Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A broader context 

Another missive from the Crazy Uke that hits this Armenian-American close to home:
...there is one thing that continues to skip around the edges of my consciousness, and it was the predicate for Sunday's rally at the Capital for the local Ukrainian community. Seventy years ago Ukraine was recovering from the grip of Stalin's ethnocide - the Ukrainian Holodomor/Famine Genocide. As we witness to the struggle for freedom and justice in today's Ukraine, (live, in-color and blogged in real-time) it is fitting to recollect and somberly reflect on the passing of some ten million souls into eternity, after an unimanigably horrific death by forced starvation. This simple fact, and the failure of this infomation to permeate and presage all discussions in the West of Ukraine's current status and condition, indicates to what extent Communism was, and continues to be successful in re-writing history.
Tyler Cowen points out the enormity of what Andriy observes,
Here is the second sentence of Robert Conquest's The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine: "We may perhaps put this in perspective in the present case by saying that in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book." That sentence represents 3,040 lives. The book is 411 pages long.
I realize some people wish commentary on Ukraine today didn't spend so much time focused on Russia and East-West and left-right, but the history of Ukraine is the history of Russia. Kyiv was a city when Moscow and Saint Petersburg were swamps. Its history intertwines with the histories not only of Russia but of Poland and even Lithuania, but it is Russia that has imposed itself most. The preface to the book I wrote about the Ukrainian economy, written several years ago, mentions one strong symbol of that imposition:

Crossing the bridge towards the center of Kyiv there is also the sight of the Perchersk Lavra on the bank of the Dnipro River. The golden domes of the monastery signify an ancient time, when what many consider to be Russia was known as Kievan Rus' and its center was Kyiv. To the left, however, stands something even larger. In 1981, the Ukrainian Communist leader Scherbitskyi erected a war memorial to its soldiers. At the center of it stands a woman made of titanium (a metal in abundant supply in Ukraine) holding a sword towards the sky. The sword extends higher than the bell tower at the monastery, making it the tallest monument along the river. Though it was meant to represent the defense of Ukraine from Germany the statue faces Russia. It was meant to be a monument to �Rodina mat�­��mother Russia�, but many people called it �bolted mother�. When it was built, a parade was held, and Leonid Brezhnev was invited to it; schoolchildren were made to line the streets. This remains an object of scorn for many Ukrainians. Yet after gaining independence, though all the statues to Lenin were torn down and all the �Lenin Squares� in cities around Ukraine were renamed, the monument remained. Perhaps it simply cost too much to remove.

For whatever reason, that vision symbolizes the arrested development of Ukraine.

To the best of my knowledge, the bolted mother -- known to many cabdrivers I spoke to also as the "iron bitch" (I didn't dare use that in the book) -- remains, facing Russia.

Behind her lie ten million dead.

And in her shadow, a nation wrestles with its past and its future.