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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

VP Biden Visits Kyiv

STATEMENT BY VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN AFTER MEETING WITH PRESIDENT VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO OF UKRAINE

House with Chimaeras
Kyiv, Ukraine

It says Kyiv here. At a joint press conference, Vice President Biden said Kiev.

Nitpicking aside, it was a rather nondescript press conference, full of stale reassurances and mantras, devoid of breakthroughs and questions from reporters.

The lively part came afterward: President Yushchenko and VP Biden visited the Holodomor Memorial, where they planted arrowwood trees and shook hands with the public.

Next, they relished two Coca-Colas at a local pub, whereupon Mr. Biden left for a meeting with PM Tymoshenko.
















Sources:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Statement-by-Vice-President-Biden-After-Meeting-with-President-Viktor-Yushchenko-of-Ukraine/ http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2009/7/21/98668.htm
http://www.president.gov.ua/

23 comments:

John Kalitka said...

Well...it wasn't bad news. But, I agree with you, once the back slapping and hand shaking is finished, Vice President Biden's speech does very little to advance Ukraine's long-term interests.

Nonetheless, Mr. Biden--sans Mrs. Biden--certainly seemed to enjoy the scenery in Kyiv.

Sublime Oblivion said...

Wow. "Relishing" a Coke? This is lame on so many levels.

1) It is cheap. You're supposed to be classy when important foreigners are visiting.
2) It is bland and non-traditional. You're supposed to serve local fare, not slavishly pander to foreigners by giving them crap they can get at home. Couldn't Yushenko have mustered up the backbone to order something like Obolon beer or at least kvas?

This would be deeply embarrassing if I were a Ukrainian nationalist. But I'm not, so that just further confirms its status as a failed state. More failed even than Georgia, whose tie-eating President at least serves his guests things like kharcho and Georgian wine.

Ropi said...

They seem to have had fun. However I don't really remember to an unfriendly political meeting. Well, there was a Slovak-Hungarian PM meeting this spring which wasn't very friendly.

Taras said...

John,

I agree with you. It wasn’t necessarily a bad meeting. But whether it will do our bilateral relations any good remains to be seen.

Thank you for the link:)! I checked it out on Twitter yesterday.


Sublime Oblivion,

You do have a point there.

If I were the President of Ukraine, I would’ve introduced Vice President Joe Biden to Ukrainian cuisine (hence the irony in the word “relish”). After all, when Bush visited Ukraine in April 2008, Yushchenko did actually introduce him to Ukrainian cuisine.

I voted for Yushchenko in 2004 and I believe I did the right thing. What Yushchenko has done since being elected, in many respects, is anything but right.

Today, like most of his voters, I consider him a lame duck who has retired on the job. That said, I’d very much prefer him to Tymoshenko and Yanukovych on national security issues.

Indeed, in many respects, Ukraine is a failed state — and so is Russia.

What makes Ukraine different is we have a little more political freedom and a little less commodity export revenue. We’re going through a deeper identity crisis — a post-colonial one — complicated by Russia’s neo-imperialist meddling.

In other respects, Ukraine and Russia are both corruption-ridden and commodity-cursed. We’re depopulating at an alarming rate. A war between our countries would raise oil prices, but it would definitely not fix the demographic problem.


Ropi,

Thank you for expanding my horizons! I Googled for clues and learned more about the tensions between Hungary and Slovakia, both past and present.

As a neighbor of both Hungary and Slovakia, Ukraine has a stake in your peaceful dispute resolution.

Sublime Oblivion said...

Well for starters if I were Yushenko I wouldn't be a traitor to Orthodox Slavic civilization or invite an anti-Serb fanatic to my country at all, but glad we find a point of agreement that serving him Coke is really low.

Russia has demographic problems and problems with national morale, but they are already substantially less than Ukraine's. I think its "political freedom" is a euphemism for anarchy and banditry. I'd probably vote for Nataliya Vitrenko if I was Ukrainian.

