This is directly connected with the question of stability. The main problem is to which extent the civil society can be a guarantor of democratic progress. Civil society in Ukraine is connected with politics too much because of weakness of political parties and the fact that state does not fulfill its functions. So, the civil society must play the part of opposition. Yet, there exists certain long-term dynamics that is not connected with politics: strengthening of the staff of civil society due to the increase of the level of education and probation abroad. The probation in other countries is very important for civil society. Now the proportion of the probationers, who remain in the Western countries, is essentially less than during the first years. According to the data of the US Migration Bureau, only 3% of Ukrainians, who studied in the USA, remained there for permanent residence, whereas the proportion of Russian citizens was 12%, and the proportion of Polish citizens -- 7%.

The session “Media” was moderated by Myroslava Gongadze. The reports were delivered by Mykola Tomenko, the head of the Parliamentary committee in charge of the freedom of speech and information, independent journalist Andriy Shevchenko and Inna Pidluska, the president of the fund “Europe XXI”. The reporters mainly spoke about the political journalism, described the opposition of the press and power. The reports at the session “Business strategy in Ukraine” were presented by Kempton Jenkins, the head of the business-committee “Ukraine – USA”, Yevhen Utkin, the manager of “Kvazar-Mikro”, the greatest computer firm in Ukraine (about 1000 workers earn about 2 billion USD per year), and Andriy Dakhovskiy, the manager of the firm “Ukrainian Records”, the Ukrainian licensee of “Universal Music”. Well-known politologist Anders Aslund (the Carnegie Center) was the moderator of this session. Jenkins spoke about positive macro-changes in the Ukrainian economy, the success of Ukrainian securities, the appearance of modern corporations of Western level (for example, “Interpipe” of Viktor Pinchuk). Yevhen Utkin stressed that the main richness of Ukraine is the Ukrainian people and that the state must not impede the business activities. Andriy Dakhovskiy told about the problems of intellectual property and piracy in the sphere of production of CDs.

Vira Nanivska from the international center of political research, Ihor Popov, the head of the Voters Committee of Ukraine, and I took part in the session “Non-governmental organizations” that was moderated by Nadiya McConnell, the President of the Ukrainian – American fund. She began her speech with the explanations why Ukraine was lagging behind Poland, although Ukraine had better initial conditions. Firstly, the communist party in Poland had national moods; secondly, the Catholic church had great influence; thirdly, the private business existed; fourthly, in 60s-80s tens of thousands of students went to Western universities for studies and probation. Ms. McConnell told about the aid rendered by her fund for strengthening the local self-rule in Ukraine. Vira Nanivska also told about the work of the center, which she represented. Ihor Popov attracted the attention to the main problems of NGOs: a) non-transparency – only 30 organizations out of 30 thousand published their annual reports, projects of technical aid also rarely report about their activities; b) instability –absence of informational networks and efficient training-consultation systems, unstable financing, absence of the watchdog; c) duplication of aid projects. The recommendations of Ihor Popov concerned the directions of the Western aid. He believes that the money should be invested in consultation services, informational and analytical centers, development of local communities, increase of the ability to compete with state agencies. He also remarked that it should be expedient to invite Ukrainian experts every year for solving the questions of technical aid in Ukraine. In my report I tried to describe the process of the development of Ukrainian NGOs during recent 15 years and the dynamics of their mutual relations with the state, to outline the directions of further work.

The report of Paula Dobriansky was devoted to the attitude of the American government to Ukraine. Americans want Ukraine to be a free democratic European country. Yet, for the integration into the European community Ukraine must be really dedicated to democratic values. If to compare with the Soviet times, it is possible to say that Ukraine succeed very much. Yet, one should consider the situation from another side. Ms. Dobriansky mentioned certain progress, but she expressed her anxiety about the persecutions of opposition, businessmen, journalists, etc. by the state. She said that the American government intended to support the civil society in Ukraine, that the size of this aid would increase, in particular, in the sphere of education and probation. In 2004 the Agency of international development plans to increase the financing of programs in Ukraine from 12 to 19 million USD.

The session “Parties” was moderated by Nadia Diuk (National Endowment for Democracy), speeches were delivered by Boris Tarasyuk (“Nasha Ukraina”) and Oleksandr Turchinov (Yulia Timoshenko’s block). Tarasyuk told about the distribution of political forces in Parliament, ratings of parties and blocks, work of the Parliament. He communicated that opposition fractions presented 57% of law drafts, described the disagreements in their positions. His report was calm and tolerant, unlike the speech delivered by Turchinov, who was too aggressive in the appraisals and accusations. Maybe, this aggression may be explained by the pressure exerted by power structures on the block of Yulia Timoshenko. In particular, Turchinov said that four criminal cases were started against him. He reckons that Ukraine is a neo-totalitarian country, like Byelorussia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, were the power practices persecutions, destroys the economic base of the opposition and carries out the informational terror, which is based on the informational monopoly. He also told that the party “Batkivshchina” had 7.5 thousand local organizations and about 200,000 members.

I was astonished by anti-Russian moods that prevailed at the conference. I understand that such attitude might be expressed by the members of the Ukrainian Diaspora or young Masky scholars, but not by the respectable American politologists. The anti-Russian rhetoric reached its acme during the report of Zbigniew Brzezinski. He is a brilliant speaker, but this time it seemed to me that he said nothing new. Brzezinski repeated his well-known theses about the importance of the independent Ukraine, which is a guarantor of peace and stability in Europe, about the imperial encroachments of Russia on Ukraine and that Ukraine either would be independent and democratic or would not exist at all. He even said that the independent and democratic Poland would exist only if Ukraine would be independent and democratic.

