Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
21.05.2000 | E. Zakharov, Kharkov
Politics and human rights

The Two Augusts


Mystically, most destiny-forming events in the passing century happened in August. . The real 20 thcentury. , as Anna Ahmatova said, began in August 1914 when WW1 broke out. In August 1939 WW2 started. The atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 marked the beginning of the atomic era, of the cold war and of the arms race. In August 1968 Soviet tanks trampled the dreams of those who hoped to build the . socialism with human face. . The August revolution of 1991 in Moscow brought the end of the . empire of evil. .

Sixty years ago the Molotov . Ribentropp act was signed, and we would like to dwell on the Ukrainian ramification of it. The more so that President Kuchma signed decree No. 437/99 . On celebrating 60 thanniversary of unification of Ukrainian lands in one Ukrainian state. . How may one celebrate the 60 thanniversary of the event that resulted in mass repressions?! Even a cursory glance at the documents of various state bodies of those times shows a picture of continuous and synchronous actions of the NKVD and militia under the guidance of party organs. One sees massive slaughter and coercive removal of millions of innocent people to the Siberia and other Far Eastern and Asiatic regions of the USSR.

In 1939 . 41 in West Ukraine and West Byelorussia about 10% of their population (about 1,25 million) were deported to remote regions of the USSR. The most part of the deportees were Poles. The first to be deported were refugees. Those who tried to escape were shot down on the spot. A part of this campaign was notorious mass executions of Polish officers, officials and intellectuals in Katyn, Mednoye and Kharkov. Later the Soviet authorities ascribed these executions to Germans, thus deceiving the world public.

In 1939 all participants of the Ukrainian national liberation movement in Poland were arrested . communists believed that nationalists were their irreconcilable enemies. In June 1941 all remaining Ukrainian nationalists were arrested by Gestapo and sent to concentration camps. In 1942 the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA) was created and it begin the armed struggle against German occupants.

From the very beginning of the German occupation the coercive removal of the population for work in Germany began. By its cruel methods it differed little from the Soviet repressions. All in all, 2.2 million were removed from Ukraine, in particular, about 900 thousand from West Ukraine.

When the German troops were driven from the territory of West Ukraine, the large-scale repressions against Ukrainians resumed. The UIA turned weapons against the Soviet army and continued its struggle for six years without any support from outside. Thousands of soldiers of the UIA perished, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sympathizers were sent to concentration camps for the standard term of 25 years. It happened that entire villages were exiled as accomplices, all in all about 2 million.

The total losses of West Ukraine are immense. In 1930 . 31 the Ukrainian population of the regions united to the USSR was 7.9 million, and in 1970 the population was 7.82, i.e. during 40 years it did not increase, but decreased. Counting the mean growth of the population, it can be concluded that about 20 million were lost.

And now, instead of considering the UIA at least equal in the rights with the Soviet army, instead of recollecting the innocent victims, the Ukrainian government proposes to celebrate the 60 thanniversary of the unification. How tactless!

There are situations when it is impossible to choose the least evil out of two: both are worse. The choice between the brown and red totalitarianism was tragic. Now, thank God, we do not have such a choice. But many decades must pass before we shall understand the 17 thof September as a day of realization of the natural right of the Ukrainian people for a single Ukrainian state. Today it is impossible.

On the contrary, 24 August 1991 is felt like a holiday (although it would be more natural to celebrate the 1st of December as the Independence Day), because there were no victims. Somehow, we are not happy. This holiday leaves a bitter aftertaste when one sees how the hopes for the better step by step were replaced with depression and apathy, how the young state, at first quite suitable to live in, ossified and separated from the people, how the state passed to serving itself, how the emigration (of the younger and more gifted) increased, how the society became more cruel. When one looks around, one wants to write the book titled . Ukraine in shadows. .

Could it be otherwise? Perhaps, not. The Ukrainian people was bled white by its losses in the struggle with the totalitarian regimes of fascist Germany and communist Russia, the Ukrainian people lost millions in the two world wars. Perhaps, no other people in the 20 thcentury lost as many human lives. So we could not give birth to a massive anti-Communist movement, as Poland, or prepare a new political elite, capable of replacing the all Soviet nomenclature, as Poland, Czechia or Hungary. As Vladimir Bukovskiy justly said, communism in the USSR was not defeated, it just collapsed under its own weight. Let us recall how the communist majority of the Supreme Rada decided on a compromise and declared the independence in order to preserve the power of the Soviet nomenclature. Ukraine was doomed to independence because of the deterioration of the USSR, but it appeared unprepared to independence. This independence came before the proper time, it did not come as a result of victory of the Ukrainian national democratic movement. It just realized by the whim of her majesty history. Unexpectedly (who could fancy that this will happen during our lifetime?) we got a country without a political nation, with different people living in the West and the East, although they both believe in false myths, where the majority of the people is disoriented and unable to understand what has happened. Most people believe that the three politicians met in Belovezhskaya Pushcha and split the great state, which can be glued again.

Are we closer to real independence than eight years ago? In spite of all said above I dare to say that we are closer. During 90s the new generation without experience of the life in the USSR was shaped. These girls and boys are much more opened and relaxed. All of them are Ukrainian patriots, although many speak Russian as before. For them the USSR is the cut-off history. The older generation is getting accustomed to the new way of life. After the great disappointment in 1992 . 94 because of the abrupt deterioration of the living standard, when many, who had voted for independence on the referendum of 1 December 1991, were prepared to change their decision, a Chechnya war broke out, after which the decision to join Russia greatly decreased. This is confirmed by the last year election to the Supreme Rada of Ukraine: politicians insisting on the existence of the new union lost. Besides, a step-by-step mutual understanding between East and west Ukraine is occurring, although slowly. By and by people stop to hope that the state is obliged to care about them and begin to act for themselves.

Nonetheless, the threat to our independence, in my opinion, is greater today than eight years ago. The main threatening factor is we ourselves. Our passivity, our expectations that someone will do something instead of us resulted in the situation when we rather survive than live. That is we who enabled our state organs to become quite irresponsible and uncontrollable. Who can guarantee that our top officials, wishing to remain at the top by all means, will not give for debts those enterprises which are capable to bring profit? What will be the cost of our independence then? We patiently observe tormenting of our older and handicapped people, when they did not get in time their miserly pensions, for which it is impossible to survive. Until when we shall patiently permit our bureaucrats to fool us and hide from us their actions in classified documents, which are . top secret. , . not for print. and . for service use only. ? From our bitter experience we know that in the classified documents they hide the immense difference of incomes of nomenclature and mere mortals or record rates of development of dangerous diseases. We must understand that either we set under control the actions of the state apparatus or the inner contradictions will accumulate and burst the country, as it happened with the USSR. The alternative is clear: either Ukraine will be developing into a democratic country or it will loose its independence.

It seems, God guards Ukraine. When it became especially hard inside, something dangerous occurred outside: the August putsch of 1991, October clashes of 1993, the Chechen war. But God helps to those, who help themselves. It is high time to begin to help ourselves.

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