Leopolis said...

Sublime --

What is "Slavic Orthodox" civilization but a euphemism for the Soviet Union? Interestingly, the neocon Huntington classified this as one of his civilizations in clash.

Of course you would vote for Vitrenko because she appeals to this "Slavic Orthodox"/Soviet identity in Ukraine. Contrary to what you may think, Vitrenko's supporters believe in Ukrainian statehood, unlike Putin who doesn't believe that Ukraine is even a state. Ironically, Ukraine is a "failed state" but offers such a free choice to its voters.

You may feel good about calling Ukraine a failed state (and lumping it together with Georgia), or pointing out that its problems are worse than Russia's. But step back from the microscope. All the while, investors are finding a replacement for the "R" in the BRIC economies. The G8, a club that Russia didn't even qualify for in the first place as a rich economy, will soon give way to the G20 where Russia will be just another corrupt emerging economy alongside like Nigeria. Ironically, this fits in with Russia's goal for a multipolar world.

Taras said...

Well, since there’s talk of establishing a Biden-Putin commission, I think Biden’s stance on Serbia will not preclude him from meeting with Putin.

Ukraine’s balancing act in Orthodox Civilization certainly differs from Russia’s efforts at hegemony. So far, Ukraine has neither recognized — nor publicly refused to recognize — Kosovo's independence.

I detest Milosevic's genocidal policies no less than I regret the plight of innocent Serbian civilians who perished as “collateral damage.” There’s a Ukrainian community in Novi Sad.

Since 1992, Ukraine has been a major contributor to peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia. A member of KFOR since its inception, Ukraine currently has 186 troops in Kosovo. Last year, a Ukrainian police officer died when rioting Serbs attacked the Ukrainians with grenades. The Ukrainians had orders not to return fire.

Ukraine’s demographic problems have the same roots as Russia's, except that Russia has a much larger territory to take care of, which places additional demands. Besides, Russia has its own set of regional differences and tensions.

In Ukraine, freedom comes in different forms, of which anarchy and banditry make up a significant proportion. But unlike in Russia, journalists no longer get killed and protests can be held freely, although not as many are held as there should be.

Lingüista said...

Indeed, Subline Oblivion, if you think the Russian problems with national pride are 'substantially less' than Ukraine's, you're disregarding their arrogant stance (which bespeaks of a poorly disguised inferiority complex).

I don't see how Ukraine is betraying Orthodox Slavic civilization -- if you mean recognizing Kosovo, Taras has answered you. Also, don't forget there are many injustices and problems from both sides involved in Kosovo, and that Serbians are not exactly angels either.

"Political freedom" is no codeword for "anarchy"; these are two very different things. The kind of anti-freedom developments we see in Russia -- from Medvedev's "commission on the falsification of history" to recent attempts at curtailing internet telephony or making it legal for the government to open private citizen's mail -- are not happening in Ukraine.

Taras said...

Leopolis,

Thank you for your support and for recalling the late Prof. Huntington!

I enjoyed reading his seminal book, The Clash of Civilizations, and studied his fault-line perspective on Ukraine with great curiosity. I wonder if he would have accepted an invitation from the American Institute in Ukraine had he not passed away last December.

Compared to Western Civilization, Orthodox Civilization is more of an academic concept. Bulgaria: both a NATO and EU member. Serbia: aspires to EU membership. Ditto Ukraine and perhaps even Belarus. If Russia could lead its neighbors by the power of example (cooperation, high living standards) — and not by the example of power (coercion, low living standards) — there would be a more cohesive Orthodox Civilization.

Vitrenko and Putin actually have a lot in common. Vitrenko recognizes Ukrainian statehood insofar as it allows her to get elected. Once elected, Vitrenko would most likely turn her left-wing, pro-Russian, pan-Slavist, neo-Soviet, anti-NATO, anti-Ukrainian platform against Ukraine’s statehood.