I cannot understand the position of the Americans, who did not include into the program of the conference the reports of several outstanding participants from Ukraine: Iryna Bekeshkina, Yevhen Bystrytsky, Viacheslav Briukhovetskiy, Serhiy Holovaty, Elena Ivanova, Vsevolod Rechitsky and Mykhailo Svystovych. I believe that their speeches should make the conference better. Nevertheless I hope that the Americans achieved their goal and got some idea about the state of civil society in Ukraine.

Report of Adam Michnik

I will speak about the perspective of Poland in the context of Ukraine.

If to look from Warsaw, it seems that Ukraine achieved miraculous results. Famines, yoke of Russia and Poland, wars, repressions, terrible sufferings… But Ukraine survived. We, Poles, have many sins before Ukraine. We must understand that Ukrainians regard us as occupants. We wanted to be independent, but we did not want to allow this to Ukraine. For many years we discussed the question: who owned Ukraine – Russia or Poland. We had two ideological schools in Poland: nationalistic, headed by Roman Adamovski, and federative, headed by Josef Pilsudski. Nationalists wanted to colonize Ukrainians, who were even prohibited to call themselves so. Pilsudski planned to create the joint state, but he could not restore the status of Ukrainians even when he was in power. After the WW2 Jerzy Gedroyc tried to explain that independent Ukraine was a key to the independent Poland. After 1989 this idea won. In 1990 I, being a member of Seym, took part in the congress of the Rukh. I finished my speech in the following way: “Long live free, independent, democratic and fair Ukraine!” Ukraine became independent, but I doubt whether it became democratic and fair.

Polish anti-communist politics wants Ukraine to be stabile and sovereign. Recently President Kvasnevski initiated the seminar in Warsaw, and some of the participants of the present conference took part in this seminar. We wish Ukraine to survive as stabile and democratic country, it is very important for Poland and the whole world. We wish Russia the same plus one more thing: it must not be imperialistic. All post-communist countries have some common features, all of them were satellites, but the status of Ukraine was the worst – it was colonized. The main questions for Russia are: whether it will be able to avoid the ethnic conflicts, whether the traditions of tolerance will be preserved, what will be the attitude to Ukraine – imperial or equal, whether Russia will agree with sovereignty of Ukraine and will not turn her into the second Byelorussia. The main questions for Ukraine, in her turn, are: whether the Ukrainian political outlook will copy the Russian one, whether oligarchs and political parties will be created after the same model as in Russia. We see that during last 14 years many common features appeared: illegal privatization, seizure of power over mass media, meddling of oligarchs into politics, division of the political movements into left and right ones. So, everything will depend on the character of the Ukrainian political elite and the way, in which it will conduct the process of democratization.

The situation in Poland is similar. Corruption in the relations of nomenclature and mass media is a common problem of Poland, Russia and Ukraine. I can tell much about the attempts of the administration to exert pressure on the newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza”, but I understand that in Ukraine I could not edit such newspaper at all.

One more question important for a post-totalitarian society: how to struggle against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and victim mentality, which is so typical for Poland, Russia and Ukraine. The modern public consciousness fluctuates between the UPA traditions and transparency. This was vividly illustrated with the situation around the graveyard of Polish soldiers in Lviv.

Besides, the phenomenon exists, which I should call the post-totalitarian mentality of political elite. Although the elite works in the framework of the democratic traditions, it does not consider people as citizens and tries to manipulate them. The mechanisms of corruption and mafia can destroy these democratic traditions. So, I guess what will happen with Ukraine after the scandal with Lazarenko and after Melnichenko’s records? One foot of Ukraine is in the East, another – in the West, and its heart is in Kyiv. And this mechanism is working, in spite of all pessimistic prognoses! Yet, the danger still exists. It is obvious that Kuchma and his administration have already exhausted their resources. What will be later? Euro-Atlantic or Eurasian way? And what kind of the political attitude must the West have with respect to Ukraine?

Three remarks for the West. Firstly, Ukraine does exist. Secondly, the West must develop the concrete wide-scale politics regarding Ukraine, as well as regarding Russia. Thirdly, it is incorrect to treat Russia as the Soviet block. The concrete politics must exist directed at the support of democratic changes. The West endorsed democratic movement in Poland, Gorbachev and Eltsin in Russia. The modern situation in Ukraine is similar: the West supports the state, not the civil society.

The Hon. William Glen Miller. Is it possible to create a newspaper similar to “Gazeta Wyborcza” in Ukraine?

Adam Michnik. No, it is impossible. Such newspaper must be supported by the independent capital, and the only independent capital in Ukraine now is the Russian capital.

Bohdan Futey. The reforms must be based on laws. Is the legal reform in Ukraine adequate?

Adam Michnik. No. I think that the main problem is corruption. If the Constitution and laws live in harmony with such great corruption, then the reform is not adequate. The struggle against corruption is the most important problem today.

Boris Tarasyuk. Critics of President Kvasnevski say that his policy concerning Kuchma was erroneous. What do you think about this?

Adam Michnik. I reckon that Kvasnevski attaches great positive importance to the mission of Ukraine in Europe and to the relations with Ukraine. He behaves diplomatically, but he openly expresses his disagreement with some steps of the Ukrainian power. Besides, nobody would compare Kuchma to Lukashenko or Kerimov. The West does not demand democracy from Uzbekistan, but the situation there is much worse. All in all, I believe that the Polish-Ukrainian relations are very important.

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