Just a few campaign ads — to illustrate my point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi1IBsrAAjY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjerrQYRs3s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNnQPsKOFl0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MccTD_tax4

The only thing about her that I don’t disagree with is her anti-oligarch rhetoric, which I don’t buy into anyway. In Ukraine, Communists and Socialists wear $10K watches, drive $200K cars, and live in $5M villas. Ironically, in the USSR, such behavior would have been unthinkable and would have entailed capital punishment.

Even if Vitrenko were pro-Ukrainian, her economic policies would still reflect everything that was wrong with the Soviet economy.


Lingüista,

Thank you for your constant support!

Based on official stats, Ukraine’s population indeed shows a much steeper decline than Russia’s. Overall, Russia’s living standards are higher than Ukraine’s, which explains the labor migration.

On the other hand, the Russian Federation occupies a much larger territory, has a more diverse ethnic makeup, and thus contains greater potential for internal conflict.

Just as Ukraine relies on its pro-Russian regions for metal revenue, so does Russia rely on its non-Slavic regions for energy revenue.

Therefore, by stirring up conflict in Ukraine, Russia risks stirring up conflict at home.

Sublime Oblivion said...

"Interestingly, the neocon Huntington classified this as one of his civilizations in clash."

How is Huntington a neocon when one of his main recommendations for preventing inter-civilizational strife was to let the core state of each civilization (which would be Russia for Orthodoxy) keep its other members in line?

"Indeed, Subline Oblivion, if you think the Russian problems with national pride are 'substantially less' than Ukraine's, you're disregarding their arrogant stance (which bespeaks of a poorly disguised inferiority complex)."

Unlike Ukraine, Russia has the backbone to demand dignity and recognition from the West. Call it a "poorly disguised inferiority complex" if you want, I call it self-respect.

"All the while, investors are finding a replacement for the "R" in the BRIC economies. The G8, a club that Russia didn't even qualify for in the first place as a rich economy, will soon give way to the G20 where Russia will be just another corrupt emerging economy alongside like Nigeria."

Re-clubs. Why should it care?

Re-Nigeria comparison. Lol.

Re-history. Ukraine is rehabilitating the likes of pogromist Petliura and attributing all its problems to Russia in its history textbooks. Meanwhile, Westerners are trying to revise history to equate the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany. Russia's insistence on objectivity in history is IMO a valid response to such trends.

@Taras,

I agree with you about the necessity of punishing gross corruption, a measured use of capital punishment against them would be an excellent idea as was the case in the USSR and today's China.

"On the other hand, the Russian Federation occupies a much larger territory, has a more diverse ethnic makeup, and thus contains greater potential for internal conflict."

80% of the RF's population are Russians, and another 10% are Slavs/Tatars/Bashkirs who are reliable. Since it didn't break apart in the 1990's (as many experts were predicting), I hardly think that it going to happen any time soon.

Lingüista said...

You're welcome, Taras. I think Ukraine is a very interesting country, one which I already feel a link to. I wished I could do something to help Ukraine solve her many problems (I keep being fascinated by the "identity crisis" of a country with so many people who identify as Russians, or at least as speakers of Russian... and then the history of "East Slavic Unity", and the big similarity between the Russian and Ukrainian languages... It's like anything could happen there.)

Do you think, by the way, Taras, that it would do Ukraine any good if the areas in Ukraine that are majoritarily Russian -- Crimea, the Donetsk oblast', etc. -- actually seceded from Ukraine (probably to rejoin Russia later on)? Would this at least leave the remainder of Ukraine a more unified country, less in doubt about what it is and where it wants to go? I know, losing territory is hard to swallow, but could it perhaps help improve the rest of the country? Or would this have no effect at all ultimately?

Leopolis said...

Sublime --

"Russia still has many characteristics of a Third World economy exporting raw materials and importing finished products ...I am not sure you need fully-fledged democracy to export oil, gas and nickel but you do need it to build up a 21st century knowledge-based economy. That is impossible without a full realisation of the rule of law."

--Ambassador Marc Franco, outgoing head of the European Commission delegation to Russia.

http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-41289520090724

Russia's per capita GDP is half of Poland's. While certainly not Nigeria, Russia or Ukraine have not reached fmr Eastern bloc standards.

Russia does not like being compared to Africa. But on corruption indexes, these comparatives are valid, not LOL. And like Nigeria, corruption in Russia is directly correlated with the price of oil:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=azKnwOVcasBw&refer=home

Taras said...

Sumblime Oblivion,

Good point about Huntington's proposition that the core state of each civilization should keep the rest in line! That’s why I made a point of “linking” Huntington to the American Institute in Ukraine — hypothetically and posthumously.

As a Ukrainian, I don’t find Huntington's proposition appealing.

I think Ukraine will never be able to demand enough respect abroad until it gains enough respect at home: respect for the law.

Jews and Ukrainians have a history of conflict, some of it accounted for accurately and some of it not. At any rate, I regret every act of mistreatment of Ukrainians by Jews just as I do regret every act of mistreatment of Jews by Ukrainians.

As far as I know, accounts of Petliura’s non-involvement in, and opposition to, pogroms come in the form of articles, not school textbooks.

Also, as far as I know, the use of the Russian language in eastern Ukraine is more widespread than the use of the Tatar language in Tatarstan. I think it’s because of Russification, which assimilated non-Russians into Russians and dissimilated Russians from titular nations. It perfectly explains why ethnic Ukrainians living in Russia speak their mother tongue nowhere as often as do ethnic Russians living in Ukraine.

If Russia ever falls apart, it will probably be because Russia shouldn’t have tried to tear its neighbors apart in the first place.

On the other hand, if we respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, we can live peacefully and focus on our pressing domestic problems.


Lingüista,

If you have a Ukrainian wife who identifies herself as Russian, then you certainly do have a Ukrainian connection!:)

Re “letting eastern Ukraine go,” I think it would be the wrong thing to do. It would amount to dismantling Ukraine, Dugin-style.

Besides, eastern Ukraine is not a Russian territory. It’s a Russified territory. (And so is Kyiv, by the way.)

When I think of eastern Ukraine, I think of my maternal grandparents, who hail from rural Kharkiv oblast. Over the years, they became educated, Sovietized and Russified. When their kids grew up, they went to Kyiv and Moscow to study and eventually settled down there. Most of their grandkids would grow up speaking Russian only. But every time they visited their grandparents’ place (“the nest”), they would hear quite a bit of conversational Ukrainian.

As for me, I went to a Russian-language school from day one to graduation. Still, for me, learning English was not about unlearning Ukrainian or Russian. And just because my cousins speak less Ukrainian than I do it doesn’t mean we have to live in different countries. My cousins’ kids already speak better Ukrainian than their parents do.

Over time, with a balanced language policy in place, things will be back to normal.

Lingüista said...

@ Sublime Oblivion, re: Unlike Ukraine, Russia has the backbone to demand dignity and recognition from the West. Call it a "poorly disguised inferiority complex" if you want, I call it self-respect.
Russia doesn't demand dignity and recognition, it demands pandering. If I were to go to Belgrade and demand ownership of the Narodna skupština building, I wouldn't be demanding "dignity" and "recognition" from Serbia for myself -- even if I had a big army behind me and could probably actually just seize the building if I so decided.

Self-respect and dignity come from wisdom and understanding and an acceptance of one's past, not from threats to neighbors and accusations about 'historical falsification' and propaganda about foreign threats. The latter are more typical of poorly hidden inferiority complexes. You can call it whatever you want, it will still stink just as badly.

Lingüista said...

Sublime Oblivion: Ukraine is rehabilitating the likes of pogromist Petliura and attributing all its problems to Russia in its history textbooks. Meanwhile, Westerners are trying to revise history to equate the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany. Russia's insistence on objectivity in history is IMO a valid response to such trends.
You seem to know little about Petliura, but that's OK -- it's not like he's a famous figure outside of Ukraine. As for equating the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany, as far as the Stalinist period, that's not revisionism, that's pretty much standard history.

Russia is the one defending Stalin -- no one outside of the Warsaw Pact ever did, except the communists (Sartre, Althusser et caterva), and even those guys ended up changing their minds (who killed more Russians than Hitler, by the way) -- and this despite Stalin having killed more Russians than Hitler. But I wouldn't call that historical revisionism, since Russia considering Stalin a good guy is the traditional Russian view (Khrushchev's "anti-cult" stance didn't really change the attitudes, and it was reversed by Brezhnev anyway; besides, nowadays Khrushchev is just "that crazy Ukrainian" who stole Crimea from Russia to give it to Ukraine).

So really, there is no revisionism. It's simply that Russian and Western historians are finally doing more than simply ignoring each other. Unfortunately, the battle has taken political colors, so that it's mostly the papers these days, and nobody is paying much attention to the necessary historical scholarship (archives, documents, you know, the "boring" stuff).

Lingüista said...

Sublime Oblivion: 80% of the RF's population are Russians, and another 10% are Slavs/Tatars/Bashkirs who are reliable. Since it didn't break apart in the 1990's (as many experts were predicting), I hardly think that it going to happen any time soon.
The Ukrainians were also supposed to be reliable at some point -- or so said Soviet propaganda. Hell, even the Balts were "reliable" -- it seems Gorbachev actually believed the Soviet propaganda stories about their having become good Soviet citizens, good homines sovietici. And yet...

Look at the Caucausus. Look at Tatarstan, whose president recently criticized the central government and still got away with it -- if you think the Tatars and Bashkirs are "reliable," just check their reactions to Putin's decision to drop the local ethnic component of the school curricula.

And also, it would seem the Russian government doesn't agree with you -- judging by how it often sent envoys to key positions in the local governments to crack down on "extremists". (Search for some articles at www.mariuver.info -- they have a Russian language version. Mari El is hardly a poweder keg, yet the central government felt the need to repress them.)

But all in all, I don't see Russia splitting either -- which is not to say that the non-Russian nationalities are loyal or "reliable;" quite the opposite.

Lingüista said...

Maybe you're right, Taras, but I wonder. Some people (like this guy) are now saying that it would be better for Russia to let the Caucausus republics go, that this would make Russia stronger. If Russia indeed goes on along the path towards becoming an ethnic Russian state, "Russia for the Russians," then I suppose this would indeed be true.

How about Ukraine? Should it be "Ukraine for the Ukrainians," or should it be "Ukraine the multicultural society"?

Of course, I understand viewpoints such as the one you so beautifully explained in the 2007 blog post you linked to above (which is also Pēteris Cedriņš's viewpoint about Latvian and Russian). Basically, it's something like this: Russian vs. local language (Ukrainian, Latvian, Estonian, etc.) is an asymmetric situation, because Russian has a big state with 150 million speakers in it, plus a world-class culture, lots and lots of books, movies, songs, etc. etc. etc. (the last time I was in Kyiv, it was still much easier to find books in Russian in Petrovka, or even in those bookstores at Arsenal'na metro station, than books in Ukrainian...). So, unless measures are taken specifically to protect the local language, Russian will "win" by sheer pressure of this asymmetry: there is so much more "good, cool stuff" in Russian already. If one adds the policies and propaganda of the Russian government, which clearly want to favor the Russian language to the detriment of local languages all over the post-Soviet space, it's not difficult to understand the viewpoint of those who say the local languages need more support, more protection, than Russian.

Still...

Lingüista said...

Still...

In the end, I guess it all boils down to people, and their individual experiences.

Whatever asymmetries there may be, I can also relate to viewpoints like the one Qatar Cat espoused in that other blog post you linked to -- that his mother tongue was Russian, and he would simply like to be able to speak it at all levels, including in dealings with the government, in his native country, Ukraine -- Russia was to him a foreign country. I can imagine real people -- who may be actually being used by Russian policymakers for their own purposes -- feeling the same way; actually feeling that, whatever the underlying reasons, whatever the asymmetry, they are being "punished" for speaking the colonizer's language. So in the Baltic countries they're called "occupiers," "colonizers," etc.; and even though there are some stupid a-holes who certainly deserve negative labels, there are also simple, normal, decent people who don't.

It's sort of reminiscent of that old "White Man's Burden:" Russian speakers in the former Soviet space have the "colonizer's burden" of having as a native language the language of the erstwhile "oppressor" group. Considering the old Soviet (and current Russian) propaganda, it's not hard to understand that they might, correctly or incorrectly, feel that they are being "penalized" or "punished" for crimes they themselves, as individuals, never committed.

(My wife, for instance, who identifies as Russian but is pretty neutral in politics, did get more than a little bit angry at the Ukrainian government in one occasion when, while she was teaching a seminar on Russian philosophy at Kyiv National University, the decision came that all courses had to be taught in Ukrainian. All the materials that she had prepared for the students were in Russian -- and she had to translate a pile of things overnight so that the seminar could go through... She did feel, correctly or incorrectly, as if she were being 'persecuted' for conducting a course in Russian by being forced to spend time on 'useless' work since all her students felt more comfortable speaking Russian than Ukrainian anyway -- or so she claimed.)

Lingüista said...

I guess the only solution would be for these people somehow to come together and accept each other. For Russian speakers to actually empathize with the situation of Ukrainian speakers, and perhaps even for Ukrainian speakers to also empathize with the "colonizer's burden" of the Russian speakers in Ukraine -- so that both of them could actually support each other. Yes, it would be nice to see Russian speakers who are proud of being Russian speakers and who nevertheless fully support the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian culture -- ditto, Ukrainian speakers.

But I guess in real life, people being the imperfect little beings they are, all too often what we get is the "my language is better than your language!" scenario.

And we end up with unavoidable paradoxes -- such as, protecting Ukrainian in Ukraine does imply not protecting Russian, and thus creating a new asymmetry that can be (mis)construed as "anti-Russian linguistic nationalism." How can you do that, and at the same time be Russian-friendly? How can you make people understand the nuances of the situation, so that the facile equation "Ukrainian language supporter" = "anti-Russian nationalist" (or vice-versa, "Russian language supporter" = "anti-Ukrainian Russian nationalist") isn't accepted so quickly by so many people?

I don't know, maybe human nature just isn't good enough for that. Maybe we're still too dearly wed to simple dichotomies, and too often insensitive to the problems of others.

(On a related aside, I was listening the other day to a -- Russian-language -- program broadcast by the Estonian ETV channel, "Суд присяжных". Since they often discuss themes that concern the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia, I thought you might find it interesting -- the episodes are archived in the ETV website here. The specific episode I was watching (archived here) was about the "языковая инспекция" as a "карательный орган"; there is also another one (here) about whether or not the school reforms -- introducing more Estonian even in Russian-speaking schools -- "задушат русскую школу в Эстонии". Some similar questions were raised. Of course, the situation of Russian Estonians -- who are recent arrivals and linguistically very far from Estonians -- is very different from that of Russian(-speaking) Ukrainians, but I thought you might find it interesting anyway.)

Sublime Oblivion said...

1. It would be much more convenient if everyone spoke just English, or failing that the languages of important countries and regions (Chinese, Russian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Arabic, etc). Learning something like Ukrainian should be left to those who want to.

2. As for equating the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany, as far as the Stalinist period, that's not revisionism, that's pretty much standard history...and this despite Stalin having killed more Russians than Hitler.

I profoundly disagree. Hitler was responsible for far more Slavs in the USSR (around 20mn, even excluding military casualties) than Stalin (no more than 10mn even if you include the Holodomor, which Yushenko is revising as a "genocide"), and would have exterminal, exiled or enslaved all of them if Germany had won. They are in no way comparable and latter-day revisionism is a transparent geopolitical ploy against Russia.

Taras said...

Lingüista,

Yes, balanced policy involves a give-and-take of rights and responsibilities.

Given Ukraine’s history, geography and ethnic makeup, I support the “one country, one language” formula, with a healthy degree of regional multiculturalism.

By healthy I mean allowing people to retain their cultural heritage as long as they and their children master Ukrainian and embrace Ukraine as their country.


Sublime Oblivion,

If everyone spoke English only, we'd be living in Babylon. If everyone spoke civilizational languages only, we'd be living in civilizations.

As of day, we live in countries (most people do). Countries differ by size, location, population, history and power. Languages differ by country.

By saying that “learning something like Ukrainian should be left to those who want to” you’re basically saying that Russification should go on.

According to official stats, the number of ethnic Ukrainians in Ukraine and ethnic Russians in Russia roughly equals 80%.

Now, imagine Ukraine was not Russified. Instead, imagine Russia was Ukrainianized. Would you say that learning something like Russian should be left to those who want to?

I doubt it.

People who speak Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Hebrew, Dutch, Korean, Vietnamese, etc would feel the same way about their respective languages.

To say that Yushchenko is revising the Holodomor as genocide amounts to saying that the Jews are revising Mein Kampf as the Holocaust.

Stalin repressed and killed more people in the Soviet Union than Hitler repressed and killed in Germany. Had Hitler won, there would have been mass extermination and enslavement of the Untermenschen. Had Stalin attacked Hitler first and defeated both Nazi Germany and democratic Europe, there would have been Gulags in Europe.

I don’t think Germany acted against its national interest when it accepted responsibility for the Holocaust. I think Germany wanted to make sure that what it had done will always be remembered and never repeated.

Sérgio Meira said...

Sublime Oblivian,

1. It would indeed be more convinent if everybody spoke just English -- but go try to convince the Russians to give up Russian... You could tell the Russians over and over again about the advantages of giving up Russian and learn English -- there are more books in English than in Russian and more is published every year in English than in Russian, English opens the doors of the world while Russian doesn't, etc. etc. etc... Still, even if it were possible for them all to switch to English, they would not. (And, in fact, ask yourself: if Russian were really in danger in Russia, if some other language could replace it... how would you feel? Would you say this is good, "more convenient"? I suspect, together with Taras, that you wouldn't.)

Which shows what the problem is: people want to keep their native language, even when you could argue it's "inconvenient" for them. It's too dear a value to be given up just like that. It's too much a part of their identity.

So Ukrainians won't give up Ukrainian, the language of Ukraine, for similar reasons. Just as the Serbians won't give up Serbian, the Greeks won't give up Greek, the Tajik won't give up Tajik... and so the world goes.

2. Depends on the statistics you read. Of course, to have Stallin's massacres be larger than 10 million, you'd have to include non-Slav homines sovietici: the populations he massacred and displaced (Tatars, Izherians, Finns, Volga Germans, etc.), the lives lost in crazy adventures (consider the Russians who died in the Winter War). Also remember that many Russian soldiers were killed stupidly in WW2 because of Stalin's bad decisions and questionable tactics; whether Hitler should be credited with those is not clear. There is also the question of Soviet war crimes (Katyn, Treuenbritzen, SMERSH operations, etc.)

But anyway, remember: the death toll of Stalin's 30s is not really well documented. Remember that the 1937 census was considered "wrong" because it counted too few people; so a new one was ordered, which conveniently found "more" people. 10 million? Could very well have been 20 (that's what Wikipedia says in the article about Stalin). I've seen estimates that go as high as 40 million.

Taras said...

Thank you, Sérgio! You put things in perspective!